WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE NERDY?
If someone says they are passionate about something, it means they care about it, and people think it’s great. If someone says they are nerdy about something, there is a sort of negative social stigma around that person and the thing they are nerdy about. While the term has been more accepted in current times, it still carries a certain negative feeling towards it. To be nerdy about something means to be passionate about something. Wil Wheaton said it best when he said: “It’s not about what you love, it’s about how you love it.”
Nerdy and fandom can somewhat be interchangeable but essentially mean the same thing. A person can be nerdy and passionate about anything. However, not everything is considered to be nerdy even if someone is passionate about it. Sports fans, for example, are super nerdy, even if they don’t consider themselves to be. They know the stats of their teams, create a fantasy league, and know all the players from the past few years. Being able to recite each of the championship winners for the past ten years is a super nerdy thing to know but not considered to be a nerd thing, they are just passionate about it or considered to be a “die-hard” fan.
If someone said, “I was headed downtown today. On the subway there, there were all these people dressed up for something. I didn’t know what it was for, but they all had different props and accessories. I bet they are (insert any fandom) fans that spend all their time inside watching it in their basement.” What was said could be said about any con, but can also be applied to sports fans.
They dress up in their teams uniforms, have accessories like hats and scarves, props like mini bats, mini sticks, and foam figures. They meet up downtown with other fans to watch the games live but also watch the games in basements with other friends. Where having friends over to watch the game on a Saturday night is considered a great way to spend the evening. Having friends over to marathon Game of Thrones can be considered to be a waste of time. That is not to say that you can’t love sports and Game of Thrones, just that there are similarities between fandoms.
You can draw possibly hundreds of similarities between sports fans and all the other fandoms out there. What are the differences between the two? Sports fans can go and play the sport, whereas other fandoms can’t be vigilantes, fly spaceships, or use superpowers. Does the act of being able to do the thing make it more legitimate? Not in the slightest because not every football fan plays football. Not every fan of baseball meets up every week to play baseball. Does that mean they are lesser fans because of that? Absolutely not. There is nothing wrong with being a sports fan. It is not about what you love. It is about how you love it.
Shaming fans for something they like happens all too often with no good reasoning behind it. Accusing people of not being a true fan of something, and quizzing them to prove their merit serves no purpose. No one knows everything about everything, including something they are passionate about. Even the person who is doing the accusing won’t know every single thing about that topic.
Fan shaming takes different forms and spreads across many different fandoms and passions. One area that people are questioned far too often occurs in geekdom, particularly women being questioned if they are true fans or not. If someone were to create a test with 100 questions about Doctor Who from all seasons, not everyone is going to get a perfect score on it. Does that mean people who would get a lower score are lesser fans? Not at all. Is there anything wrong with being the person who would get a perfect score on that imaginary test? No. What is wrong is accusing someone of being a fake fan for something they love. This fan shaming also happens in other areas as well, including sports fans, culture, music and even drinks.
In sports, fans are often accused of jumping onto the bandwagon, which means only supporting a team when they are doing well and abandoning them when they are not. Even if you have been supporting that team all your life, people will question your support about that team if you don’t have any tattoos or memorabilia supporting that team. If you don’t buy stuff supporting the team, or have a tattoo of them, then you are seen as a lesser fan than that of someone else who does.
A group of fans that seem to get a lot of flack for being fans are Nickelback fans. Why does Nickelback get such a bad name? Do they make music that everyone likes? No, but no band or artist or DJ makes music that everyone likes. There are countless other bands out there that make music in the same style that Nickelback does, but yet Nickelback seems to receive all the hate. Shaming people for liking Nickelback is no different than shaming someone for like Star Trek, or shaming someone for enjoying the prequels of the Star Wars movies. No one has to like everything or does like everything, but if something isn’t for you, then you don’t need to go out of your way to ruin it for someone else.
Another character that seems to get a lot of hate recently is Hawkeye from the MCU. Hawkeye may not be for everyone, but for fans of Hawkeye, they need to hide their support of him for fear of being criticized for it. Shaming people because they like something that you don’t has nothing to do with them liking whatever it is they like. It is about the person who is doing the shaming that doesn’t understand how someone can like a certain thing. Even though someone likes something, it can still have flaws, but that doesn’t mean a person shouldn’t be able to love it.
Something as simple as a person’s culture or heritage can be put into question. If you can’t speak, read, or write the language of your ancestor’s you are seen as not a true person of that culture. For example,
A:”Oh, so you are Italian? Do you know who designed the first Italian flag?”
A:”Oh so then you are not a real Italian then.”
The idea of someone being a fake person of culture seems baffling, but it does happen. The same concept applies to people being called fake sports fans or fake geek girls. Shaming also extends beyond fandoms and passions to everyday things people do. For example, liking a certain drink (pumpkin spice lattes) or liking a certain piece of accessory, like necklaces or crystals, or certain brands.
The whole concept of shaming a person for something they love seems ridiculous. If a person says they love hot weather, no one is going to accuse them of being a fake fan of hot weather. If a person says they enjoy walking, no one is going to say “oh, if you don’t walk 12 miles a day, then you are not a real fan of walking.” If a person says they like the colour green, someone isn’t going to say you are not a true fan of green if you don’t have every room in your house painted green.
These topics are normal things for people to like, and no one would question a person on it. So why is it that other things that people like, people are being questioned and harassed? Wil Wheaton has some encouraging words for how to deal with being called a nerd, but I feel also applies to fan shaming.
FANS AND THE FANDOM
With all the shaming that happens, why do fans continue supporting their fandoms? Everyone is a fan of something and identifies with different fandoms, whether it be TV shows, or movies or sports. Everyone is passionate about something, and no one should be shammed because of it. Fandoms are about sharing a passion and sharing that passion with other people. Fandoms help us through tough times. They help us identify things within ourselves that we didn’t know how to express. They make us fall in love with characters, feel for them, empathize with them. Share in their saddest and darkest moments as well as triumphs and victory.
Every fandom makes you feel like you are part of something larger than you are. They allow you to have that community that supports you, to share in those victories and triumphs. Sure not every fandom lasts forever. It may not be that big compared to others, but it doesn’t make it any less special to you. Whatever fandom you identify with, be proud of it, embrace it.
EMBRACING THE PASSION
Fandoms and passions are nothing to be ashamed of and should be embraced. If there is something you are passionate about or a fandom you love, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You could be featured in a new segment that will be showcasing all kinds of fandoms and passion alike. In the wise words of Wil Wheaton, “Don’t you ever let a person make you feel bad because you love something they decided is only for nerds.” Whatever you love and however you identify yourself, loving a fandom whether it be a nerd, hobbyist or amateur, keep doing the things you love.