Reclaiming nerdiness: The Hermione effect

Image credit: pezibear

She is a minor character in every teen movie: the bespectacled, braces-wearing girl who is never seen without a pile of books behind which she can hide her apparent physical and social inadequacies. The lazy stereotype of the ‘book nerd’ is the reason so many young readers feel ashamed of enjoying reading, and choose to pass it over for other, more acceptable pursuits. She is not useful or interesting in and of herself; her only purpose is to help the popular girls achieve success in their own storyline, as in Little Mix’s ‘Black Magic’ music video. All we see of her are brief glimpses in the library or the hallway of the filmic American high school, where she is evidently uncomfortable, perhaps as a result of the merciless bullying which she receives.

And yet, I have noticed a reclamation of the ‘book nerd’, a resurrection of the stereotype which defies the shame and embarrassment which the trope once engendered. In no small part, this is thanks to characters like Hermione, who own their perceived ‘nerdiness’ as an essential quality which defines their own personalities.

Hermione didn’t make reading cool; it’s always been cool, whether the masses have seen it as such or not. Rather, she made the pursuit for knowledge both desirable and useful. It is Hermione who knows how to make a Polyjuice potion (or, rather, knows where to find the recipe); it is Hermione who is bold enough to plumb the depths of the restricted section of the library; it is Hermione who has the foresight to charm her bag so that she can fit everything which the trio needs into it, in the event of an attack by the Death Eaters.

A growing trend on social media (or at least, on mine, which may be rather biased by algorithms, whatever they may be and however they work) is the reclamation of the term ‘book nerd’. It no longer implies someone who you wouldn’t sit with at lunch, for fear of being tarred with the same ignorant brush. Rather, it defines a category of bibliophiles who are boldly asserting their love for imaginary worlds. It also serves the purpose of binding those people together through a shared identity on social media and the internet as a whole; we know where to find each other, now that we know what to call each other.

The repossession of the term ‘book nerd’ as a mantle which we are proud to wear will, hopefully, inspire a generation of parents who instil the value of reading in their children; and, if that doesn’t work, introducing children to Harry Potter will prove the existence of magic to them in both the literal and figurative senses of the world.

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