Pseudo-Nerds: A Critique of Popular “Nerd” Culture

“Pseudo” is a prefix meaning fake.  It was once only used in the medical field but now has found its way into being jammed in front of any word at any whim.  “Nerd” is a word that once meant, a) anyone contemptibly lacking in social skills or b) one who has specified knowledge in a technical pursuit.  It now means a person who likes a popular set of films based on comics or books any nerd of the former definition type a) used to read.  But I think this new definition should be labeled “pseudo-nerd.”

I’m not even being remotely facetious. I’m serious.  In visually pleasing fashion I will explain my harangue.

1.  Socially adept people are calling themselves nerds.

And most of you might say that this is a good thing.  Let me explain why it is not with this example.  I am socially awkward (contemptibly so one might say).  This girl I went to high school with who was super popular and beautiful obviously was not.  She recently referred to herself as a nerd.  Now, I have no contempt for her.  However, having been bullied and found contemptibly awkward socially in my young (and adult) life, I find it jarring that someone whom I perceive to have had a much more comfortable social life than I did refer to herself as a nerd for simply liking the recent string of Marvel comics movies. That doesn’t make you a nerd.  That makes you a pseudo-nerd…however, if those movie experiences made you more sympathetic to people like me than I may retract the above statement.

2.  Only certain types of “nerds” are popular.

Another problem with pseudo-nerdism is that once-contemptible interests are now considered in vogue.  I’ll give some examples: Star Wars, DC or Marvel comics, Harry Potter, etc.  Of these I used to like Star Wars.  I lost interest (and not because of growing popularity, seriously) but I remember a time one would be made fun of for liking Star Wars a little too much (or was found contemptible).  But the above-mentioned franchises, and others, are now in vogue.  No one seems to bat and eye if you are a fan of these series.  But woe unto you if you read manga or watch anime (although “Ghost in the Shell” is getting it’s own movie, but we’ll see where this leads).  Or insert non-in-vogue pursuit of interest here. You might be found to be contemptible.

3.  Pseudo-Nerds often bully other nerds.

Which brings me to my last point. People who claim they are nerds simply for liking stereotypically “nerdy” things often bully nerds who are into things that are not in vogue.  I mentioned manga and anime but it could be anything.  I knew a kid who was made fun of for liking game shows.  Another kid was made fun of for being obsessed with making kites.  The point is that society seems to oust those with peculiar interests especially when enthusiasm is outwardly expressed in those particular preoccupations.  But what gets me is when the those I have termed “pseudo-nerds” push around those with out-of-vogue interests.  I once witnessed two kids bullying another kid for reading manga.  The two bullies were wearing DC and Marvel comic attire.  If we are all truly nerds then we shouldn’t be bullying each other.  Thus, the bullies are fake nerds and are most contemptible.


In the end I must say that I have no ill will against anyone who expresses interest in popular nerd-esque material. We like what we like and we don’t what we don’t.  But, how we treat others is super-important.  If you bully another person for an interest you don’t understand, you’re a jerk…plain and simple.  I obviously still have issues over how I was treated for my fervor in my less-than-popular interests.  However, I do not see “pseudo-nerdism” as an entirely bad thing so long as it paves the way for other interests not yet popular. So long as it is an avenue for people not to bullied for having an obsession over “peculiar” interests, pseudo-nerdism is fine by me.  Just realize that there are those of us out there who have paid, are paying, and will pay the price for our unpopular “nerdy” interests, and be kind to those who do.


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