I’m a brony, there’s no real other way to say it.
A brony refers to an adult male, or female who enjoys the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Last week, I purchased a pink sweater made to look like my favorite character, Pinkie Pie, complete with a pink mane and ears on the hood. This was met with extreme indignation mostly on the part of my family, with claims made that I was a loser and that I was going to die alone.
Surprisingly, when I took that same sweater to school the next day, almost everyone either liked it or couldn’t be bothered to care. But the negative reaction, or concerns that people would laugh behind my back or potentially ridicule me for wearing a sweater representative of something I like, brought up old memories from grade school where I spent most of my time bullied for being a nerd. This caused me to question the very nature of being a nerd, and why exactly we were bullied in the first place.
The term “nerd” was first used to describe a fictional creature from Dr. Seuss’ If I Ran the Zoo, Another supposed etymology came from the word knurd, spelling the word drunk backwards to denote someone who didn’t like to party.
Today, the term nerd doesn’t carry the same weight as it used to, thanks in part to the terrible TV-sitcom Big Bang Theory pushing nerdom into the mainstream, as well as most media being taken over by the kinds of entertainment that used to get me all kinds of ridicule in the schoolyard. The idea that a movie like The Avengers, or even Guardians of the Galaxy could be box office smashes would have never crossed anyone’s mind when I was in grade school.
Prejudice usually carries very specific reasons following its form. Why be prejudiced against other cultures? Racism. Why be prejudiced against gay or transgendered people? Homophobia, obviously.
Most forms of prejudice usually stem from socio-political mentalities that have been rooted in our culture. But being a nerd only meant I was more into video games and comics than other people. And I deny the idea that it was “because I was different,” since I really wasn’t any different from my bullies; we were all white, middle class kids, mostly from Italian backgrounds.
I think a very obvious answer to why nerds are bullied is that our bullies feel inferior. Nerds were often lumped together with “geeks” in the idea that we were super-smart tech-wizards, so our inferiors would try to defeat us emotionally or physically.
As a kid, that makes sense, since we’ve all been part of, or at least have seen, the social hierarchy that exists amongst kids and pre-teens.
So why as an adult is this still an occurrence?
On a surface level, it’s easy to assume an adult male who watches a show designed for girls ages four to 10 is a loser. But as adults we should have a better sense to ask questions rather than pass negative judgment immediately.
It would seem we don’t have that sense, since you still hear and see radio and TV mock attendees of comic conventions, for example. However, if I were to explain my fondness, as a comic artist, for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and its ability to tell intricate stories on a simple platform that children can understand, or its beautiful use of bright colors, or its interesting characters with unique personalities and character-arches – would I still be a loser for appreciating a piece of art?
We may never grow past our bullies, or grow past an age where we won’t still have bullies, since people will always want to assert dominance over others in a way that won’t directly break the law.
The thing about being a nerd is that even though we grow and mature, get jobs and pay bills, and essentially take on the role of every other adult, we still maintain the hearts of children. We still enjoy the fun and wonder of being a kid, we wear it on our sleeves, and sometimes on our hoods.