4 Awful Things We're Now Considering Nerd Behavior
I'm not a pleasant person to be around. I mean, I'm mostly OK on the outside, but it sometimes seems like the person who lives in my brain and presses the buttons that make me do things is just trying to see how far he can push the envelope before society exiles me to a desert island with nothing but a few years' worth of snacks and a solar-powered laptop so I can play Fallout 2.
I'm basically just like any other sociopathic nerd, and I'm guilty of every one of the behaviors I'm about to explain. What's worse, I don't have even a suggestion of a solution for any of them. So we're going to have to figure it out together, because this whole "nerds are awesome" phase isn't going to last forever. And when it collapses, we're all going to be hanging from flagpoles by our underwear.
We Feel Like We're Owed Our Favorite Things ... Forever
Here's an awful truth: We may love the stuff our favorite artists create, but we don't give two shits about them as people. When we're introduced to a new awesome game, or song, or movie, our first impulse isn't to thank the people who created it, it's to demand that they keep doing that forever, no matter the cost.
There's no better example of this than the Star Wars prequels. Objectively, those are some nightmarishly bad movies, provided your nightmares involve cartoon sidekicks and underacting Natalie Portmans, but people got very angry about them, and really, does anyone know why? What was it, exactly, that Lucas did to deserve anger? Short of the prequels being six hours of him having sex with all of our moms, there's no reason for it.
Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hastily typed forum posts and a meaningless life.
You get angry when someone does something to hurt you or someone/something you care about, not when someone fails to keep doing something you like. And the prequels don't actually hurt the original films. We didn't love Star Wars because we thought it was the beginning of a six-movie arc; we loved it because George "You're all clear, kid, now let's blow this thing and go home" Lucas was a young, energetic guy who, with a combination of luck and creativity, touched the hearts of literally millions of people across the world -- something that 99.99 percent of people never even come close to accomplishing. And our response is to get angry when he fails to do it a fourth time? What kind of borderline psychopathic bullshit is that? Even porn can't produce a boner every time, and that's basically considered to be a blue chip medium.
Modern cinema as we know it would not exist without him, but on the other hand, he screwed up later.
I'm not above this at all. As a kid I was a Resident Evil fanboy -- so naturally I was horrified when Resident Evil 4 came out and I discovered that they were doing away with the fixed cameras and outdated control schemes in order to make it "just another run-and-gun shooter." I felt betrayed, and probably went online to complain about how Capcom was abandoning their roots or "destroying the series" (the go-to nerd complaint). I'm sure my rage-logic was flawless and Capcom instantly regretted creating the game.
"I demand two ... no, three acts of seppuku for this bullshit!"
Again, this makes no sense. Video games change with technology more than any other medium, and in 2005 the Resident Evil gameplay was hopelessly outdated and not selling anymore because it had been totally done to death. Also Resident Evil 4 turned out to kick ass. But I didn't care, I wanted more of the same, and I was convinced they had betrayed me, as if I had some personal say in its design. Someone had given me something I liked, and I was mad that they had failed to keep doing that over and over, forever. They owed me, goddammit.
Because I'm an asshole. And then I realized ...
We Secretly Hope Our Favorite Artists Aren't Successful
You're probably just as dismissive of the term "sellout" and the self-important pop-culture junkies who use it as I am -- but what you may not realize is that we're all those self-important junkies. And, no, I'm not talking about the "let's bash hipsters" bandwagon here. I'm talking about normal, everyday people who don't regularly get rocks thrown at them.
As a culture, we feel like our art is ruined if the people creating it make any money. You can see it in every medium, at every level: It's why it's harder for big-budget films to get nominated for Academy Awards. It's why, when Metallica was starting out, they (allegedly) said that they would never make a music video because doing so would compromise their artistry, even though what does that have to do with anything, Metallica, what are you talking about? Is it Lars? Did Lars say that? Because I could totally see him saying that.
Well, they were talking to their fans, and their fans listened:
"Because you admitted you like money, you can't have any of mine!"
What we refuse to accept is that getting paid for doing what you love doesn't always make you suck. Nirvana made their two best albums (MTV Unplugged and In Utero) after it had been made clear that no one in that band would ever need to work again. Yet even during those times, there was still a large group of fans who would have preferred them to have never left their days of surviving on nothing but gas station corn dogs.
Again, I'm not immune. My favorite band is Coheed and Cambria, at least partially because they wrote this song, which is like a standard pop-rock song if you ran it through a wood chipper and Scotch Taped it back together while drunk. But then they had kind of a hit with this track, and they started writing more songs like that, and now more people have heard of them and ... I dunno, I just occasionally catch myself coming up with reasons to be mad about that, like it makes any fucking difference in my life at all. By any sane metric, I should be happy that those guys get to have some financial security in their lives, because they wrote some of my favorite songs. But I'm not. My gut instinct is to say "Fuck their happiness, I just want them to make albums like The Second Stage Turbine Blade again. And I want to touch that big ol' fluffy hair so bad."
Integrity means only having one jacket to share on rainy days.
Why? What's wrong with me? What's wrong with us? Well, I know at least part of the answer, and it's not pretty ...
We Think We Have to Protect Our Favorite Stuff from Outsiders
We'd like to think we're above it, but the reality is that a lot of our anxiety boils down to us being worried about other people taking our stuff. Even on a biological level, we define value by scarcity: Our bodies love sugar because it used to be really hard to find, and we love sex so much because it's really hard to find someone who doesn't have icky cooties.
Therefore, when we like something, our strongest impulse is to hate-stab the ever-loving fuck out of anyone who starts eyeing our prized goods because we're pretty sure that they might take it, and then where will we get ours? Logic dictates that this doesn't apply to art, which in the digital age is an infinite resource -- but nobody told our brains that.
Actually, there's a lot of stuff I don't tell my brain.
"You mean that was your hand the whole time? You sick freak."
This explains a lot of nerd in-fighting, but there are way more examples -- like fake geek girls, or just "fake nerds" in general. If we see a Zelda sticker on a girl's car ("Girls don't play video games! She's just doing that for attention because nerds are 'in' right now!") or see a skinny kid wearing a sweet metal shirt ("No way he listens to Bad Brains! He's just wearing that to look tough!"), we get pissed. We have to protect our stash. It's even worse when they get a detail wrong, because that proves our assumption and reveals them as "posers." How many of you are just itching to tell me that Bad Brains is punk, not metal?
"I've gotta fix this before H.R. sees it and starts to cry."
What an unimaginably sad thing for our brains to be doing, because art and music and video games and comics and movies are wonderful, and everyone should get to enjoy them. Even right now, I'm conflicted on the inside: I want some of you to listen to "21:13" (the Coheed song I linked to), but I also want you to keep away from my favorite band or I will collect your fucking hearts!
Why? We want everyone to enjoy this stuff, right? Well, we actually might not, because ...
We Think Our Knowledge Makes Us Important
You know your friend who's read the books George R. R. Martin wrote before he started Game of Thrones, or the one who watches nothing but authentic, untranslated Japanese anime, or the guy who has at some point in his life been a member of Sonic Youth? They're the ubernerds. They're super-pretentious, and they (fine -- we) are insufferable. Not because of our taste for obscurity, but because of our arrogance. We act like knowing more about the artist makes us better, even though all it really means is that we spend our free time differently from "normal" people.
How normal people spend their free time.
You can blame evolution for that. We're pack animals, and pack animals need leaders. As life has gotten easier over the centuries, the people who've occupied the alpha slot have started to achieve that status less by killing tigers with their bare hands and more by being really pretty -- but to us, it's all the same. So whether we're styling our hair like Justin Bieber or wearing a Decemberists shirt in public, we're doing it for the same reason a scrawny gorilla will model his ooks off the ooks of the big ape who gets the most food and has the freakiest ape sex. We want to be as important as they are, and until we achieve that, we'll do whatever we can to curry favor with them.
Seconds before a fan was arrested for trying to chimp-groom his beard.
The most uncomfortable part (to me) is how this superiority complex makes nerdiness so similar to sports stuff. One of the most annoying parts of sports culture (to me) is the ridiculous degree people identify with the teams. They take every loss and win personally, and they'll even get mad at other football fans when their favorite team plays well. I always felt like that was silly, and I assumed that we nerds were better than that because ... oh, goddammit, I'm doing it again.
JF Sargent is writing a sci-fi adventure serial like the pretentious asshole that he is. He's also a Cracked Workshop moderator and has a Twitter and a blog where he calls himself "Doc Sarge" like a total prick. God, this fucking guy.