If you’ve given up on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.“, Clark Gregg has pretty much given up on you. Even if you’re a self-identified geek.
In other words, Gregg is saying that if you don’t watch Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (full title) you have no justification to call yourself a geek, that you suck and you are the reason geek culture is doomed.
What happened to the term geek and what does it really mean to be a geek, or a nerd? The literal definition of geek is:
noun – informal
noun: geek; plural noun: geeks
- an unfashionable or socially inept person.
a knowledgeable and obsessive enthusiast.
“a computer geek”
- a carnival performer who performs wild or disgusting acts.
verb: geek; 3rd person present: geeks; past tense: geeked; past participle: geeked; gerund or present participle: geeking
- engage in or discuss computer-related tasks obsessively or with great attention to technical detail.
Leaving aside the carnival geek element, how did that morph into the term we have today, how did “socially inept” become “cool and hip”? Same with nerd, again, the literal definition:
noun – informal
noun: nerd; plural noun: nerds; noun: nurd; plural noun: nurds
- a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious.
Turning The Tables
Nowadays however a nerd is someone that is down with the cool stuff, knows the deepest subculture and is generally thought of as a with it person. How and when did this happen? It happened because someone in marketing finally figured out that this particular subculture has not just the inclination but the willingness and mindset to indulge their money into these things previously thought as contemptible.
I have always been someone that was drawn to the more esoteric side of entertainment, be that with books, comics, movies, TV and even music, I am thoroughly outside of the mainstream in every real way and honestly I have always been proud of that, but now, today, I see that what I am has become the mainstream and I don’t like it. Yes, that is elitist but once everyone joins the club does it not honestly lose the appeal of being something unique? Now, you may think this is extremely xenophobic or even misanthropic but part of me will never feel right as part of the mainstream and when everything I stood for is absorbed by culture itself I feel like I am surrounded by those who have little to no understanding of what they are anymore. This geek and nerd issue is just that, it has somehow become cool to be a nerd, to watch Doctor Who or read The X-Men when just a few years prior these very same people would have looked upon these things with utter disdain. Now… now though, it is hip to be into comics and scifi and obscure cartoons… it’s almost, almost, as if the posers have become the pop culture to the point where the actual meaning is lost in a static field of randomness. I didn’t ask to be part of the club, I just was… but know people go out of their way to not only push into the club but also take it over and change it. Once the club adapts to accommodate the mainstream then it becomes the mainstream. That quote from Clark Gregg up there sums up the issues with the modern geek… if you don’t like all the “geek” stuff then you suck. THEY have decided what is geek and what is TRUE GEEK. You love Buffy but are not a Sailor Moon fan? Well then you are not a TRUE NERD. You play Dungeons & Dragons but don’t watch Star Trek? POSER. You love Doctor Who but also watch football? SELLOUT FAG.
What happened in pop culture (nerd culture to be specific) to make this shift occur? Even into the mid-90’s being a geek or a nerd was “bad” and in a shockingly short period of time that changed… but what changed it? I was reading an old issue of Heavy Metal from ’82 or ’83 a bit ago and they had a piece on scifi fans and it was the stereotypical view of them, the taped up glasses, the uneasiness around women, the lack of social skills… and I look at that and then I see how that has evolved by today and I am not sure it is actually better. Geek and nerd as terms and as culture have been co-opted and bent to fit into a conventional box as a way for those outside of it to feel they are part of something special; completely not understanding why it was special to begin with and destroying it in the process. At least that is how those who simply wish to proffer from geek culture want it. Gregg thought his (really awful and plodding show) was so centric to geek culture and so self-important that by NOT watching it… you were somehow betraying “fellow geeks”, who judging by the ratings were not watching it either. You were not really a geek unless you watched Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and that alone says more about how they were trying to SELL the show rather than the show itself. They didn’t MAKE a show for geeks… they made a show they THOUGHT was for geeks and those two ideals are farther apart than one might think. If those who fail to understand what geek culture really means are calling the shots then being a geek or being a nerd is now something that has no real meaning, it has been diluted to the point of having no purpose any longer. It’s like how Punk Rock ceased to mean anything when it became about fashion and the core ideals were abandoned, this “geek cred” movement is the same way, it is all about outward appearances and not about truth to the core being. It’s cool to be a geek so be a geek… even if you are faking it. It’s like the whole “Geek girl” thing… pretty girls that throw on glasses to appeal to the nerds and pretend to be one of them. There are PLENTY of real geek girls out there… that are true and honest to their ideals… and these few (yes only a few) false and yet high profile ones damage it for all. Never judge a geek by their appearance, get to know them first and see if they have simply bought into the image or if they are real.
I am a nerd, I am a proud nerd, I may look like the offspring of a torrid night that Rob Zombie and Kevin Smith both want to forget but I am nerd at my core.
The Many Faces of Nerddom
There are many nerd types out there and I bet that most of them are not viewed as nerds by the vast majority of people (even those who fall under these labels)… yet they are nerds all the same. The term nerd has evolved into anything where one takes a protracted and hard-lined interest in a subject or genre. Most of you are an “Insert NERD Something” about something and that right there should tell you how far this term as expanded and been rewritten by both time and by society. These are the nerds and geeks that are everywhere… at least in the minds eye of the mainstream.
RPG (Role Playing Game) Nerds- “Everything I know about courage I learned from Role Playing Games”. The Role Playing Nerd is the kind that always has a D20 on them (and if you know what a D20 is then you are most likely one of these). They give themselves stats and hit points (400 hit points and maximum charisma). When they trip and fall they do a saving throw. Stacks of Dungeon Masters guides and character sheets litter their living space and walking down the street requires a stick to poke the ground… checking for traps don’t ya know.
Movie Nerds- “Star Wars borrowed from a long tradition of Kafka inspired theft”. The movie nerd knows the background actors from every film Orson Welles ever watched in the theater let alone had a hand in the production of. They don’t watch a film for simple things that entertain an average cretin, no the film nerds watches for subtext, for symbolism and most of all for the deeper meaning that film shines on the world of darkness by offering a ray of light from the mundane and the ordinary. The movie nerd sees not film but sees worlds heretofore unrealized which make life worth living… that or a movie nerd is just someone that really, really likes movies… either way works really.
Book Nerds- “Books whisk you away to a place where imagination flows free and there are no restrictions… ow, damn paper cuts”. The book nerd reads printed words more than they speak verbal words. They embrace the simplicity of the printed word while chastising the complexity of those very same words. They always think the book was better than the movie even if the book in question was never made into a movie… the book IS JUST THAT AMAZING AND PROFOUND. They look down on those that don’t read and weep at the sight of textese. They know the meaning of words unspoken by human lips in 200 centuries and they aim to keep it that way, it’s far more special like that and the book nerd requires the feeling of being special.
Sports Nerds- “Brett Favre could never out-throw Barry Bonds even if Bonds was off the juice and Favre was not showing all the cheerleaders his dick”. Ah the Sports nerd, The Sports nerd never, even in the slightest degree, considers himself a nerd of any variety, no, the sports nerd is a real man that likes to watch other men roll around with one another while getting all sweaty and then reaching for balls from behind and… *cough* well, nothing homoerotic here. The sports nerd knows all the stats, knows all the players, all the back ups, everyone that ever looked at the team of (insert sport here) and does it all with the smug assurance that he is not a nerd… not like that Star Trek geek over there that knows all the stardates of the episodes, knows all the dead red shirts and knows all of the call numbers for every Constellation Class Starship ever. Nope, not even remotely like that guy. Nope.
Computer Nerds- “Sigh, you right clicked on the dll when you should have double clicked on the exe”. You are one of these guys if you knew what a dll or an .exe was without having to google it. The computer nerd knows and cares more about a hard drive then a hard body. They hold tightly onto the simulated world so much so that they are excluded from real life. Contact with humans is a cause to panic but damn it they are a god on 4chan. They can fix your computer in mere moments with a few clicks of the mouse but they don’t know about social interaction. They see the world as lines of code and nothing more.
Music Nerds- “I was listening to them back when they were playing in clubs and you never even heard of them”. The music nerd is usually also called the hipster. They know every band that has ever played on planet earth… long before that band was popular of course. They always have the best bootleg live shows and import CD’s from Botswana. The music nerd experiences music rather than listens to music, they get the music on a level undreamed of by simple normals. The music nerd always, without fail, hates any band that gets a record deal and screams “sell out” once that band gets played on the radio. The music nerd is really kind of a jerk.
Comic Nerds- “Wolverine could kill Superman to death if it were a cloudy day”. The comic nerd is one that is gaining most in status of late. They know what issue a character first appeared, who drew them, who wrote them, who inked them and even what the name of the UPS driver was that brought the book to the store on that fateful Wednesday (that is new comic day for you conventionals. The comic nerd views the world though a series of 4 color panels and thinks that punching someone really makes a “THOOM” sound. Wearing underwear on the outside of your tights is just how real men dress when they bring justice to the world.
Blackface For Nerds
Minstrel shows such as Comic Book Men and Big Bang Theory are the thematic equivalent of blackface for nerds, yes, Kevin Smith is Al Jolson. They not only perpetuate the stereotypes you already had in your head, they feed off of them like ravenous piranha let loose at a weight watchers meeting. Programs like these take great joy in going “look at the goofy nerd, isn’t he funny… it’s because he is different from you, that’s why he is funny”. No, that is not. Stop using geek and nerd as a status and simply embrace what you like, be it the mainstream or one of the various substreams but most of all, don’t you ever let yourself be fooled by the media depiction of what you love, don’t let Big Bang Theory give you that blackeye that it tries to, fight back and be you.