The Decline and Fall of the Modern Nerd
The sad saga of how fandom transformed from being about love into hate and intolerance
Traditionally, nerds were always portrayed as outsiders looking in: Gazing at the high-school groups of popular athletes and cheerleaders, the cool kids, and all the others who never had a Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Guide fall out of their backpack while rushing to class. Things have changed. It’s a nerd’s world, where geeks dominate pop culture and entertainment, and the studios and publishers and so on peek inside, in hopes of figuring out how to constantly appease their new nerd overlords.
As a young nerd, I understood I was an outsider (in fact, it was made abundantly clear on many occasions). But suddenly I’ve become a member of pop culture’s new ruling class — and it has me wondering if I need a plan to escape.
For the first time since high school, I have felt genuine shame in telling people I am a nerd. When I have had occasion to tell someone I’m a Star Wars fan, I immediately feel the need to qualify it by adding, “but I’m not one of those crazy assholes you hear about.” I love Game of Thrones, but I can’t think of the series at all without also remembering all the hate spewed about the final season. There are an increasing number of things I used to enjoy that feel tainted by the hate other so-called fans feel for them, and it’s getting harder and harder to separate the two.
Nerds, myself included, should be delighted by the way things have gone. Star Wars fans have gotten a bevy of new movies, Marvel comics obsessives have witnessed a great cinematic adaptation of an entire comics universe for more than a decade. We’re living in a world where Hollywood is so desperate to please nerds that it’s dredging up everything we’ve ever been obsessed with — I think the fact that a movie based on the excessively ridiculous ’80s cartoon He-Man and the Masters of the Universe may make it into theaters is as clear a sign as any that nostalgic nerds are now ruling this particular playground.
On the surface, that’s a pretty great “problem” to have — our wildest adaptation dreams are coming true, practically on a daily basis. Plus, Hollywood listens to the fans, and…