Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Nerd conquest

I just read If nerds won the war for pop culture, why are they so angry all the time? by Drew McWeeny, which is wonderfully considered and important article. It's also very personal, and I really appreciated the level of honesty he provided in examining this issue. I immediately shared it, because I want to make sure I do the tiny amount I can to make sure it's read.

My response is being dashed off because I had immediate thoughts, so I expect it to in no way compare, but I wanted to offer them.

Here's part of the problem, we have confused the accouterments of being a nerd.

That's not to say in a world where not only are superhero movies the biggest blockbusters every year, not to mention Star Wars and zombies, that nerds haven't made a shit ton of headway in the world. We can add to that the importance of the Internet, social media, video games. The accouterments of being a nerd are absolutely the mainstream of pop culture. And that does give nerds a much different place in he world

That said, it hasn't changed a lot of significant aspects of what really makes a nerd a nerd.

First of all, being a nerd was always less about what one likes than how one likes it. Growing up in the '70s, liking Star Wars was something everyone did. Being able to discuss the Journal of the Whills and Splinter of the Mind's Eye, that was nerdy.

I run into this all of the time now. Often it makes me feel more hopelessly nerdy than I did before all things nerdy became the mainstream. There I am, having what starts as a perfectly normal conversation about the new Captain America: Civil War when something comes out of my mouth like, "When Lee and Kirby introduced Black Panther in Fantastic Four #52..." or "I'll be even happier when they finally make a Cap movie with MODOK." and suddenly realize the conversation has turned into something neither of us are comfortable with.

Which brings us to the most important thing that makes nerds nerds, social awkwardness.

That conversation above, I've had it about things that were "cool" at the time, starting with the popular bands of the day.

Carrying on a conversation involves knowing what the conversation is. Part of what makes a person a nerd is not being strong on that seemingly ordinary skill.

So, I think part of the frustration out there among nerds is that, in some ways, conversations have become even more dangerous. Knowing where the conversation goes into nerdiness when discussing work, fishing or, I don't know, lawn furniture is relatively simple. Mostly, they never do. Where is that line, though, when the whole conversation is about World of Warcraft or George Takei?

In some ways, "winning" the culture has only made the culture more difficult to navigate.

Does that excuse the vile behavior we see among many of the nerd sub-cultures? Not at all. I'm not sure it even goes as far as I'd like in explaining it.

I know I'm a guy who is happy enjoying what I like and celebrating it when I get the chance. I gave up fighting with anyone about anything on the Internet and feel ashamed every time I start or am even tempted. I've never made any racist or misogynist arguments or trolled anyone. I'm not guilty of most of the angry nerd behaviors at this point and as embarrassed by them as anyone, and I'm equally horrified by the most vile of those displays.

That said, these are the reasons I get a little twinge of something whenever I'm told that we won. Because whatever we've experienced, it's different than a victory, no matter how much it appears like one.

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