pop culture


 A nerd’s deeply personal take on social media vilification of the nerd archetype across pop-culture . Read on for more. 

Humour is tricky business. Tracing back to the rasa theories of sentiments and emotions, every humour has an origin and the origin of our laughter too can be traced to different causalities. It can either be sourced as a something that makes us laugh through the display of deviance in an attempt to domesticate something that is wrong with society, or in what I wish to term as humour of a low order, it can emerge from a need to make a standing example of a non-conforming entity, who happens to stick out due to a deviance inherent to their character.

Such humouring of identities of “other” often unconsciously result in vilification of archetypes in popular culture which fuels social media content which on the grounds of generating humour to run their dubious algorithms end up putting on sacrificing social responsibility at the altar of parodying the non-conformist – in the case of this article the figure of the nerd. The nerd figure has long been relegated to a realm of marginality in popular imagination, one which has resulted in social media content creators to repeatedly generate humour at their cost. The normalisation of the same has become so exceedingly widespread that the archetype of the nerd figure now borders on the level of almost being a villain despised by one and all.

Take for example the widely popular film from recent years of Indian cinema – 3 Idiots. The supposedly antagonist in the film is the typical nerd figure as seen through the character of Chatur Ramalingam is repeatedly made to be the butt end of jokes due for no fault of his. He simply has a vision of academic achievement which is not in concurrence with that of the protagonist and in order to prove the point of the protagonist the nerd figure is not only made an example of the in the most vile ways possible but also made to take part in one of the most insensitive dramatisations of a rape joke in recent cinema history. Even in a film like Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani or something as cult as Kal Ho Na Ho the heroines are nerds who have their hair tied in buns and wear glasses and spend their days engrossed in books and academia. In order for them to be desirable by the hero, they have to shed their persona of the “typical nerd” and have hair flowing, while sequin dresses grace their lithe bodies. There is no room here for appreciation of a life spent behind the pursuit of knowledge – be it out of individual will or out of societal pressure, a deeply pertinent argument which is often relegated to non-existence.

Social media pages dedicated to generating humour based out of educational spaces and the lives of people involved in academia thrive on humour which emerges at the expense of nerd archetypes. Meme carousels take great pride in criticising students who spend hours devoted to studying and suffer from severe bouts of depression and performance anxiety by reducing their issues to the simplistic phrase – they are a topper and they always lie about the preparation. The truth of the after more often than not is different. The idea of the nerd as someone who deliberately gaslights their own readiness in order to feed off the mediocrity of others is a problem which completely exterminates the immense expectations – familial, societal and professional – the students have to cater to. To be someone who chooses to win and internalises winning comes at the cost of knowing that one is consciously ascribing an identity of marginality to oneself – an ascribing which should be free of any sort of shame or stigma.

Such humour further perpetuates a cycle whereby these students not only end up doubting their own self worth but are never allowed to take pride in what they believe to be a philosophy of life that must be adhered to. Humour for the sake of entertainment is of course something that should be and must be encouraged. But humour that is indulged in without realising the exact impact it has on marginal identities in society is something that should be shunned especially in our largely current virtual world where a single meme transcends time and space and more often than not does more harm than good when left unchecked.

Anwesh Banerjee

[email protected]

On the occasion of Teacher’s Day here is looking at one of the most loved scenes of comedy, from one of the most beloved comedies of our times and asking if we realise the cost of the humour we so amply glorify.

It was genuinely all fun and games.

Every time people, peers, and elders, would sit down to discuss 3 Idiots, the film, invariably the Teacher’s Day speech would come up. Look at how Rancho so smartly explains his point to Raju. Did you see how Chatur was put in place? Serves him right. Love watching Virus being put in his place, it’s such fun!

Growing up around people who revered the now cult classic as a rip-roaring comedy on the farcical nature of our education system and parental expectations from children, aspects of the film ever hardly struck me as odd. Until recently while speaking to one of my high-school teachers I was pleasantly taken aback to hear,

I have no respect for a film that makes such comedy out of a public humiliation of teachers and that too by making them the butt end of rape jokes. It is obscene and crude.

Here was a man, a teacher at that, who disliked what is arguably one of the most impactful and successful films of recent years. Not because it spoke about herd mentality, and emphasised excellence over success, but because of the way it treated it’s teachers in the process of proving a point.

Of course not all teachers deserve to be worshipped on altars. Some are mean, insensitive and just bad at their job. But is it okay to make an entire nation laugh by making your professor the butt end of rape jokes? Think about it.

The scene in question serves a dual purpose in the narrative of the film. It is to explain to Raju the importance of excellence and enjoying your curriculum as opposed to rote learning the same. But at the same time it is yet another widely lauded vilification of the figure of the nerd, who is close to his professors, knows nothing but studying, is socially awkward and of course is the butt end of bullying and abuse. And in the context of the film, this very same stooge of the professor becomes the instrument by which the cool students get back at the professors they hate so much.

My argument is simple. In no way am I endorsing a cut-throat competitive world or a teaching persona who believes your life is of no worth unless you pursue engineering or medicine. My problem is simple and different. How can we, as a society come together to hate b laughing at them and making them the butt end of rape jokes? The perpetrators of the crime literally go on to celebrate the victory of the same in the next scene and by the end of the film are hailed as heroes. The nerd is the one who is made to appear in poor light.

Humour is tricky business. Comedy is purposely designed to critique societal norms and the establishment but if the core purpose of comedy is to relieve through laughter then isn’t it important to question where that humour or laughter is coming from? Really think about it. Sexual harassment and abuse in academia is a widespread problem across the world. Horror stories of students, male and female, being abused by professors and teachers galore. We all have that one friend who confided in us about that one evening, in one empty tuition class, when the teacher they revered for so long transgressed from all acceptable social norms.

Another, easily overlooked aspect of the scene in question is the use of language as a tool of oppression. The student in question, Chatur, grew up in Pondicherry and Uganda and speaks, quite unconvincingly, broken hindi. How is it alright to use this as an excuse to vilify him and the teachers he so deeply adores? As a student of a university as large as Delhi University, every day I see students from distant parts of the country, struggling to convey the most basic of questions. Why? They do not know Hindi and their English is not perfect. But they still try. And even as they try and helplessly request people to not speak in hindi, there are people in abundance who think it fun to reply to their questions in hindi just for the sake of a few laughs. It is 2021 and yet linguistic chauvinism is a tool of abuse in the student community.

In the post-MeToo scenario, films, especially cult classics like the one in question, need to be recognised for their casual humouring of abuse. As an outcast nerd myself, I do not know how long it will take for society to actually come around to stop vilifying us. But that is a different issue altogether. But what we can start off, as students, is to recognise these instances of trivialisation of deeply troubling issues such as abuse in educational spaces. Our teachers are not without their faults and by god we are part of a deeply fundamentally flawed education system. But really our teachers and by large our students deserve better representation than this.

Now that I think, is it really all fun and games?

Anwesh Banerjee

[email protected]

While everyone was going crazy over Avengers: Endgame being the last film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s current phase, others were signing petitions demanding a new ending to Game of Thrones season 8, and then there you were not caring 3000.

Before I am mistaken for someone who is against fandoms, let me clarify that I am not. One of the biggest obstacles that people belonging to this community that follows or likes the same entity of pop culture face is the tag of being “childish” or “mainstream”. These labels, I believe, are extremely unfair and slightly hypocritical. I, for one, am in the This Is Us fandom.

Fandoms arise because a book, movie, tv series or comic had something with which people could connect and relate. Marvel and DC comics or films gave that little 10-year-old hope, that good can defeat the evil or how superheroes exist, maybe inside all of us. F.R.I.E.N.D.S. was able to make many people laugh and happy after they had hit a low. Harry Potter series was more than just Wizardry and Witchcraft, for  it was as much about courage, goodness and friendship. The memes on adults surrounded by children in movie halls for Toy Story 4 is a testament to how these are a connect with our childhood.

The most popular ones suffer because they are always seen as mainstream, people doubting them for only “trying to be cool” and accusing them of following it because “everyone is watching this nowadays”.

But when Hannah Gatsby said, “I identify as tired”, we could all relate.

Not belonging to these fandoms does not make you a bad person or a person with lesser taste, in any way.

Some people simply watch these shows or films for the mere pleasure that comes out of it. Not knowing plot lines or details is not considered to be the biggest sin for us. I will reiterate, we all have our fangirling/ fanboying elements activated by different stimuli, but our passions vary in intensity. While legendary shows went on for many years, non-fandom people tend to find starting such shows daunting. The level of commitment and energy that is involved in watching 14 seasons of Supernatural, the whole Star Wars series, 15 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy among many, many more of “this is amazing, you should watch it”: very intimidating.

On speaking to such people, I realised, these group of people are simply Legen-wait for it-LAZY. On seeing that passionate friend of yours reiterating and trying to express how amazing something is, on the inside non-fandomers feel sorry for the effort wasted. It is not the absence of awareness or even questioning of the abilities of what writers can create. But simply having full insight and realising what does not appeal to you.

Maitreyi Pandey of Kamala Nehru College, who has never watched F.R.I.E.N.D.S. commented, “So, I believe a show or an association with a fandom is a very personal thing. Though, at times, I do feel annoyed when people keep on discussing about the one show over and over again and keep on pushing you to watch it. However, I never have felt the need to join the bandwagon, because if I don’t connect to the show, no matter how good it might be, I will not watch it.”

Whether it is F.R.I.E.N.D.S. versus How I Met Your Mother, Marvel vs DC, Hunger Games vs Divergent—for these people, the debate goes on. Unless someone brings up Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in which case there is no competition.

With the good comes the evil. Similarly, this new idea of “real” fan and “fake” fan has arisen. For those who have never seen or experienced this, you have been very privileged because the level of social bashing one can receive over the smallest of errors is on an all-time high. I remember how someone I know had mistakenly written John Snow, instead of Jon Snow. A wave of social bashing hit her before she even understood where she went wrong. Similarly, despite my really enjoying GoT (Game of Thrones), this statement will always be seen with suspicion till I can name the whole family tree correctly. So, when someone says to me, “You know nothing…”, I am okay with it.

If you binge every show on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Hulu and whichever new platform has come up, or even if you simply are too lazy or uninterested, either path is okay. With these platforms having left television far behind, we can see that the quality of story lines, plot twists, character developments and other tricks up a writer’s sleeve are endless.

I can only reflect on a time when GoT was to me the best show ever made, but This Is Us changed my mind, and frankly tomorrow night Chernobyl might. Each story competing with the others, and writers, creators and directors being challenged, we can learn to appreciate where we have come from only Sciences and STEM being applauded, as now even the artistic capabilities are seen with awe. All is well till we remember that compulsion is an illusion.

So, while some people googled which house the Sorting Hat will put them in, others chose not to, does that not sound like a fandom of its own?

Feature Image Credits: Geeks on Coffee

Shivani Dadhwal

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The Kiki Challenge has taken over the internet by storm, and here is how we feel about it.

We know our mind, body, soul, and myringa are in for a delectable taste, every time Drake drops an album. In lieu of his latest album, Scorpion, fans all over the world have a new obsession- The Kiki Challenge.

What is the Kiki Challenge though?

Initially performed by comedian Shaquille “Shiggy” Mitchell, it is brimming in everybody’s Instagram feed! Inspired and cultivated into a different set, it entails the performer to get out of a moving car and dance to the beats of the song, and jump back in, after they’re done, lasting a mere thirty seconds.

This is not the first time the internet has gone bonkers over a challenge. Looking back right from 2013, there have been several sets of challenges, which attract the Gen Z. the ‘ALS ice-bucket’ challenge or the ‘Kylie Jenner Lip’ challenge are a few of them, among  many. We were greeted at the doors of 2018, by the “dame tu cosita” challenge, which had all social media users, even the celebrities trying their luck at it.

We, Indians, also have multiple complications, in all possible ways, that they bring along with them when it comes to entailing and accepting these challenges. It is one step away from being a political debacle.

If taking selfies was not reason enough for multiple deaths in India each year, waive it over to the ‘Kiki Challenge’ to catch up on it. There hasn’t been a case of a death by it, however, the Indian roads are no rescue and definitely not the ideal place to constrict oneself to such challenges. The hype around posting of such similar challenges and percolating down to the sheep crowd is real. Is it a zeal of inner satisfaction, or a five-second pleasure of enlisting your own self in the social media ‘cool’ category? Let’s get into the bits and pieces that go into making these video that last merely for thirty seconds:

  • multiple shots, in order to receive the one perfect one
  • unapprehensive traffic or passerby’s
  • crowd attention, that leads to a fresh set of  re-takes
  • inflicting and suffering an almost round figure of a million injuries (it’s tough getting off a moving car)”
  • saying goodbye to all the safety rules you learnt back in school, leaving beside your ‘moral dictions’,

Fighting all of these hassles, one receives the contentment of having shot it, and receiving appreciation/ hate on social media.

Pop culture has seen its way into the lives of every active social media fanatic. Whether it was a coincidence or a strategic marketing move, its challenges like these which add to the hype and the increment in audience engagement. Even movie trivia has its own set of challenges put up. Recall the ‘beat pe booty’ challenge back in 2016, or the recent ‘PadMan’ challenge, which shook Bollywood and Instagram users to its core. Social media hype can never rest in peace.

Adhering to the severe implications of the Kiki Challenge, States like Kerala and Rajasthan have already set course to issuing public warrants against the performance of the challenge. Does it seem drastic? Yes! Effective? Cannot say! It’s hard stopping a determination so tough and steady.

A recent online ad conducted by Jaipur Police, featuring the staged death of a Kerala man, left us in fits and giggles, but at the same time led us to question the dexterity with which one sets out to perform them. After all, who is it truly affecting? Does it stop the war in Syria, or does it decrease the rate at which the ice glaciers at the North stop melting? Is it a personal gain, one receives by being subject to social media scrutiny? Or is it just adherence to be accepted in the age run around virtual dynamism winning against reality?

Quoting from a famous Indian meme page, “Kiki may not love you, but your parents do!”. Henceforth, don’t go to such extreme lengths to impress a virtual audience. Safety first!

Feature Image Credits:  RedBubble


Avnika Chhikara

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2017 has been a roller-coaster year in all spheres — sports, entertainment, politics, culture, and just about every industry that currently exists. We bring you the 17 most memorable moments and highlights of the year 2017 for you to officially call it a year and rewind through the news-makers in the pop culture world.
1. The year when Pahlaj Nihalani was ousted: Lipstick Under My Burkha is one of the many movies that faced unnecessary wrath from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) this year. Jab Harry Met Sejal is another movie that frustratingly faced issues with respect to only one scene. Soon after, Pahlaj Nihalani was sacked from his position as the Chief by the Central Board.
2. The year when Ed Sheeran and Luis Fonzi dominated all music charts: Despacito and Shape of You are two of the most popular songs of 2017 that grabbed the top spots in Billboard’s top 100 songs, after breaking records by staying for the maximum number of weeks in many music charts. Not surprisingly, Despacito is currently the most watched video on YouTube with 4.5 billion views.
3. The year of Memes: From cringe-pop videos grabbing national headlines in India to memes gaining traction worldwide, 2017 was definitely a year for memes to go mainstream. Omprakash Mishra’s Aunty ki Ghanti took the internet by a storm and Facebook pages like “Wholesome Memes” dominated everyone’s timelines.
4. The year with Thirteen Reasons Why and the buzz surrounding it: Produced by Selena Gomez, this Netflix thriller gained widespread popularity overnight and became a sleeper hit. It sparked a conversation about mental health issues and despite facing flak for romanticising suicide, it helped people acknowledge that depression is as real as any other illness.
5. The year of fidget spinners: Initially marketed to help individuals with anxiety and ADHD, this tiny toy became the most talked-about item in the entirety of the year. Interestingly, it became so popular that there is an entire section of instructional videos devoted to fidget spinners on YouTube.
6. The year that saw zero white male nominations in Grammys: The Grammy awards are known for being embroiled in controversies around racism, because of which it is incredible that for the first time in nearly two decades, the Grammy Awards did not include any white men in its Album of the Year category.
7. The year that saw the continuation of feuds: During many points over the course of the year, the discussion in the film industry was sadly about Kangna Ranaut and Hrithik Roshan’s long-time feud. Continuing since 2016, this feud still drags with no conclusion to be found.
8. The year of the Oscars goof-up: In a chaotic climax moment, La La Land was mistakenly declared as the winner of the Best Picture category award at the Oscars. Moonlight was the deserving winner, and the mistake regarding this was corrected immediately.
9. The year when Wonder Women became the ultimate heroine: Released on 15th May,  Wonder Women become the highest-grossing film ever made by a female director by racking up $821 million at the global box office. This Gal Gadot starrer is accredited with sparking discussions about the representation of female power in popular cinema.
10. The year when love won over hate: One Love Manchester benefit concert organised by Ariana Grande in the aftermath of a suicide bombing carried out during the concert on 22nd May was a beautiful show of love and solidarity. The concert was attended by more than 50,000 people and saw the lineup artists like Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, and Usher. The proceedings from the concert went to those affected by the bombing that killed 22 people and wounded more than 100.
11. The year when power was held accountable: In 2017 many men and women spoke up about sexual harassment against the powerful figures in Hollywood. In October 2017, The New York Times published the testimonies of more than a dozen women who accused Weinstein of sexually harassing, assaulting, or raping them. Soon many other women in the film industry reported similar experiences with Weinstein. Actor Kevin Spacey was also accused of sexual misconduct by many boys, including actor Anthony Rapp. Both Weinstein and Spacey suffered the loss of deals and associations after these accusations surfaced.
12. The year when survivors spoke up: #MeToo became a viral hashtag used by victims of sexual misconduct of voicing their experiences. Actress Alyssa Milano popularized the hashtag to as part of an awareness campaign in order to reveal the magnitude of sexual harassment. The hashtag has trended in at least 85 countries including India. Originally the phrase “Me Too” was started by activist Tarana Burke in 2006 on MySpace social network.
13. The year of #BlackRoyal: Suits star Meghan Markle and Prince Harry of Wales got engaged on 27th November and soon announced the Royal wedding that is scheduled for 19th May. While the world was gushing over the ideal couple (Megan is a beauty with brains and Harry is the most loved royal), a section showed displeasure over the choice of new Duchess of Sussex. Markel was targeted for her age, race, and her past marriage. However, the negative slurs were countered online with the hashtag #BlackRoyal.  On 8th November the British royal family’s communications secretary released an official statement defending Market form the “wave of abuse and harassment”.
14. The year when women marched: The beginning of 2017 saw the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. The Women’s March was held on January 21, 2017, to advocate women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, queer rights, and workers’ rights. Held immediately after the inauguration of Donald Trump, the protests were aimed against the Trump administration’s regressive stand on multiple issues.

15. The year when a fictitious queen caused real havoc: Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ambitious period drama, Padmavati has been marred in controversy even before its trailer was launched. The film’s set has been torched, the director got beaten up, and cast and the crew threatened. The film was scheduled to be released on 1st December but hasn’t received the clearance from Censor Board yet.

16. The year when “Virushka” got married: The much love power couple of Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli finally got married Italy on 11th December. The wedding was a dreamlike sequence and a close-knit affair. The pictures and minute details of the wedding dominated the news and social media ever since the first pictures were made public.

17. The year when the world found out “Kattappa ne bahubali ko kyu mara”: Baahubali 2: The Conclusion,  became the first ever Indian film to gross over 10 billion, that too in just ten days. It stands as the second highest grossing film in India. Facebook in its “2017 Year in Review” listing ranked Baahubali 2: The Conclusion as the most-discussed topic by Indian Facebook users.

Feature Image Credits: Spoiler TV
Niharika Dabral
Vijeata Balani