So my version of a nerd is a person who passionately and purposefully seeks out the way- more-than-necessary knowledge about a strangely specific subject1. There are barely-there nerd memories of inventing my own Pokémon with their successive evolved forms, obviously, Toonami afternoons of Dragonball and Dragonball Z, explaining The Adventures of Lois and Clark to my grandmother, and losing my elementary-aged shit when Hercules and Xena had their first crossover.
My earliest roots of life-altering, truly nerdy obsessive behavior began at the turn of the millennium. Like most 10-year-olds in the late 90s/early 2000s, I was reading Harry Potter. As the only brown girl living in a small town on the Mississippi gulf coast, you can bet your last dragon’s egg I was praying like hell that an owl would make its transatlantic flight to the All-American South and deliver my Hogwarts letter so I could effing get the hell out of there. Well, I think that owl probably died because I remained stuck in a homogenized mush of marshmallow white children who had Confederate flag stickers on their binders asking me on the daily to “speak Chinese”2 and teachers who constantly commented on how nice and straight and shiny my “kind of hair” looked3.
When I hit semi-puberty (aka 12-years-old), I became all about Dawson’s Creek — like, hardcore to the point where I recorded the four episodes that they aired every morning (on TBS!) on a single VHS tape which I watched immediately after getting home from school, only to repeat the process the next day. And I’m pretty sure all of my yearbook messages to my classmates were Creek quotes4. But, wait, don’t judge my taste; this was important! Dawson — the cute, white boy character to whom the Creek belonged — was proudly a film geek who exemplified, in the significantly less-mainstream nerdy era, abnormal fanboy behavior with his Spielberg obsession and his “reject reality” philosophy… on a popular primetime TV show, no less!
Did I mention that I’m a military brat? In a life that required readjustment and upheaval, my nerdy obsessions remain the only constant: a lot of superheroes, a lot of movie musicals, a lot of 80s action sci-fi, a lot of cult comedy, and a lot of genre film — basically anything trope-y with plausible movie science and a dash of romance. Because of my Potter roots, I am digging this YA fantasy/sci-fi genre reading renaissance5.
Now is it terrible to admit how often I forget that I’m a “nerd of color?” I mean, I know I’m a nerd: it’s the “of color” bit that I don’t usually remember right away.
I remember being really excited about Lana Lang on Smallville because the actress was half-Asian, and she had hair like mine! And her last name was “Lang!” That meant the TV version of her was now Asian, right? Eeeeeee, not really. That was kind of a bummer. Oh, and then Lucy Liu was one of Charlie’s Angels! She was the smartest angel and worked the best slow-mo hair and had those rare Asian freckles and got to hang out with the beautiful, cool white girls!
But those were really the only two women in Hollywood that looked(ish) like me — both of whom are more fair-skinned than brown, like my coloring — so I think I stopped thinking about who I maybe-sorta-kinda resembled and began focusing on which female characters I enjoyed because they were freaking awesome characters. And most of them turned out to be Caucasian. So, perhaps I buried the fact that it bugged me how none of my favorite fictional characters represented my cultural background, but every once in a while an Asian girl in media would get a decent amount of screentime/story and I would WHOOP! forgetting my colorblind attitude temporarily. Of course, I’d retract my celebration when she inevitably revealed herself as the super-sexy-henchwomen, ended up being the snitch-bitch, or died. Baby steps.
Now I’m 24, older and wiser6. I’ve since graduated from college (in the culturally diverse state of California!) by somehow managing to write a majority of my uni papers about Harry Potter (“Racial Passing in Potter,” “Potter as Adolescent Literature,” “Potter as an Effective Form of Children’s Media”). Twitter exists and I can livetweet literally everything from zombies to the superheroes to the Golden Globes to a typical day character-stalking in Disneyland, and strangers are like, “I see you. I get you. Nerd on! Here’s a star.” It’s nice to be noticed.
And I’m no longer purposefully Hollywood colorblind; I recognize that being able to see and appreciate colors is the beautiful part of any artwork! Some colors are used more than others, and some colors are under-utilized, but eventually as the artist grows, another piece of work is made which, hopefully, corrects those past transgressions with more depth and understanding of the world we live in and the people thriving in it.
Much nerd love,
Follow either my Twitter (@christellexoxo) or my Blog (Too Many Things) for more concerning Arrow, The Flash, The Walking Dead, Superman/Smallville, The Avengers, X-Men, Game of Thrones/ASOIAF, Community, The Hunger Games, Saturday Night Live, Tom Hanks, and anything with time travel.
- This is a hybridized definition from two of my favorite self-proclaimed nerds: Chris Hardwick and Donald Glover. ↩
- I’m Filipino-American. ↩
- At that blissfully ignorant age, I was flattered. Only now do I realize that Holy crap! my teachers were gossiping about Asians during recess while my amazing black tresses flowed pristinely as I read alone underneath a tree. ↩
- I am currently groaning in embarrassment. ↩
- You may also say that I’m in denial about my current post-grad, entering-the-real-world journey, so I pretend like I’m still going through the same things as the coming-of-age, dystopian teenagers. Minus the acne. Okay, sometimes the acne. ↩
- I sang that last part. ↩