The thing I want to talk about today is related to a couple of subjects that have been of some discussion lately, and rightly so: The phenomenon of the fake geek girl (or guy) and bullying. I grew up as what you might say was a pudgy sort of geek, one of what you might say was generous proportions. It may surprise you to learn, given how awesome I am today, that I was never part of the popular crowd and spent a lot of time on the outside looking in. Despite how much I desperately wanted, there was never any danger of a super-attractive girl falling for me despite everything a John Hughes movie told me. To me, attractive girls seemed to simply be a completely different species that spoke an entirely different language.
What’s a self-respecting geek to do in this situation? I did what a lot of guys did. I continued to nurse pop culture fantasies that the hot cheerleader would fall for me if only I could set up the right situation or circumstances. At the same time I took solace in my geeky pursuits: comic books, video games, dungeons & dragons…. You know the drill.
I say all this to lay the ground work for what I really want to get to today. So you’ll understand where I’m coming from and know that I wasn’t always the gorgeous hunk of manhood that I am today. Nerds out there: I’M ONE OF YOU and I share some of your concerns when I look around and see all these attractive people taking part in our nerdy pursuits. These are people who at one time would have been seen as enemies in a John Hughes film, or as the sorority & fraternity jerks from Revenge of the Nerds. Our place of refuge has been co-opted and invaded by pretty people!
HOW DARE THEY! They have no idea that Starbuck was a dude and not a hot young blonde. They have no idea why Star Trek Into Darkness was an abomination. They wouldn’t know a d20 if they saw it, let alone how to figure a character’s To Hit number. THEY’RE NOT REAL GEEKS! If they want to hang with us they’re going to have to prove their nerd street cred.
Nerd boys and girls, I’m going to zig now when you thought I was going to zag. I don’t know how to tell you this, but in this situation, YOU are the Alpha Betas from Revenge of the Nerds and what you are doing is bullying. This has got to stop, and I’ll tell you why.
The guys of the NerdUp podcast recently spent a weekend steeped in pop culture at Indy Popcon. I have to say that my experience there was close to nerdvana. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I didn’t meet a single person that wasn’t amazingly friendly. Everyone seemed to be having a great time geeking out over amazing cosplay, fantastic art, affordable comic books and basically all things nerdy. Everyone seemed to be united in their admiration and celebration of many of the things that I, personally, love. Guess what….. many of them were attractive women or men. Shocking, I know, but hear me out on this.
I could make a persuasive argument about the fact that no matter who you are, you shouldn’t be a jerk to anyone. That the Golden Rule is not just some corny saying and that if everyone applied it to their interactions the world would be a TRULY AMAZING place to live. That all is very true and many people could be swayed by an appeal to reason. Those people are already nodding their heads. They get what I’m trying to say. I’m not talking to them today. I’m talking to the hardcore nerd that feels threatened in their refuge by the invading hordes of the popular kids invading their Sanctum Sanctorum. I’m here to tell you that I understand what you’re feeling and have at some point felt those feelings as well. It’s a little weird to see the prom queen wearing a shirt with Green Lantern on it and downright earth-shattering to find out that she not only knows the difference between Hal Jordan and John Stewart, but can site reasons why John Stewart is legitimately the greater of the two. The popular kids already have an awesome life where they are idolized for their looks and abilities why do they need to co-opt our world too?
I’ll tell you why. It’s because our world is awesome and everyone else is finally waking up to that fact. Before you get your torches and pitchforks ready, let me tell you why you should consider this is a good thing.
One of the greatest things about what we nerds like is that we can get transported to a new world and experience it through someone else’s eyes. Through comic books, video games and the like, we can vicariously find out what it’s like to BE someone else for a while and discover things what we have in common with them. We get to watch the rise and fall of their story while occasionally finding that we can understand our own situation a little better by observing theirs. Now imagine if we limited these experiences to those created by people who are only like us. For me that would mean that I only read stories written by overly sarcastic, straight white guys from the middle class. While there are some great experiences do be gleaned from these people, I would be far poorer from limiting myself this way. I would be living in an echo chamber where the things I already thought were the only things I heard. That’s a dull prospect because no matter how awesome I may be, and let’s face it, I’m pretty damn awesome, I would not get to experience what it would be like to be a young Muslim girl inheriting the powers of Ms. Marvel. I would not get to experience that it’s like to be a Korean business man who is inexplicably imprisoned for 15 years and then unceremoniously released. I would not experience what it’s like to be Commander Shepherd, the red-headed, horniest space lesbian who would sleep with every girl in the known universe. In short, it would be much harder to understand the world around me because I simply did not think about what it would be like to approach it from someone else’s point of view.
I’m straying a bit from my intended topic, but it’s only because I think this stuff’s important and I think we should all be talking about it. Let’s get back to talking about the issue I raised at the beginning of this: the invasion of the HOT people and why it’s not a problem in any way. To quote Revenge of the Nerds: “All jocks ever think about is sports. All nerds think about is sex.” As a teenage nerd that might have appeared true, but it’s a line of thinking that we ought to distance ourselves from. When it comes to healthy relationships with other people, sex occupies a relatively small amount of the time you spend with them. While being physically attractive to each other is an important aspect, it’s not the ONLY aspect. That girl in the slave Leia outfit may be brain-meltingly beautiful, and yes, Raychul Moore at Indy PopCon was indeed brain-meltingly beautiful. For evidence of this you can see the picture of me with her on the NerdUp Facebook page. BUT if that’s all she is to you then you’re doing it wrong.
She’s way more than what you see on the outside. Now I don’t know Raychul Moore personally and have never met her before the convention, but she has just as much right to be involved in nerdy pursuits as I do. There’s NO REASON for me to think less of her because of her outward appearance or the way she’s dressed. If I were to get belligerent with her and demand that she PROVE that she knows all the ins and outs of Star Wars then I WOULD BE BULLYING HER. I would be engaging in the hurtful behavior I so much hated about some of the people I went to school with. I know what it’s like to be judged by what I look like. It sucks! Why would I put anyone else through that?
Let me tell you about an encounter I had at PopCon. I was walking the show floor and came across an artist at a booth who was drawing a wraparound cover to the new Guardians of the Galaxy. The pencil work was really good and the artist was friendly and willing to chat about their work. I decided to purchase that very book they were working on and paid for it before wandering on to the next booth. At the next booth I purchased a stack of prints. I asked that artist if they had anything to put the prints in so that they wouldn’t be damaged but they didn’t have anything. My conversation was overheard by the previous artist and they came over with an acrylic protective sleeve to put the prints in. Mind you these were another artist’s work that they were helping me with and they gave me the protector free of charge. The next day I returned to pick up my beautifully done Guardians of the Galaxy comic, thanked the artist for their work and chatted some more.
The artist in question is Serena Guerra. Does the fact that the she is a beautiful, petite blonde woman change this story in the least? Not for me. Don’t get me wrong. I think she is VERY attractive but the fact that she is a talented artist who was generous with her time and her work means more to me. I also met Kari Smith, the creator of a comic book that I enjoy. I’ve mentioned Plume several times on the podcast because it’s a book that I really enjoy and I think it’s important to support books from smaller publishers. Does the fact that she’s not only a woman, but also an attractive person mean that she has no business being involved in comics? That’s ludicrous. I liked her comic before I met her and I like it even more afterwards. Why? Because she was enthusiastically friendly, spent plenty of time talking with me without seeming like she was in a rush and she took a picture of the two of us with her comic before I did. That’s a cool person and someone I’m happy to support. You can check out photos of these two artists with their work on our Facebook page.
As an awkward young nerd I had no idea how to talk to attractive women. We seemed to have absolutely nothing in common and I felt like there was no way to even start a conversation with them, let alone date them. The things I loved were looked down on and mocked. Being a geek was not something you owned up to with pride. Those days are thankfully gone. Now Marvel movies are some of the most profitable and critically acclaimed movies in theaters. The Last of Us is seen as a masterpiece of interactive storytelling, not “just a video game”. I can find hoards of people passionate about a space western that only lasted about a dozen episodes. It’s a great time to be a geek.
Look around you there are so very many people you have things in common with. Some of them may even be that hot guy or girl you would love to date. It’s time we all started learning the TRUE lessons all those 80’s teen comedies taught us: BULLYING SUCKS AND BULLYS ARE JERKS. Let’s not be jerks. There is no way to EARN or WIN someone you are attracted to. Their affection is not a prize that can be stolen, coerced or won. It has to be given to you and it won’t be given to you if you’re a bully. At the end of the day, the Alpha Betas from Revenge of the Nerds were horrible people. Why would you want to be like them?