My Sunday ritual has stayed consistent for the last ten years or so, and it usually involves seeing my mother. Most people around my age would not look forward to this; I beg to aggressively differ. Standing at a Hobbit’s height, even with her Nike shoe game out of control, she’s nearing retirement age with all of the grace that would be expected of a person forced to raise two straight-up ragamuffin scoundrels. For someone always ready to mend a dislocated shoulder or wade through drunk tank paperwork, she is surprisingly gentle, especially with random children.
She’ll ruffle the hair of ones unfortunate enough to meander into her reach, and will inevitably strike up a conversation with their parents. The child will always stand there, not able to add relevance to conversations between these so-called “grown-ups”, so it is usually up to me to entertain them until polite small-talk has ceased. So more often than not I’ll strike up a conversation with these tiny humans, the most recent child wearing a shirt of a certain webslinging menace to society. (On the whole, the Daily Bugle is an extremely reliable source, with little to no subjective opinions on relevant superhero subjects.)
“I have a bunch of his comics,” he said to me with no concept of an inside voice. “I even have the one where him and Robin team up and stuff.” But that’s not even possible. I mean, they exist in two separate universes that aren’t in tandem with either universe’s concept of parallels, and I don’t think that Robin and Spider-Man met in the Disordered Minds crossover of September 1995. What sort of hedge mage trickery are you trying to pull here? Your Huggies sit on a throne of lies and un-truths, besmirching the name of my culture’s demigods and myths of old.
Filthy. Freaking. Casuals.
I exaggerate to make my point clearer, but all of us have had this thought at one point or another. A friend of ours will mention that they were really into X-Men, having watched the shows as a child, or that they loved The Lord of the Rings movies. All of us in Nerd Culture have that knee jerk twinge in our hearts when we hear statements like this, looking down on others when they only have a cursory knowledge in something we’ve invested so much time. Whether it be the high school football player wears a faded S-symbol under his Varsity jacket, or the beautiful woman who spent hours on her Hipster Disney Princess cosplay, we always have this incredulous sense of doubt in them. What do they know about what we love? What sort of knowledge can they give to our community that hasn’t already been contributed by one of my brothers- or sisters-in-arms?
I’m here to say that this is a problem. One of which we have all been guilty, myself included.
I fully understand where this sentiment comes from, and I am no stranger to its irony. What were once the causes of shoving me into lockers are now highly recognized multimillion dollar industries, and many have become “bandwagoners” because of it. This is placing the matter lightly; it is straight-up looking like Oregon Trail in this B. My fear is that the uber-Geek is slowly becoming genre-blind, comparing stories and characters to ONLY the stories and characters in the same vein; when this happens, we will lose the foothold that we have painstakingly made for ourselves over the past century.
“Casuals” offer something that we in the nerd community have been missing for a while: perspective. Being on this inside, we have no way of determining if anything is of critical value around us. And really, critical value is the only way we are going to keep our mainstream popularity. Admittedly, I refused to be excited in the hype of the New 52, the mechanics changes in D&D 5th Edition Beta, and The Hobbit being split in thrice, as if this sentiment made me somehow “better” or “higher” in the hierarchy. I wholeheartedly admit that I am part of the problem, but I am here to at least bring awareness, having no solutions as of yet. My name is JPG, and I am a nerd-snob who needs help in not thinking like this anymore.
We are at the cusp of truly being taken seriously, as an art form and as a medium to express our feelings and tell our stories. “Casuals” bring a collaboration of obscure knowledge on varied topics and a realist perspective when it comes to the stories that we love, and will call us out if we ever try to pull another Bat-Shark Repellent fiasco. In essence, hardcore fans of old, we need to extend our hands to people genuinely trying to enjoy the genres we already know to be amazing, and not irrationally judge if someone is deemed worthy to be in our elite group.
If we can put aside the hate we show for Casuals, who knows who else we can accept in our hierarchy with no judgements? Fanfiction stays at the bottom, though. Those guys are weird.