Let’s go back in time almost a year ago. I’m sitting in the library doing some work when I feel someone’s eyes on me. I look up and at the table directly across from me is a boy looking at me. More specifically looking at the shirt I am wearing. In the split seconds before our eyes meet I take enough of an inventory to decide that he seems both cute and harmless enough that if he speaks to me I’ll probably answer instead of just ignoring him. He meets my eyes, smiles, and says “I like your shirt.” The shirt I am wearing is this one
The title of the shirt is “Doctor Hoo”. If you are a fan of the sci fi show Doctor Who you know why this is funny. If you are not a fan of the show the shirt is just a bunch of cute owls. I love both owls and Doctor Who so when I saw this shirt it was pretty much a guarantee that I was going to buy it. For those of you who don’t know about Doctor Who (oh boy) I’m going to give a very brief overview. (I know I know don’t fall asleep. I have to tell you a bit about it for the rest of the story to make sense.)
Doctor Who is a British Television show that has run for 50 years (not consecutively but 50 seasons). It began in 1963 on the BBC and ran continuously until the late 1980’s. In 2005 it was relaunched on the BBC and has been running ever since. The plot is very simple. It is about an alien simply called The Doctor who travels through time and space in a machine called The TARDIS (which stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space). Along the way he usually has friends that travel with him. These friends are usually human and from our time (they are the audience surrogate and our way “in” to the world of Doctor Who).
Now what makes The Doctor so special is that when his alien race is fatally injured instead of dying he “regenerates” into a completely different body. He is still the same man in mind but not in body. This is why Doctor Who is one of the longest running shows on television. Every time the actor playing The Doctor wants to leave the show, the character is fatally wounded and regenerates into a new actor. Everyone still with me? I’m almost done I swear. When the show was rebooted in 2005 fans began referring to that version as “New Who”, and the version from 1963 to the late ’80’s as “Classic Who.” Okay. We’re done. See! It wasn’t that bad!
So back to the cute boy in the library. After he says “I like your shirt” I smile back and say “Thanks I love the show”. He leans over the table (we are whispering since after all, we are in a library and says) “Who is your favorite Doctor?” I respond “Probably 10” (fans of Who refer to each Doctor by the number he is in relation to the first. So, the actor David Tennant was the 10th man to play the Doctor.) Cute boy’s face changes slightly, “Do you have a favorite Classic Doctor?” I respond “I haven’t watched much classic Who, but from what little I’ve seen I like Colin Baker.” Now his face falls completely and a look of what can only be described as a mix of derision and annoyance crosses his face. “Oh so you aren’t a real fan then?” My response? An eye roll, followed by putting my headphones in and looking back at my computer without speaking.
Let’s move a bit forward in time from this incident. I’m back at the library again checking out books. One of the books in the pile is the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. My friend Chuck who is an artist and comic book lover has recommended this graphic novel to me based on my love of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. The boy behind the counter looks to be a few years younger than me and falls squarely into the “nerdy” category. I’m not talking about Seth Cohen on The OC nerdy. I’m talking about cliche, glasses wearing, skinny arms having nerd. He takes my stack of books and begins checking them out. When he gets to The Dark Knight Returns the following conversation occurs. (note: the first time he says the word “people” just image he really said “girls” cause that’s what he meant. And the second time he says “people” imagine “boys” because that’s also what he meant.)
Him: *Deep sigh* It’s that time of year
Me: huh? what?
Him: Oh sorry. I just meant that whenever a new Batman movie comes out people who know nothing about comics get all excited about graphic novels and come check them all out of the library.
Me: and that’s a problem?
Him: It is when they aren’t really fans because that means people who are really into these books aren’t able to get them as quickly as they want.
Again my response was to roll my eyes, stop talking, and wait for this idiot to finish checking out my books and let me go. (Also dude, if they were really hardcore fans wouldn’t they already own the book and not need to check it out of the library?)
Finally we get to our third incident. Today at the post office. I’m wearing The Doctor Hoo shirt again. The guy in front of me notices. We have the following conversation.
Him: Don’t you hate how the fangirls are all obsessed with The Doctor and Rose? (One of the companions who had a love story with the 10th Doctor) I mean the show is really about sci fi. It’s so annoying when they try to inject all this romance in it.
Me: I actually love The Doctor and Rose’s relationship. What I don’t love is when people tell me I’m appreciating something the wrong way.
BOOM DROP THE MIC I’M OUT! (Except not really because I still hadn’t mailed my package, but I did angle my body away from him so…there!)
The three incidents I described are not anomaly’s for me or for the countless other girls who enjoy some aspect of what I’m going to call “nerd culture” Over the last few years in some parts of nerd culture there has been this backlash against what is commonly called “fake fans” or “fake nerd girls”. There are countless articles and meme’s all about the nerd girl phenomenon. Most of them center around this idea that if a girl likes a typically “nerdy” thing she is either doing it because it is now culturally cool to like that thing and has no knowledge about the actual thing. Or she only likes certain parts of it and therefore is not a “real fan”.
I hate this phenomenon. I hate it with passion of 1,000 suns. Whenever someone expresses that sentiment to me I’m filled with rage. It blows my mind that a culture that has built its whole existence on being outcasts that could never fit in have no problem turning around and doing the same thing to people on the fringes of their own sub culture simply because they don’t like things the “right way”.
News flash you nerd idiots. There is no “right way” to like something. If a girl buys a Superman tee shirt and has never seen a movie or read a comic book featuring Superman, she is still allowed to wear that shirt. If someone has only seen the Harry Potter movies and never read the books, he is allowed to call himself a fan of Harry Potter. If a girl is wearing a Doctor Who shirt and has never watched an episode of classic who, she is still a fan of that show. Nerd boys do not own fandom. They do not get to decide who is allowed to be a part of it and who is not.
It’s also steeped in a kind of narcissistic misogyny that rubs me the wrong way. There’s this idea that a girl will pretend to like something nerdy to get a guy interested in her. Number one: so what? What is so wrong with a girl trying to appreciate something that a boy she is interested in likes? Shouldn’t that be flattering? If a guy I like starts watching a show I love, reading a book I’m obsessed with, or listening to a band that’s one of my favorites I find it sweet and flattering. It means he likes me enough to attempt to become interested in the things I like! Number two: Get over yourself! Sometimes a girl just likes something because she likes it! I started watching Doctor Who because my good friend Amanda kept recommending it; not because I wanted cute guys at the library to notice me.
My normal response when something like this happens is to roll my eyes and walk away. But for some reason this incident today really got under my skin and I had to get out the reasons why. At the end of the day people should be allowed to like whatever they like for whatever reason. There are no pop cultures police nor should there be. Pop culture exists as an escape from the troubles of the real world around us. Let’s not bring in those very troubles into our safe space. If you want to know the name of every episode of Star Trek or Doctor Who and the names of their directors be my guest. But don’t you dare belittle me because I don’t know them all.
Have any of you ever experienced this issue in your own lives? Nerdy girls how do you deal with it? Nerdy boys how do you make sure you don’t perpetuate this behavior?