Nerd Factor: You Might Be in Trouble This Halloween IV: A New Beginning

nerd factor
Photo retrieved from Pinterest.

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Wow, it’s the fourth year. You’ve been surviving these Halloween crises so well; folks are probably starting to look at you as the one who will save them all. But just because you’ve been so successful, don’t think you know it all. The Nerd Factor still has a lot of wisdom to impart that will help you decide if you might be in trouble this Halloween. 

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Nerd Factor: Bad Treats


Photo retrieved from Pinterest of candy.

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Halloween is a holiday based on generosity, but that spirit is not completely selfless. Born of ancient beliefs that on a certain night, the door between the world of the living and the world of the dead opened, people thought it in their best interest to feed whomever. . . or whatever. . . stopped by. It was just safer that way. In America, that spiritual caution shifted into practical defense when very aggressive traditions of pranking developed, particularly in the Mid-West. The treat quite literally deferred the trick. 

     So while one might justifiably be shamed by others for not appreciating, say, a Christmas gift or a birthday present, I believe the origins of Halloween allow children to be judgmental. Young people should rightly ask if the candy adequately forestalled their holiday chaos. 

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Nerd Factor: In Praise of the Space Kook

Scooby and Shaggy encounter the Space Kook. 

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Over a bleak landscape, an otherworldly vehicle flies across the dusky horizon. Its dilapidated condition creates a haunting sense, amplified by the pulsing red lights from its cockpit and the bizarre electronic sound of its engines. After the craft sets down, a strange figure makes its way up the dirt road towards the viewer. The blue space suit seems to glow in the low light as the being lopes forward with a strange gait. As it nears, a blue skull is visible through the suit’s helmet dome. The dome glows red and the skull screams an eerie laugh.

That scream sent a chill down my very young spine. While there have been many more popular culture frights fired along my central nervous system since then, as the season of scares near, I find myself nostalgic for my youthful first encounter with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!’s Space Kook.

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Nerd Factor: Hype

Retrieved from

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

     Hype quickens the blood of fans and stirs their hearts. Hype also withers their souls and makes them despair for the future of their favorites. Hype is somehow aqua vitae and bitter poison at the same time.

     The culture industries need their fans to be at least happy enough to keep participating. The relationship is inherently insecure because the fan demands some change. After all, the fan cannot watch the exact same thing over and over again. The next issue, the upcoming sequel, or the next series must give the audience something a little bit new, but not so new that it drives them away.

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Nerd Factor: The Face of the Joker


Screenshot 2019-09-30 23.52.05
Movie Poster for Joker

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

While he has a certain sartorial flare for purple and orange clothing, the truly iconic elements of the Joker are his terrifyingly broad grin outlined in bright read lips, his green hair, and his ghoulish, white pallor. The look puts the clown in the Clown Prince of Crime. Like many other elements of the Joker, this distinctive look has shifted and changed over time. In fact, this fluidity is driving our culture’s unsettled reaction to the character’s upcoming movie.

     In comics, Joker’s visage has changed based upon the artists who drew him. There is some academic and fan debate over the influences that led to that look, from the disturbing face of the protagonist in the 1928 expressionist film The Man Who Laughs to the imagery found in a deck of playing cards. Each artist renders the Joker differently.  A list of personal favorites could fill this whole article, but Jim Aparo’s thin and wiry Joker has always been on the top of the list.

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Nerd Factor: Batman’s Day


Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

Last weekend, major cities across the world held Batman Day events. In ten of these global Gothams, the Bat-Signal was lit in order to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Dark Knight Detective. Was this a commercial stunt? Of course it was. Batman’s corporate owners can always benefit from some more sales of comics, movies, and merchandising. I think, however, that there is something else going on here. After all, Batman is not something we are required to celebrate. We love this Caped Crusader.

One of the enduring appeals of Batman is that he is a human being. No solar rays activated his alien biology. No laboratory accidents or radioactive creature bites gave him superpowers. No mutant genes lurked in his DNA until puberty.

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