Stop Appropriating My (Nerd) Culture!

As you casually wear that Superman shirt, do you know his backstory? Can you name any of the writers and artists that brought it to life? What of the ancient Els on Krypton? None of that “On my planet it means hope” crap either. See, a real nerd can’t just go home after watching the latest DC movie flop, lick their wounds and re-watch The Wire for the sixth time. Actual nerds turn to things like the Smallville podcast or obsessing through the Superman wiki—lest we torment our friends and coworkers with all the fan theories and canon discrepancies that we physically can’t hold back. Meanwhile, non-nerds have the benefit of catching a few episodes of Doctor Who and grabbing a Funko Pop doll, instead of agonizing over the Face of Bo’s timeline or if the Silurians have the same makeup in each iteration. Nerds wield the responsibility of having an encyclopedic knowledge of the inane—that comes up in no normal daily conversation—which is why we overflow with excitement when someone indulges our discussions about which Comic Book universe is better or which season marked the decline of The Simpsons. This culture has gotten to enjoy the fruits of our laborious tending while we watch our passions rot into oblivion. It’s fine to like stuff that’s cool but it’s become far too easy to claim the nerd struggle as your own just by transiently consuming various “nerd” things. Things like:

  1. Pokemon

As mentioned previously on this website, Pokemon Go has been part of the summer zeitgeist for about a month and skyrocketed everywhere. Our televisions have become a Jackson Pollock of Pokemon. But why now? The Pokemon Company has turned out versions of the ground-breaking franchise nearly every year since 1998, when Pokemon Red and Blue released in the US. Back then for many of us the dream existed to take over the world with our Pokemon partners, catch ‘em all, and challenge Ash to a battle.

This kid hasn’t aged in 20 years and hasn’t evolved his OP Pikachu. If he did, that Raichu’s Thunder would create a singularity powerful enough to retcon the entire series back to before Ash gave away his Butterfree.
This kid hasn’t aged in 20 years and hasn’t evolved his OP Pikachu. If he did, that Raichu’s Thunder would create a singularity powerful enough to retcon the entire series back to before Ash gave away his Butterfree.

Now, we all finally have that chance, but they’ve ruined it! With marketing schemes and news stories, we now have to incessantly hear from the older generation that we’re wasting our time. Casuals ruined the experience right off the bat by crashing the servers for the first few weeks. Next, through sheer stupidity and user error, they whittled away all of the features necessary to experience the game in the first place. Then they finally got bored, like we all knew they would, and left the diehard Pokefans with this piecemeal husk of a game. This isn’t nostalgia for most of us. This is our free time. This is our sanctuary from the mouth-breathers that input NFL network and output statistics that they don’t quite understand. This was a passion made for Pokemon fans, destroyed by those trying to impress their friends and be cool.

  1. Science

Everyone loves Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. I mean, what’s not to love?  They try to teach the masses how awesome science is and what it has done for us. Then why is it, that America is so bad at science? For all the good having freedom of speech does, in 2016 some opinions just happen to be less equal, at least when the whole planet is at stake. Valuing opinions over facts isn’t science. Like, at all. It doesn’t matter what we think we know or how we intuit things. The only real thing that matters is what we can see and test and whether those things can be reproducible. How does this fit? For some strange reason it has been the trendy thing to discuss how “cool” science is and how much it does for us.

Science is a way of thinking; not a quasi-religion or a boring subject in school. Nowadays, it’s the hip thing to start a blog about how being able to pronounce chemical names should be a requirement before you eat something. Or create some sort of miracle (see: whatever the fuck Gwyneth Paltrow is selling). A lot of internet “thought leaders” take issue with climate change, evolution, and vaccines. These writers don’t have extensive backgrounds like those of scientists (who actually test their own claims) or the chemists in labs at food companies (who make certain their product is safe).

Nowadays, it’s the hip thing to start a blog about how being able to pronounce chemical names should be a requirement before you eat something.

Even worse, people can claim to like the implications of science, but don’t trust the fact that scientists know what they’re doing to create these advances. The best example of this is the Golden Fleece award, where someone decides that government funds are frivolously spent. In 2011, a Republican senator from Oklahoma attempted to call out Dr. Lou Burnett from the College of Charleston for using government money to put “shrimp on a treadmill.” It didn’t matter that the experiment was designed to show the effects of water quality on sea life.

This ignorance is prevalent because of the failure to recognize that science is critically judging itself and critiquing the methods by which it is conducted. This self-regulating system perpetuates the growth of our society. You’re not a ‘nerd’ if you passively like technology and what science has done for our society—everyone should respect and understand its influence—you’re a nerd if you choose to devote your life to it. Or if you try to teach yourself quantum entanglement in your free time from your 9-5 cubicle job. That counts too.

This famed atheist and evolutionary biologist came up with the idea of a ‘meme’ in his book “The Selfish Gene.” So if you’re mad about Arthur or Harambe, blame this guy. Or if you use these memes to perpetuate your religious agendas, know this is furthering his evolutionary idea! Ultimate irony.
This famed atheist and evolutionary biologist came up with the idea of a ‘meme’ in his book “The Selfish Gene.” So if you’re mad about Arthur or Harambe, blame this guy. Or if you use these memes to perpetuate your religious agendas, know this is furthering his evolutionary idea! Ultimate irony.
  1. Superheroes

With the latest trend of the summer blockbusters from the cinematic freight train that is Marvel Studios, superheroes have been thrust back into the mainstream. With their flagship Iron Man in 2008, Marvel Studios began, currently, an 8-year long loving relationship with movie-goers. Joss Whedon, Kevin Feige, and the Russo brothers are the movie triumvirate that America has longed for. While the DCEU movie universe has fallen behind with the critically panned Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, it has found success with its CW TV versions of the comics. Now, non-nerd approval seems like a great idea in theory. More people get motivated to go see what the comics say and might get the casuals to read a couple. However, most of these movies leave out huge portions of storyline or try too much, *cough* GREEN LANTERN *cough* because they are trying to appeal to the massive audience.

Seriously. Who the FUCK was the villain in this movie? Hector? Parallax? Fear? Budget constraints? Blake Lively’s comedic timing?
Seriously. Who the FUCK was the villain in this movie? Hector? Parallax? Fear? Budget constraints? Blake Lively’s comedic timing?

There has already been tale of movie studios cutting into the film making process in order to satisfy the general audience and pander for as much cash as possible. That’s all well and good, but it alienates the diehard fans who scrutinize every retconned history and every plotline. By trying to please everyone, we got Arrow season 4 AKA Felicity and Friends. My final plea is to get this mentality out. Get some background on these characters. Take off the Punisher shirt and put it away until you’ve read some character arcs on how he’s pretty much a psychopath. Deadpool was cool even before Ryan Reynolds. The Flash can do so much more than run fast. Don’t call yourself a nerd if just happen to like watching Chris Evans kicking people in the chest, RDJ being snarky, and Scarlett Johansson being very attractive.

This isn’t nostalgia for most of us. This is our free time. This is our sanctuary from the mouth-breathers that input NFL network and output statistics that they don’t quite understand.

So, if this has any sort of message it’s this: the stuff nerds like is AWESOME. Almost completely objectively, nerd stuff is dope. For those non-nerds out there, watching a quick episode of Rick and Morty and trying to pass off what he says as science gospel does NOT make you a nerd. You can certainly appreciate the work we put into our passions and how awesome what we consume is, but stop trying to make the nerd title your own. We struggle to keep up appearances in modern society because ALL of us nerds would rather be in the backroom of a comic book store feverishly searching for the one comic missing from our collection. We’d rather talk about concepts of what makes us human than the weather. As for myself, I’d much rather be in my lab getting myself into Wikipedia hole than picking a fantasy football team. The nerd connects itself with the ephemera of life and not the hottest trends. When the last Marvel movie comes out, we’ll keep coming back to the comics while the rest of America hops to focus on the 10th generation of the Kardashian Dynasty.

Author: Jacob Bowman

Jacob is a Pabst-Powered graduate student at OSU. His interests lie in biochemistry, superheroes, and bringing down the bourgeoisie. At best, he is only a day away from a lab accident that imbues him with god-like abilities or a fatal illness. Jacob keeps current with all Marvel Studios media, as well as DCTV, and every update for any iteration of the latest Pokemon game. He is one of those liberals that doesn’t shove it in your face and knows when a fight is over. Jacob currently resides in his lab at OSU.

9 thoughts on “Stop Appropriating My (Nerd) Culture!”

  1. Have you ever read any of the Hamburglar comics? They’re really quite charming. Those jumble puzzles are tricky, though!

  2. Funny you use “nerd,” to describe yourself: “someone who once would be called a drip or a square is now, regrettably, a nerd” -Oct. 8th 951, first written definition of nerd.

    Personally, I’m a “geek,” which is why even while I have hobbies I take extremely seriously, and an in-depth understanding of my speciality, I also have friends and am admired by associates. I’m not a nerd: I don’t dress like a loser and I do occasionally work out. I also bathe which (believe it or not) is quite helpful in maintaining social ties.

    Still, I understand that being a nerd can be quite painful, which is why you lash out like this when you see normal people liking normal things. It must be hard to be you.

  3. Some of those are bad examples. Pokemon and superheroes are aspects of pop culture, created to be sold as products on the mass market. The original target audience was 8-14 year-old boys.

    That said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong if part of the audience comes back to these products with an adult perspective, and starts looking at them in different ways. But it seems dogmatic to take one narrow perspective and say, “This is the only correct way to Pokemon! Anyone who does it differently is committing cultural appropriation.” Pokemon belongs to *everybody*. (Well, I mean, technically it belongs to Nintendo, but from a moral perspective I think it’s time for it to be allowed to join Sherlock Holmes and Macbeth in the public domain.)

  4. Y’know, I’ve played Pokemon from Blue through Alpha Sapphire. I used to go to the Newsweek in my local mall with my stepdad every Friday night with my stepdad and come out with a massive stack of comics. I met my husband gaming online. I did progression raiding in WoW, attended midnight releases, won gaming trivia. I’m used to being a bit of an oddball for my interests.

    You’re a pretentious jackass.

    Growing up without peers with which to share our interests, we should be welcoming these new people who are arriving late to the party to join us in what we love. We should be sharing the things we enjoy with open arms, not ridiculing them for not knowing in a couple weeks or months what we’ve spent years learning about. And frankly, who CARES if they don’t know the names of the artists who drew a particular issue of Superman? That knowledge is so absurdly obscure and you KNOW that; setting people up to fail with these gatekeeping inquisitions doesn’t make you a better fan and them worse ones. It makes you a worse person and kills the interests of what might have been a growing fan.

    As fans, we are tied to the things we love and represent the culture around it. If we poison the waters with arrogance like this, we continue this cycle of people looking down on us because we’ll have created an association of a toxic culture with the things we enjoy.

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