My son thinks it’s cool to be a nerd. He takes pride in wearing a blue Apple employee shirt around and bringing attention to his endless fanboy knowledge of any product that begins with an i.
Today I was chatting about how much I like “Game of Thrones” with my web team at the television station. One of them has not seen the show, the other could barely download a few episodes before he decided it wasn’t worth the time it took to download it.
“It was better than ‘Lord of the Rings,’” he said, to my absolute shock and horror. “All they do in that (LOTR) is walk around. Even the trees walk around.”
They are 20 somethings, so my shock and horror is more for show than real.
But it all made me think about the essence of being a nerd.
My son’s idea of being a nerd is a far cry from those that I grew up with.
Today’s TV nerds are too cool, better looking and much sexier economically than the Dungeons and Dragons playing “Star Wars” generation I came up with.
Even those adjectives are unfair to the nerds I grew up with.
I know what you’re saying right now. What about you Tim? You like LOTR, social media as journalism and thick-rimmed glasses. And believe me, I would’ve been privileged to have been a nerd. If America had a class system, I wouldn’t have even reached the lowly loftiness of nerdly.
Nerd core is not about a certain look or branded actions. It’s not about pocket protectors or even technology.
Some of my favorite nerds spent all their spare time reading comic books between showings of their prize farm animals as part of Future Farmers of America.
They were train buffs and Eagle Scouts, military brats and chess club members.
Today’s popular nerd culture has few similarities to the nerds of yore. Almost every nerd I’ve ever encountered has an affinity for the fantasy genre. Yes, “Lord of the Rings” was popular, but if you came up in the 70s, you would quote “The Hobbit.”
They knew the entire storyline of “Star Trek,” the original series and “Battlestar Galactica” with Lorne Green.
Nerd core has an element to it that can never really become popularly cultural. At its most basic level, it is anti popular.
Nerd core is all about non popularity, even when it has, for a short time, become popular. From role-playing games to billion-dollar-budget films, it is the long-form, pure story, fantasy worlds that true nerds inhabit.
They don’t always end up with the pretty girl, ala “Big Bang,” or saving the world from itself. They remain what they are though world is currently interested and intently focused on their way of life.
You can be sure that what we see and think we know as nerd core is simply the economic manifestation of our consumer-driven merry-go-round of cultural drop points.
Somewhere out there, nerds are watching some fantasy or sci-fi series you’ve never heard of. They are defining their characters in a role-playing game you’ve never seen, and they are meticulously purposeful in their existence, in a way you and I may never understand.