UPDATED May 21, 2019 (see #10 below!)
For those visiting our blog for the first time, ‘round these parts “N.O.C.” stands for Nerds Of Color (or Non-Official-Cover if you’ve just rewatched the first Mission: Impossible film).
It’s a term of inclusivity that we wear with pride. And because part of our nerdy duties include ingesting a lot of TV, movies, and Twitter, we feel obligated to note that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is, by her choice of pop-culture references on Twitter and other forums, also a Nerd Of Color. Here’s a listicle of AOC’s nerdiest moments thus far, as far as I know:
1. That time she met Captain Janeway:
Full disclosure, Voyager is the Star Trek series I’m least familiar with, but I appreciate how its through-arc got back to the Starfleet basics of, y’know, voyaging through unknown space.
Captain Janeway was and is a great and noble character (just don’t ask me to name the other main cast of Voyager, ‘cause it remains a wormhole in my nerd-knowledge).
2. That time she referenced Spider-Man:
NOC founder Keith Chow was the first to call my attention to AOC’s Spider-Man shoutout. Anyone who knows me well knows that Spider-Man is my jam. Sometimes overlooked in Spidey’s mythos is the fact that he’s so gosh-darned responsible, he acts more often as a Public Safety Officer than a beat-’em-up superhero.
Of all the superhero films, the Spider-Movies definitely devote the most screen time to Spidey just pulling people out of danger. Remember that Rube-Goldberg-esque set piece in ASM2 when he went into the Spider-Sensing back-handspring in super-slo-mo to save 15 Times Square onlookers from getting electrocuted by Electro/crushed by car? That’s his whole act. But I digress.
3. That time she quoted Watchmen:
In contrast to the relentlessly-responsible Spider-Man, Rorschach is more on the Bloodthirsty Revenge spectrum of costumed superheroes; were any of her GOP critics fans of Watchmen, I’d think they would’ve picked up on this.
To put the quote in context, Rorschach, the pugilistic vigilante, has been locked up in prison alongside dozens of felons whom he personally apprehended and beat down with extreme prejudice. Although he’s in daily danger of getting shanked, he lets his prison-mates know that he’s still got their number.
4. That time she had her own comic book:
Haven’t read this yet, but it is available from Devil’s Due Comics!
5. That time she compared the Bronx to a totem from Inception in Rolling Stone:
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has publicly, stoically, spoken of the stress she feels from being in the center of so much television attention (particularly from the Fox News flunkies who neg and vilify her 24/7, with no apparent self-awareness of their blatantly creepy grudge-crush on the nation’s youngest Congressperson).
“I’ve tried to have a very realistic assessment of what we accomplished without getting too overblown,” she says. Being back in the Bronx helps — she thinks of it as a totem. “You know, like in Inception? When you need to touch the thing to get back to what’s real? That’s how I feel in the district,” she says.
Say, you know who else has a special relationship with totems? Anya Corazon, a.k.a. Spider-Girl, the Latinx Spider-Person who also, as if by fate, has the initials A.C.
6. That time she referenced Stranger Things:
Last month, in the Bronx, I had the honor of attending a taping of the MSNBC show All In With Chris Hayes featuring everyone’s favorite congressional superhero. In it, she compared spending time in Washington D.C. to the alternate universe in Stranger Things: “It can seriously be the Upside Down.”
In case you suspect that AOC’s meteoric rise may’ve been enhanced by video editing and hype (it is always reasonable to question this in the age of deep-fake video!) I can attest, from having spent two hours sitting on stage with her, that these things are true IRL: She is a quick-thinking speaker who does not miss a beat; she is a radiantly attractive person; she is an attentive/active listener, and gracious towards her supporters and colleagues.
7. That time she referenced Austin Powers:
At that same MSNBC event, AOC poked fun at the GOP’s panicked reaction to the GND’s potential cost; IMO, one of their more facetious talking points (it’s not like they have a lot of strong ones) considering the amount of money the right consistently wastes on military technology and tax breaks for the wealthy.
8. That time Heather McGhee, also a panelist on the All In special, tweeted this photo. #WakandaForever
To paraphrase Marge from Fargo, “I’m not sure if I agree with you 100% on your phrasing there, Ms. McGhee.” But I do agree with you at least 97%, which is good enough for government work.
9. That time she and her friends re-created the dance scene from The Breakfast Club:
This video became a well-documented minor scandal, but on a sheerly nerdy level, we gotta appreciate the faithful recreation of all the little details in The Breakfast Club’s famous dance interlude scene. That’s cosplay commitment right there, succeeding in no small part due to younger AOC’s performance as Ally Sheedy, the outsider who ate Frito sandwiches.
10. (Added May 21, 2019) That time she and Sen. Elizabeth Warren switched teams after watching the Game of Thrones series finale.
I am not a GoT fan, but I watched the finale and very much agree with this argument. My first thought was, how will Dany’s actions, as well as her extraordinary hairstyle in the final episode, affect the Mother of Dragons cosplay at San Diego Comic-Con this year (there are, typically, hundreds of young women dressed as Dany, because of her popularity and also it’s a fairly straightforward costume to make)? For the record, I am much more a fan of George R. R. Martin’s anthology novel series Wild Cards, of which they are also developing a massive television series, and involves superheroes and stuff.
11. That time she proposed the Green New Deal:
The Green New Deal is, in the best sense, a work of science fiction. Science fiction (and its hyper-precise cousin, speculative fiction) is the genre of fiction that sometimes turns into reality, given time. When science fiction is aspirational, imaginative, and forward-reaching, it is at its best — and one could say the same thing of legislation. NO ONE, including the GND’s staunch advocates, claim that the changes will happen overnight or that the work will be seamlessly accomplished.
Like the original New Deal (you know, FDR’s set of policies which pulled America out of the Great Depression and created Social Security, among other life-saving programs?) the Green New Deal is less a specific plan to erase cows (despite what some right-wing nutjobs may claim) and more an ambitious set of principles for avoiding global catastrophe (which would also, incidentally, erase cows; I think I know which side the cows would prefer, if they had a vote).
I’d also opine that the GND is sublime branding in an age when branding really matters. It’s easy to say, it alludes to an epochal moment in American history, it’s pretty SEO-friendly, and it has the Power Of Three (syllables).
So for those who may be still missing the point: yeah, the Green New Deal is a kind of fantasy, a kind of science fiction, an absolutely necessary aspiration, and it’s also a dream of betterment. A good dream. Remember those?
If you’d like to get a t-shirt with any of the above AOC/superhero mashup memes (a portion of proceeds will be donated to AOC’s office via ActBlue) please consider visiting my blog melancholyball.com or my Patreon page.)