F02: Beyond the Pocket Protector: Nerds and Culture in America

TTHF2 9:30-10:50 am

Margee Husemann

Have you ever wondered why all of the peoples of Middle Earth seem so racially homogenous? Does it bother you that the Doctor is always a man? Did you think that perhaps Harry married the wrong Weasley? If you are this nerdy about your nerd culture, then this course may be for you. We will be thinking about nerds as a subgenre of a mainstream culture that both marginalizes and embraces them.

Nerds provide a benchmark against which intellect and social success are measured. Social interpretations of what a "nerd" looks like tends to be fairly homogenous (a scrawny, middle-class white guy), but the group is actually quite heterogeneous. After all, nerdy shows have broken barriers such as one of the first televised interracial kisses (Star Trek) and the first show to feature a fully developed lesbian relationship between two major characters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). We'll examine the stereotypes and the reality of nerds and discuss the dangers of casting intellect in a particular form, how the media aimed at nerds shifts to respond to the changing demographics of the group, and what role nerd culture can have in overturning other forms of social discrimination. We will read and respond to a variety of texts, including critical analyses, theoretical texts, blogs, popular media that features nerd characters (e.g., The Big Bang Theory and anything by Joss Whedon), and popular media that forms the foundation of nerd culture (e.g., Star Wars, Doctor Who, and anything by Joss Whedon).

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