I am a huge nerd and always have been. Beyond the love of reading and hearty enjoyment of science I’ve liked “geek” things since I was a child. X-Men was my go-to cartoon and comic as a child, I watched Bill Nye the Science Guy, LARP’d video games (or “played pretend” as we called it then), and loved going to school. As an adult, I confess, very little has changed. Now I just write about my geekiness on the internet. Why have I kept up with these interests instead of growing out of them? Good question.
There are any number of reasons to enjoy science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all things that may fall under the geek umbrella. Even as an adult. The imaginativeness, the science, the action, the humor. There’s no one specific reason that people are drawn to nerdy stuff, but there is one thing that holds everyone’s love of them. A connection, whether direct or universal. People who are fans feel connected to and invested in the characters and their stories. Why? Because these fantastical tales are allegories for everyday societal and psychological issues.
Look beneath the surface of tales about superpowers, mutations, zombies, and time travel you’ll find themes like discrimination, social injustice, mortality, and self vs society. Psychological issues such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), addiction, identity, and morality are frequently explored through the characters featured. These are deep, complex, ideas made accessible and entertaining by unique worlds and creations.
Star Trek is noted for being about diversity and acceptance, Star Wars is as much about family dynamics and dysfunction as it is about space, and at its core X-Men is about discrimination. (“Have you ever tried not being a mutant?” a mother asks her child when he first displays his powers; it could be a verbatim question of any well-meaning, but uniformed parent of a child coming out as gay/bisexual/transgendered.) Doctor Who deals with mortality and the consequences of ones actions. The Walking Dead asks what Man becomes when the facade of society crumbles and Batman frequently questions when justice ends and vengeance begins. The examples are endless.
Beyond universal concepts, pop culture media can allow a more personal connection to occur as individuals see themselves and those around them in even the most extraordinary characters. With this recognition they are able to both relate to and be inspired by these characters. Professor-X of The X-Men and Daredevil are both disabled (paraplegic and blind, respectively), Guardians of the Galaxy’s Drax seemed to resonant with those with Asperger’s, and Iron Man suffers from alcoholism. Harry Potter lost his parents in infancy and was the victim of bullying while Carol of AMC’s The Walking Dead survived an abusive relationship and the loss of her child. Yet all these characters overcame their respective issues to become stronger people and, ultimately, heroes.
It is these things – these connections to complex characters and topics – that allows people to connect to these “geeky” things on a deeper level. Because no matter how outrageous the aliens, awesome the gadgets, and cool the superpowers, what ultimately connects someone to any story is the emotionality of it — the sympathy for the characters and an understanding of their dilemmas. The fantastical may be what draws someone in, it may be what keeps them from getting bored (reading a comic book dealing with sociological issues is far more entertaining than a text book about them), but it’s the reality of the characters and their situation that keeps audiences invested enough to become a true fan/nerd/geek.
This is why I write about the nerdy things I love. I connect to them and want to show others that there are deeper meanings behind the explosions, humor, and amazing creatures. That there is a validity to their stories, their existence. That geekiness matters and there’s universal truth behind the fantastical.