Time has a good article up on how geek culture has been assimilated into pop culture.
There was a time–yes, my children, the legends are true–when J.R.R. Tolkien was not cool. Really. Very much not cool. Also video games, and Spider-Man, and the X-Men. There was a time, not even that long ago, when you could get beaten up by jocks in the woods behind the backstop for being down with the X-Men. Not that this happened to me personally. Friend of mine. Friend of mine’s cousin, actually. Lives in Canada. You wouldn’t know him.
The point is, things like that don’t happen so much anymore. Over the past few years, an enormous shift has taken place in American culture, a disturbance in the Force, a rip in the fabric of space-time. What was once hopelessly geeky–video games, fantasy novels, science fiction, superheroes–has now, somehow, become cool.
It’s as if the economic hegemony of the geek in the 1990s, when high tech and the Internet were driving the economy, has somehow been converted into a cultural hegemony. Rappers and athletes trick out their Hummers with Xboxes. Supermodels insist in interviews that they used to be losers in high school. Jon Cryer–Jon Cryer? Duckie from Pretty in Pink?–has a hit TV show. Did we lose a war with Nerdistan?
It’s not hard to see how this happened. It’s partly good business: nerds are highly employable, bursting with disposable income, and the entertainment industry has discovered them as a prime demographic to be marketed to, the same way it discovered teenage girls after Titanic. On a deeper level, there’s something about the nerd’s principled disdain for (or inability to abide by, same difference) ordinary social conventions that strikes Americans–a nation of nonconformists–as noble.