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King of the Nerds exploitative or genuine?

  1. Jan 15, 2013 #1
    So TBS is starting a new show this week called King of the Nerds. I am very guarded about this show, because I'm afraid the show will be designed to exploit rather than explore nerd culture. I'm afraid that instead of presenting the contestants as they really are, TBS will present them as caricatures to be laughed at.

    The Big Bang Theory gets a lot of criticism about that, but I enjoy the show for 2 reasons.

    1) I think it's a genuinely funny show. I'm not a big fan of sitcoms, but the unique theme has allowed them to use situations that other sitcoms haven't been able to do so. There are only so many ways sitcoms can make mother-in-law interactions funny, but only the Big Bang Theory can have a scene where a physicist tries to do a biologist's work.

    2) Because it's a sitcom, I'm willing to tolerate some level of caricature. The characters are SUPPOSED to be a bit goofy. The guys on the show are a little more awkward than they have to be, and Penny (early on) and her boyfriends are a bit more ditzy than they had to be. This has changed in the later seasons, for what it's worth. The men on the show have been fleshed out and made less awkward, while Penny is less of a ditz.

    Since this new King of the Nerds show is a "reality" show, I fear that if the contestants are portrayed to be completely out of touch, nerd culture is going to be laughed at rather than being intriguing. Nerd culture has come a long way in the past 20 years. Comic book movies are now blockbuster hits every year, rather than a rarity. People who aren't otherwise particularly nerdy are calling themselves nerds and trying to dress the part because "geek chic" is in style. I just hope shows like this don't start turning the public against us. I can almost see a situation where people say "Well, I might like the Spiderman movies, but at least I don't LARP!"

    I believe that if the producers set it up right, they can use this show to dispel myths and preconceived notions about self-described nerds. I really want them to show the normal human side of the contestants. If they manage to do this, I will probably be a big fan of the show.

    By the way, I don't want this to become a discussion on Big Bang Theory; we already have a thread for that. If BBT is a borderline case, I'm afraid that King of the Nerds is going to take a flying leap across the line.

    What do you guys think? Have you seen the previews? Will you tune in to watch? I plan to watch it, and I really really hope they don't set this up to exploit nerd culture.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 15, 2013 #2


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    Personally I'm opposed to the whole idea of "nerd culture" as it perpetuates stereotypes against reality. For instance: the idea that being good at/interested in science means that you're also going to be socially awkward. This show does not look good by any means.
  4. Jan 15, 2013 #3


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    At least it isn't 16, nerdy, and pregnant.
  5. Jan 15, 2013 #4
    I disagree that claiming an existence of "nerd culture" perpetuates such stereotypes. Sure, it's actually a bunch of different cultures kind of crammed together under one tent, but as a gaming and science nerd, I look upon anime nerds and comic book nerds as brethren. When I go to my local board game store, the culture there is very different from a sports bar. It's much closer to the culture at a video game convention.

    There's a reason San Diego Comic-Con does a lot more than comic books. I'd argue that there is a somewhat unified nerd culture that exists, even if it is broken up into a lot of sub-cultures.

    If anything, the REAL nerd culture actually defies the stereotypes like being socially awkward. If you go to a big convention, it's clear that the attendees are not at all socially awkward as a rule (sure, there are some exceptions).
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2013
  6. Jan 15, 2013 #5


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    Are you attempting to redefine the word nerd to something like enthusiast? Because that's what I'm getting from your post.

    Edit: to expand further, what exactly do you mean by nerd? If its simply someone who likes science and/or games, comics etc then is there really sufficient justification to have one encompassing term? How does that not perpetuate stereotypes e.g. "You're into science so you must like gaming".
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2013
  7. Jan 15, 2013 #6

    Ok, let's hear how YOU define the word "nerd." Maybe it's an issue of American vs British English, but the way I use it is the way it's generally used in this country.

    I'd define "nerd" as anybody with a strong interest in non-mainstream activities or academics. I use the term interchangeably with the word "geek."
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2013
  8. Jan 15, 2013 #7
    Interesting concept. I've always thought of "nerd" as meaning "enthusiast of something society considers nerdy." Or, in some cases, when used (very) loosely (almost jokingly,) just "enthusiast."

    I'll refrain from judging until I see an episode. The commercials I've seen don't seem to relate "nerd" to "cleverness," but, again, I'll refrain from judging.
  9. Jan 15, 2013 #8
    To get to the point a little better, I think it is fairly obvious, at least to me, that there exists a certain culture epitomized by those who attend San Diego Comic Con and similar conventions (and this spills over into people who don't go, but would like to). You can name that culture whatever you want, but it's silly to pretend that it doesn't exist. I happen to call it "nerd culture" or "geek culture." You're free to call it "enthusiast culture," but that is not the point of this thread.
  10. Jan 15, 2013 #9


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    Are you saying that nerd is no longer used as an insult to mean an individual who is academically talented yet possesses unpopular hobbies, lacks social skills, is physically weak and unattractive?

    I'm aware of other uses of course but this is the main one I hear people use and when I hear it used in contexts like this I don't think it's a good thing.

    Edit: rather than getting bogged down in this I'll simply ask: is the use of the term nerd in this show in any way pejorative?
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2013
  11. Jan 15, 2013 #10
    I guess that's a good way to summarize what makes me nervous about this show. Historically, the word "nerd" has been a pejorative. However, recently the word "nerd" has been somewhat embraced by people and it's more socially acceptable to be "nerdy." I refer to myself as a nerd fairly often, though "geek" might be just as appropriate. So when I use the word, it isn't as a pejorative. In the video bios of the contestants, they refer themselves to nerds.

    However, I am nervous that this show IS subtly using it as a pejorative. This show will either reinforce the old "nerd" stereotypes, or it will show that those that self-identify as nerds have depth and are worthy of respect.
  12. Jan 15, 2013 #11


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    I completely agree Jack. I've used the words in the same way as you too but when I see it used in a wider context like this show I see it as reinforcing negative stereotypes. The worst of which being that being classed as a nerd or having nerdish qualities is not normal.
  13. Jan 15, 2013 #12


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    One reason I really despise the wacky, goofy-dude stereotype scientist: I can't think of a more efficient way to scare off middle school kids from science. Especially the girls.
  14. Jan 15, 2013 #13
    I don't consider myself a nerd nor do I watch BB Theory. So more than likely I'll skip the show. Like someone mentioned before, it just further adds to the stereotype.

    But also, I dislike the culture as it is because of the stereotype and now being considered more of a "trend" now. People being "nerds" because being smart is now cool. But this trend doesn't take into account the hard work these 'nerds' have to go through. A person toiling away at math/physics/biology/psychology and is very knowledgeable of the subject just didn't have the knowledge or consume it via lecture hall, that person worked hard to understand it and apply it. "Other" people misconstrue it as it being something inherent, etc..., so they refuse the hard work and just attempt to be perceived as someone smart by saying all the usual things.

    All in all, I see it too many times at my university.
  15. Jan 15, 2013 #14
    Every culture has its stereotypes. I don't think you should dislike a culture because of stereotypes. In fact, that's the exact WRONG reason to dislike a culture.
  16. Jan 15, 2013 #15


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    But aren't the stereotypes part of the culture? How can you dismiss them?
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2013
  17. Jan 15, 2013 #16
  18. Jan 16, 2013 #17
    Stereotypes tend to have a bit of truth in them, but they tend to be quite exaggerated. Sure, while it's true that geeks don't tend to have the same circle of friends as the "popular" kids in school, they do indeed have friends. (The stereotype casts the geek as a loner).

    As an example, check out what Marketing Week had to say about nerds:


    Bolding mine.

    So, that's the stereotype that some people have in their mind. It's very easy for me to dismiss that stereotype. When I go to the local game shop, I do NOT see a bunch of people huddled apart from each other in various corners. Sure, if you put half of these people in a night club, they'd look socially awkward, but in this setting, they're friendly and outgoing.

    Sorry if this post doesn't make much sense, I'm half asleep, it's about 2am. I guess my point is that exaggerated stereotypes aren't a part of any culture, but rather something imposed upon them from the outside.

    And with all due respect, I don't believe you.
  19. Jan 16, 2013 #18


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    Yup, nerd is in limbo between the perjorative and the recent reaction to the perjorative. It's going to be used differently by people in different ways for different contexts.

    But "over-enthusiast" (to the point of neglecting social nicities like mannerisms and dress) is sometimes a perjorative too. For instance, making a pedantic point or correcting someone in casual conversation on a date might lose favor with your date.
  20. Jan 16, 2013 #19


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    I dont identify with being a nerd. Labels like that are silly. The show is probably bad, but its ok. Most shows are.

    I nearly never volunteer my profession. If someone asks I say student, if asked for more I tack graduate in front. Only if pressed will i say I study physics. Many people assume if one studies physics, one must be some super genius. I dont think thats true. Im not smarter than the average bear, I just spend much more time doing physics than them.
  21. Jan 16, 2013 #20
    Thanks to this thread, I'm now reading a 457 page Ph.D dissertation: an ethnographic study of nerd culture. If I wasn't considered a nerd before....
  22. Jan 16, 2013 #21
    I see a joke in here but cannot put my finger on it.
  23. Jan 16, 2013 #22
    I can't find it, but earlier in this thread, I seem to remember someone saying something along the lines of "it's going to be terrible, but that's okay, pretty much every TV show is."

    Just reminds me of the Sherlock quote, "Because you're an idiot. Oh, don't take it like that. Practically everyone is.
  24. Jan 16, 2013 #23
    You have a local board game store.... that's incredible.

    For fear of discussing the topic in the OP.... I totally agree with this.
  25. Jan 16, 2013 #24
    To call it a "board game store" is to sell it short a bit. Upstairs, it's a book store and Magic: The Gathering cards for sale. Downstairs is an area with a wall full of board games for sale, another wall for warhammer stuff, and in between, shelves for roleplaying games. The other half of downstairs has tables for games.

    It's located directly in between MIT and Harvard, so I get to hang out with some cool people from those universities.
  26. Jan 16, 2013 #25
    Right that makes sense, I was wondering how they were still open with such a niche and to be honest dated product... It makes more sense that they have a little more diversity in their store, my imagination just got carried away with a shop just FULL of board games!

    Bet that's the source of many interesting conversations.
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