Are Nerds the New Americans?

The definition of what Americans look like has changed over time. Nonetheless, because of historical figures and the media, Americans still tend to be characterized as accomplished white males. However, even white males can face discrimination. In Stuart Edge’s social experiment, a nerd (a socially constructed identity based on interests and looks) asks girls innocent questions until another, more “masculine” man approaches and makes fun of the nerd.

Because the nerd does not fit the standards of what Americans look like, he is singled out and mocked for his differences, such as his glasses or his word choice. This can also be seen in various movies and television shows, especially when comparing the reception towards nerds versus superheroes. Interestingly, the girls (in this case, the experiment’s subjects) come to the nerd’s defense even if it means going against the opinion of the other man. By accepting the nerd as he is, these girls are helping to redefine what Americans really are: diverse, varied, and unique.

In a time when fitness and looks are important in defining masculinity, is it possible for males that have “nerdy” traits to be considered attractive?

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2 thoughts on “Are Nerds the New Americans?

  1. That was an interesting video, but it did indirectly raise a couple of questions for me. As you noted, the questions were totally innocent. Do you think the reactions would have been different if he had started complimenting the girls’ appearance before the other guy stepped in? The man acting as the bully went out of his way to insult the nerd to his face, and the unattractiveness of those actions may have overrode however they actually felt about the nerd. Asking for directions didn’t make the girls uncomfortable, while the bully’s insults from out of the blue did. If the social awkwardness often associated with nerds made the girls a bit uncomfortable before the bully showed up, would they have responded differently to one of his less offensive remarks, like “Is this guy bothering you?” I still struggle to see a case where they react differently to the excessive insulting.

    I also wonder whether power played a factor in their actions. When asked why she was talking to the nerd, one of the girls replied something along the lines of “He’s lost.” The depiction of a nerd in that video can be characterized by “helpless”, and it is empowering to stand up for the helpless. It might be part of what makes nerds attractive to some women, although their sense of humor might be another factor, as could perceived intelligence. It all comes down to interests though, as two people who have contrasting interests probably won’t be attracted to each other. Still, I do think the negative stigma surrounding nerdiness is disappearing.

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  2. That was an interesting video, but it did indirectly raise a couple of questions for me. As you noted, the questions were totally innocent. Do you think the reactions would have been different if he had started complimenting the girls’ appearance before the other guy stepped in? The man acting as the bully went out of his way to insult the nerd to his face, and the unattractiveness of those actions may have overrode however they actually felt about the nerd. Asking for directions didn’t make the girls uncomfortable, while the bully’s insults from out of the blue did. If the social awkwardness often associated with nerds made the girls a bit uncomfortable before the bully showed up, would they have responded differently to one of his less offensive remarks, like “Is this guy bothering you?” I still struggle to see a case where they react differently to the excessive insulting.

    I also wonder whether power played a factor in their actions. When asked why she was talking to the nerd, one of the girls replied something along the lines of “He’s lost.” The depiction of a nerd in that video can be characterized by “helpless”, and it is empowering to stand up for the helpless. It might be part of what makes nerds attractive to some women, although their sense of humor might be another factor, as could perceived intelligence. It all comes down to interests though, as two people who have contrasting interests probably won’t be attracted to each other. Still, I do think the negative stigma surrounding nerdiness is disappearing.

    Like

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