If you grew up in the eighties or nineties, there was a struggle between nerds and jocks. At least, that’s what popular culture, television, and movies told us. Nerds and geeks were weak, uncoordinated, and not great around the opposite sex. Jocks were the alphas, they were the Adonises, and they got all the breaks. McFly actually would have worked for Biff in those days. It seemed like this conflict would last a while. But, like all great battles, it came to an end.
The geeks won. We didn’t win by conquest or by domination. We didn’t win through trickery or politics. We won in the way that we’ve always done things; we assimilated. There was the before time, when we separated the groups. Any crossing of the circles would have been like a Capulet trying to marry a Montague and we all saw how well that turned out. Things changed. People’s thinking evolved. We stopped contrasting our differences and began to look at our similarities. Geeks and nerds have been seen as outsiders—people on the fringe. We expanded the circle and became more accepting. It’s the nerds who brought everyone together. This leads us to the 21st century, and the amazing surge of culture. The Big Bang Theory aired on TV, and glorified geeky things like videogames, star trek and creating new rules for chess.
The secret that brought everyone together though, that put everyone on the same playing field, was inclusiveness. We pulled back the curtain and the great Oz was just a mirror. We expanded the meanings of “geek” and “nerd” and created a Venn diagram of what it meant to be one. “Geek chic” became a thing. If you have an obsession with something, are passionate about it, and want to communicate that passion to others, you’re one of us.
If you’re into baseball and you want to share why you’re into it, you’re a baseball nerd. If you dig fashion and you’ve become obsessed with showing your friends the latest trends, you’re a fashion geek. Try it out on yourself. The term geek is now like a badge of affirmation that proves you know more than the tourists. What are you most passionate about? What do you obsess over to the point where you want to share it with everyone?
Do you have an answer?
If you do, I have a section of this Venn diagram you should fit into. It’s okay; everyone else there is just like you and we’re always accepting new members.
It’s not a utopia, but it’s adapting. We are changing the boundaries of our culture. We are you, and you are us. We’re all in this together. It is a golden age of figuring out who we are and being alright with what we find. The next few decades are going to be awesome to watch unfold.
If we can keep ourselves from fighting over which nerd and geek circles are the best.
Jon brings up a good point about circles. This year at Anime North 2014, for example, many on the official Anime North Facebook Group voiced that they found it more difficult to interact with people they didn’t know than in previous years. Is this because of a surge in traditionally non-geeky people? Is it possible that geeky things like cosplay are now becoming so mainstream that a geek class will be filled once again? Does it always boil down to good looks and strength? When I see spokespeople for cosplay like Jessica Nigri, for example, I know I feel inferior. Happily inferior. And we’ve all seen the “nerds” in the Jedi vs Harry Potter fight scene, and how a few of them look like they could fit in a gap ad.