Aaron R. Davis
Over the weekend, I saw a picture of Modern Family star Sarah Hyland on a forum. It was from some magazine or other; she was posed on a couch and wearing a Batman t-shirt; the classic gray shirt with the yellow bat symbol. And underneath the picture, some guy had written “OH MY GOD WELL SHE MUST BE A BIG OL’ NERD YOU GUISE.”
There have been a lot of things written lately about nerd girls and gamer girls and fake nerd girls. Some people want to make this a serious problem. It’s always been hard for women to establish themselves as part of the larger geek community. Is she a Wolverine fan? Some guy is going to shake his head, contort his mouth into a disapproving shape and say it’s merely because she thinks Hugh Jackman is hot. Does she play Legend of Zelda? Some guy is going to roll his eyes and say she’s only into it because it’s about a princess. Does she love Doctor Who? Every guy assumes she just likes the new series because of the romance angle and she wants to turn it into Twilight or something and stops talking to her about it when, just maybe, she’s actually a huge fan of the Jon Pertwee era. Because of the stereotype which says only boys can grow up loving science fiction, video games and comic books, too often men will grow up assuming that the only woman who could love these things only does so because she thought Lynda Carter had pretty hair.
Just to be equal, here, there are also a lot of women out there who are genuine nerds and who also take offense at things like Sarah Hyland wearing a Batman shirt. They’ve seen the way pop culture has gotten geekier and geekier over the years and feel like it’s harder to prove themselves as genuine nerds when you have people like Olivia Munn walking around pretending to be one because of the attention it brings. I’ve seen so many things written on sites like The Mary Sue railing against the existence of the Fake Geek Girl who just wants to be popular with the boys and so pretends to be into games.
No one stops to marvel that we actually live in a time where a woman would actually do this, by the way. Someone’s actually pretending to love the things I got ridiculed for liking in grade school in order to make themselves popular? That’s pretty amazing, and you should probably be glad that you didn’t have to suffer through getting punched in the gut by seven guys in your sixth grade class for still liking Transformers. If the worst thing that ever happens to you in your life as a fan is that you have to be skeptical about the authenticity of a girl’s feelings for Adventure Time, then … well, you’re being pretty sexist, actually, but at least you’re not taking any punches, you ingrate.
Look, guys, I understand where it comes from. I still get pangs of it, because of how things were when I was growing up. In that space between when Return of the Jedi came out and the hype over Tim Burton’s Batman started, being a geek and not being into sports was a straight ticket to being an outcast. Building Legos wasn’t cool, it was playing with toys and being an immature ass in the eyes of my contemporaries. So I can be just as precious as any other nerd about the things I’m nerdy about, because holding to them was what gave me comfort when girls were actually making pained faces because they had to sit next to me on the school bus.
I have a friend who’s a generation younger than me. When she wanted to see The Avengers recently, I actually thought to myself, “You don’t give a shit about Thor and the Hulk and superheroes, you just want to see it because it was so popular.” And I immediately felt bad for being so derisive about it, because … so what? Am I actually complaining that I live in a world where, right now, Marvel superheroes are so popular that they’re starring in awesome, well-made blockbuster movies? Am I somehow resentful that I live in a world where I can openly discuss my love for Bruce Banner and someone would actually know what I’m talking about?
Isn’t this what you always wanted when you were growing up? A world where being a Superman fan wasn’t a straight ticket to never getting to talk to girls ever?
If a girl seems to like something geeky, don’t roll your eyes and think she’s just trying to be cool: try starting up a conversation and seeing if she actually likes something. You might have something in common. You don’t know, and you never will if you’re too busy assuming that someone pretty couldn’t ever love Star Wars. I met my wife because she was a Star Trek fan. If I hadn’t found that out, I’d have been too intimidated to talk to her. But we talked about Star Trek, and from there it was like geek connections just started building and building. She loved Wolverine, she loved Muppets, she loved cartoons, she loved video games … and now we’ve been together for 18 years.
Guys, don’t give Sarah Hyland a hard time just because the emblems that signified fellowship in a secret club are now fashion. Deal with it. Live with it. Appreciate it. Because you never know whether the fashion part of it is going to genuinely make someone into a fan. Don’t rip on a girl because she only went to see The Amazing Spider-Man because of Andrew Garfield and Emma
Stone, because it might actually end up turning her into a Spidey fan. Don’t challenge a lady who is just getting into Batman because of movies or TV shows because she hasn’t read all 600+ issues of Detective Comics. You haven’t, either. Frankly, DC Comics are so terrible right now that I wouldn’t recommend anybody read them. Instead, appreciate that this might be your in to start up a conversation that may lead somewhere fulfilling.
Don’t be precious idiots jealously guarding an appreciation of your favorite aspect of pop culture, guys. You all started somewhere. Don’t punish someone for just getting here now because of a high profile movie. The movies just made our awesome hobbies easier to find.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.