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May 13th, 2016

The Life and Death of a Nerd: Chapter 5


Click here for PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, and PART 4.

I’d first like to say before I get into this, thank you to everyone that has supported me through the years, especially the last 7. Chronicles of the Nerds has been one of the best things I’ve ever done with my life. I’ve had experiences people would punch babies to be able to do, made some of the best friends I’ll ever have, and have had doors open up for me to career opportunities. Don’t think for one second that because this show is going away, that all of those things no longer matter to me. I got to build something from scratch that paid off in every way possible. As a project, it was a resounding success. With that being said, I’ll now make you hate me.

Nerd culture is a mental illness. I have suffered from it for 32 years. It has led to obsessive compulsive tendencies that have alienated me from society, made me spend copious amounts of money on merchandise, and has driven me away from facing the reality of the world. If you strip away the superheroes, adventurers, wizards, dragons, vampires, Jedi, mushroom eating plumbers, time travelers, and ninja turtles from it all, what’s left is just obsession. Nerds need to know everything about their fandom. We need to buy everything they can related to our favorite thing. We’re argumentative and stubborn. We tend to assign emotional value to things that are purely meant as marketing.

While people with nerdy tendencies certainly existed before there was anything related to a culture around it, growing up in the 80’s and 90’s was certainly a strange time to develop. Advertising to children was deregulated during the Reagan administration. This made it so companies could directly market to children with very little limitations. This means that kids growing up from then until now were basically being sold plastic and sugar wherever it could be sold. Shows like Transformers and Thundercats existed for the express purpose of selling toys, yet we look back on those shows with nostalgia. We cry out in rage at the idea of rebooting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles because it’ll be different from how we remember it. Oh, and different is bad. We’ve become so closed off to new ideas that we cling to our memories like a child to a teddy bear. To steal a tagline, this is arrested development.

Now I’m not here to say that you should feel bad about this, or that there’s anything actually wrong with you for liking what you like, but it’s not a culture. A culture is not a collection of dozens of fandoms. There are values in a culture. There are norms. Like I said, the only thing that unites “nerds” as a culture is the fact that whatever it is we’re into, it controls us on some level. We’ll go on strike from Game of Thrones if they do something to our favorite character instead of just seeing how the story unfolds. I’ve seen people demand endings be changed to games because it isn’t what they wanted. Hell, I’ve demanded a public apology from Marvel for the horrible ending and direction change of One More Day, and refuse to buy a Peter Parker Spider-Man comic until I feel that penance is served. What the hell is that? We’ve become a “culture” of Lost Boys refusing to grow the hell up because of some scorn that was inflicted on us at a young age.

Don’t get me wrong though, what we call nerd culture pretty much saved my life. It comforted me when I was a little kid. It helped me find friends in middles school. It gave me something to think about in college. It gave me a drive to make something of my life. I would be nothing without it right now. But things have changed. Not just for me personally, but the world in general. See, while all the things I loved got me through hard times and helped me push forward, they also held me back so much. Me at my nerdiest reacted to everything with pure emotion. Like an addict, when faced with anxiety, I found solace in my drug of choice. Buying movies and comics were filling a void that I would later discover was really an identity. I was Mikey the comic guy. I wasn’t Mikey. Everything that I was hinged on all the shit I knew and owned.

As for the world, when things like Avengers cleared $1.5 billion in box office alone, that should have been the big thing that nerd culture should have looked at. We’re used to liking things most people don’t. Well making that kind of money says one thing resoundingly well; everyone likes this. The Dark Knight years before it was also very telling on how the tide was changing. Hell, Star Wars is pretty much the biggest franchise ever, but we still acted like finding a person that liked it was like finding a unicorn in a field of four leaf clovers. Transformers in the 80’s made like a million action figures long before a major motion picture. Lord of the Rings was one of the most ambitious film series ever made, and the box office return and Oscars it was showered with went far in legitimizing it. Just the fact that Superman and Batman stories have been published for more than 75 years, and the biggest Marvel characters have been around more than 50 says one big thing; I was never alone. People from all walks of life like these things or they wouldn’t be around still. That’s how capitalism and pop culture works.

Harry Potter is just as cool as Beyonce. People that like sports can also like The Hunger Games. My knowledge of Daredevil, Power Rangers, and X-Men makes me no different than a person that can recite all the stats and game results of the 92-93 Chicago Bulls. You wouldn’t say that a person who likes those things was a nerd though, even though they have the exact same things to them that we use to define nerd culture. They’re obsessively a fan of something. The only obstacle “nerds” needed to get over was getting other people to recognize that a dude in a metal suit that fights robots is also pretty freaking cool. And we’ve done that. Robert Downey Jr is now the highest paid actor in Hollywood. That’s not because we willed it to happen. It’s because it’s cool and the world knows now.

So the only thing that was really separating us culturally from someone who looks forward to Super Bowl Sunday the way we look forward to the next issue of Rat Queens was legitimacy. Enough money to buy a country per movie along with awards kind of does that. So because of that, nerd culture is done. I can tell you first hand from someone running a fan focused convention that’s grown about 800% in 3 years, the demographics of attendees is just as diverse as this great country. An equal gender divide, families, incomes, teenagers, middle-aged people, races of all kind as well as orientations come to these giant “nerd” parties. Fun has no gate and there’s an unlimited amount of it out there for everyone, yet we still feel like we’re alone. We’re not alone. Nerds have won this round. We own Hollywood. We own television with more than a dozen shows on the air based off of comic nerd properties. Almost every minute of every day you can find some kind of genetically engineered to appeal to the fantastic form of entertainment. And if you look at trends, we’re probably only going to have this for another 10-20 years before the cycle chooses other genres and art forms to be the coolest thing ever. That’s how pop culture works.

So ultimately, why am I ending this whole thing? Because running Chronicles of the Nerds helped me grow up and see all this. When we started this, I was a broken person (see parts 1-4 for specific examples). I found value in the fact that I possessed an overabundance of useless information. Doing the podcast, interviewing creators, working for RCCC, and everything else the site led to has given me confidence and broken me out of the funk I’d been in the majority of my life. I still love the things I love, and probably will love them even more when the show is over, but I’m not defined by the silly things that got me through life for all those years anymore. I love those things so much for always being there for me.

When I look at nerd culture now, what I see are the Gamergaters, the people harassing women for being fake geek girls, and unbathed masses who don’t get that people don’t want to breath them in public. These are the people that act like they’re the sentries of nerd culture, keeping it safe for all the true believers out there, when they’re just a thing of the past. They’re the ones on the internet saying Heath Ledger was going to be the worst Joker, and that there’s no way Johnny Storm could be black. The people that can accept that Iceman can move around on an ice slide, fight giant robots, and hang out with a blue dude that looks like a demon, but the second the character questions his sexuality, logic goes out the window. These are the people making all the noise and missing the entire point behind the things they love. Everything HAS TO BE exactly how they first loved it. No room for change. No room for new ideas. So, as I’ve pointed out in my ramblings above, this is all pop culture, so if those asshats claim with pride to represent the nerds, then let’s let them. Let’s let them be forever alone. Let them make their shit storms online for the main characters of the New Star Wars being women. Let them make a stink while we’re sitting in the theater united having fun and going to conventions and meeting other people who like the same things we do.

So you’re either going to read this and totally agree with me, or you’re going to say I’m wrong. And that’s fine. The whole point of this is that you like what you like, and it doesn’t have to be a cultural battle. For the last 7 years I’ve celebrated the things I’ve loved over 3 different podcasts. Chronicles of the Nerds was me breaking out of my comfortable cocoon and challenging myself to see the world, and ultimately my life differently. I still want to put on conventions where people go to celebrate all the things they love. I still will be at the late show every Thursday night for the next Superhero movie. My comic library will grow like they’re tribbles. I feel like now that I’ve separated myself from “the culture” I’ll finally be able to enjoy these things in the most pure way possible without the baggage of needing to defend myself all the damn time. I’ve said multiple times already, but Chronicles of the Nerds just showed me how I was really never alone. That’s a thought that still brings a big happy tear to my eye.

Thank you again for everything you’ve given me. Thank you for arguing with me. Thank you for laughing with me. Thank you for making me show up and to make something every Saturday. I love all you guys, and I’ll try to do my best to help you find out who you are, just like you helped me figure it out. This nerd is all out of fight though. I’m ready to take on the world, not as the nerdy chubby kid who knows everything about the X-Men. I’m going to just try being Mikey. I’ve learned he’s pretty damn cool.

All content © 2009-2010 by Chronicles of the Nerds



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