Let’s get one thing out of the way, first thing: I am a nerd.
I’ve never said I wasn’t. How could I? One time at work a guy I played ‘Magic’ with asked me if I was into Doctor Who. “Ron,” I said, “what about me would suggest that I wasn’t?” So let’s not assume that I’m trying to deny any nerdishness on my part.
That said, I don’t seem to be a certain type of nerd. Yesterday on MetaFilter someone made a post linking to a bunch of anti-nerd websites. Now, you would think that five anti-nerd websites on the same Internet that gave us BoingBoing would be like adding a drop of red food coloring into the Pacific Ocean and then wondering why it didn’t even turn pink. Nevertheless, there was a strong reaction in the comments, with people horrified and outraged that someone out there might not think everything Neil Gaiman does is EPIC WIN and had dared, dared to say so.
I got pulled into the fray and managed to keep my face clean even though this has been a long-standing problem of mine. That problem being, I am sick to death of “nerd culture”.
I am tired of zombies. I am tired of Joss Whedon. I am tired of steampunk. I am tired of Monty Python. I am tired of zombies. I am tired of ninjas. I am tired of Batman. I am tired of bacon. I am tired of Star Wars. I am tired of Nintendo. I am tired of zombies. I am tired of Halo. I am tired of elves. I am tired of Cthulhu. I am tired of Boba Fett. I am tired of zombies. I am tired of pirates. I am tired of Battlestar Galactica. I am tired of mecha. I am tired of superheroes. I am tired of Star Trek. I am tired of “funny” bands. Have I mentioned that I am tired of zombies?
Most of those things I liked at some point. Most of them I still like in some way. But all of them I’m tired of. I’m tired of hearing about them constantly, having them shoved at me all the time. Even — no, especially — when they’re “creatively” mashed up with each other.
I’m sick to death of the whole thing. I no longer want to hear about how something is EPIC, or AWESOME, or BEST ____ EVAR, or MADE OF WIN because you have no way of discussing anything except opening your mouth and letting your 13-year-old Id sputter out nonsense. Likewise, I don’t want to hear about how anything is MEH or FAIL because it didn’t immediately pump endorphins into your brain.
But most of all, I’m sick of nerdism as the geek form of jingoism, planting your stupid flag somewhere and shouting your patriotic lines and demanding the fealty of others and being unable to actually talk about the thing because you’re too busy being into the thing.
And it’s not like I’m spending my days at the comic shop and my evenings at a sci-fi convention, with time out for massive D&D sessions. Sure, I’m in front of a computer for most of the day, but I don’t go to BoingBoing anymore. I don’t do much of anything over at BoardGameGeek anymore. I don’t go to a comic or game store very often, and when I do it’s just long enough to do a little browsing and make my purchase and leave. I don’t read i09 or Slashdot or ComicsAlliance or any of the other major nerd sites. I don’t follow Warren Ellis or Neil Gaiman or William Gibson on Twitter. I don’t even visit much of any Lego sites. Yet I still, still, get more than my fill of this sort of thing on a daily basis. I don’t know what, short of simply abandoning all my interests and taking up stamp collecting, I could do.
In what I said on MetaFilter, the one line I really want to present as the takeaway is this:
I am a Doctor Who fan. I enjoy watching the show and talking about it. This doesn’t mean that I need to see a few seconds of a single episode (“I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.”) repeated and recycled and remixed and recontexted and rewhatevered until everyone is begging you to just stop, stop, shut up, enough, and even then someone will still stand up and go WHY DO YOU HATE FUN?
I’ve often compared nerds to evangelical Christians in their similar habits of (a) making sure everyone knows exactly what they are into at all times and (b) trying to get other folks into that thing as well. And most people find these things annoying in religious folk and appreciate it when they ease up a bit on it. Yet being a nerd and saying to fellow nerds, “You know, it’s okay if you don’t quote something every time there’s an opportunity to quote something.” is somehow being a huge hater who hates spreading hate and hate-like objects. It’s not seen as it’s intended, as a voice of moderation from a fellow member of the tribe, designed to tone down some of our more enthusiastic brothers.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t nerd out loud, that nothing should be appreciated or repeated or anything. As a wise man once said, “It’s not that you wear Batman t-shirts. It’s that you only wear Batman t-shirts.” You know that guy who is only into football and talks about football constantly and wears the football shirts and is completely lost if he’s in a situation in which football is irrelevant? Being the same guy, only about anime, doesn’t make it better.