“The Sleep Of The Happy: Defining ‘Nerd” For The New Generation”

“No one’s really sure what became of Waldo after graduation.”


nerd noun \ˈnərd\
: a person who behaves awkwardly around other people and usually has unstylish clothes, hair, etc.
: a person who is very interested in technical subjects, computers, etc.

It’s interesting that Merriam-Webster would actually lie about the definition of a nerd, since this goes by aesthetic rather cultural observance. A person who behaves awkwardly around other people is an extremely subjective statement and/or definition. I’ll bet you could swing a dead cat and hit thousands upon thousands of people who behave “awkwardly” around other people. Aren’t we all “awkward” in our respective ways? Never mind the “unstylish clothes” – we’re talking substance!

The second definition is even more baffling. A person who is very interested in technical subjects, computers … Huh? Just trailed off there, like … oh a nerd is a person who is like interested in like … oh I don’t know – stuff I’m not interested in, like say … oh computers! Yeah. (deep breath, there) Computers! Well tonight, thank God it’s them instead of you!

“Stuff I’m not Interested In.”

We proceed from the infallable position of “shit I’m not interested in”. Who had, at the beginning of time in creation, considered the most pertinent topics or subjects and then after this, in even rudimentary reasoning, who decides that his or her topics are more interesting than others? Short answer? This is an arbitrary and completely subjective thought process. We decide whom to exclude and keep everybody else. We decide that interests are … boring, so god-damned boring we can’t even begin to care.

But, come on – let’s be real. Everybody has interests! In fact, a lot of people love things. Right? This is my thesis. What are we, if not creatures who seek out items that interest us? Who? What?

Of course, the true real-world definition of the word has more to do with common practices (i.e. how people live their lives) rather than a ridiculous set of standards by which we apparently judge other peoples’ aesthetics. So, if we go by that definition of the word, nerds appear to be any part of the populace that is not lazy, shiftless, incurious, or irresponsible. We’re talking a good 60% of the population. At least 60%, possibly more.

“Pop Culture Splash-back”

Of course, television and pop-culture in general would tell you the opposite. The culture still wants nerds to be freaks. The culture still needs to separate people in groups. Here are the nerds, and over here, is everybody else. I’m not going to rag on “The Big Bang Theory” – it seems everybody does that, but the show is a test-case for this kind of faulty logic. Rules were put in place before the pilot even aired. Nerdy guys enjoy comic books and superhero/toy-related movie franchises. Women don’t enjoy those things, therefore all women everywhere are not nerds, yet there are two firmly-established nerdy-girl characters, played by Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik, respectively.

Nerdy guys are apparently terrified of women, yet two of the four nerdy guy characters have been in successful relationships, one of them even leading to marriage. Nerds are only nerds when it is convenient to perpetuating stereotypes. By way of comparison, the progressive new show, “King of the Nerds” concedes the fact of female nerds, but this show’s idea of nerds involves lots of cos-play, “Dungeons & Dragons”, “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”. Even articles that defend accurate portrayals of nerds continue to insist there are “nerdy interests”.

Sauntering into the 21st Century (wow!), even the most simple, drooling idiot can see that there are no nerds! Nerds do not exist anymore! Well, let me put it this way. If there are nerds, then we are all nerds, correct? Good. There are music nerds, sports nerds (though some call them athletes, heh), science-fiction movie nerds, comic book nerds (or geeks in the vernacular usage), Facebook nerds, Google nerds, reality show nerds (or junkies), podcast nerds (or the enlightened, as I call them), tech nerds, fitness nerds, Donnie and Marie nerds – the list goes on.

“Revenge of the Nerds” paints a different picture; that of computer/robotics-obsessed, glasses-wearing, funny-laughing kids channeling their considerable skills to get a live video feed of naked cheerleaders. The college campus was divided into two groups, well three: nerds, jocks, and girls. The first two groups fought for possession of the third group. This kind of behavior was accepted, even encouraged in 1984 (to my knowledge). Nowadays … not so much.

Tanishq Abraham


“Report On Results”

All we can gather on the apparent change in demographic vis-à-vis the identification of the sub-group which can no longer be referred to as “nerds” is that societal tactics have changed. The phenomenon of bullying has been either reduced or modified to emphasize psychological rather than physical threat and attack. Our society is much more open now – people are less fearful (or possibly shy) of sharing their ideas and interests.

Right now, I’m watching Conan O’ Brien and he is interviewing a child genius; Tanishq Abraham, 11-years-old with a 4.0 GPA. Today, we celebrate knowledge and encourage diversity. We are appropriately impressed and even humbled to see children on talk shows discussing “string theory”. I just wish we had more kids around like Tanishq. Strangely enough, the other guest on tonight’s show is Simon Helberg, who plays Howard on … you guessed it, “The Big Bang Theory”.


David Lawler has written for Film Threat, VHS Rewind, Second Union, and his own blog, Misadventures in BlissVille. Lawler has produced several podcasts including That Twilighty Show About That Zone, Two Davids Walk Into A Bar (with co-host David Anderson), EQ Lawler/Saltz (with Alex Saltz), and Upstairs at Froelich's (with co-host John Froelich).

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