Let me explain.
I’ll start with my personal definition of what a nerd is. For me, a nerd is a person who deeply loves an area of interest more than the average person tends to. They will dedicate a large, sometimes obsessively large, amount of time to pursuit of that interest in some way and tend to enjoy connecting with others who feel the same as they do, as their level of love for their interest can make them seem slightly different to average folk, and that feeling can be a tad lonely at times. There can be science nerds, cosplay nerds, Star Wars Nerds, history nerds, food nerds, tattoo nerds, Warhammer nerds (hi Ted), gaming nerds, and that’s just to name a few.
By my definition, even these guys are nerds.
They’re a sports / cosplaying nerd combo. I mean, I can’t boast having loved something so much that I painted 50% of my body to celebrate it.
When I went into college the year was 1992. I already knew I was a nerd. I had known since my Mom read the Chronicles of Narnia to me when I was three and began my lifelong love for the Fantasy literary genre. She pretty much cemented the deal by then plunking me down to watch Star Trek: TnG with her when it premiered. My husband will tell you that the day I informed him that the first movie I had ever seen in my life was Star Wars he thought to himself, “I want to marry this girl.”
In college I immediately sought out others with interests like my own and the world of Star Trek conventions, gaming conventions and LARPing opened up before me like a buffet of glorious escapism into which I could basically dive. I admit, as a girl back then I was in the vast minority in that culture. I was fortunate to always be welcomed, even if some of the attention I received was on occasion a bit more enthusiastic than I was comfortable with.
The thing is, that was almost twenty years ago. Girls who tackle nerdy pursuits with as much (if not more) boundless enthusiasm as boys are no longer difficult to spot. I would even wager that a full 50% of nerdy culture is now populated by folk of the female persuasion.
The nerd guys on the Big Bang Theory are pretty well rounded ones; they deeply love a variety of scientific and pop culture pursuits. They tend toward more classically nerdy interests like Trek conventions, comic books, computer gaming and the occasional trip to the Renaissance Faire – but they are all categorized by their love and childlike enthusiasm for the things that inspire their imaginations.
The female characters on Big Bang are funny and endearing in individual ways, but not one of the three of them are nerdy. Penny isn’t supposed to be, she’s the character that presents an outside foil of “normalcy” looking in on geek culture and learning about it as the viewer does. I get that, and I think it works well for the show. What I don’t get is why the other two funny and likeable female characters they’ve added over the years have zero nerdy pursuits (annoyingly, the show pretty much only adds female cast as love interests for the boys, but that’s a rant for another day).
Bernadette is funny and awesome (particularly her terrifying ability to sound exactly like Howard’s mother) and she has a brainy job in some sort of pharmaceutical industry, but the only things I can tell that she loves and is interested in are Howard and wine.
It could be argued that the character of Amy is closer to being nerdy, she is a scientist after all who works with monkeys (and monkeys are always cool) but that’s her job. The only books they’ve ever mentioned that she likes to read are Emily Dickenson’s and it was recently revealed that she had never seen a single Indiana Jones movie ever. Exactly like Bernadette and Penny, when the boys are going to a Comic convention she’s far more interested in going to Vegas for the weekend to gamble.
I mean… what’s up with that?!
The complete ass-hattery of the writers in ignoring the very real and very wonderful existence of obsessive, fun, creative, enthusiastic and utterly geeky nerd women is both misrepresentative of what we in this culture are like these days, and kind of infuriating too. They’ve managed to over the years build an utterly charming and extremely funny ensemble cast that delights us because in many ways it’s exactly what we know we can be like, and yet completely, mystifyingly ignores the existence of an entire half of us.
We’re real, we exist, and I’m a nerd.
And it’s not just because I have on occasion got a lot of glee from dressing up as a voodoo witch doctor and wandering around the forest carrying a skull on a stick. And shaking it at people. When it wasn’t even remotely close to Halloween.
|Photo by Chris Moore: http://www.christopherlmoore.com/