Comfortably Numbed (Part One)

It’s been a while now, but the fact that being a nerd is somehow acceptable is starting to filter into the consciousness of the Anglosphere. Most English-speaking cultures, pop or otherwise, are warming up to those among them for whom a wedgie might once have been a daily occurrance. And with good reason; being smart is sexy again. Person of Interest, while it certainly has some action elements, is a very cerebral show that gets its biggest thrills when the protagonists are unable to just blast their way out of a situation. And while it’s mostly a personal observance, I’ve found that more people gave the show a chance because of Michael Emerson than Jim Caviezel. Emerson’s most famous prior role was the conniving and dangerously smart Ben Linus from Lost.

Simon Pegg summed it up pretty well: “It’s okay to be a geek.” But I’m sure there’s a lot of resistance to the thought, especially from folks who have said in as many words that being a geek is a serious liability. To those people, geeks express uncomfortable enthusiasm for their hobbies in situations and ways that are completely inappropriate. The “correct” thing to express that kind of enjoyment over is something that fosters absolutely no enjoyment in the minds of the individuals who stand accused. It frankly doesn’t matter what. It boils down to the fact that people like different stuff.

Can you tell me what is more acceptable about having a piece of sports memorabilia on your desk at work than having, say, a model of a starship? If someone wants to put up a wallpaper of a forest painting on their computer, why is the fact that the person in the painting dressed as an archer suddenly more offensive than if the same person were dressed in, say, American Revolution-era clothing? What materially is the difference between liking “mainstream” hobbies and liking something different?

There is none. The individual who told me that being a geek was “wrong” would probably have the same problem with anyone taking admiration of a sports team to an excessive degree. That person’s point, near as I can tell, was actually that the threshold for “acceptable public enthusiasm” for something seldom seen is far, far lower than a more common one.

It’s funny to me how, as we get more and more connected, the concept of “something seldom seen” is, itself, becoming seldom seen.