because cool kids are boring

Nerd Girl Rage

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I’ve been noticing an interesting trend these days. The backlash against the popularization of nerddom has finally started to break through the surface in a big way, which was inevitable, but interestingly, it’s come in the form of a specific backlash against the rise of the nerd girl.

The latest example came to light, thanks to my friend Church, in the form of an editorial over at Flickcast. I suggest giving it a read before moving forward, it isn’t long.

Now, before I go further, let me deal with something up front. Are there women out there who are using the nerd card to try and get some fame and attention? Probably. Is that editorial, and all the other similar pieces that have been popping up these days, gross over generalizations that serve little purpose beyond painting their writers as bitter elitist people? Probably.

Off the top of my head, I see two fallacies at work in the above piece (and in the vast majority of similar rants).

1) The equating of nerddom with fandom, or at least using fandom as the measuring stick for nerdity.

To say that someone isn’t a nerd if they aren’t willing to miss family functions because watching some TV show is more important, or take time off work so they can sit in line waiting for some movie to come out, is to take an incredibly narrow definition of nerddom. It also takes a very old and antiquated view of nerddom. I’m not a nerd because I use On Demand, or have a Tivo? I’m not a nerd if I’ve cancelled my cable subscription because I can just torrent the shows I want to watch the next day? I’m not a nerd if I prefer to read a book on physics or mathematics instead of watch TV? What happens if I have to choose between going to a MC Frontalot show or watching Game of Thrones? Which option allows me to retain my nerd status?

2) The assumption that you are either a hardcore nerd or you aren’t a nerd at all.

I thought the whole point of being a nerd was that you didn’t fit into the easily definable categories that other people tried to push you in. Shoehorning all of society into this binary equation strikes me as very unnerdy.

Seriously though, there’s a huge gap in such a simplistic view of nerddom, namely what I refer to as the guerillas. The guerillas are folks who have chosen to hide their nerdity when in “polite” company, and only indulge in it when they are in certain safe and controlled environments. When they’re sure that Bob, the loudmouth from accounting, isn’t near by to see them. I hope we can all agree that this isn’t a new group in the nerd world and in fact this archetype has, in all likelihood, been around since the beginning.

As nerdity has gained in acceptance the guerillas among us have started to feel safer in expressing their true selves. Where previously they took care to ensure that they appeared to be normal average folk, now they are more willing to admit that they enjoy Star Wars/Trek or comic books or some other form of nerdy pass time. Perhaps they do it in moderation, but at least they are not quite so worried about what Bob is going to tell people.

Are there attractive young women out there who are simply pandering to the nerds in hopes of gaining fame and fortune? As I said, probably. On the other hand, has Hollywood always been a lot nerdier then we’ve been lead to believe by Entertainment Tonight and People Magazine? Definitely. The difference is, where before a fondness for video games or comic books would be seen as a liability, it can be an asset now. It sets them apart and gives their brand a hook.

So while there are surely some who are pandering, I’d be willing to bet money that a good chunk, if not most, are sincere in what they say. They’re just now more willing to say it.

You know what though, let’s take a minute here and assume I’m completely wrong. Let’s assume that the other side is right and the idea of the hot nerd girl is just a myth and they’re all faking it.

What do I say? God bless ’em.

Let’s take a step back here.

By the very nature of our culture the young traditionally look towards the famous as role models and guides through life. They are the people most of us have longed to be at some point in our lives.

This means that there are young girls out there looking at these women and idolizing them. They want to be like these women. And the message they are getting (outside of some possibly nasty lessons about body image, but that’s a separate discussion) is that it’s OK to be a little nerdy. It’s OK for a young girl to play video games or read comic books. Whether the message is sincere or bullshit, that’s still the message that’s being put out there.

Now look me in the eye and tell me that’s a bad thing.

But, it’s a shallow message you say. To which I reply with some trite statement about mighty rivers starting out as tiny streams.

This is only the beginning. Let’s assume that they all are full of shit. That doesn’t automatically mean the next generation will be so full of shit. Or that the generation after that. The Sex Pistols were a bunch of scenesters who were formed by their manager with the expressed purpose of increasing sales at the fetish shop that said manager co-owned. But a good chunk of their fans didn’t get the memo that it was all a bunch of hypocritical crap. They took it seriously and they did some pretty amazing shit.

But it won’t last you say. They’ll just move onto the next fad a year or two from now and it won’t have any lasting potential. To which I tell you a story about Nirvana.

If you’re to young to know who Nirvana was, go hit Wikipedia. The point is that Nirvana broke and suddenly it was cool to be a punk. Except being a punk was now something very different then what it had meant before Nirvana broke. It was watered down and had it’s edges filed off. And in the end, after a couple of years it faded into something else, as such things are want to do. The majority stropped being punks and moved on to something else. As they left though, they left some shit behind. Here and there were groups of kids who’d dug a little deeper while the shit was going down. May be someone handed them a copy of Maximum Rock and Roll or a Black Flag album or they became intrigued by Kurt’s tattoo of K Record’s logo. Whatever. Why isn’t important, what’s important is that when the masses moved on to the next thing, they stayed.

May be this will all fade away and we’ll go back to the way things were. But we won’t go back alone. We’ll take with us groups of folks who we would have otherwise lost. People who would have previously fallen to peer pressure to follow the herd, but because a bunch of attractive (kinda) famous people talked about their supposed love of Star Trek or World of Warcraft on some late night talk show, they found their way into the fold.

That’s the worst case scenario here folks. Absolute worst case is that a bunch of kids are going to find their way into nerddom and decide they don’t want to leave when everyone else does.

Now, are you really going to stand there and tell me that indulging your insecurities and sense of entitlement is more important then letting some kid find themselves in nerddom?


Written by Matt

May 4th, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized