On the Subject of “Nerds”

(EDIT: The original post reverted to a rougher, old, saved version for some reason.  Made a few spelling/grammar corrections, but there’s probably still plenty here to nitpick, if that’s your thing…)

People are massively misusing the word “nerd” these days.  They’re confusing it with “fan.”

Allow me to show my work.  Probably the biggest things people point to and associate with being a “nerd” is an affinity for video games and sci-fi.  So let’s examine those.

Someone who is a gamer is just someone who grew up after the year 1970.  Gaming hasn’t been a “nerdy” pursuit in a couple of generations.  (There’s a case for the table-top gamers still being able to call themselves nerds, because wow who gives a crap about D&D anymore?)  Someone who watches Sci Fi isn’t a nerd either, based solely on liking Star Trek and Doctor Who…they’re just someone who watches a multi-million dollar, wildly successful franchise.  They’re part of the status quo.  (Those who can tell you the complete schematics of the Enterprise’s replicators, on the other hand…)

And while we’re at it, I’m sick of seeing people like Felicia Day called a “nerd.”  Don’t get me wrong, I like Felicia Day and I’m not belittling her in any way.  I’m fully aware of how outspoken she is on behalf of girl-gamers…but that’s just it.  She’s a girl-gamer.  That’s not a nerd.  Open your high school yearbook.  Find the picture of the guy who always got beat up, always got stuffed into lockers, and always sat alone in the lunch room.  Now look back at your laptop screen and find a picture of Felicia Day.  See the difference?  Me too.

I’m also sick of marketing departments making it “cool” to be a nerd.  BBC America actually ran a Doctor Who marathon one weekend and referred to it as “Sat-NERD-Day.”  I don’t know how else to say this…but fuck you, BBC America.  I’m not a nerd.  I’m a fan of a TV show.  Just like the people who love Law & Order or How I Met Your Mother…or The Big Bang Theory, which actually pokes FUN at its own witless audience—and I even LIKE that show.  Fool that I am.

I read an article that named a porn-star (and I’d like to stress that I am completely unfamiliar with her body of work—no pun intended) as a nerd because she has a name similar to a cartoon character and went to Comic Con (conveniently) for the first time in the same year she started to get “featured” in movies.  No, no, no, nerd “community.”  That girl ski-polling those two guys standing on either side of her for millions of dollars?  That’s not a nerd.  She may have some fan-obsessive pursuits like gaming or anime…but that no longer a nerd makes.  It’s too popular.  Too trendy.  Too status quo.  And I can’t stress this enough…  Nerds don’t get invited to the really good gangbangs.  (Though some likely pay to download them, since the girl involved is—again conveniently—“one of them.”)

So what IS a nerd?  Well…last I checked a nerd is basically just someone who’s academically inclined and has more interest in the science and math of how something happened than they do the soap opera result.  The guys who WRITE Doctor Who?  Nerds.  The people who WATCH it?  Fans.  Felicia Day?  Great actress and gamer.  Her writers and the people who MADE those games?  Nerds.

There’s a pretty notable difference.  All I’m asking is that you double-check yourself the next time you find yourself saying something like, “Ha ha, I beat Arkham City in one night and now I’m looking for the extra achievements!  I’m such a nerd!”  Unless you can tell me the square root of 49 without a calculator, you’re probably not a nerd.  You’re just good at a video game.  Like EVERY kid from the 80s.  And you’d probably still make fun of the ACTUAL nerds, if you were still in high school.  It’s okay to just be a FAN.  There’s no reason to pretend to be something you’re not and pretend that the status quo you’re so much a card-carrying member of is somehow “uncool” while the nerds who designed it cash the checks they made from YOUR money.  At most, someone with an obsessive hobby but no real academic inclination would be a GEEK.  (And those who care about the difference…dorks.)

Okay…rant over.  Be a fan.  Stop pretending.  You may now return to your nerdy, nerdy pursuits on the Internet.  Freaking nerd.


Current Listening:

  • Kaiser Chiefs – Employment
  • Soul Asylum – Delayed Reaction
  • John Coltrane – Giant Steps