Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Obsession, healthy interest...whatever

This afternoon, I spent ten solid minutes peering intently into my computer screen at this image:

Why? Because it’s reportedly where The X-Files 2 movie is filming today. As I stared at the screen, the rodents in my brain worked hard to try and glean some sort of clue as to what could possibly be happening on that little island. What major plot point would it reveal? Was that Mulder in the foreground or a tree? And if it’s a tree, is it a special alien tree?* And then I wondered, “What the hell is wrong with me?”

Actually, I know what’s wrong with me. I’m a compulsive nerd who has to know everything about anything she likes. Which leads me to wonder, is that okay? And if not, does it really matter?

David Anderegg in his book, Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them, makes what I think is a sensible argument about nerd compulsions. For every Star Trek geek out there who knows how dilithium crystals work (and yes, I’m raising my hand here), there are ten other people out there obsessing over LaDainian Tomlinson’s yardage or how many units Beyonce moved last week. Basically, Anderegg says, we’re all obsessed about something. It’s just that nerds get dissed because our obsessions tend to be out of the mainstream…and be animated and have space ships.

I’m not ashamed of my nerd compulsions. They’ve been with me for as long as I can remember. Did I almost burn my eyes out reading all 27 Black Stallion books in three weeks as a seven year old because I just couldn’t stop? Yup. Did I walk around the house for days with two small flashlights strapped to the sides of my head and a brown blanket over my head pretending to be a Jawa when I was eight? Maaaaaybe. Did I go to an X-Files convention and have my picture taken in Mulder’s fake office with a big dumb smile on my face? Hell yes. Did I spend $75 on eBay for a sombrero-wearing Giles action figure? Not yet.

And here’s the thing: I just don’t think there’s anything wrong with that stuff. You know why? Because I had fun. Because I learned stuff – like how to handicap racehorses and how flashlights strapped to the sides of your head can burn after a while. All of my obsessions have yielded me some sort of satisfaction and yes, knowledge. If not for watching The West Wing like a crazy person for years on end, my understanding of the American legislative system would have ended with “I’m just a bill on Capitol Hill.”

I agree with Anderegg: nerdy obsessions get mocked because they’re too esoteric for the rest of the kids. It’s okay to love football and shoes, but if your interest happens to reside an inch or two outside the mainstream…and has space ships…well, you might as well just raise the nerd flag high and enjoy yourself. Others may laugh but when scientists finally invent the warp drive, we’re gonna be the only ones who know how to steer the ship.**

* No, it was just a regular tree. :(
** Not necessarily a metaphor.

Photo from X-Files community at Livejournal.

19 comments:

Jodie said...

X-Files news makes me so happy!

Shan said...

And of course, there are people who know how dilithium crystals work and worry about LaDanian Tomlinson's yardage. (My fantasy football team name? Area 51).

And X-Files tidbits are always welcome.

onepinkshoe said...

Nerd interests are so much better! That is all.

Lisa said...

Does it count as an obsession if there's a name for the collective group of people who do the obsessing, for example: X-Philes and Browncoats?!

Liz said...

Shan, you are like the mighty Colossus of Rhodes with one giant, statue-y foot in each world. :-)

Liz said...

Lisa, yup, it counts when there are collective groups -- and in my opinion, it makes the obsession ten times more fun! Browncoats unite!

Shan said...

Liz, to continue the nerdiness, instead of the Colossus of Rhodes, I'd prefer to think of this:

http://lostpedia.com/wiki/Four-Toed_Statue

jenn said...

You know, I actually found this blog a while back BECAUSE I was searching something X-Filey. And I'm really glad I did because it's a smart and entertaining read-- and we're starting the Finer Things club ;)

Having geeky obsessions is where it's at. I can now talk at length about nasopharyngeal tumours, the time-space continuum, Creutzfeld-Jakobs disease, and many other things because of my sci-fi obsessions. I wear that badge with pride, and I'm glad you do, too, because it's not just about the "knowledge" and the "fun", there's also a human element there that I think we can all relate to.

Liz said...

Shan, I can't believe I forgot that! Absolutely you can be the four-toed Lost colossus guy. So you want to take a bet now on whether they'll ever explain that one?

Liz said...

Jenn, you're totally right. I've learned so much from my sci-fi obsessions, and that human element does tie it all together.

I'm so glad you like the blog -- and are as eager as I am to get the book club rolling. If only I had a transporter handy, I could make sure we all got tea sandwiches to go with our first meeting!

Shan said...

Liz, for some reason, I have every confidence that we'll get an explanation. Sure, Lost has had some missteps, (Jack's tattoos, anyone?) but for the most part, I'm on board with the writers and their vision of how it will all play out. That was just too iconic, and too freaky, not to have a reference to it at a future date. (Of course, I also thought the X-Files alien conspiracy/supersoliders/Samantha's abduction/Scully's baby threads would hang together, too. So mythologize at your own risk). But at this point, I stare at my TiVo and scream in my best Jack Sheppard "we've got to go back!"

Liz said...

You know, Shan, I have a feeling they'll probably wrap that up, too. I've been feeling more confident since I heard they were going to end the show at a specific point. I feel like they have enough time now to really think things through especially with a particular endpoint to aim for.

Plus, I think serialized shows like Lost and BSG learned from the X-Files' mistakes.

SFG said...

Does it count as an obsession if there's a name for the collective group of people who do the obsessing, for example: X-Philes and Browncoats?!
Keep in mind those exist for sports teams too: Red Sox Nation, Cheeseheads, etc.

SFG said...

Hey Jenn, your profile says you like music, you may enjoy this:

http://www.myspace.com/anorakgirl

Black Eyed Gurl said...

There is nothing wrong with being a Nerd, Geek, Dork or whatever. We just catch more flack than the rest of the population because traditionally we are seen as sexless losers who live in basements and only come out to buy comic books or go to conventions. Which is crap. But you know, according to those people all Russians wear those big furry hats and overcoats (which has yet to be unproven). My point? Love thy geekiness, even if it means stalking Danny Strong in a hotel for a weekend cos you just "happen to keep running into him."

Trey said...

Looks like a great book (David Anderegg's). Thanks for the recommendation!

Our nerdy ways show that we have a great interest in the world around us and how it works. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Jessica said...

"Did I spend $75 on eBay for a sombrero-wearing Giles action figure? Not yet."

Me neither but HOLY CRAP. SOMEDAY.

That and Anya in her bunny suit.

Also, thanks for a post about obsessions! I am a super obsessive person and this made me happy about my nerddom. :)

Liz said...

Jessica, the Anya in her bunny suit action figure is totally worth the money. My husband bought me one years ago and I love it. I laugh every time I see it.

agent57 said...

Why oh why didn't I buy that Giles figure when I first heard about it? He comes with a tiny chainsaw, too, doesn't he?