For anyone who cares about the distinction, this will probably be a very nerdy rant type post this time.
I want to talk today about the thin line Nerds often walk between love and hate for the things they nerd-out about, and the possibilities for them to wildly shift with very little provocation. Nerdom (my word for when nerds obsessively love something) has at least contributed to the success of franchises like The X-Men, Spider-Man, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Buffy, The Matrix movies (yeah we messed up on that one, the first movie had such promise!), and let’s face it, it pretty much gives George Lucas a license to print money. It also displays itself in the fanatical way we’ll try to save something, like Firefly (we came so close…), Jericho, Roswell, and Farscape, or any number of comic books (just for example). This brings us to the dark side (pun slightly intended), Nerd Rage and let me say, you wouldn’t like us when we’re angry! It leads to the great divide between fans of Star Trek and Star Wars arguing as to which one’s better (quite heatedly). It leads to page long rants on a forum about Lost and the finale that could never have satisfied us. The boiling fury I feel when I see Hayden Christensen digitally implanted at the end of Return of the Jedi, because as I’m concerned THERE WERE NO PREQUELS! Because who wants to live in a Post-Phantom Menace world? I certainly don’t.
The two can rapidly shift though. Like the valiant, but hopelessly futile efforts to revive Star Trek: Enterprise after 4 years of nerds complaining and whining about the series, only to almost collectively turn a 180 when with a gasp of horror as we realize “What have we done?!? They can’t take Star Trek off the air! KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!” Or the gradual festering hatred that some developed for Heroes as it strove to bore us all into an early grave after blowing our minds the first season. I experienced that flip personally with the Stargate franchise, a franchise that for years I categorically ruled as “sucks” until I watched the original film again for the first time in years and thought to myself, I should try out that Stargate SG-1 and other shows. Now it’s over a year later, I’ve watched all three TV series from beginning to end (I’ll miss you most SG:U) and have started back in on Stargate Atlantis as my show that I just randomly watch when there’s nothing else on. Also the nearly debilitating apprehension I felt when contemplating the new Star Trek film, and it’s reboot of the franchise, something that boiled into Nerd Rage while watching it the first time and gradually reduced itself down to excited Nerdom over the exciting potential of the new timeline (time travel makes my head hurt). It’s been enough to make me reconsider some of my previously drawn conclusions about TV shows and movies.
It is from years of observing this pattern amongst my people, and from experiencing the highs and lows of Nerdom and Nerd Rage myself that I’ve drawn the conclusion that these two forces are the cornerstones of being a Nerd. Sure there are other defining characteristics to the lifestyle, but none of them so universally found in every nerd as these two traits. Whatever it is that you nerd-out about, Nerdom and Nerd Rage are likely somehow essential to your enjoyment of them, because they fuel or are the ultimate expression of the passion you feel for the subject matter. The best thing is when nerds can find a way to channel one or both of these passionate forces into creative endeavors, or even better, use them to be more successful and creative in their daily lives. I first learned to use Excel in school and it was kinda “blah” for me, that is until I realized all the neat things I could use it for in my nerdly interests, especially Dungeons and Dragons. I tweaked and played with Excel endlessly to make the statistics and numbers of the game reveal themselves to me in new and interesting ways. Now I use Excel continuously in my professional life to be more efficient and effective at my job and organizing my own personal finances. Sure, what I self taught myself using it recreationally, I could have learned in a class or learned when I needed it on the job, but I didn’t have to. Not only that but because I “played” with a system that most people think is a boring spreadsheeting program I look at it through a creative lens and think of new and interesting things to do with it, that a lot of people around me with a much different perspective don’t even consider. In my own brain I often relate the day to day operations of a Hotel to life on the Starship Enterprise, an analogy that many find silly. It works for me though, and as a result I find myself looking to my favorite Captains for inspiration on leadership and crisis management. Other people do similar things, and some people have found an even better world, one where they are able to use the actual nerdy things they love to make a living at. Like the guy who is a life long Dungeon Master for his friends that get’s a job a Wizard’s of the Coast to actual work on D&D source material. How cool would that be? Because when you do what you love, it feels a lot less like work.