‘Revenge of the Nerds’ will forever be one of the defining 80s movies for me. While the DVD releases from the 90s on will inevitably tout the fact that it co-starred Anthony Edwards, ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ is an excellent ensemble cast that includes Robert Carradine as Lewis Skolnick, Anthony Edwards as Gilbert Lowell and John Goodman as Coach Harris.
And last, but not least, has one Mr. Ted McGinley co-starring in one of the final roles before he went on to become the black widow of television (everything he seemed to star in almost inevitably got cancelled shortly thereafter).
‘Revenge of the Nerds’ is your standard movie about overcoming obstacles and coming of age. In this case, it follows a ragtag group of nerds as they enter their first year of college. Excited at the prospect of shedding their history and starting anew, they are met with hostility from the jocks and the members of the Alpha Beta fraternity, headed by McGinley’s Stan Gable. After a housing issue forces the nerds to take residence in the gymnasium, the Alphas (couldn’t be more aptly named, huh?) wage war on the nerds, threatening to drive them from campus. But as this is a coming of age story, the nerds band together and start up their own branch of what turns out to be an all black fraternity, Lambda Lambda Lambda. Armed with a rival fraternity status, the nerds take on the jocks and the Alphas to shed their nerd past and become the “cool” kids on campus.
And that all works well and to formula. But this wouldn’t be an 80s movie without sex, right? Right. And ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ has its share of the forbidden dance. In fact, the movie takes that idea that we all have about college, namely that of wanton sex and experimentation, and uses that as one of the ways the nerds shed their skin and become accepted. The nerds use sex as a means of getting back at the Alphas: they go after the Alpha’s associate sorority, the Pi Delta Pis. The first big instance of sex as a weapon/coming of age tool is the panty raid on the Pi’s sorority house. The nerds install cameras in the house and watch the girls undress and shower. And, finally, they break into the house and commit a panty raid on the girls, infuriating the Pis and the Alphas. The second instance of sex as a weapon/coming of age tool is when Gilbert steals part of Stan’s Darth Vader costume, tricking Stan’s girlfriend Betty, who is the head of the Pi Delta Pis, into thinking that he is Stan, and has sex with her in the fun house at the campus carnival. So not only was sex a means of coming of age in this film in the literal sense that the nerds lost their virginity, but it was also a coming of age in that they used it as a tool to seek revenge on the baggage of their past as nerds.
‘Revenge of the Nerds’ is, in my opinion, one of the best comedies from the 1980s. While its subsequent sequels fell victim to the law of diminishing returns, nothing can take away the fact that this is just a great movie that fills out the teen sex comedy formula with such aplomb that after watching it, you kind of just want to slap on your pocket protector and go on a panty raid.