Essay: Nerdfighters!

Matt and I are Nerdfighters, and we were with our people for a few hours on Sunday. Nerdfighters are fans of John and Hank Green, two brothers who post video logs weekly on their YouTube channel. If I posted a regular video log people would have exciting insights to my laundry processes and the fact that I go through long stages of avoiding housework. But John Green is a writer of young adult books and Hank Green—among other things—plays guitar and writes funny songs and so their video posts are fun and funny and they have tons of fans.
The Vlogbrothers (it seems odd to call them the Green Brothers) are unapologetically smart and embrace their intelligence in a way I don’t often see on the Internet. Their full-on embrace of all their nerdy passions attract other nerds. There’s a vocabulary all its own (Nerdfighters, Nerdfiteria, French the Llama, etc.) and a hand signal and t-shirts and challenges to do good things in the world. John Green’s book tour (with special guest Hank Green) was our first chance to see other Nerdfighters. I had been warned by a friend who saw an earlier show in Virginia that the audience consisted of people much younger than themselves and indeed the majority of our audience looked to be in high school and the rest looked to be in college. The other people were the parents of the high schoolers and a smattering of people like Matt and myself, “actual adult” Nerdfighters.
The show was a mish-mash: a visit from a sock puppet voiced by Hank, a section from John Green’s new book, Hank playing a few songs. After his second song, an audience member yelled “encore” and Hank nicely explained that he was just getting started and that the encore would come at the end of the show. John Green talked about how he came to write his latest book, emphasizing that we have a limited amount of time on earth and using it to follow the lives and romances of the cast members of the Jersey Shore might not be the best use of that limited time.
In some ways it was not at all like a book reading or a concert. During one song Hank stopped abruptly, apologized and explained about the “panic bubble” that sometimes emerges when he plays live for people. There was also a question and answer session where the brother still talking when the time ran out was given a slight shock, something the audience found hilarious
The people attending? Nerds. I just watched a video of the encore song and someone observed that Nerdfighters have something of a “look.” They weren’t sure what it was, but there was one. I would have to agree. People had clearly dressed up for the show, but in a way that struck me as vaguely Canadian in that if the outfit was fun, the colors were off. Or perhaps the colors were great, but the hair was greasy, and not in a “hip” greasy way. I eavesdropped on conversations and found them significantly nerdy. And everyone was so nice. The lines were long and people just patiently waited to get to whatever they were getting to. No one danced during the songs until the very end when someone yelled, “Can we dance?” loud enough so Hank could hear it. Hank gave his blessing and people leaped to their feet. Did you miss that? The audience was so polite that they waited for permission to dance at their own concert.
I watched people throughout the show. There was a skinny high-school looking guy with a haircut and clothes-matching ability that pointed toward a possible homosexual identity. He stood to the side of the theater and danced with himself during every song. There was a somewhat large girl so overcome by the final song she squealed and danced to the front of the venue, her curly hair streaming behind her, tamed by a shiny scarf. There was the girl behind me who was a fan of John Green’s book Paper Towns and knew every word to every song. There was the woman in the front row who happily held the video camera for the final number and then patiently waited for someone to collect it. There were the four girls, spotty and a bit awkward wearing jeans and red shirts emblazoned with John Green’s face on a pizza.
I’ve had enough years to enjoy what makes me nerdy and embrace it rather than wishing I was cooler. But during my years in high school and college I would have loved to have a worldwide group of fellow Nerds to hang with, even if our hanging was mostly virtual. Thank you Vlogbrothers for making nerdy fun.

2 thoughts on “Essay: Nerdfighters!”

  1. Here, here! I was thinking much of the same thing.. How wonderful to have all of these people in one space who think smart is cool! Who comfortably wear their Tardis clothing, their HP forehead scares, their adolescent awkwardness, and their nerd chic with pride. If only they had been as united, as led by 2 nerdfighters, when we were in that stage of life.

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