Let me preface this article by saying that I don’t know how to write what I’m about to write without sounding incredibly hipster. That is not my intention at all. I have had this idea rolling around in my head for a couple of weeks now and I finally decided to put it down, give it some legs, and see where it takes me.
I was driving home from work yesterday and was stuck in the typical Los Angeles rush hour traffic. For about 10 or so miles I was caught behind a Prius with a number of nerdy/geeky bumper stickers and decals. They said things like “Nerd and proud.” and “The Force is strong with this one.” It got me thinking about what it means to be a nerd nowadays. I mean, I write for a site called The Nerd Stash. I should know what is and isn’t nerdy and and who is and isn’t a nerd, right?
Let me give you a little personal history. I grew up in a fairly large town in Orange County, California called Fullerton. I had two friends with whom I did everything. We watched old movies, we played video games, we read comics, we were your typical nerds. But we never considered ourselves nerds. We just had passion for a lot of things that weren’t necessarily the main stream when we were young. That isn’t to say that no one played video games or watched old movies. We just took it to an extreme. I remember plenty of nights during the summer where we stayed up until the wee hours of the morning trying to beat M. Bison on the hardest difficulty or wanting to get just one more James Bond movie in before sunrise.
And then we would stay up all night talking about comic books and concocting convoluted “Who would win?” scenarios pitting the Hulk against Juggernaut or Green Arrow vs. Hawkeye. We didn’t want sleep to interrupt our fun. We would coordinate with our mothers to craft as impressive a superhero costume for Halloween as we could with our limited skills and budget. We still loved it and we didn’t care that the costumes probably looked terrible.
I waited in line all night with a buddy to buy a Game Cube when they launched. Yes, a Game Cube. I can’t believe it either. We competed in local video game tournaments at Blockbuster Video. My mother tells me that at the age of 5 I somehow knew what at what time and on what channel the new Star Trek: The Next Generation aired. I lived and breathed nerd culture before I even knew what it was.
Fast forward to today. I am a 30-something nerd who is surrounded by the things I loved in my youth. I see T-Shirts with echos of the past at places like Hot Topic and Target. I can go on Amazon and repurchase all the toys and action figures I had and inevitably lost during moves and with the passing of time. Hollywood is releasing and re-releasing remakes and adaptations of my favorite books and movies. Star Trek has a new face. Star Wars is soon to be reborn. Marvel is dominating the big screen while DC makes its mark on the small screen.
Nerd culture is everywhere, and, honestly, I don’t know what to think of it.
On the one hand I’m happy. Seeing characters and stories I’ve always loved enjoying the popularity they’ve always had with me and my friends is awesome. That comic books in general are entering into a new golden age should make anyone who calls himself or herself a nerd jump for joy. But, like I said earlier, I never really considered myself a nerd. That’s something other people called me.
The thing is, being considered a nerd now means something totally different than it did 20 or even 10 years ago. We did what we did because we had a genuine love for something. We loved Nintendo. Or Sega. So much so that we would have heated arguments over which was better. We were nerds by default because that’s what society labeled us. Our small groups of friends enjoyed what we enjoyed with as much enthusiasm and joy as we did. We discovered things together. It was like secret knowledge of what was truly awesome was known to only us. We weren’t prophets or proselytizers. We did our own thing, and if that attracted other people to that life we would embrace them fully.
To be a nerd now is almost something to aspire to. The nerd revolution is here and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in the near future. Nerds are web developers, multi-billion dollar internet moguls, researchers, engineers, fashionistas. They are everywhere, and, honestly, part of me thinks that this has diluted what that lifestyle meant to me. The ecstasy of discovery. The shared shame of ridicule. The sacrifice of hours and hours of reading so that we could be up to date on everything that is Marvel or DC. Those things aren’t as important anymore.
Being seen as something hip and trendy seems to be more important. Too many people do the things I did in my youth because they think it will make them popular. I’m not saying everyone plays video games or watches Marvel movies because they think it makes them cool, but enough of them do that I notice it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I hope this revolution creates as much awe and wonder in the younger generation as it does acceptance. I know popularity is a cruel mistress, and soon enough the nerd craze will go the way of grunge or yuppies. I just hope that it engenders in this new generation a love for comics, movies, sci-fi and fantasy, video games, and whatever else might interest them. That can only lead to good things.
Born and raised in Orange County, I’m Just your average guy with delusions of grandeur. Part time poet and full time geek, my interest run the gamut from video games and sci fi movies to newly emerging tech and various Cons.