Take a moment and think of your average male nerd. (Feel free to substitute any other label such as “gamer” or “LARPer” or “computer science major”.) Without having any actual facts or statistics, my gut tells me that most people envision an overweight, acne-ridden, greasy-haired guy clad in mostly black with out-of-fashion glasses and a bad temperament. If you were unable to picture the average male nerd because, in your opinion, there is no such thing, congratulations — you passed. Feel free to jump to another article on the site.
If my guess at your depiction of the average male nerd was accurate, or close to it, I don’t blame you. This is a construct that has pervaded popular culture (ironic, as nerds now largely shape popular culture) to such a degree that one can hardly avoid using the stereotype. Even I, as someone who self-identifies as a nerd, use the stereotype.The old saying that “stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason” can certainly apply here, but my point is the stereotype is becoming increasingly inaccurate.
Gone are the days of the ‘80s movie with the teenage underdog protagonist and the Adonis-like, jock antagonist. (The structure still exists, but that is a function of telling a compelling story. If the hero is good at everything from the start of the movie to the end without ever encountering obstacles, the film lacks any forward momentum.) We have entered the age of the nerd. Should you doubt this, I offer any number of nerds who have achieved more success than our average reader could ever dream of dreaming about. Zuckerberg? Nerd. Gates? Nerd. Page and Brin? Nerd squared. Besides being described as a nerd, what do they have all have in common? Among other things, they have all admitted to lacking any real athleticism and are worth 11ty billion dollars each. Additionally, they are extremely well-known and public figures. So, why does the negative stereotype persist?
The reasons are plentiful. Certainly, the media contributes greatly–the more films Hollywood makes that portray nerds as social outcasts with computers, the more people will start to accept that. But I would be remiss if I didn’t lay some of the blame at the feet of the nerds themselves. In my mind’s eye, as I picture nerds as I described them above, I see a guy I knew in college. I know many people who are downright mean to those who aren’t skilled in computers or who have never seen Battlestar Galactica. It is said that to become an expert at something takes 10,000 hours. That’s a great deal of time in front of a computer screen. More to the point, that’s a great deal of time leading a sedentary lifestyle in front of computers, or televisions, or books. (Please understand that I am, in no way, suggesting that computers, televisions, or books are bad. What I am suggesting is too much of anything can be bad.)
Nerd culture has taken a turn in the last 15 (or so) years. As a young person, I was mocked for being skilled with computers; the reverse is now the case. Television shows like Doctor Who, once a part of the nerd underground, have found mainstream popularity. Books featuring magic and dragons have found their way to the front of books stores while authors like George R.R. Martin have to be snuck into book signings so as not to be mobbed. All signs point to the acceptance of nerds. Yet, social pariahs we remain.
Perhaps this is part of a larger societal issue; as I’m not a sociologist (nor am I someone who knows the first thing about Sociology), I can’t say for sure. What I do know is society would collapse without nerds manning the computers, just as sure as it would collapse without athletic people to lift heavy things. So the next time you see that stereotypical nerd, be appreciative of his passion. Give him a hug. Make him feel like he’s one of the cool kids.
And, should the opportunity present itself, politely suggest a shower. He’s making the rest of look bad.
Dickie is a self-described nerd. He does not fit the above mentioned stereotype, mostly because his skin is so pale that dressing in black makes him look like he’s in a black and white movie. Perhaps that makes him more stereotypical? Crap…now his whole world is falling apart.