By Hannah Shultz, News Editor
In this day and age, when you see a guy sporting a Captain America t-shirt, you don’t assume he lives in his parents’ basement and subsists on Cheetos Puffs and Mountain Dew. Superhero movies, T.V. shows like Game of Thrones and even reading (this one still has some catching up to do) have become mainstream and—dare I say—cool. On one hand, it is awesome that us nerds get more of what we love. However (and I don’t want to sound like a “chocolate wouldn’t taste so good without knowing the bitterness of broccoli” type of person, but seriously), we have lost something important after handing over our beloved tease-worthy movies, shows and books to the jaws of rabid bandwagon teenyboppers.
Before I continue, I should clarify: I don’t blame nerds for this situation. I blame society. Society tends to take every good aspect of our culture, twist and manipulate it, then spit it out as a mangled shadow of its past self (see: pop music and YA-novel to film adaptations). And nerd-dom has not been immune to this:
1. The Hipster Nerd
The hipster began as the harmless shabby-chic, coffee-cup-Instagramming young person; they haunted cooler-than-you music scenes and wore thick-framed glasses without lenses. The hipster aspect of society has now penetrated deeper, and the conventional nerd has evolved into a higher life form: the hipster nerd. The hipster nerds have turned media consumption into an art form. It isn’t so much if you enjoy it, but how you enjoy it.
Do you declare that you are the progenitor of every show’s fanbase? Check. Do you claim to know about characters and costumes that haven’t even been created yet? Check. Do you demand that every comic-book hero have a costume that can be easily recreated with a Goodwill run? Check. Do you stop caring about a show once it becomes mainstream? Check. Congratulations! You’re a hipster nerd.
“[The hipster-nerd culture is] sort of interest without passion, making demands for something that it won’t care about in a few months; taking the work of artists and reducing it to base irony or worse, twisting artistic intent to fit personal fashion,” said University of Kentucky graduate student R. Hooper, who speaks to the rise of the hipster nerd and its degrading effects on the nerd community—both creators and consumers.
2. Don’t Meet Your Heroes
If the hipster nerd didn’t ruin your love of all things nerdy, then every one of your favorite books and comics being turned into blockbuster hits did. Don’t misunderstand me: I love nerdy movies. I’ve seen Harry Potter enough times to quote every line. But some (ahem, Green Lantern, ahem, Divergent) fail to accurately pay homage to the beloved original work. They say don’t meet your heroes for a reason: They rarely live up to expectations.
Another eventuality of Hollywood adapting everything with words into a marketable blockbuster is nerd culture being inundated with bandwagon fans. Note: I am not saying you have to like something before it becomes popular. However, if you are one of these flash-fried nerds, understand that there are books filled with backstory or thirty-years’ worth of comics that are necessary in order to understand the full context of a work. Cue a .gif of the movie and a misinformed, angry post on Tumblr, and you’ve got a pointless Internet argument.
3. The Ashamed Viewer
Kids were once bullied—lockers pranked, name-called, gossiped about—for liking Marvel comics or enjoying reading more than playing sports. And society has not forgotten. This has caused an epidemic in what I call ashamed viewers: those who are embarrassed to like nerdy things due to the continued repercussions of harmful stereotypes.
When I was in high school, I was caught between the transition of these two worlds: The era of the ostracism of nerds was coming to an end, and the popularization of nerd culture had just begun. I knew that others liked the same things as I did but was still hesitant to admit it. I kept the nerdy part of myself compartmentalized for my more “normal” friends’ sake (and I still do to a large extent). I flinch in class when I hear someone mention Naruto or Attack on Titan. Long-term nerds can attest to how weird it is to openly show your love for Doctor Who on a t-shirt when you felt self-conscious bringing a Harry Potter book to school five years ago.
As a result, instead of saying you like a show, you say you like it ironically or it’s your guilty pleasure. The new generation of nerds, raised during a time where nerd culture is popular in wider society, has been schooled in the art of reserved expression, lest it be judged for its opinions. If you never become more than a shallow or ironic fan, you never have to engage in deeper discussion or defend your opinion of the work. It’s a safer method of consumption.
All of these facets of the popularization of nerd culture have contributed to the gradual erosion of what is used to mean to be a nerd. John Green once described nerds as people who are “allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff” that we create. He said, “Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it.” Society, I implore you, stop caring so much about what other people think. Enjoy what you want to enjoy in the way you want to enjoy it. And that goes for you too, nerds.