Friday, March 27, 2009

Should the term "nerd" RIP? has an interesting post here about the term nerd and whether we should retire it before it , like many Internet phrases, like "pwned," "FAIL,"and the ever increasingly annoying LOLcats, becomes so overused that even your grandma knows that the hell you're talking about.

The article uses nerd and geek interchangeably , but personally I always thought there was a difference between the two. I defined nerd as having to do more with academics, and geek to be more fannish about things like comic books, video games, blogging, things like that. defines nerd as: "An individual persecuted for his superior skills or intellect, most often by people who fear and envy him"; and geek as someone who "does not have to be smart, a Geek is someone who is generally not athletic, and enjoys Video Games; Comic Books; being on the Internet, and etc." As you can see, there is a lot of of crossover there.

The thing is, this past year has seen a renaissance in all things geek: critical acclaim for The Dark Knight, success of Iron Man, a Watchmen movie finally made and released, more people reading Watchmen, a deluge of comic books movies on the horizon, and the ever increasing popularity of Comic-Con.

If you're reading this blog, I'm assuming you self-identify as a geek. And I'm not using the word "identity" lightly here. Being a geek, or a nerd, very much is an identity. Like any other social order or status, being a geek gives you a sense of self and importance and gives you a peer group and friends with the same interests. Hell, Darcy, Lady Lara Jones, and I are united in our love of comics, video games, movies, books, and the joy of mocking things.

Part of being a geek or a nerd was the idea that you were now part of a group of outcasts that existed outside the mainstream. You may not be "cool" by the standards established by the accepted popular cultures, but you got to feel infinitely superior to those mindless sheep.

But as the article points out, geekdom has been "re-branded out from under us. It's not just the mainstreaming of video games and superhero comics, it's that the whole identity is being reduced to a set of keywords, generational nostalgia and Internet trends that people can reflexively cheer for (monkeys are the next pirates are the next ninjas, pass it on)."

So if geekdom is being accepted into the mainstream and no longer has that outcast aspect to it, where does that leave us geeks? I don't know about any of you, but being a geek is a large part of my identity, and a lot of that had to do with finding your niche outside of what our consumer driven culture tells you what you should look like, want, and believe in (although I do recognize that being a geek has it's own consumer whore-ism aspects to it).

Should the geek community try to take back the terms geek and nerd? Should we let them go gracefully, like the article suggests? Even though geek culture is being celebrated in the media right now, will actual geeks themselves still be the outcasts and misfits and the butt of stereotypical jokes? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

Big thanks for Darcy for sending me this article and poking me into writing this post. You are good at your job of enabling, Darcy.


Danicus said...

I long ago decided that though the mainstream may be using our words, it's the equivalent of a toddler saying "Large Hadron Collider". They may parrot what they've heard, but have no real idea what they're talking about. Thus, I see no major threat from the mainstream populace... since they ARE sheep, like you said.

Darcy said...

You can find a follow-up article about the poll and user comments on the topic at the following link!