Swift Musings: “Revenge of the Nerds, or saving Geek Culture from itself”

Courtesy of Mojang
Courtesy of Mojang

Nerd culture has seen a rise in popularity in the last few years. Thanks to a combination of things such as the availability and knowledge of the Internet and changing social attitudes about personal niches (for example, people now look down upon a high school jock who gives a nerd a wedgie for playing “Magic: The Gathering”), it’s now considered cool to like nerdy things. And that’s really great. I personally love little nerdy or geeky pleasures as much as the next person. Should I feel ashamed knowing that I’ve watched every single episode of the original Twilight Zone, or that I’ve read every single book in the original “Goosebumps,” “Goosebumps 2000” and “Tales to Give Yourself Goosebumps,” as well as the numerous spin-offs? What about the fact that I still own and play my original copy of “Pokemon: Gold Version” (I named my level 100 Ampharos “Amphy”), or that I totally flipped out over the lineup announcements for “Super Smash Brothers”? (Go Megaman!)

Throughout most of the history of pop culture, nerdy people have had a bad reputation. They’ve had this burden to bear on their shoulders about the things they like, which transpired into shame. This originated not from themselves but from society, because society is cruel and vicious. Back in the pre-Internet days, to be a nerd was to be an outsider, a David trembling under the Goliath of society. The stereotype of the pimply, smelly, unmannered, socially awkward 30-year-old playing “Dungeons and Dragons” in his parents’ basement existed as a cultural myth. To be a nerd was to be framed as the unintelligible “other” that could be virtually laughed out of existence.

Nowadays, you’ll see people wearing geeky T-shirts that basically read “Hi, I’m a fan of (insert a nerdy pleasure here).” There are entire movie franchises dedicated to superheroes, and every kind of person enjoys them. And almost every friend and their mother plays video games. Could it be a better time to be nerdy?

The popularity of nerdy things, however, comes with a price: Those who now proudly wear the “true nerd” label without a sense of irony. And these folks could potentially hurt the newfound love of all things geek with their mindset. You’ll hear them in line for the latest “Avengers” movie, saying things like “You liked the first ‘Avengers’ movie, but did you know how badly it differed from the comics?” They’re also the kind who call out women for being “fake nerds” or “fake gamer girls,” or ask questions like “Did you only get into comic books because of your boyfriend?” Along with throwing sexist lingo upon what was originally an anti-social stigma, they’ve divided the nerd block as a whole between the “casual nerds” and the “true nerds.” While liking nerdy things has never been as cool or popular, it’s also never been as poisonous, and the wound is self-inflicting.

To this I say: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a “casual” (or what the Internet likes to dub as “a pleb”). It’s great that people as a whole have broken many stereotypes by making nerd culture more open, diverse and accessible to the masses. Why should people be so hostile toward an individual if they call themselves a “Legend of Zelda” fan while never playing “Majora’s Mask” (which fits me), or if an individual calls himself a Joss Whedon fan even if they’ve never watched “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or “Serenity” and think that “Cabin in the Woods” is overrated (which also fits me)?

It seems as though the stigma around accusations of being a nerd has now been switched around to accusations of not being a true nerd or nerdy enough, which then just turns the issue into a silly semantics argument. There are many different ways to be considered a nerd, and the fact that I have to point this out simply highlights the ridiculousness of this issue. Don’t get angry if your friend likes Batman but doesn’t know the backstory of every single Batman villain. In the words of Childish Gambino, if someone’s happiness makes you angry, then don’t be mad that they’re doing them better than you’re doing you.

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