Nerd cred and geek consumerism were created to fuel capitalism and make pop culture an exclusive club.
Since I was a kid, pop culture has always been a huge part of my life. Not only has it been a source of entertainment and escapism, but it has also influenced how I view myself and the world around me. Until this year, I thought I had to compromise my personal values for nerd cred and geek consumerism in order to be seen as a “real nerd”.
While nerd cred is your credibility as a nerd, geek consumerism is the pressure to constantly spend money on pop products. Both nerd cred and geek consumerism are related to each other in that the more money you spend, the better your nerd cred is perceived to be.
In order to spend money on pop culture, you have to have the money to do so. Depending on your financial situation, your exposure to pop culture might vary from being up-to-date on everything to being exposed to movies and comics later than everyone else.
In article for The Mary Sue, writer Teresa Justino discusses what it was like to grow up Puerto Rican, female, and broke and how that impacted her exposure to geek culture. Justino writes, “Is it any wonder that many of the trappings of geek culture are only accessible to those who are predominantly white, male, and middle class? White women and people of color are often paid less, yet it feels like one has to constantly spend money in order to effectively participate in the geek community.”
Although one of my biggest fandoms is comic books, I can’t afford to be as active in it as I would like. With comics, one of the few ways I own them is buying digitally with gift cards. I also use the site Humble Bundle and the digital library app Hoopla to either buy them cheap or borrow them.
Since I’m a freelance writer who usually covers indie comics, I can sometimes get digital review copies or just read webcomics for free online. On the other hand, writing about mainstream comics was stressful because I felt pressured to do in depth knowledge of characters and comic book events I didn’t know about. Unfortunately, geek consumerism also made it hard to participate in comics fandom for fun.
The pressure to constantly spend money and compromise my own views reached its peak this year. A year ago, I had been happily exploring mainstream comics after reading the exploits of Muslim American heroine Ms. Marvel. Things took a foreboding turn when Marvel made Captain America into a Nazi and then blamed diversity for their subsequent low book sales.
Initially, I thought that as long as I bought comics set before the events of Nazi Cap, I wouldn’t be bothered. I kept buying digital comics from the Marvel NOW! era or earlier, but started buying their comics discounted once diversity was blamed. Last month, my patience with Marvel comics ran out when I saw a preview of issue 14 of Marvel’s parody comic Not Brand Ech, in which Nazi Captain America blocks Black and brown critics on social media.
From then on, I decided that buying comic books made by a company that doesn’t respect me as reader wasn’t worth any nerd cred I might lose. I felt similarly about DC Comics, who annoyed me with their pricey digital trades, their lack of fresh and inclusive talent, and the treatment of characters of color on live-action shows like The Flash.
This year’s Black Friday & Cyber Monday sales included huge deals on Marvel comics & DC comics. Although my resolve was certainly tested, I ultimately gave my money to Stranger Comics and Lion Forge Comics. Not only do they have comics that fit my personal interests, but they are willing to produce authentic, gimmick free content with inclusive characters and creators.
Since pop culture often defaults to various combinations of white, cis-het, middle class, and male, nerd cred and geek consumerism were created to fuel capitalism and make pop culture an exclusive club. While I do have my personal tastes, I’d rather support lesser known work with integrity rather than blindly support pop culture. You can like what you like, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also question why you like and buy it.