Decade of the Nerd

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Thank you for that, Bob. That was a brilliant read.

It isn't about who is the nerd, it's about what degree of nerd you are now.

People have become so cocky and strong with their 'nerd' fetishes, they we have created subgroups. Just look at how after all this time people ridiculed people for gaming, yet we see so many people despising 'casual' gamers and lecturing as to how great it is to be a hardcore gamer.

Celebrities just seem to try to cash in with admitting their gaming hobbies and so forth. Like just a while back, was it Robin Williams who discussed his love for gaming. How he hated children calling him their bitch online, to how he named one of his daughters Zelda. Being a 'nerd' will just be a publicity stunt for people soon enough.

Very well written and very insightful. You have come to the point that, consciously or not, every social movement aims to become obsolete. Why is feminism so rare now? Because the feminist movement was successful and now women have all the rights of men. Therefore there is no longer need for any advocates.

I probably wouldn't compare the feminism movement to the nerd culture, mainly because feminism is still a very strong movement in the US (remember the Clinton '08 campaign?).

We, as nerds, have come to the point where our culture is finally being accepted and adopted by the masses. While it may be daunting for some of us to lose the identity that being a social outcast has given, it ultimately leads to every other person seeing that we were, and are, visionaries and that our rejection of popular culture has in fact dramatically changed it.

The nerds of today and yesterday are the leaders of tomorrow. It's unavoidable at this point, so reformation has become necessary. As with all social revolutions, those who fight it will become marginalized like we were before them.

My response to this is: "kind of."

While the nerd culture has exploded into the mainstream, it also to some degree hasn't. Think of video games, for instance. A "gamer" is pretty much now anyone who plays the Wii or Modern Warfare or Halo (i.e. a person who plays video games). However, a small handfull of these fall under the "core gamer" demographic, who, for the longest time, were the "gamers" to begin with.

While nearly everyone has a multifunction cellphone, a laptop, and an interest in 24 or lost, the nerd will always be a little different from that main group. They don't just see the present technology in front of them, but also the future possibilities that were once only thought of in Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica.

Well, you can also make this argument about anime. Anime in the US had for a long time been seen as just cartoons. Even today people try to lump it together with our sad pathetic american cartoons. Cartoons today don't even compare to what anime is in japan. Right now in the US the only decent stuff we get is from pixar and some few good ones (avatar comes to mind). I've loved anime for about 16 years now, and the whole thing has changed alot in those years. The old days of bootlegged tapes and spotty subtitles eventually led to the dubbed era. We got releases in both english and japanese w/subtitles, and we were more than happy to pay 30 bucks for two episodes of tenchi. The standard 26 episode series was usually released in 8 tapes. This is generally based off the tape legnth, with 4 episodes being a long tape. When DVDs started to come out this was an accepted practice for a while as well, with the exception of ADV who liked to pull some crap with 2 or 3 episodes per dvd for a 10 dvd 26 episode series... yeah, bad ADV, you suck! Eventually it became commonplace to get 4-6 episodes on a dvd with a bunch of extras. Sometimes we would get a 26 episode series on 3 dvds, but that was rather rare and usually those series were kinda lame.

Meanwhile fansubbers went from sending tapes around the country to getting the anime raw digitally and putting the subs either in soft or hardsub format. This is where we get back to the decade of the nerd. Fansubs made by nerds pretty much made a WHOLE lotta anime known in the states. For a long time certain series were only known by their fansub version. One Piece went for the LONGEST time without a release in the US, and that was horribly botched. The funimation version that took over is soooooooooo much better. I support my fansub community, but I also buy the anime I like when it comes out here on dvd. I'm an anime fan, but that's only one facet of my nerd persona.

Really, I turned to anime as a natural progression from my love of D&D and fantasy novels. My early anime collection included Slayers, Record of lodoss war and anything else that looked fantasy type. From there I got hooked on the Irresponsible captain tylor, Evangelion, Ramna 1/2, Cowboy Bebop and others. Suddenly I found myself reading science fiction and watching it on tv as well. I found that anime became a gateway drug to broaden my nerd profile.

Hell, even these days I would say that anime is a nessesity in being a nerd. Even though it's not completely accepted by modern society, you find it alot more than you did back in the late nineties. If you were to walk around in Cosplay back then you would definately get alot of stares and maybe police would be sent after you. Today people take pictures and ask you how you got it made. The anime convention has become a mainstream nerd event. Suddenly, male and female nerds are meeting together in real life. The bleak future of idiocracy may actually be averted. That's just my 2 cents.

And, partically becuase of online fansubbing and file sharing (of the not-necessarily-illegal variety), Anime and manga will likely remain to a significant degree in the "serious nerd" catagory, of which many of us Otakus belong. The Matrix and the upcoming Akira live-action film will be our Spiderman and Dark Knight. Just don't let the Wakoski brothers near anime and everything will be fine.

Ha ha. Soon our plan to take over the world will be complete! Slowly they shall all become one of us, and we can finally get Firefly brought back.

ahem: WOOOOO!
Great article!

I still get the stares, the same ones I used to get in middle and high school, from random folks on the street for sporting something as innocuous as a triforce on my personal belongings (It's a lucky shirt, back off).

Um, a non-nerd wouldn't look funny at a t-shirt with a triforce on it, because it's a meaningless symbol for one who hasn't played Zelda. I think you are being stared at by fellow nerds.

The whole "nerd" stigma always confused me. I was never really a full part of any clique in school, I could fit in anywhere. I never really got shit for hanging out with the nerds, or reading during class or study hall, or for playing video games and talking about them. Maybe it's because I balanced it out with being good at sports and obsessing over Pantera or something, I don't know, but it wasn't just me; I barely even saw it in school. And where I did see it, I sort of felt it was almost justified. The nerds in my school weren't just socially inept, they were outright annoying and it seemed like they just recycled the same conversations. They were just as likely to have a go at the athletic kids as the athletic kids were to have one at them. A few of them smelled bad; no, I'm not exaggerating. They really did, I don't know why. They were unpleasant people to be around, and if it weren't for the lack of good information about games and me not having anyone else to talk comics with, even I probably wouldn't have wanted to bother. Really, they were just as big jerks as everyone else, they were just more socially inept and less athletic.

I don't know, maybe they got more bullying than I did because I wasn't fully a member of the crew or something and I just didn't notice. The thought makes me feel bad, if I turned a blind eye towards it, I didn't mean to.

On the other hand, I got a ton of shit during my straightedge days, so I guess I didn't come out unscathed either.

Also: [quote="gim73" post="6.164672.4333650"]Well, you can also make this argument about anime. Anime in the US had for a long time been seen as just cartoons. Even today people try to lump it together with our sad pathetic american cartoons. Cartoons today don't even compare to what anime is in japan.

I take offense at this notion.

Huh. Failed quote. Oh well.

You just changed my entire outlook on pop culture

May the Emperor smile upon you, Bob, and let it be known that as long as people like you and I populate this world, Nerdom shall live on, and flourish.

Well, nerd can come in many shapes and sizes, with various odors as well. As Dr Happypills noticed about smells, you sometimes get the very clean OCD nerds who are paranoid about germs and stuff like that. Then there are the ones who have been so beaten down they don't give a crap what they look like or smell like. Shampoo, soap or deoderant are all optional from day to day.

Music generally isn't as much as a social glue for the nerd genre as other things. Most enjoy some types of music, but unlike the hick or the gangbanger, we don't define our activities solely by the content of our music. I have found that most nerds don't listen to country or rap for this reason as well.

Recycled conversations? I find that certain quotes pop up very frequently in our group. Monty python is a big one. Of course star wars (original trilogy, since that was all there was back then) was another favorite. Any Mel Brooks film could do in a pinch. Starship troopers, army of darkness, evil dead, dead alive etc... One might say that nobody says anything original anymore. We also used to argue about the Wheel of Time. Other books might come up, but the wheel of time is almost universally read by nerds. I would say that more nerds have read it than have read Lord of the Rings.

Yeah, being an Otaku is fun, but don't go as far as I have and be a Hikikomori. I also had a buddy who dropped out of school and became one, but he was far worse than my summer of slacking.

That was kind of a failed quote. I was trying to say that I take offense to the idea that "Western" cartoons are somehow bad and that anime is inherently superior, I'm not sure if that came across. There's plenty of great cartoons, and the animation styles themselves are so different that each type has a different appeal. I guess I do have to admit though, I really haven't found that much to be interested in right at the moment.

I love the Wheel of Time. I always will.

My problem with the conversations was that even if I took the effort to try and get a conversation going about, say, music or what was on Tv last night or which chicks were the most bangable or whatever, I could only keep it going for about a minute max before all of the sudden we were back to talking about where the hell Bruce Campbell is hiding and how awesome Kitty Pride would be for a girlfriend/friend. It just got so boring after a while.

We were probably just into different things when it comes down to it. Like, they were all over Star Trek, I never got into it and was more a Star Wars kind of guy, they were all into Marvel, I was more into DC, etc. It was wierd, they weren't very open minded to other geek culture, just the parts they liked. Maybe I just got a lousy bunch of nerds?

The "nerds" of this decade can never be real nerds. They have too much of a social life.

At this point, I'm looking around at a culture so thoroughly "geeked" that I'm actually given to ask myself if this Decade of The Nerd is - irony of ironies - the end of The Nerd. Or, at least, the end of The Nerd as a subculture unto itself.

No, it's not by any reasonable measure. Sure, many people nowadays play bowling or tennis on the Wii, but how many of them can tell how much exactly Sasha weights? They may enjoy comic-based movies, but true nerds are those knowing enough random trivia about said comic-book heroes to write a two-hour speech. And so on.

In short, true nerds - those for whom knowledge is more important than good looks, and pop-culture is more than "saw-and-forget" - are still not overall majority of people or ones with the highest social status. But i can't wait for the day when they will be. And they will, sooner or later.

wow great article bob, i think we have passed the point of "nerdy-things" because practically everybody uses them. however, be wary, for fanboys has now supplanted what nerds were to people back then. Watch this: NINTENDO SUCKS (cue stones being thrown at me)

Were there even 'nerds' before the 20th century, anyway? What happened to make Americans turn so anti-intellectual in that century, huh? That wasn't all because of the Manhattan Project, was it?

This is just some American cultural anomaly that is gradually correcting itself.

Think Bob is on to something. I was an adolescent in the late 90s before the big successes he talks about. The mainstream fear, the looks, they are not like us etc etc. Yet, that can still be found if your culture and habits differ to those around you.

I like Sephiwinds leech idea. Dragging and taking pieces of the subcultures, the centre never entirely embracing or coopting what is external to it, but happy for new distractions.

Course we should worry far less about acceptance and all that trash from the mundanes, but years of troubles (times of troubles?) are difficult times to leave entirely behind.

Good piece. And to those nerds that have commented, and those that dared to play D&D growing up, I salute you. Onward with three days of Dragon age.

I say old chap:
I like Sephiwinds leech idea. Dragging and taking pieces of the subcultures, the centre never entirely embracing or coopting what is external to it, but happy for new distractions.

I liked that idea too. I think I'll start calling Pop Culture "Leech Culture" instead. And if the "change every decade" part of that is true, Leech Culture will soon transform from Nerd form to something else. The only question I have about the theory is which cultures were "leeched" in the other decades last century?

I'm not a nerd...I'm just a loser.

...I'm pretty sure that's worse.

Nerd-dom will always rule the world, its just a given fact.

Brains = Success in this modern civilization, and inventions created by nerds are what drive society/benefit it most.

I personally find myself one of the narcissistic cynical nerds, but I'm not flamboyant about it, either. I'm training to become a CGI animator, and Biologist. I have to be on my intellectual game to succeed in those, so.~

Social life is not really much either (though I have a girlfriend), but I don't really tend to care. Hang out with people on occasion, have some fun, and go back to being a loner on my computer and Xbox 360 to keep me company. Keeps me happy.

nerds make the world go around

10 years ago, i used to hate the fact that i was good at school, and actually liked to go, now I love the fact that I am a nerd, I see it as my best strength!

I think that, there are not many more IP's left that can take up the next LOTR or spiderman for 2010-20, except maybe the emerging franchises like Iron Man, or yet more Batman sequels

Warcraft maybe?

I dunno, it could go either way, the world could get sick of us and decide that 'simple' is best, or we could explode into even greater power with the advancement of technology

My sisters use the words "nerd" and "geek" to differentiate between good and bad nerdiness (I forget which one is the bad one). Basically, the good kind is the one that's passionate about knowledge (often obscure knowledge), fond of fantasy and fond of thinking long and hard on any given subject, and generally willing to sacrifice any shreds of popularity for the sake of learning and accomplishing things. The bad kind is the kind that deliberately isolates himself (or herself, but it's usually guys) in obscure knowledge, who revels in learning useless trivia and accomplishing pointless tasks (achievement unlocked!), and who uses fantasy and deep thinking as drugs for avoiding the pain of reality.

A good nerd does not care if a piece of entertainment is popular or not; a good nerd will watch it if it's good and complain if its quality drops. A bad nerd takes pride in seeking out unpopular entertainment and considers it a deep personal insult if the quality drops. A good nerd will laughingly admit to having watched all of the Star Trek movies, even the one with Sybok in it. A bad nerd will write you off as a mundane gentile plebe if you haven't watched all of the Star Trek movies, but will still harbor vitriolic hatred against Star Trek V for having wrecked Spock's continuity.

These tendencies are hardly unique to nerd-dom. Indeed, isolationism and persecution complexes are defining factors in all kinds of organizations. Political parties, religions, and sports fans all exhibit these tendencies. Every group has its people who do it wrong, who base their identity on other people's inferiority, and every group always will.

So: how do we define ourselves, how do we let other people define us, and how do we let other people define themselves in relation to us?

The first one should be easy: we do what we love because we love it, and that doesn't make us all that different from those who love other things. We are NOT better than non-nerds, we just have different tastes. The second one is harder to do, but not impossible. If people mock you for being a nerd, don't mock them for being non-nerds, mock them for being bigots. They're bad because they're hateful, not because they play fantasy football instead of D&D. The third one can only be properly dealt with after we've dealt with the first two. After we stop defining ourselves as better because we're different, we can scold people for defining themselves as better because they're different from us.

Now, talking on the subject of the decade of the nerd: it's been nice seeing aspects of nerd culture filter into pop culture, but the core of nerd-dom has been left out, namely the love of learning. There is still a defiant love of ignorance everywhere in the world. People can play with the Wii all they please, and Marvel can make a trilogy for every superhero in the book, but as long as people don't see anything wrong with not educating themselves, it won't matter.

I think that the Decade of the Nerd has not succeeded. We have given people the outer trappings of our culture, but failed to teach them how to enjoy being smart. This decade was full of just as much willful stupidity as the last one. Worse yet, this self-inflicted brain death has persisted in the face of increasing demand for intelligence. Humanity has surrounded itself with computers it does not understand and devoted its efforts to sustaining an economy it does not comprehend. The Nerds failed us in the hour of the greatest need for them. Are we to blame for not responding? Is everyone else to blame for not listening? Will we ever know?

This post has gone on far too long, so let me wrap it up with a toast. To 2010; may the stewards of this decade succeed where we failed, and finally teach humanity how to think.

I grew up in a small jock-town where everyone's parents had gone for education and never left. This means sports were important because it was all those parents knew. They never stepped into the greater world and discovered more. As such, my being bad at sports and a smart creative type (and having my own personality quirks) made me a great target for being poked fun at.

Towards the end of the millenium I had moved to a new school where everyone's family were from all walks of life. In high school I had expected "jocks vs. nerds and goths", but what I instead found was everyone getting along. It confused the Hell out of me.

After College I think I've learned enough to get a feel on where "nerds" and "geeks" stand in this seemingly nerdy popular culture.

Geeks and nerds don't merely like sci-fi, kung-fu, etc. Nor is a love of continuity and such in television unique. It's just most people don't go out looking for it. Nerds and geeks are people that get really into these forms of culture. Yes, they love Lord of the Rings, but they've also read Dragonlance, Song of Ice and Fire, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, and Magician's Apprentice, plus so many more I've forgotten to mention.

I've learned the mark of being a nerd and geek simply by speaking with my sister. I have NO CLUE how to discuss a film with her after we've seen it, because her thoughts are pretty much "I liked it". I sit there breaking down what I felt was done poorly and what could have been done better, or if I loved something why. Her eyes glaze over.

The mark of a nerd and geek isn't the escapism, or even the obsession with escapism. It's the analyzation. Some geeks and nerds SUCK at analyzation, but most do it because that's what thinking people do. Considering sci-fi and fantasy stories, the best ones at least, tend to be metaphors for modern existence or an attempt to analyze a separate cultural idea (just look at all of Robert Heinlein's novels. The guy can't tell a story for shit, but one minute he's got a super right-wing militaristic society in Starship Troopers, and then he's basically telling people how to properly rebel against an authority in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress).

I've known a lot of people that say "Gosh, I'm such a NERD!" just because they love Harry Potter or use Facebook too much, but once I start analyzing films each of us has seen and why it's great or why it's terrible the blank stares begin.

Nerd is just another clique these days that will become synonymous with pop culture. Give it another decade or so and we'll revert right back to where we were in the 80's and 90's.

It's quite cute how you call yourself (us?) & co more intelligent and then immediately start praising your lifestyle like there is no else. It's also quite arrogant since while the so-called "geek" culture can be a bit more intelligent than, say, your stereotypical American teen movie football gang, it's still a culture for itself and filled with flaws which will make any true intellectual (if there are or ever actually were any in human culture) facepalm in their grave.

you know bob, when you got to the TV part I was almost expecting you to metion shows like The big bang theory" to make your point

I'm guilty of enjoying "The Big Bang Theory" more than I probably should, as in I know it's not "good" but it's kinda familiar and compelling. I watch and I wonder "okay, is THIS how otherwise-intelligent older women feel about Sex & The City?" ;)

This is like Natural Selection, only those with the strongest traits will survive while the weaker ones fall out.

For the nerds, our culture is being taken up by popular culture. My level of nerd (casual nerd) will not last. I know enough about nerdy stuff to be classified as a nerd, but not enough to make it a lifestyle. Very soon most of my nerd knowledge will be taken up by popular culture that I will not be recognized as a nerd. I was a shallow nerd, and soon my level will no longer exist.

Other more deeply rooted nerds will survive, and they will have to carry on the name. Yes, Star Trek is a popular movie, yes we lost X-Men, Spiderman, Batman, Video Games, Computers, and Lord of the Rings to popular culture, as long as Klingon is not accepted as a legal language and other more extreme nerd hobbies remain ours, we will not have been lost.

No, I cannot speak Klingon.

I'm guilty of enjoying "The Big Bang Theory" more than I probably should, as in I know it's not "good" but it's kinda familiar and compelling. I watch and I wonder "okay, is THIS how otherwise-intelligent older women feel about Sex & The City?" ;)

I'd recommend "The IT Crowd" as well. It's a lot more British and some of the jokes fall flat; but the sheer nerd appeal is worth it.

As usual though, don't watch the American version. It's awful. Shows that work well in the UK collapse so badly when remade in the US, and vice versa.

Married for Life was nowhere near as good as the original Married... With Children (At least before the Flanderization of Peg and Al).

Yet these same people stroll the halls with cell phones that are a stone's throw (and some RAM) away from the laptop I haul everywhere. I see a plethora of yuppies carting their own technological tether around with them, but when I ask in polite conversation, "So what are you running?", I get the same vapid, spaced-out look that I often give deer on a late-night drive.


And I, for one, am sick of getting the stigma while everyone else gets the perks without it.

Valid points, but we nerds have our place, we are the fixers, the producers, we invent, create and fix, with out us, our society would fall apart. but then the jocks also have a place they provide entertainment for the non-nerd masses or rather they did, technology and video games have, if only partially, taken over, which was kinda what was intended. Now when you look at things such as D&D or the GW products are pretty much anything involving minis or complex rules, that isn't intended to go mainstream and you will rarely find anyone outside of Nerdom partaking in such things. The reason these are intended to do so is because your average Jock or "Yuppie" wouldn't understand them and would very quickly realize that nerds are dominating pop culture right now and would look for a way to fix it, so there is a reason that we give them those perks, if only so that we can finally be the norm rather than outsiders.

I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In short, the people that use to mock us in high school now live in mortal fear of us, the geeks won, we won.

All your decades are belong to us.

Cheers to Moviebob and to you guys/gals.

More proof of MC Frontalots prophetic words:

"Nerdcore could rise up, it could get elevated."

Booyakasha, Its an amazing day when I can go up to NYC for new years and meet an attractive woman who watches Dr. Who, and my buddy who met his wife Two new years ago at a bar, because shes a fan of Red Dwarf.

"Nerd Culture" is on the rise and its becoming more well known, soon the true lords of the world will be the kind of guys who have a level 80 toon, quote bad B movies, and are for all extensive purposes flat out geeks/nerds.

Its gonna be a great future my droogs.

And I felt weird when I watched all 3 LOTR movies on New Year's Eve (12:00 landed in the middle of Helm's Deep.). It's normal now!

If you look back into the past century the main stream culture has always been, what I refer to as, the Leech culture. It has all ways fed off of the various sub-cultures, taking what it needs, and gives nothing back. This decade it just happened to be the nerd culture. Eventually the main stream will get its fill and move on to the next thing, leaving the nerd culture will all the left overs that it will have to build back on.

I definitely agree with this, though I'd use parasite instead of leech personally, particularly in the sense that Andrew Ryan uses it.

Hmmm...I'm afraid, Mr. Chipman, that I have to disagree with you. As more traditional "nerd" sub-culture has been eaten by "popular" culture, so have we delved deeper into our own areas.

Sure, now everybody and their granny plays "video games". But does everyone play Tekken? Or .hack? Or Devil May Cry? Not to my knowledge. Those are examples of "high nerd" software, things that "true nerds only" play.

True, now everyone has a computer. But does everyone know the difference between posting and booting? Can they diagnose computer problems in a command line interface? Nope, in fact, most people over the age of about thirty don't even know what Linux is, despite America's obsession with free shit. That's because, despite Linux being free, it requires a commitment to learning the more complex workings of a computer. Most people just want to type their documents, get software to do their taxes and balance their checkbooks, and maybe browse the Web or play solitaire.

OK, comic book, high fantasy and sci-fi movies are the money-makers for studios nowadays. But how many people who go to see those movies have read Asimov, Heinlein, Chaucer or the various comics and books they are based on? Probably more than I assume (I have a low opinion of humanity in general: as Agent K said, "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky animals."), but not all of them. How many read the source afterwards? Less than half that hadn't already, I'd bet.

Tabletop games remain firmly nerd-centric, I can think of no-one in my groups who wouldn't be considered a nerd without them.

All things considered, I'd say that Nerd-dom has evolved, turning back on itself even as it becomes more accepted in the mainstream. The entire world has become more nerdy, so we have as well. And that's a good thing.

I like this development. I can now finally admit to everyone that I like what I like. :)

Being a nerd, I'm afraid, is about the rather random sense of entitlement. Feeling that real life people and creators somehow betrayed fictional characters; trying to impose a selective, self-indulgent view of culture against common knowledge; believing against all odds that having an outrageous, uncommon opinion is a mark of genius and a solid personality when it's actually trying to compensate for social alienation by coating it in the pretense that it is some kind of self-imposed lone-wolf lifestyle...

In short, the nerdyness is not in the comic books, or the videogames, or the movies. Everybody has finally tried all those things and liked them. The nerdyness is in what's left of the comic book guy in The Simpsons if you take all of that out.

This, pretty much. The whole "nerddom" thing has become a clique of pseudo-intellectuals peering down their noses at the "plebes" of society, for daring to like "common" things instead of all the out-there, underground things nerds cluster around in order to feel superior. And yet when one of these nerd-cherished things becomes mainstream, it's suddenly "sold out" to the masses, and nerds feel betrayed because "THAT WAS OURS, HOW DARE YOU GIVE IT TO THEM?!".

True nerds have never wanted to be accepted. They want mainstream culture to agree with their own self-assessment- "We're smarter than you, we know what's really good, and you'll never 'get' us unless you watch every episode and read every comic book we have until you can keep up with all our self-congratulatory trivia games". Nerds want the same ego-feeding that jocks have been getting for the last forty years.

This post has gone on far too long, so let me wrap it up with a toast. To 2010; may the stewards of this decade succeed where we failed, and finally teach humanity how to think.

Yeah, good luck with that. Nine years of employment in the retail sector have shown me that the vast majority of people will go to extraordinary lengths to AVOID thinking.

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