disclaimer: despite the title, this has absolutely nothing to do with the Bruno Mars song. If that’s what you expected, you’d be sorely disappointed.
Most of us are familiar with the term ‘Geek Culture’, or sometimes, ‘Nerd Culture’. It is usually used to refer to non-mainstream people, most of whom are eccentric. The term usually comes with a certain area of expertise, usually on computers or mathematics, or just with a person who is overly intellectual and not that likable. Although some people use the term autonomously with a sense of pride coming with the fact that they are ‘different’, the fact remains that it is usually used as a negative or derogatory term. The very roots of the word itself are derived from the Latin word meaning ‘fool’ or ‘freak’. Also, because mainstream culture procures a lot of its humor factor from insulting anything that is ‘different’, Geek Culture has been, and is, a noticeable object of ridicule from the mainstream media.
I’ll admit, I’m not a saint – I have laughed at my own fair share of The Big Bang Theory, an American television comedy series that draws out the lives and woes of science majors. Most of them struggle with social problems and adapting to the norm, as they are all ‘eccentric’ and think in different ways from the normal public. Although exaggerated, this is a huge source of the humor department of the show, and somehow, even though I was the kind of person who would start a scientific rant in the middle of dinner (much to the chagrin of my friends), I never thought that it would be a relevant matter in real life.
Digressing slightly from the topic at hand, let’s talk about a ‘Geek’ friend of mine for a moment. We have been close for a long time, and part of the friendship is based on how many mutual interests we have – sometimes the sheer number of them is overwhelming enough to scare us. We talk about science, mathematics, music, musical theater, and mostly anything that fits our fancy. So when he asked me to ‘recommend something to waste his time with’, I didn’t think twice before suggesting that he watch The Big Bang Theory. I’d had fun watching it, and I didn’t see any reason why he wouldn’t in his own viewing.
Of course, that didn’t happen. What has to be noted about this particular friend is that he was always talented and interested in the science side of the world, interested enough to go to a high school that primarily supports science, as I have come to one that supports language. Spending three years nearly secluded in such an institute was enough to make him assume that anyone he’d talk to would have sufficient knowledge in his conversational topics. I’m sure it doesn’t need mentioning that it wasn’t the case.
Here’s what he said to me after watching a few episodes: “I can see why people find it funny, but it just serves to make me sad. Some of the nerdy social problems hit a bit too close to home.” And that shocked me to the core. Of course, people not understanding your professional rants about science wouldn’t be just in-the-screen material. And it also made me think about several other matters that the ‘geeks’ seemed to be experiencing.
As was mentioned before with the matter of mutual conversation topics, said ‘geeks’ have a hard time conversing with others outside of their clique because it’s hard to find something that they have in common. It’s tragic, because you know people with simply angelic personalities and would like to connect with in a deeper level – but you can’t, because you can’t hold a conversation with them to save your life. I was lucky to have the aforementioned friend, because it gave me an outlet to such uncommon interests. He’d complained to me in more than one occasion that keeping up conversation with a childhood friend was hard because of the lack of mutual interests.
My point is, mainstream media is too harsh in its ridicule of the – comparatively – minorities of the geek culture. They haven’t had it easy at all, and putting their insecurities and social hardships out in the open, exaggerated for the sake of humor, doesn’t seem like the most polite thing to do. In this society, which ostracizes difference, I had to wonder if anyone would be able to survive in the end, when it is clear that entire cultures are being shunned for being themselves.