It’s been a frantic few weeks in nerd culture. The Marvel Cinematic Universe wrapped up more than 10 years of story build-up with Avengers: Endgame. Game of Thrones concluded after eight seasons on HBO. And the nerd-centric sitcom The Big Bang Theory closed up shop on CBS after more than a decade on the air. What makes all these events so notable, though, is that they aren’t the niche interests they might have been 20 years ago. Avengers: Endgame is going to make around $3 billion worldwide. Game of Thrones was the biggest appointment-viewing event on television. The Big Bang Theory went a little quieter in its 12th season, but spent much of its run as the most popular sitcom on television. Nerd culture, as so many people have pointed out over the past decade, is really just popular culture at this point.

But where does that leave portrayals of nerds in popular culture? With nerd stuff consumed by tens of millions of people, even defining “nerd” has become tricky. It’s commonly come to mean someone with an above-average level of interest or expertise in any number of subjects, from pop-culture fandom to the ins and outs of brewing beer to sports. But that sounds suspiciously like a description of any human being with interests and / or leisure time. Even so, the on-screen version of nerdery has hung around. The Big Bang Theory used a fairly broad, traditional definition — aficionados of both real and fictional sciences, sometimes socially inept — that somehow felt condescending and flattering at the same time. Plenty of movies have done worse. (Think of Pixels, trying to refashion Adam Sandler’s usual regular-schlub persona as a nerdy underdog.) So, for that matter, has real life, with toxic fandom revealing plenty of rage and male entitlement below that nerdy-underdog exterior.

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