The "Fake Nerd" Stigma

I don't see why I can't dress
like the bottom two and still
be passionate about
nerdy things.
This is only tangentially related to cosplay, but it's still sort of related, and I know it's been talked to death, but it's been on my mind for a long time. To be honest, I'm not even sure if I can define what a "fake nerd" is because it's such a weird concept to me. Theoretically, it's someone who pretends to like stereotypically nerdy things like anime, comic books, sci-fi, and cosplay. But... Why? I don't understand why anyone would pretend to like something they didn't. I guess to fit in? And if you're going to try to pick something to pretend to like to fit in, why pick nerd culture? I'm getting off-track, but basically yeah, none of this makes sense to me. (Quick note: I'm going to try really, really hard not to abuse quotation marks, but I'm probably going to fail.)

To get right to it, I hate the fact that anyone who has an interest in stereotypically nerdy things now has to "prove" that they're a "real nerd" and not a "fake nerd". It's not enough to say, "Hey I like this thing," you have to be able to say, "I like this thing because I watched every episode and read every comic book and met the cast and had them sign an obscure piece of work they did." You have to be able to back up your fandom with random factoids and quotes and statistics.

Here's why I have a problem with it, I personally am in that bizarre middle ground, where talking to "normal" people makes me feel like a nerd because they have no interest in anything I'm interested in, but talking to "real nerds" makes me feel "fake" and outcast because I'm not up-to-date on everything and can't remember every detail from a manga that I read three years ago. As a result I'm kind of stuck in this in-between, outcast from both groups and feeling pretty lonely. And there's no way I'm the only one.

The "fake nerd" stigma, coined by the nerd community itself, creates a whole new sub-culture of people who aren't "allowed" to be casually into nerdy things, and can't network to find other casual nerds without being criticized for not being hardcore enough. I'm exaggerating a little here to make a point, I do have nerdy friends that I can hold basic conversations with, but I also occasionally feel left out by the same people, whether intentional or not.

The loudest argument for the "fake nerd" label is, "These people who bullied me in school for liking this stuff are now claiming they're fans of it because it's 'cool' now." And yeah, that sucks, they're hypocrites, and everyone hates hypocrites, but I don't understand how excluding and criticizing them now makes any "nerd" better than the jerks that did that to them in high school. It seems like suddenly being the better person doesn't matter anymore, and it's just about revenge for the sake of... Of what? Of "giving them a taste of their own medicine"?

I guess I don't really get it because I was never outright bullied for liking nerdy things. I didn't have many friends and was eventually homeschooled and had next to no friends at all, so if anything I was excluded a lot, but never outright bullied. I get where the "real nerds" are coming from, it's hard to accept people who previously wouldn't accept you, it's hard to overlook hypocrites, and it's hard not to project that onto anyone who acts similarly, but come on. Not everyone who wears a "Star Trek: Into Darkness" t-shirt has only seen the movies, and not everyone who owns a Starfleet Academy uniform is ready for a Star Trek pop quiz at the drop of a hat. It's time to let the "fake nerd" thing go and at least pretend to accept everyone again.

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