Embracing the Stigmatized Ways of the Nerd

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nerd column

Everyone can agree that stigmatization is undeniably dreadful, and is at least partially responsible for the suffering of people in various walks of life. While that insidious tendency of humanity applies to a troubling spectrum of issues, one manifestation of it seems a bit less important, yet remains annoying nonetheless. I’m talking about how various presentations of art of music or popular culture may not be considered socially acceptable to be associated with. Every day, I’m confronted with notions of what’s “cool” or “uncool” or “the cool form of uncool,” and I’m confused and exhausted. Nevertheless, I will venture into an argument about the validity of artistic tastes in an area which might elicit a few eye rolls: the stigmatization of nerd culture.

Now, I think that many are under the impression that being a “nerd” is a title that only belongs to the infamous 400 pound hackers of the world. But I can assure you, the nerds walk among us. In fact, they’re a lot more common than you would think. If we define the term “nerd” to mean taking a more intense interest in something than the average person does, then we would be lucky to be considered a nerd. After all, in any given form of art or entertainment, maybe the nerds invested in it know something that the rest of us don’t.

It’s a bit like how everyone loves to hate Nickleback. No, that gravelly voice does not make me wanna be a “Rockstar,” and when any establishment plays one of his songs, I, too, must repress the urge to “Burn It To the Ground.” But the principle of having the most socially acceptable opinion of anything be centered around hating it is unsettling. It’s like walking into a minefield whenever anyone asks, in a grim and mildly threatening manner, what your opinion is about this band or that TV show. I’d like to remove this harrowing experience from our collective lives, and instead suggest the merits of keeping an open mind when people admire seemingly preposterous interests.

The strange thing is that there are fandoms out there that seem to be considered socially acceptable. I have yet to hear people get laughed at for being a Harry Potter fan. I’m pretty sure Game of Thrones fans have little to worry about when confessing their undying love for the television program. But if you’re a Whovian (a Doctor Who enthusiast)? Yikes, better strike that admission from the record, because even The Big Bang Theory makes reference to that intergalactic show, and boy, is that show ever nerdy!

It’s expected and encouraged for everyone to make up their mind about their artistic preferences and interests. But it’s another thing entirely to place certain interpretations or opinions on a pedestal and crush everyone else under the weight of conforming to those tastes. We’re even capable of stigmatizing preferences that are so widespread, people get annoyed with them. Case in point, if you drink too much Starbucks and incorporate too many quotes from the TV show Friends into your vocabulary, then congratulations, you’re “basic”. And let’s not even start with the hipsters of society. Go eat some more deconstructed, bacon-topped cupcakes, or come up with some obscure type of punk harp music to confuse everyone. Even if there’s some truth to these preference-based stereotypes, they can get out of hand and result in a blanket of scorn for what are ultimately unimportant distinctions.

Of course, many nerds, however they’re labeled, take pride in their obsessions. Some flaunt it through exaggerated displays of fandom, while others snicker about it amongst themselves more discretely. But this tendency to reduce individuals down to stock identities and judge them in one manner or another is a prolific issue, and one that may alienate segments of people from each other, and from art forms they might actually turn out to enjoy.

If you bring up rhetorical analysis, figure skating, or anything else in the plethora of infatuations that consist of my interests, I can jabber on about them at length in more detail than you ever wanted to hear. And that’s a quality that belongs to everyone and their unruly scope of interests pertaining to art or other things. But as long as you refrain from making any and every conversation revolve around Darth Vader, I see no reason to rain on your parade. After all, we’re all nerds in our own way.

Featured Image by Disney

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