With the DVD release of “The Dark Knight Rises,” nerds everywhere are surely celebrating, as they have in decades past with the releases of “Monty Python” and “The Wrath of Khan” and the newest Dungeons and Dragons manual.
But now, they’re not the only ones celebrating.
Movies like the “Dark Knight” trilogy and “The
Avengers” have made being a nerd “cool,” or at least more mainstream for
both men and women. It’s no longer a subculture but a cultural trend,
less of a way of life and more of a choice. This doesn’t mean the end of
nerds. It doesn’t mean no more geeks, eagerly anticipating the release
of special edition books. It doesn’t mark the end of comic cons and
“Firefly” revival campaigns.
There’s a shift within geek culture.
Being a nerd is no longer a division between being
“cool” and being a “nerd.” Now it’s a spectrum. You can be a classic
nerd who has seen William Hartnell as the first Doctor. You can be a
nerd who plays Minecraft and can sing the Portal song (bonus points if
you know who wrote it). You can be a new nerd who has come to comics
through the films “Avengers” and “Dark Knight” and “Scott Pilgrim.” You
could be all three.
I am not one to label someone as a “fake geek” just
because their interests are different than mine, or their passions less
intense. Sometimes you discover things later. I wasn’t even born when
most of the things I love were first released. Instead, I subscribe to
New York Times best-selling author John Green’s definition: “Nerds are
allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff...nerds are allowed
to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself
Unfortunately, the “classic” versus the “cool” nerd
isn’t the only divide wearing on the geek community. As more and more
women embrace (or expose) the nerdy sides of themselves, they are being
greeted not by happy nerds but by misogynists.
Within the geek community, women are forced, again
and again to prove their nerd cred. Men can walk around wearing Batman
shirts and never be asked how many issues they’ve read. They can go see
“Skyfall” without any idea of who Moneypenny is. They can claim the
title “gamer” without being forced to list the games they play.
An Internet meme called “Idiot Nerd Girl”
has been circulating, perpetrating the stereotype that women are not
“real nerds,” but instead are posing for attention. Not only is that
insulting to the women who could recite all of the riddles from “The
Hobbit” or who know the Konami code or who understand the meaning of
“42,” it implies that even women who do know those things aren’t
There are certainly individuals who abuse the nerd
moniker, who think because they have a crush on Tom Hiddleston or change
a friend’s status on an open Facebook, they are geeks and computer
hackers, and those individuals are certainly frustrating — but to
insinuate that only women make such comments is absurd.
There’s an effort to take back the meme, started by
Dark Horse Comics editor Rachel Edidin, turning the taunts against women
into statements that reflect the reality of the situation. My favorites
include “Marginalized by girls for being a nerd; marginalized by nerds
for being a girl” and “Wore perfect recreation of super-heroine outfit;
called pathetic whore by dudes who drew it.”
The Hawkeye Initiative
is another current effort to raise awareness about the treatment of
women in geek culture, specifically in comic books and graphic novels.
It mocks the impossible anatomy of female superheroes and raises
awareness of their over-sexualized positions by replacing such
characters with Hawkeye.
An argument usually heard against the sexism in
comics is that men are portrayed sexually as well, and actual men are
also set against impossible standards. The men in comics are powerful,
commanding, in control. But this argument brings up a false equivalence:
Both the depiction of men and women in comics play to male fantasies,
whether it be the aspiration and identification with the male figure or
the desire for the female.
Now this is not an indictment of the graphic novel.
It’s an effort to raise awareness about the treatment of women within
geek culture and from where such treatment might have found its footing.
For a group that used to be inclusive, which would
welcome anyone with open arms, a motley crew of outcasts who were thrown
together only because they were thrown out of acceptable high school
society, these shifts are not only interesting to follow, they are
disheartening. They pit classic nerd against casual nerd, cool geek
against new geek. They reinforce gender stereotypes, assist in the
suppression of women and passion, and, worst of all, forget what it
really means to be a nerd.