Unless you have your home wrapped in an impermeable layer of geek-proofing, odds are you’ve encountered Chris Hardwick (a.k.a. The Nerdist) on one of your entertainment machines at some point in the last few years.
He’s done voice work, hosting, acting, and comedy in media both mainstream and obscure. For the last couple years he has focused on growing his own brand of “Nerdist” entertainment, centered around the critically acclaimed podcast of the same name that he does with comedians Jonah Ray and Matt Mira. This micro-empire now spans over a dozen other podcasts, a YouTube channel, a BBC America show, and a comedic self-help that teaches how to make your inner nerd work for you, not against you.
What stands out about Hardwick is not his love of geek culture, nor his love of sharing it, but his love of other geeks and nerds (or “creative obsessives” as he tends to call them). It’s big-tent nerd herding and it is a welcome tonic to the clannish, adversarial, and frequently aimless beat-downs that web-users seem to constantly serve one another. The fact is, nerds are custom built for the best kind of arguing (passionate, earnest, personal), while the internet is custom built for the worst kind (spiteful, cynical, anonymous). To make matters worse, both nerds and the internet are custom built for one another. This creates a social space where the natural and reasonable inclination is to interact with people who have similar interests, but the inevitable reality is that all too often these interactions turn antagonistic at the drop of a hat. Hardwick seems to understand that arguing can be awesome, but fighting is at best useless, and at worst self-destructive.
We need to debate who would kill Edward faster, Blade or Buffy. We need to calculate how many tenths of a second Joffrey Baratheon would survive in the Hunger Games. We need to consider which members of the Justice League would hook up with which Avengers. These discussions need to be heated, heartfelt, and agonizingly exhaustive. Geeks and nerds should never lose sight of the wonderful, provocative, and wholly pointless arguments that are at the heart of our many overlapping genres, but the second these arguments become real; the second anyone, anywhere starts to actually attach significance to the outcome, these conflicts become a poison to be purged from the bloodstream immediately.
The Nerdist’s brand of sincere geek-love is just the sort of inoculation that is useful against this sort of toxic environment.
From Yoda to Dumbledore, Gandalf to Spock, the chronicles of fantasy and sci-fi are filled with the wise old master whose wisdom challenges the impetuous and unskilled to temper their passion with wisdom and to face evil without falling prey to its call. It’s fair to say that the Nerdist probably has a few decades to go before he’s really in the same ballpark, but all the same he may just be geekmanity’s last, best hope for the future. (…or he might just be a former host of Singled Out who’s great at self promotion.)
Oh, and by the way, who would win in a fight: JarJar Binks or Dobby the house elf?