Talkin’ Nerdy: Talking About Your Geeky Interests

I’ve talked a bit about how nerds have an unfortunate tendency to buy into the self-limiting belief that being a nerd is somehow a hinderance to dating.

It’s always struck me as a little odd; generally we like to say that we’re proud to be geeks, but when it comes to talking about the things we’re into… well, geeks tend to get a little on the defensive side. Don’t believe me? Ask a Bronie  about his favorite TV show.

Then stand back. They get a little vehement sometimes.

Can’t imagine why…

You can repeat the process with Browncoats, otaku, even table-top gamers – scratch a nerd and you’ll find somebody who’s used to being given a ration of shit for what she or he is into.

It can be hard to want to dip a toe into the dating pool when you’re worried about when the getting-to-know-you conversation will inevitably turn to “So, what are you into?” It can be difficult to meet new people when you feel as though you have to justify your interests every single time you meet someone new.

Small wonder some geeky guys get fetishize geek girls. Why worry about the possibility of being mocked for what you like when you can just stick to your own kind?

But what if it didn’t have to be that way?

It’s All In How You Sell It

You see, the problem isn’t the geeky interests in and of themselves1 , it’s in the way that they’re presented. Just as kinksters and fetishists have learned over the years, people will respond to how you deliver the news. If you tell your date that you’re into Japanese animation in the same apologetic tone that you might say that spaghetti carbonara gives you explosive diarrhea, it’s no goddamn wonder that they might respond negatively. You need to present it like a bonus, not a problem: you’re into anime and isn’t that fucking awesome?

You see, people may not be into what you’re into… but they do respond to passion. Passion is an incredibly attractive trait; we like passionate people because they have something to their lives besides their humdrum every day events. Your date may not be a geek – he or she may not even be geek-curious, but if you can talk about your geeky interest with passion and explain what it is you like about it… well even if it’s not their thing, they’ll be far more interested in it. You may very well pique their curiosity…

Now, sometimes it can be difficult to articulate just what it is that you like about your interests.

That’s where I come in. I’ve tabulated a little cheat sheet to help you understand how others see your hobby, how to explain why you like it in a way they’ll understand, and even some examples that you can suggest they try for themselves.

Genre Movies:

What They Expect:

SFX and minimal plot to get in the way of the action scenes.

How To Sell It:

Honestly, this isn’t going to be too hard of a sell. Of the top 10 highest grossing movies world-wide, 9 out of 10 of them are geek movies involving superheroes (Avengers, ), aliens (Avatar, Star Wars: Episode 1), boy-wizards, pirates and toys. The lone hold-out? Titanic. Expand it to the top 20? Even more geek movies. Expand it further and you don’t hit a non-geek movie until #38 (2012) and #39 (The Da Vinci Code). Blockbuster movies are geek movies.

If you’re into b-movies, then you want to talk about the fact that they’re just so bad that they’re funny. How are you not supposed to laugh at a movie where astronauts are being menaced by rocks?  Horror movies tweak the same part of the brain that thrill rides do: you like the build up of suspense and fear in an otherwise safe outlet. It’s fun to be scared when you’re not really at risk. And the best horror movies are often social commentary, holding a warped mirror up to society in order to comment on modern society.

What To Suggest:

Any particular big-budget genre movie, especially starring Robert Downey, Jr. or Christian Bale.
For horror: Dawn of the Dead (original and 2004 remake), 28 Days Later, Paranormal Activity, The Ring

Genre TV:

Because of the various levels of cable these days, it’s worth breaking them down into separate categories:

Premium Cable (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz)

What They Expect:

Tits. Beheadings. More tits. Vampires. Uncomfortable racial undertones.

How To Sell It:

Much like genre movies, this isn’t really going to be a hard sell. Game of Thrones is a legitimate cultural phenomenon, while shows like True Blood and Spartacus are the classic definition of trashy guilty pleasure. Game of Thrones is fantasy for people who hate fantasy, eschewing the usual tropes for a brutal world that focuses on political intrigue and a civil war between rival families where Machiavellian plotting and sudden but inevitable betrayals are the order of the day.  True Blood is glorious, trashy TV with pretty people in an almost absurdly cartoonish world where vampires and other supernatural beasties have officially “come out of the coffin” – plus it’s by Alan Ball who created Six Feet Under. The Tudors is The Sopranos overlaid on Henry The Eighth. Spartacus… well, that’s basically blood and tits. They’re not wrong there.

What to Show Them:

Game of Thrones. But they’re probably already watching it.

Broadcast Television (ABC, CBS, NBC, CW, FOX)

What They Expect:

On the CW: Very bad acting by very pretty people who take their shirts off a lot.
On the networks: Cheese on top of cheese followed by more cheese. Alternately: Mysteries for the sake of mysteries wrapped in a conundrum and folded into a tasty pastry shell made of powdered enigmas that will NEVER EVER EVER be resolved.
On Fox: Cancelled in one season.

How To Sell It:

On the CW: “Hey, don’t mistake this for being a girly romance show just because $ACTOR_NAME is really, really pretty: this is hands down some of the darkest, most violent TV I’ve seen in a while. The writers really have no problem putting all of their characters through the wringer; hell, they really don’t have any problem with straight up MURDERING characters. More than Joss Whedon even.  The thing I really like about Supernatural/Vampire Diaries/Beauty and the Beast/Arrow is that it’s about the characters. Yeah the plots can get a little on the cliched side, but when you get right down to it, the characters’ relationships are the most compelling part of the show…  the genre elements of it – the vampires/monsters/superheroes – it’s brutally honest about how relationships work. If you really liked watching the relationships between Angel and Buffy or Willow and Tara, you might be surprised how much you like this.”

On the networks: “It’s the sort of show that really rewards active viewer participation. Just sitting back and expecting to get the answers fed to you means that you’re missing out on the fun. The best part of the show is developing your own crazy theories and debating them with your friends. Some shows even take it up to the next level with Alternate Reality Games, where the audience actively takes part in the story through in-universe games and story lines pieced together from clues dropped via websites, text messages and even live-action games at conventions like San Diego Comic Con.”

On Fox: “I like it, but it’s going to get cancelled before it goes anywhere.”

What To Show Them:

Buffy The Vampire Slayer – “The Body”, “Hush”. Veronica Mars seasons 1 and 2. Vampire Diaries season 2. Firefly. Lost season 1. Community – “Modern Warfare”.

Tabletop RPGs

What They Expect:

A bunch of social maladjusts and neckbeards with massive collections of multi-sided dice and badly painted toy soldiers sitting in their parents’ half-finished basement covered in stale Cheeto dust and discared energy drink cans lamenting their perpetual virginity. Usually sounding a lot like this:

 How To Sell It:

“When you get right down to it, there really isn’t any difference between Dungeons and Dragons and a fantasy sports league. They both come down to a collection of statistics that influence the outcome of the game; the real difference comes down to the fact that fantasy sports are ultimately passive. A dude in a fantasy football league may brag about ‘his’ player making a touchdown in the big game, but in an RPG, the player actually controls events. Think of it like an improvisation exercise; The game master, the rules and the statistics help shape the scenario and the dice are just there to add a level of randomness to the event otherwise the players would risk getting bogged down in trying to out-awesome everybody else. The best part of the game is usually when everything goes wrong, and you have to pull a victory out by the skin of your teeth.”

Pro Tip: DO NOT tell RPG war stories. They are not of interest to anyone outside of your gaming group.

What To Show Them:

Community – “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons”. Or invite them to a game of Paranoia.

Video Games

What They Expect:

Hyper-developed manchildren playing mindless first person shooters while being insulted by homophobic and racist 11 year olds via online gaming services. Running down senior citizens and murdering prostitutes in crime simulators. Dude-bros and frat boys having a brodown over the latest Madden NFL, NBA Live or NCAA Football titles. Sexist portrayals of women with overinflated breasts and impossible proportions wearing dental floss and scraps of cloth that can only be charitably called a costume. Shut ins and hikkimori who have forgone all human contact for a life lived exclusively on MMOs, particularly World of Warcraft, surrounded by mountains of empty soda cans and rotting pizza boxes.

How To Sell It:

“Yeah, first-person shooters and MMOs are all the rage, but they’re hardly the end-all, be-all of video games. In fact, video games cover the gamut of just about every available genre out there. There are puzzle games devoted to mathematical concepts and genetic restructuring, games that you control by manipulating the properties of light and sound and games whose goals are based on twitch-reflexes and the ability to instantly recognize abstract spatial relationships and trigonometric functions. Other games are works of abstract art that force us to examine the nature of our relationships with other people or what it’s like to be old and alone or to suffer from schizophrenia.”

“Still more games push the boundaries of storytelling in ways that books or movies simply can’t. Being in control of the character at all, even when your options are relatively limited, makes you identify with them and relate to them so much more than you would in traditional movies just because you actually have agency. It’s one thing to get excited to watch Indiana Jones try to outrun the boulder. It’s another thing entirely when you ultimately control a character’s fate. There are some games out there where even the smallest actions have major consequences years down the line that ultimately reshape the entire narrative and take the story in directions you never expected. It’s an exciting new form of entertainment  – and really, artistic expression –  that’s still in it’s infancy. The more technology advances, the more we can do with it.”

What To Suggest:

Portal & Portal 2. Limbo. Flower. Journey. Bastion, L.A. Noire

Comics

What They Expect:

Quasi-homoerotic teen male power fantasies disguised as superheroes and anatomically impossible female characters whose main power is being able to stand upright despite having breasts that defy physics and a complete lack of internal organs.

Can’t imagine why they might think that.

How To Sell It:

Short version: “You know how much you loved Iron Man? Thor? The Dark Knight? Scott Pilgrim? This is where they came from.”

Longer version: “Superheroes are a large portion of the market, yes, but once you get away from Marvel and DC, there’s so much more out there. It’s more than just dudes in tights, it’s one of the purest forms of collaborative storytelling you can find. When it’s done right, it’s the singular vision of one or two people, distilled from their brains and onto paper without having to be processed through the competing visions of a dozen other hands before you get to it. The ability to tell whatever stories you want is limited only by the creators’ imagination, not by budgets or actors worrying that this might taint their image or the stories being test-marketed and focus-grouped to death. You get autobiographical stories about fighting cancer, incredible sci-fi dystopias, surreal horror, real life romances, war stories…

To quote one visionary comics creator: ‘It’s words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures.'”

What To Suggest:

American Splendor, Finder, Locke and Key, Queen and Country, Courtney Crumrin, A Distant Soil, FreakAngels, Bone, Habibi, Carnet De Voyage

Animated Cartoons

What They Expect:

24 minute long commercials designed to sell toys and sugar to impressionable eight-year olds.

How To Sell It:

“More and more cartoons these days are designed to be all-ages, rather than specifically for kids. The creators realized since the audience wasn’t strictly children then they needed to stop insulting everybody’s intelligence. As a result, we’ve ended up with cartoons that don’t treat the audience like idiots and have more mature storylines and even slip in references that younger kids are never going to get. Some of them are ostensibly for kids, but they’re really more of a celebration of the cartoons we loved when we were growing up. There are others that are specifically for adult audiences. The best ones out there have writing and character arcs that hold up as well as some of the best prime-time comedies and dramas on television.”

What To Show Them:

Avatar: The Last Airbender. The Legend of Korra. Archer. The Venture Brothers. Samurai Jack.

Anime/Manga

What They Expect:

Pokemon. Ultraviolence. Big eyes and speed lines. Naughty tentacles. Fights that go on forever. Ninjas. More Pokemon. Pretty boys that sparkle more than Cullens under a heat lamp.

How To Sell It:

“Animation and comics took off in an entirely different direction than it did in America. Instead of being seen as strictly for kids, they were seen as a medium that could encompass just about any genre you wanted. Since Japanese comics were primarily aimed at people commuting to and from work, publishers would fill all kinds of crazy niches with stories. One of the most popular comics in Japan right now is the story of a man learning to become a sommelier – and it ended up starting a new craze for wine tasting courses. Another one is all about playing ‘Go’, and another is all about a kid who wants to grow up to be the king of the pirates. Yeah, there’s a lot of kids stuff out there, but there’s always been more to it. There’s been a lot more room for animation aimed at mature audiences and mature subjects than there has been in the US. In fact, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan was directly inspired by this awesome animated movie called ‘Perfect Blue’. Have you ever seen it?”

100% less bi-curious makeout scenes though.

What To Show Them:

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. Ghost in the Shell. Perfect Blue. Spirited Away. Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind. Tokyo Godfathers. Battle Angel Alita. Millenium Actress. Akira.

My Little Pony

What They Expect:

It’s a cartoon about ponies for young girls.

And it has fans in the strangest of places.

How To Sell It:

Oh God, do I have to?

“YES!”

OK, fine. “I like a kid’s show about magic and friendship starring talking ponies.”

What To Show Them:

PLEASE! SEND HELP! THEY’RE CRAZY! I DON’T KNOW HOW THEY GOT INTO MY HOUSE!!!

  1. Although, in perfect honesty, some are going to have a more dubious reputation than others. []