Embrace Nerds, Reject Sports, Be Cool

I tend to think of skateboarders and starving artists as already pretty well established in terms of subcultural/countercultural cachet. Apparently, using terms like “nerd” and “dork” can signal them as even more eager to be known as outsiders. At the Art Dorks website, Chris Mostyn explains this artist collective’s name and approach (link via Boing Boing):

Dorks. Isn’t that derogatory? Not from where I’m standing. A dork, nerd, geek, weirdo, whatever, is someone who doesn’t fit into a cleanly defined mold of what a person should be in our culture. It is someone that is usually looked down on for not living up to a standard of normalcy. […] We all share a love of drawing and whether we make monsters or meat, robots or rabbits, it is work that revels in and celebrates growing up in a pop-culture, sci-fi, kung-fu cornucopia of a culture. We make what we know, and what we know is that life is not always normal. It doesn’t always wear name brand clothes, drink light beer and watch Monday night football. It’s just life.

Meanwhile, Skate Nerd similarly positions its subculture in opposition to sports, the archetypical pastime (I infer) of the conformist mainstream. As one t-shirt explains, “If I thought skateboarding was a sport, I never would have started.”

Both of these examples also suggest something that I haven’t really seen addressed yet in academic research on fan cultures and media subcultures (but if you have seen it, please let me know). That is, how do people actually get involved in their interests in the first place? Not just the “moment of epiphany” that I’ve read in some fans’ accounts, but what was going on in the skate nerds’ lives when they “started” skating (unaware that it would later come to be associated with mainstream sports—ironically, largely thanks to Tony Hawk, who also helped mainstream the video game)? What was so relevant to the Art Dorks about “growing up in a pop-culture, sci-fi, kung-fu cornucopia” that made them want to include this in their art?

Just thinking out loud today—no quick answers, but comments are welcome at any point. I’ll be checking out Rejuvenile from the library tomorrow (also brought to my attention by Boing Boing), which will probably offer some food for thought on kids’ culture continuing to engage adults.