Monday, 4 May 2015

May The Fourth Be With You...

You may know today's date as simply "the 4th of May."  But to a huge number of people, today is a bit more special than that.  It's "May The Fourth."  It's Star Wars Day.

You might think that that sounds a little bit sad.  A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away), I might have agreed with you.  But now?  Not a chance.

You see, "nerdiness" is too often seen as something negative.  In too many people's eyes, those who like sci-fi (or fantasy, comic books, or computer games etc) are all geeky types, with thick-lensed glasses and an inability to communicate with the opposite sex...
I *might* have accidentally described myself there, but bear with me...

The trouble with seeing geeky people in a generally negative light, is that it's just too much of a stereotype.  You say the word "nerd" and it doesn't conjure up a positive image of a confident, attractive person in many people's minds.  It's a word that's used as an insult.  And I think that's wrong.  I think it's time to reclaim it.

So, a nerd like me might be able to list all of the actors who've ever played The Doctor in Doctor Who (in the correct order, of course), but why is that sadder than someone knowing who all of the previous winners of The X Factor are?

So, a nerd like me might not be able to see a toaster without wanting to shriek "given that God is infinite and that the universe is also infinite... WOULD ANYONE LIKE ANY TOAST?!" a la Red Dwarf, but is that really so much more pathetic than worshipping some sappy sod with only a tenuous grasp of the English language, just because he's on The Only Way is Essex?

The things that we all enjoy are surely so subjective, that there practically is no majority opinion?  For every person who dismisses sci-fi fans as "nerds," there's someone excitedly polishing their lightsaber for Comic Con, after all (not a euphemism, honest...).

And there's nothing wrong with that.

I've been a nerd my whole adult life.  I wasn't the popular, pretty kid at school.  I was the one who had to dodge being spat on, on the school bus.  I'd had plans to go to drama school, or at least study musical theatre at university.  I wanted to be on the stage; I wanted to sing and act.  But bullying shook the confidence out of me so thoroughly that by the age of only 12/13, I'd long buried that dream and accepted my fate.

But that's not to say that I gave up.  Of course I didn't.  I realised that I could still be creative, by writing stories.  I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and eventually had three books published.  I was still following my dreams, it's just that those dreams were different.

And somewhere along the line, I stopped seeing "nerdy" as an insult, whether it was thrown at me or at someone else.  I started to wear it as a badge of honour.


When people say you're "nerdy" about something, more often than not, what they really mean is that you're passionate about it.  And that thing that you're passionate about might be something that's deemed "uncool," like a sci-fi TV show or movie franchise.  But what could be more awesome than being passionate about something, regardless of what that thing is?  Having excitement about something is one of the ways we prove we're alive!  Being involved in a franchise can make people who often feel left-out or "different" (like I did, back when I was that awkward kid being picked on at school) feel as though they're part of something.  It's your world.  It's safe and it's exciting and nobody can take it from you.

For me, whilst I enjoy Star Wars, it's not my biggest "nerdy" passion.  That potentially dubious honour falls to Doctor Who; an equally "geeky" obsession, I'm sure you'll agree.  And yes, I've had many people tell me how silly I am for being devoted to a show about a bloke who can change his face over and over and who spends his life, travelling the universe in a box that's bigger on the inside, battling alien foes and saving made-up planets.  It sounds silly.  Maybe it is.

But it's also a show that teaches viewers not to give up on something that's important.  

It's a show that explores love and how far we're prepared to go for someone who means the world to us.

It's a show that celebrates being different, rather than mocking those who are.

I'm proud - yes, massively, massively proud - to be a fan of a show that does those things.  I'm proud to align myself with something - even a fictional something - in which good triumphs over bad.  In the world we live in, there are far too many things that we could become bogged down by; way too many troubles that occupy our minds.  Isn't a little escapism what we all need, from time to time?

"Nerds" are just people who are passionate about something that might not be deemed "cool."  Often, they're amongst the brightest, funniest and most thoughtful people you could wish to meet.  Sure, some of them are a little... Different.  But what is life about, if not embracing those who aren't the same as ourselves and learning from them?  We grow richer when we experience new things, after all.

So this year on Star Wars Day, here's a little pledge from me:  I'm reclaiming "nerd" and "nerdy."  Wear those labels with pride and remember it's better to stand out from the herd than to blend in.  It's better to have a passion, than to blindly flick through the TV channels, without becoming emotionally invested in anything.  If you're nerdy, then as far as I'm concerned, you're awesome.

May the force be with you. ;-)


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