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The geek domination of the American popular culture has been gradual, but deliberate, and it's surely reached a kind of peak in recent years: Our most influential captains of industry are Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Computer nerds. Our most influential non-elected political figure? Al Gore. Science nerd. Our TV news commentators? Keith Olbermann? Rachel Maddow? Even ultra-creepy Glenn Beck? Political/History nerds. President Obama? Compared to hard-livin' frat guys like Clinton or Bush II, he's probably as close to the nerd end of the human spectrum of any U.S. President ever. Our most important communications tool? Social media, courtesy Mark Zuckerberg. Nerd. Our most important venue for Hollywood to show its upcoming films? Comic-Con. When they announced the Academy Award nominations in 2008, it was a surprise when they didn't nominate a movie about Batman.

And that's just the broad stuff - especially in movies, Nerd culture has seeped into the details. Action films embraced the out there unreality of Hong Kong and Anime influences, and "Movies Only Geeks Care About" like Grindhouse actioners or Italian splatterfests have become go-to points of cinematic self-reference.

I like this world. I'm happy here. And so, I know it can't last.

There've been cracks in the surface for awhile now, indications that the mainstream audience - the so-called normal folk of the world - were reaching the limit of how much new-ness they were willing to absorb. Sure, everyone and their grandma came to appreciate The Dark Knight for its darkness, its edge and its intelligence... but they didn't exactly warm-up to the much darker, much edgier, much more intelligent Watchmen in the same genre. What happened? Well, Batman is more marketable, for sure. And PG-13 tends to out-earn and R. But, let's get real: what went most wrong is that Watchmen enthusiastically embraced the geek elements of superheroes - science-fiction, genre-bending, primary colors - that Dark Knight largely sidestepped.

A year before that there was Grindhouse. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, the two filmmakers most responsible for helping the sensibilities of underground-fixated cinephiles come to reign over the action genre, teamed up for an epic that dropped the mix geeky B-movie flavors with mainstream filmmaking pretense and offered audiences a straight-shot of the hard stuff, (at a two-for-one price, no less!) Audiences turned up their noses, evidently still preferring to imbibe their film-geekery heavily diluted.

Earlier this year, Lionsgate thought they had a sure thing with Matthew Vaughn's magnificent Kick-Ass. A heavily-promoted comedy send-up of the never hotter superhero genre? What could go wrong? Well, opening to soft money and vanishing quickly (though, to be fair, it's doing gangbusters on DVD), for one.

Let's toss the recent "Tonight Show" debacle in there, too. Conan O'Brien owed his initial fame to being the first Nerd God of late-night comedy, the precursor to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. But while notoriously change-skittish NBC honored contract and protocol by handing him the reins of "Tonight," they kept safe, secure, opposite-of-geeky (and opposite-of-funny) Jay Leno on the payroll - all the better to plug him back in once a chance to jettison Conan presented itself.

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