Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Nerd, what is thy name? Otaku?

So out of a fit of boredom, I ended up perusing the past few years of posts on Atomic Nerds.  I may not hold the same viewpoints on a few issues they bring up, but I love reading just about everything they post about, all of which is either greatly entertaining and/or thought provoking whether you're bored or not.

One post in particular linked to the nerd test, which I was compelled to take immediately, with results pictured below.  A fun little test, but some of it's contents got me thinking "what truly makes someone a nerd?"

So, if your not partial to a boring existential rant of an examination of what a nerd might be, don't bother following after the jump.

You still here?  Really?  Okay.  Let's get started with another pointless rant.

So, it seems as though no matter where I go on the interwebs or who I talk to in person, there are a few things that stereotypically come to the surface of a conversation about describing a nerd, whether they mean to say that they are nerds, or are simply describing someone else as one.

It seems more often than not, that the following things are hopelessly associated with nerds and/or nerd like activity:  Lord of the Rings (or anything Tolkien, really), Magic the Gathering (or other card games), Star Wars* (yes, I said it), Pokemon, Cartoons (of various origins), comic books, etc.  The list can encompass a few other things, but for the most part, these are the big offenders.  Why do I say these are offenders?  Well, let us continue.

Now, for the sake of my argument (rant), I'm gonna simply insert the Wikipedia definition of nerd below.  I know Wikipedia is far from the most reliable source in the world, but I think this definition is pretty spot on with most people's definition of the word (which will result in me not only reading the wiki article now, but going on a wiki journey of pathetically long length).

Nerd is a derogatory stereotype of a person typically described as socially-impaired, obsessive, or overly intellectual.  They may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular or obscure activities, pursuits, or interests, which are generally either highly technical, or relating to topics of fiction or fantasy, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities.  Other nerdy qualities include physical awkwardness, introversion, quirkiness, and unattractiveness.  Thus, a nerd is often excluded from physical activity and is a social outsider.  In the stereotypical high-school situation, they may be either considered loners by others, or they tend to associate with a small group of like-minded people. 

Now, I understand the word can be re-appropriated, or that the social definition can change after some time.  Especially in light of the recent decades popularizing a lot of things that some may have considered nerdy in the past, that somehow everyone seems to be in to these days.  But despite that, I think that this definition has held up fairly well over time.

Now, I will give this caveat before making my argument: I grew up in a weird place.  However, my argument is simply this:  Nearly every, single, freaking idiot I have met, was a either a big fan of the above mentioned things, or was living under a damp, radioactive rock.  Therefore, your enjoyment of these  things doesn't make you a "nerd"!

Look, I actually like Star Wars and various cartoons, but does that make someone a nerd, when it is an almost established fact that these things are pretty big aspects of pop culture and mainstream America?  In this man's opinion, the answer is a big fat NO.  Especially because nearly all of those people seemed to be quite popular, with no social difficulties whatsoever.

I was ridiculed constantly (even today) for not only disliking Tolkien (especially that boring LotR "saga"), but for hating the retardation that is Magic the Gathering, and the equally worthless Pokemon, and despite the occasional graphic novel, I really never understood the joy in comic books, either, along with various other dumb mainstream crap that people seem to want to pass as "nerdy".

Now this is not an appraisal of just my inner circle, or people who only I'm friends with, this is an honest assessment of a vast majority of people falling within about 5 years (give or take) of my age bracket that I have come into contact with.

There are still plenty of stereotypically nerdy things that are just that: nerdy.  However,  I will never accept a very sociable someone taking a liking to something mainstream, and declaring themselves as a member of Nerdus Maximus**.

*The only way I'll consider Star Wars fandom as nerdy is if someone learns to speak wookie, or perhaps collect mass amounts of memorabilia and merchandise, and even then...

**Huh.  Google that phrase, and you'll end up on some girl's blog from Indonesia.  Random fact of the day, I guess.

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