With the rise of Geek/Nerd culture, I’m brought back to a project I once wished to engage in. I was going to write a book called Origin of the Geek that would be an in-depth look into the geek culture past to present. I had planned this over a decade ago, right at the beginning of the meteoric rise of the culture. Looking back now, I see that I would have rather done it as a documentary, if for no other reason, it would give me a reason to interview many of the greats in geek culture. Alas, this did not come to pass, but I am driven to at least talk about the subject of Nerd vs. Geek.
I will start off by saying that I am in no way qualified to talk about society or cultures of any kind. I have not studied the subjects in college or anywhere else for that matter. I only speak about things I’ve observed in my admittedly limited experiences.
I’ve seen the terms “Geek” and “Nerd” used interchangeably, and it is something I never have agreed with. I see them as two separate but similar groups. To me, a Nerd is someone who is almost obsessed with one or more of the culture items that are often associated with this subculture; science fiction, tabletop games, video games, comic books, computers and the like. Often, they will be very loyal to a specific title or company like Star Trek vs. Star Wars or Marvel vs. DC. They are almost always highly intelligent and socially awkward. They will usually be more comfortable around a computer then a person, although their friendships are often long-lasting and fiercely loyal.
Geeks, on the other hand, are more broad-based in their knowledge of the aforementioned subjects. They are often not as devoted to a specific title, but instead enjoy everything equally. Their knowledge of, say, Star Trek, would not be as specific as a Nerd’s, but more general knowledge. Geeks are also very intelligent, but again are more broad-based in their information, not as focused on subjects such as science or mathematics as a Nerd, although a Geek will have a higher understanding of these subjects than the average Joe. Social awkwardness is often displayed, but may not be a defining feature.
Beyond these vague definitions, often the label that fits relies solely on the environment and the current company the individual is with. When I am with average people, like my family or co-workers, I will often be seen as a Nerd as my knowledge of a “Nerd” subject is much more than theirs. Likewise, if I am around my friends, I would be seen as more of a Geek as I know a lot, just not as much as them. Often, when I’m with a friend, they will know much more than me about, say, Star Wars, but I will know more about physics than them.
I have seen an interesting subculture arise among the Geek/Nerds; Hipster Nerd. With the rise of Nerd Culture and the rising mainstream popularity of things such as fantasy movies and comic books and their movies, some people who have been nerds their entire lives feel like their territory is being invaded by these “NeoNerds” who only know six Avengers. These Hipster Nerds have been happy for years having their own little world to escape to when the rest of society looked down on them, and now that is being taken from them to like so much lunch money. I can see their point of view on this, but to me the Nerds, if anything, should be the most accepting group around. We don’t judge because we were judged by everyone else. When you didn’t fit into another group, you fit in with us.
The other end of the spectrum has seen the rise of Geek Chic, or the practice of attractive women putting on “nerdy” glasses and calling themselves nerds to be sexy. Who knew nerd would ever be sexy. I’m not saying there are no geek girls, or even attractive geek girls, because there are, I’m just saying its a bit weird to see a traditionally unsexy group such as us become a fashion statement. Along with this goes the practice of some nerds to disbelieve that an attractive girl can actually be a nerd. This is usually seen in the cosplay aspect of nerd culture. Admittedly, there are a lot of women who have been hired to dress in nerd culture costumes at Cons (conventions) to attract attention to a particular vendor They are often referred to as Booth Babes. When a normal nerd sees an attractive female in a sexy costume, they automatically thinks Booth Babe, not Fellow Nerd. I do have to admit that sometimes it can be hard to tell them apart. To all those die-hard Geek Girls who put a lot of research and work into your costumes so you can show off your geek pride, I say thank you. To the girls who get paid to dress sexy and show off their breasts at a convention, I say Thank you. 🙂 Nerd or not, we appreciate the eye candy. To the doubting nerds out there who don’t believe in Geek Girls, relax and trust them if they say they are a nerd, don’t quiz them about it.
When it comes down to it, I find that labels are much like name tags; they can be changed as often as need be or as the situation changes. I would like to think that I am one to dislike labels in the first place, but I know that they do have a use and I know that no label is permanent. No one only has one label either. I fall under many, including both Geek and Nerd, so be careful judging someone by a label you’ve given them, you never know what other name tags they might wear.