EVAN: To start this off by ignoring our readership and addressing you, this week’s topic is a weird sort of continuation of the various posts on culture you’ve written, such as “manly culture,” “science culture,” etc. And similar to these other groups of people, “nerd culture” is a pretty nebulous sort of thing to define.
GORDON: No argument there. After all, even the “nerds” insist on calling out “fake nerds”- especially in regards to women/girls. But what is a nerd anyways?
EVAN: See, now I’m torn, because we do need to define it, but you’ve also directly referenced an issue I wanted to discuss in depth this week.
GORDON: How about we abandon our previous track record, and just plunge recklessly ahead and hope the issue resolves itself?
EVAN: Well, let me throw this image out there:
And then hope that suffices for now.
GORDON: Works for me. So what was it that you wanted to address specifically?
EVAN: Well, just last month there was this guy, a comic artist, named Tony Harris. And he wrote this post on his Facebook page that was essentially a tirade against “faux nerd” women, and how they are whores, and so on.
To break it down further, these are women who dress up as superheroes and what have you without knowing about the actual characters themselves. He is upset because, to quote him:
BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW SH-T ABOUT COMICS, BEYOND WHATEVER GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH YOU DID TO GET REF ON THE MOST MAINSTREAM CHARACTER WITH THE MOST REVEALING COSTUME EVER.
Also that they attend to essentially just tease the regular con-goers and are actually not even hot, just “con-hot.” So yeah, he said a lot.
GORDON: Ah yes, I recall reading about this. And while I think we can all agree Harris went too far, is a bit hypocritical (seeing how most comic women ain’t exactly average looking), and probably getting too emotional, I can’t help but wonder if he has, somewhere in there, a point.
I mean, imagine if all of a sudden, something that you had been stigmatized for became popular, and people started trying to co-opt your identity knowing nearly nothing about it. I’d be ticked off too.
EVAN: That’s definitely something I’ve read people write about, that this used to be an exclusive club and that it took years to build up this knowledge and become, well, a nerd, and here are these noobs and they want in and it’s not that easy.
And I can see where they’re coming from as well.
But if you really love something, shouldn’t you want others to as well? The Avengers has an enormous following on tumblr these days [because of the movie], and these are people who are actually going out and starting to buy comics. They are helping sales, aiding the industry, etc.
GORDON: That’s true, and something I’ve considered, but there’s probably also an argument to be made for the other side. That something precious to you is being watered down and diluted for profit. I don’t believe that nerds (comic book nerds, anyways) can necessarily make this argument, but the line of logic is there.
Let’s try to come up with an example of this happening somewhere else, especially in regards to persecution.
EVAN: Mmk, go ahead-
GORDON: “Black culture” (or what was passed off as black culture) might be an example. Can you state that you’re not driven nuts by wealthy, comfortable suburban kids fronting like they’re from the streets of Oakland?
EVAN: Yeah, people are upset about it, sure, but there’s not this immense outcry over it. There are comic-con enthusiasts that are genuinely incensed that all of this is happening-
I doubt that an actual thug or gangbanger or whatever these rich White kids are playing at imitating is going to start freaking out that he’s getting ripped off. He’s going to laugh or shrug it off, because it hardly matters.
GORDON: I’d argue that the reason for this has more to do with the change in venue. It’s easy for the major players of the comic book industry to voice their opinions than, say, a Wu-Tang Clan fan in the late 90s. But maybe I’m wrong.
EVAN: For the most part, I see this as a mindset that is the foundation or core of hipsterism, and that we all feel to some extent, however minor. That we found something and we love it and there is a pride in joy in being one of the original fans.
And this outpouring of others somehow cheapens things. And all of a sudden we’re trying to assert how we’re better than them in some way.
“You chose to dress up as Spider-Woman? Do you even know who her alter-ego is, or what her powers are? Etc.”
GORDON: Again, do we not sympathize? Do we not feel frustrated with people who have more or less jumped on the bandwagon now that it’s all safe and socially acceptable to do so? Heck, just imagine if someone tried listing themselves as a fan of fine cooking, having only eaten sushi once- would you be ticked?
EVAN: If I equated sushi with fine cooking I guess I would, yeah. But just because we can understand someone’s anger and frustration doesn’t make it logical.
GORDON: I wouldn’t say that there’s not a logic to it. I mean, a major part of being a nerd is, and always has been, the social pariah element. All of the sudden you have these people trying to claim to be on the fringes of society? It’s condescending and insulting.
EVAN: I think that’s the issue- They’re not trying to “claim to be on the fringes of society.”
GORDON: I disagree- I feel this is a coward’s way of feigning rebelliousness and all that.
EVAN: Sometimes people who haven’t been exposed to comics for much of their lives see a movie, or read a trade, and go to a con. Maybe they wear a costume. That doesn’t mean they’re going into this thinking, in any way, that they’re suddenly a part of this group of outcasts.
Comics are popular now. I mean, more than they’ve ever been. To say “I like comics” is no longer the sort of thing that’s going to get you shunned. People are going to raise their eyebrows and wonder why you think that’s a big deal.
GORDON: Comics yes, no one is gonna argue that. The title of “nerd” however, that’s different. And after all, “nerd” is a much larger term. It applies to gamers, to film, and so on.
EVAN: So how does one become a “fake nerd”?
GORDON: Therein lies the rub- there’s always gonna be more obsessive nerds out there. People higher up and lower down the hierarchy. But for the most part, I think we can agree that a “false” nerd is one who does not meet the criteria in that diagram you posted.
The “social ineptitude”, the “obsessiveness”- if it’s not actually there (no matter how much the person or persons might insist otherwise) then that person is a “fake” nerd.
EVAN: So am I a “fake nerd”?
GORDON: Do you call yourself a nerd?
EVAN: I don’t really call myself anything. But I’d also say that many of the girls who go to cons and find themselves attacked by Harris don’t refer to themselves as anything in particular either.
GORDON: Then no, I wouldn’t define you or them as fitting this category. Like I said- Harris went overboard.
EVAN: I just don’t think social ineptitude needs to be a requirement in this. I think you could be a nerd and still have friends, and achieve some level of popularity. The diagram above really shoehorns the definition. I mean, what if I did call myself a nerd?
I’m fairly smart, about 80% of the time I’m thinking about comics, or comics-related media. At the same time, I’m a fairly social guy. What does that mean?
GORDON: You think about comics 80% of the time?
EVAN: I think about comics a lot.
GORDON: 80% of your waking thoughts is a craaaaaazy lot, though I’d say your self-identification as a nerd is flawed. Serial-killer in the making would be more accurate. But we begin to split hairs at this point.
EVAN: I guess it’s like, does Hugh Laurie have the right to play the blues?
GORDON: Hugh Laurie can do whatever the **** he wants. As does anyone. With everything he does, can he identify himself first and foremost as a blues musician? Not really. At least, that ain’t how we’re all gonna think of him, or remember him.
EVAN: Does it matter that it’s what you identify as first and foremost? I am positive that at some level, yes, he does identify as a blues musician.
GORDON: It does matter how you identify yourself first and foremost. I’ve eaten bugs on multiple occasions- I don’t declare myself “Gordon Brown: Bug Eater.” The rest of the stuff I do outweighs it by far.
EVAN: You’re missing my point. You’ve eaten bugs, so on some level you can identify as a bug-eater.
If he identifies as a blues artist less than he does as an actor, that doesn’t negate the fact that he identifies as a blues artist, and what we’re talking about is people being able to say that they can and do relate to a culture, and that doesn’t make them fake adherents of that.
GORDON: Let me offer another example: I’ve been camping, and I occasionally read survivalist pamphlets. For me to call myself a “survivalist” would nevertheless be inaccurate and misleading. That’s the crux of the matter, I believe.
A nerd is someone who is in this for the long haul- a person who enjoys The Avengers or Nolan’s Batman trilogy isn’t. At least, not necessarily.
EVAN: I’m not saying that a person who enjoyed The Avengers equates being a nerd. That’s like, half the Earth’s population, if the box office is any indicator.
I’m saying that a person who saw The Avengers, and then heads over to their local comics store to check some out, and gets really into it, has the potential to become a “comics nerd” of sorts. And people who see them and scorn them for not being there from the beginning should be ashamed of themselves.
If we’re sticking with the example of film and comics and so-on.
GORDON: And I agree- those people should not be viewed with derision. But that’s not who we’re talking about here.
We’re talking about ****ing hipsters, about people who have just enough knowledge of a culture to give themselves the veneer or adopting it. People who wear glasses as a ****ing fashion statement. You know the kind.
It’s about motives. The noob who is just now getting into the culture isn’t a “false” nerd- just a young one. The person who call himself or herself a nerd to co-opt the social stigma (now that it’s all but gone) deserves contempt.
EVAN: I honestly don’t think that what these people are trying to co-opt is the social stigma.
GORDON: My poor choice of words. I mean the false sense of rebellion. Like people who post pro-gay Facebook statements simply to draw attention and applause to themselves. Fake-rebels. Fair-weather activists.
EVAN: That’s fine, and I agree that these people are not to be applauded.
I just think that for the most part, people are realizing that there is a lot in the “nerd culture” that they find interesting and accessible, and are gravitating towards it. Not out of some misguided attempt to be on the edge of society, but because they legitimately enjoy whatever it is they’re trying to engage with.
GORDON: I agree- I simply don’t think it’s these people most old-guard nerds are angry at.
EVAN: But how can they differentiate? That’s a huge issue. It’s this reaction of the community against anyone that’s not legit, but without any way of truly being able to tell how people feel-
A person can go to comic-con in an elaborate costume simply because they enjoy the aesthetics and design of the character. They’re not required to know everything about them, and shouldn’t be hissed and booed at when they don’t.
GORDON: That in and of itself is another issue. If I showed up to the social justice convention dressed as Che Guevara you’d best believe I’d better know a thing or two about the guy who I’m completely dressed up as- but we’re moving off track.
EVAN: But the point of social justice conventions isn’t to dress up as your favourite revolutionary- that’s entirely besides the point. I bring it up because it’s completely cogent to our topic, because it’s exactly what Tony Harris was railing against.
GORDON: Tony Harris ran his mouth and made a fool of himself, I ain’t trying to defend a word of what he said or wrote, only the general perspective he seems to be coming from.
EVAN: What I’m saying, without negating your points is this, and I’m going to try to wrap up since we’re 15 minutes past our cut-off, is this:
I’m someone says “LOL im such a nerd” and they wear glasses with big frames and have a Green Lantern patch on their backpack, yeah, I’d say that’s not okay. But a large issue is being able to, as a community, acknowledge when “outsiders” try to access what it is that we love so dearly.
We like comic books and Star Trek and Dungeons and Dragons, and if other people might as well, that’s fine. Just because others weren’t always welcoming of us in the past doesn’t mean we should do the same to others. Especially when there’s some likelihood, even a little, that they could one day be as big a fan as you [as hard as that may be to believe].
GORDON: Well put. Be sure to stop by next time for our discussion of . . .
EVAN: Of . . . uh . . . I threw out this topic last week, what’ve you got?
GORDON: Let’s address the portrayal of drugs- weed in particular- in media and popular culture.
EVAN: That’s a pretty contemporary topic too, because of the legalization in Washington and all that. Sounds good to me.
GORDON: Let it be so then. Merry Wednesday to all, and to all a good night!