I recently realized that although I have a blog that I want to turn into a physical monthly magazine all surrounding a single idea, I have never really defined what that idea is.
Buzz words in the public lexicon over the past decade, after the success of Iron Man and Batman Begins. Nerds and Geeks are more than just a demographic, more than people dressed up crazy at Comic Conventions, or loners in their parents basements surrounded by Mountain Dew and Doritos.
We are passionate fans of entertainment, that flow between complete escapism to a hard look at our darker sides through the lens of caricaturization .
Though I relate more to Nerd, the Nerd/Geek distinction depends highly on where you heard it first. One is into comic books and cosplay, fan theories and fiction. The other uses words like retina and resolution, interface and wireframe. Or maybe one is socially inept and can’t make eye contact, and the other cares too much about their grades to try to make friends in the first place. Go to any place where these people converge, and the room will be mixed by what word they identify themselves with, and what the other word means. Sometimes dork is thrown in there too.
This site, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, is more along the Superheroes, Sci-Fi, and Swords route, and consider that being a “Nerd.”
Now that we know what I mean by Nerd, what is Nerd Culture?
Everyone has seen The Avengers or Star Wars by now, unless they are actively trying not to. It’s everywhere! We all know who Iron Man is, and what a Lightsaber is. So what makes Nerds different from everyone else?
A Nerd is someone who takes the knowledge and enjoyment of these things farther than the general consensus. We are on the far right side of the bell curve. We know more than the average moviegoer, whether its from reading the comic book, behind the scenes info, or even deconstruction of the story down to the “Hero Journey”.
Are there only Nerds for Superheroes, Sci-Fi, and Swords? Of course not! They just tend to have different names, but we are all the same! The guy that built his own computer? A geek! The girl who can tell you who was the coach of the Minnesota Vikings in 1988? A jock (usually). Maybe you can recite any bible verse someone throws at you, or the history of the Whig party, dinosaurs, anime, or the Holy Roman Empire (which was not Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire).
The point is, we take these things farther than most of the population does, because we have a passion for it, usually to the point of obscurity. We enjoy the content created by others, and occasionally try to create content ourselves. The reason you don’t hear about sports fans being called nerds as much, is because so many people are sports fans, it is hard to know the facts to the point of obscurity, is because there are so many “die hard fans” of teams, you really have to go deep to find the obscure knowledge. Which is also the reason it’s easier to become a nerd for Marvel Comics, is because most people have seen the movies, but haven’t read the comics, so obscure knowledge doesn’t really take that much digging. Just some casual reading.
We love superheroes and scif-fi and swords and anime and zombies for so many reasons. Sometimes it’s because we want to escape to a cooler world, where the stakes are higher. Instead of a presidential twitter account taking over the news, its the Borg Queen taking over the Federation. Maybe we enjoy it because we are imagining ourselves in these stories. I’m not sitting at a desk, getting that report to Mr. Johnson, I’m walking across Middle-earth, getting the ring of power to Mordor. We might even want to understand political situations better, but instead of The Patriot Act looking at our personal information for the security of the nation, it is the Sokovia Accords telling Captain America he can’t have personal freedom for the security of the world. And then there are days, where you want everyone to be a zombie, so you could go on a killing spree without remorse, and show that just because I have a katana, doesn’t mean I’m not cool, Kevin. Whatever is the reason for our love of these stories however, it usually comes from dissatisfaction with the real world, and a desire to have the problems of fantasy.
There is a dark side to fandom as well. A place where Nerds become bullies to those we see as inferior.
If you have ever heard the phrase “You’re not a true fan,” then you have been the victim of gatekeeping. For decades, Nerds have been excluded from socializing because of our passion beyond social acceptability for bizarre things, and so we took them on as our personal belongings. You have parties, we have Wolverine. You have football, we have Dungeons & Dragons. You have your thing, and we have ours.
Again though, in the past decade, “our” things have become more popular. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the highest domestic grossing movie of all time! The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest grossing film franchise of all time! More and more people are jumping onto our bandwagon, without going through the ostracization that we had to go through, and so a lot of the nerds feel like they don’t deserve to be a part of this tribe of fans. So some of us will find reasons to exclude others because they themselves were excluded.
This needs to stop. This is toxic to fandom, and it isn’t good for nerds. What good does this do? Why does telling others that they aren’t true fans, make you a bigger fan? Putting others down doesn’t make you bigger, it makes you a bully. That’s all this is. We see in those movies growing up that bullies were just made to feel small by someone else, so they take it out on someone smaller, so they can feel big again. We were made to feel small for liking our things, and now that we are cool(er) for liking those things, we naturally feel the need to make those that don’t know feel small again. This is a toxic cycle that doesn’t help anyone.
Besides, what is a fan, if not someone who enjoys something? When you first become a junior in high school, they don’t make you take the ACT right away, and then shame you for not already getting a good score. You become a junior, then learn the answers as you grow. You have to be a fan before you can start to know all the minutiae about these stories. No one studies The Hobbit so that they can enjoy it, the study it BECAUSE they enjoy it. So yes, someone who just saw The Justice League and enjoyed it, can still be a true fan, even if they haven’t learned what Krypton is yet.
Imagine, if everyone loved the things we loved, it would be great. It is because the general populace has enjoyed the Marvel Cinematic Universe that we have gotten movies about Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Black Panther. None of that would have happened, and it even if it did, those movies would not have been as great as they are.
It is because our fandoms are becoming more popular that we are getting more merchandise to collect. Compare what you see at the mall for fandoms versus sports. If nerds could get the merch that sports fans could get, we would be swimming up to our eyeballs in awesome stuff, instead of hunting for Hot Topic or Spencers and hanging out in there the whole time.
We need original fans to show these new fans what our fandoms are all about. Let them borrow your comics, instead of criticizing them for not reading them already. Explain to them why Chancellor Palpatine’s plan worked, instead of telling them that if they didn’t get it, they don’t deserve to know. Walk them through the history of our awesome stories, and show them where to find more, and help them understand, and be a happy place for them. The more fans we have, the more the big companies will make for us to enjoy with each other. We need as many fans as we can get, so we can say we were in Hall H like other people say they were at the Superbowl.
So be a beacon of light to the new generation of fans, whether they are kids or adults, walking into Star Wars for the first time, or picking up Final Fantasy XII, show them why its awesome to be a part of our community. Ask them to go to your local comic convention with you, and answer their questions, however ridiculous. Be the type of friend you needed when you first discovered your gateway fandom, because you never know, the guy that you tell to watch Doctor Who, might end up creating a blog about an entire world that he wasn’t a part of eight years previous.