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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    An alternative to Renaissance fairs

    Justyn DillinghamEditor-in-Chief
    Justyn Dillingham
    Editor-in-Chief

    When I was a lad, nerds were ostracized, stared at or even subjected to the sort of open ridicule that would make lesser souls blanch and tremble with humiliation.

    The older I get, the more I think this is the way it ought to be. Unfortunately, the rest of the world disagrees with me.

    There’s no room for healthy anti-nerd sentiment in a world where Bill Gates is richer than any king and literary critics can seriously raise the possibility of “”Lord of the Rings”” being the most important book of the 20th century (despite the fact that, as a friend recently put it, “”No one in it talks like a real person””).

    We’re heading for a dangerous time indeed – a time when people can own up to playing “”Dungeons & Dragons”” (or whatever dismal, life-wasting alternative is popular this week) every week without immediately losing half their social circle.

    But the most curious sign of the rehabilitation of the nerd is the continuing popularity of the Renaissance festival.

    A Renaissance festival, for those of you not in the know, is a sort of fair (or “”faire””) where people visit commercial stalls, watch knights joust, consume diet soda and participate in other such pastimes that we all know were popular in the Middle Ages.

    There’s something fundamentally confused about these events. While historians differ on the question of when the Middle Ages ended and the Renaissance begin, very few of them believe that they happened at the same time. (I gather that some involved insist that Renaissance fairs are trying to recreate Renaissance-era shows that revived elements of the Middle Ages, essentially making them fairs-within-fairs. Nothing confusing about that, of course.)

    Of course, “”fair folk”” are less interested in living in an authentic re-creation of a historical era than in an excuse to dress up and talk funny. After all, who’d want to live in the actual Middle Ages? Even the Renaissance wasn’t much fun to live through, unless you happened to be rich.

    Of course, historical recreations aren’t the realm of nerds alone. Civil War re-enactments have always been popular in the South, where quite a few people seem to have never gotten over the Civil War (or “”The War for Southern Independence”” as they like to call it””). World War II re-enactments seem to be surprisingly scarce, though anyone in a shopping mall on a Saturday afternoon can be excused for feeling that they just stumbled into one.

    Even the normally peaceful Brits occasionally get into the act; did you know there are English Civil War re-enactments? (Yes, there was an English Civil War, though the thought of a bunch of Englishmen dressed up like Yankees and Confederates really isn’t much stranger than the notion of a bunch of nerdy college-age Americans dressed up like 14th-century Englishmen.) Now, if I were going to choose a time to re-create, I’d opt for the Progressive Era of the late 19th century. You could go sit in a wheatfield and watch a puffy-faced but clearly working-class orator give a furious speech against the gold standard (one of those issues that once enraged millions and now makes sense to approximately five people).

    Well, perhaps that wouldn’t attract quite as many spectators as a fair where people walk around dressed in capes shouting “”Huzzah!””

    How about the Roaring ’20s? I can’t imagine many activities more likely to appeal to nerds and non-nerds alike than sitting in an authentic imitation speakeasy, sipping a martini and calling out “”I say, old sport!”” every now and then.

    Many fraternities and sororities enjoy reviving traditions of the Roman Empire, but I find that one far too distressingly close to our own situation for comfort. I’d opt for the late Roman Republic, when democracy was still a possibility – a pleasant enough fantasy in our troubled times.

    Alas, I doubt any of these alternatives will catch on, so I’ll leave the nerds to their vaguely Elizabethan fantasies. I’ll be over here in the corner of my speakeasy, grumbling about “”that damned spendthrift, President Hoover.””

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