Movie: Zero Charisma
My Rating: 3 stars
Nerd culture seems to be all the rage these days. You can’t go anywhere without seeing hipsters in thick-rimmed glasses, clever t-shirts, hoodies, and skinny jeans. And, it’s become very fashionable to proclaim oneself to be “such a nerd”—as if embracing one’s love for playing video games, or nostalgia for Thundercats is what makes someone a nerd. Sure, we live in a post-modern society where it’s ok to admit that you like cheesy or childish things. But, this whole nerd-chic thing that everyone’s so recently in love with is kind of overlooking—and in the process, further isolating—the truly marginalized. These are gentlemen who wear cargo shorts and black t-shirts, who rock out to metal by themselves in their grandma’s basement, and who gather their team each week for a knock-down, drag-out session of Dungeons and Dragons.
The whole idea of a “nerd” always used to be about one’s social standing in the community, not about what sci-fi franchise you’re into, or what retro character you have on your lunchbox. And, this movie is about just such a group of alienated, socially inept, man-children. But at least they have each other. And, they have their campaign, which they’ve been wholeheartedly dedicated to for the last three years. But, we soon learn that this weekly role-playing game isn’t all pie and lemonade. Scott, the Dungeon Master, is a bit of a tyrant (the “zero charisma” from the title). And, it’s always so embarrassing when his grandma disrupts a game by pottering around the kitchen and commenting on their “little game.” And, when one of the members of their group must quit to focus on his failing relationship, the group suffers the consequences of inviting an unknown, new member into the formerly close-knit party. He turns out to be one of those new, hipster nerds—complete with stylish duds, cool friends, craft beer, and who is a little too cocky for his own good. It’s a disaster! The weekly game is no longer a safe-space for the misfits. The new dynamics are making them feel self-conscious. And, the situation is threatening to tear the old group apart.
This is a very quiet, little film, but I thought it was really fun. Everyone these days is so caught up in the idea that “nerdy is the new cool,” that we’ve forgotten the people that this leaves behind. And, they’re potentially more hurt by this phenomenon than they ever were by the old jock culture. At least they had a refuge to flee to in the past. But, now that pop-culture has infiltrated that sanctuary and appropriated it for their own, these poor guys are left without much place to turn. And they’re made to feel even more inadequate. The movement was supposed to be about inclusion, but inadvertently had the opposite effect. But, this kind of adaptation is inevitable. It’s pretty interesting, and very troubling to think about.
I think I’d go ahead and recommend this film to you guys. It’s a pretty small-scale movie. It’s simple and quiet, and was made on a small budget. But, it has some pretty interesting things to say. You just have to be in the mood to watch something a bit more modest. But, you’re bound to find something in this film to relate to.