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Is there really a "nerd" culture?

2nd Amendment Brony


Something has been bothering me for a while. This whole idea of the “nerd” sub culture. It used to be that a nerd was someone who worked with computers and math, and participated in a few obscure hobbies in some dank room on Friday nights. But now “nerd” is the new hipster. Everyone is a nerd now. I've seen people call themselves a nerd because they watch the History channel. The term is meaningless. If everyone is a nerd then no one is.


I'd like to focus the term down to describe people who might go to something like Comicon. There was a convention in Calgary a few weeks ago. I didn't go, but I was talking to someone about it and I looked up what events were happening there. Basically, the only thing that was remotely interesting to me was that a couple of Star Trek actors were there. There was nothing else I would even want to see.


Basically what I'm saying is that the “nerd” or “geek” culture has so much stuff in it that it is pointless to classify it as a sub culture. There are a few branches in this conversation I want to explore.


For one thing, the way that stuff is merchandised these days seems really stupid to me. When I lived in Los Angeles I went to the Star Trek rides at the Hilton. The rides were fine, but the gift shops were disappointing. They had teddy bears with red, gold, or blue Starfleet shirts and drinking cups with plastic borg heads on them. What does this have to do with Star Trek? I was at the comic book store for free comic book day and I got the latest My Little Pony comic. I saw bobble headed toys with Marvel characters. What does a bobble headed toy have to do with Marvel?


We see this kind of merchandising all over the place. Let's stick with the Star Trek example. As a Star Trek fan, I would appreciate tshirts, bumper stickers, posters, action figures, models, and maybe Vulcan ears. But why would I want a pizza cutter shaped like Enterprise? Why would I want a Kirk toy cross-branded with some Lego knock-off?


I can understand someone being a fan of comic books. Maybe they really like Thor. But why would they buy a bobble head doll that is shaped like every other bobble head, with just a different paint scheme? Why would a Star Wars fan want a Pez dispenser with a Yoda head?


My second point has to do with the parsing of the nerd culture. How many sub categories of this culture could you name? Let's just keep it simple and break it down into a few of the major ones: science fiction, fantasy, and comics. You might put video games in there, but I think that video games are so broadly played that it is it's own category.


These categories can be split even more and listed by media: movie, book, comic, or game. So the question is, does one category over lap much with another? You might be tempted to say yes, but I assert that the answer is no. At least, the over lap isn't that big.


If someone likes sci fi TV shows, do they read comics? If someone likes fantasy novels, do they like Star Wars? Now of course you can claim that there are a lot of people who have multiple interests. And for just a few categories, it might be easy to find that over lap. But imagine if someone was a big fan of DC comics, but had no interest in Star Trek or science fiction or fantasy or anything else. If that person were to go to a convention, he would look for the DC booths but would ignore everything else.


Now consider how each of the listed categories can be split even finer. Science fiction can include hundreds of novel lines, TV shows, and movies. How many hundreds of fantasy novels are there? Where do role players fit into this? There are thousands of comic book issues, with a lot of popular characters being created decades ago. What about horror movies? What about the movie adaptations of all of these things?


Let's consider a sci fi fan. How many TV shows and movies has he seen? Does he read sci fi novels? So even in the sub category of sci fi, it is hard to find people who share the same interest. So do we make more sub categories? Science fiction → tv shows → Battlestar Galactica → classic series. The number of interests grows exponentially.


So what would you expect to see at a convention? Hundreds of booths with nothing to do with each other? In practice, you will only see franchises that are currently making money. That means if you are a fan of something that is no longer on air or in print, then there is no point in going.


Which would be my situation. I finally came to the conclusion that I am not a nerd or a geek or whatever the term is. I am Star Trek fan, I am not a science fiction fan. I've seen other sci fi movies and shows, but I am not a fan of anything else. So in the vast category of science fiction, I am only a fan of Star Trek.


I am a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, but only old, TSR branded editions. 2 nd edition and older. I have a lot of the D&D branded novels, but I have never read any other fantasy novel. No, I've never read Lord of the Rings, and no, I've never seen the movies. I have no desire to see them. Therefore, I am not a fantasy fan. I have played a couple of rpgs besides D&D, but I am a fan of only D&D. Following my logic, I am not a rpg fan.


I collect video games. I have 1500 on 40 consoles. But I am too busy to really play them much any more. And when I do play, I finish a game and move on to the next, and I don't really get into them that much. So I am not a video game fan.


I do love cartoons. I have 600 dvd sets worth. However, I hate cgi movies. I do enjoy a wide range of cartoon shows. So I do consider myself a cartoon fan.


In conclusion, I have come to the realization that I am not really a “fan” of anything, other than cartoons. People will ask me if I watch this show or read that book, and the answer I keep giving is “no.” I've never seen or read Lord of The Rings. I don't watch Dr Who or Game of Thrones. The only non cartoon TV show I like is Star Trek. The comic book universes of Marvel and DC seem too bloated and nonsensical. On average, I go to the movies less than once per year.


What do you think?


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