When I was little, it wasn’t cool to be a ‘nerd’. I have never claimed to be a ‘nerd’ or gone by any other stereotype, but after spending 5 minutes with me you would change your mind. My obsession with He-Man, my love of Doctor Who or my comic book collection definitely push the boundaries of nerdom. I guess my reluctance to call or consider myself a ‘nerd’ is because of the negative stigma that has always been attached to the term. I have a problem with anyone being categorized or put into a box because of something that differentiates them from other people. But a study last year has recently categorized the “Nerdiest States in America”. This formulated breakdown of the American “Nerdom’ disturbs me because of what it lists as the criteria of being a ‘nerd/geek’.
The researchers used 12 areas of interest to build their master list. To do this, they analyzed Facebook data for every U.S. state (including the District of Columbia) to determine the percentage of users who fell under these categories. The categories were:
Star Trek: the Next Generation
Dungeons and Dragons
LARPing (Live Action Role-Playing)
Lord of the Rings
Magic: The Gathering
This list makes me out to be a HUGE nerd. I love 9 out of 12 of the items listed. I would like to think that I have grown into an extremely eclectic person but should I pigeonhole myself because I am a fan of almost all of these items on this list? I truly hate being categorized. I hate it because of the years that I spent being being bullied as a child and an adolescent. I DO NOT like discrimination of any kind and Webster’s Dictionary defines “Discrimination” as “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people”. So wouldn’t a kid in elementary school being bullied for reading comic books be bullying? Wouldn’t a teenager who is picked on by his classmates for liking Dungeons and Dragons a form of discrimination? The answer is pure and simple: yes.
I do not like this overt categorization for ‘nerdism’ because of my avert hatred of bullying. I fear the ostracization of the younger generation of kids, like my own son, who is into a lot of things on this list (and some things that aren’t). I don’t want my son growing up scared to admit that he likes comic books because they are too nerdy nor do I want him to stop reading and watching Harry Potter because someone thinks that those people are nerds. Does the fact that I like Doctor Who and collect comic books make me any less of a person? Do my He-Man figures and collectibles make me any less of a man? Does the fact that we watched a comic book based movie last night make me and my wife bad parents? Should I be placed in a category which for many years been been the ‘shunned’ part of the populous. If kids hear their parents talking about ‘nerd stuff’ or older brothers and sisters referring to a boy playing with Pokemon cards as ‘nerdy’ then that will become something that that child could be picked on about? I don’t want my child or any other child for that matter to be bullied. I don’t think that any child should be judged when he decides to wear a Star Wars shirt or wants to participate in LARPing after school.
My home state of North Carolina comes in 45th on the list of Nerdiest states. So does that mean that my children will be ostracized for not fitting in with the populous around them? Does that mean that because we or I don’t fit the standard deviation of what is ‘normal’ so much that there should be some kind of special category for me/us? Or is it something else?
With Comic and Pop culture conventions are popping up all over the place and ‘nerdy’ things are all over popular culture…why are the ‘normal’ ones scared to admit that its okay to be nerdy? On TV, geek-chic is the new cool. One of the most popular TV sitcoms is Big Bang Theory, who’s characters showcase a love for every item on that ‘ner’d list. Comic book based movies are #1 at the box office. Doctor Who is a world wide phenomena. The four day event in San Diego known as Comic-Con boasted over 130,000 attendants in 2012 (an is showing exponential growth every year). So why must the geek be ashamed? Why must the nerds run and hide? if I must categorize myself, I guess am proud to say that I am a nerd. I will proudly watch Doctor Who, read my comic books and continue with my somewhat strange obsession with He-Man. I will continue to buy Pokemon cards for my son, with whom I will not stop playing Pokemon cards while watching Guardians of the Galaxy while he is wearing his Hogwarts shirt.