Earlier this week, I saw a video from Denver ComicCon in 2014. I'm kind of surprised I hadn't seen it until now. Wil Wheaton, mainly of Star Trek fame, answers a question from a young girl about how Wheaton dealt with being called a "nerd" in his younger years. You can watch the full answer here. It's remarkably powerful for only being a few minutes long.
Maybe it just resonates with me since I've felt that struggle. I've been called a nerd or a geek throughout my life. I have always been a huge fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones and superheroes, and I often brought it up in conversation. As a kid, though, I found that some people thought that what I liked wasn't cool, and therefore I wasn't cool. It used to bother me. I never understood what I was doing wrong that caused other kids to call me names. Before I found that a lot of people like the same things that I do, I wondered if I was somehow different in a bad way. As time passed, though, I realized that everyone is entitled to like different things, and it's those differences that make people unique.
Even knowing this, hearing Wheaton's response was remarkably moving. Perhaps it was the fact that it came from Wil Wheaton, an actor who played a character on Star Trek: The Next Generation, one of my favorite shows ever, made it especially meaningful to me. Whatever the reason, I think this three-minute sound-byte has some real relevance.
Wheaton's point is easy to understand: other people shouldn't tell you what you should or should not like. Different people find different things appealing, and that's okay. People should not be judged based on what they like or what they find enjoyable. There is nothing wrong with someone gaining joy out of something, even if you yourself don't like it. That's why there is a variety of entertainment in this world: not everyone likes the same things as everyone else, but there is something for everyone. As someone who grew up hearing that things that I was a fan of weren't cool and that I should be an outcast because of that, I understand where the girl asking the question is coming from. Wil Wheaton understands where she is coming from; there are probably a lot of people of varying ages that completely understand the problem that this girl is facing. She just wants to know how to deal with other people making fun of her for what makes her happy. And Wheaton is absolutely right; you should not have to apologize to anyone for what makes you happy. I think that people who like things typically associated with "nerd culture" know how much it hurts to be picked on.
"It gets better," is probably the best three words a child can hear from Wesley Crusher. He's right again; once people get older, they tend to not make fun of people for something as trivial as what TV shows or movies they find entertaining. In fact, nerds have it especially good. There are a lot of people who love the same things this child does. ComicCon is one of the largest annual gatherings of people in the world, and they're all hopeless nerds. But they embrace it and support each other. For a child to hear and see that the bullying does go away is so very comforting to them.
This is not to discount the rest of his statement, however. His answer is some of the most eloquent language I have ever heard to simultaneously answer a child's question, reassure them that things will get better, and tell them that it's okay to be different in general. Hearing Wil Wheaton say this made me proud to be a nerd, and I hope more kids see this video. At the end of the day, we're all just people who enjoy different things. So let's not shame others for what they like, even if it's different than what we like.