Nerd Hierarchy

Part of the Anti-Moé Brigade’s agenda is to keep moé fans in a position of contempt with regards to the rest of the fandom. Indeed, moé is “sexist,” “creepy,” and “pedophilic,” so fans of moé must be sexist, creepy pedophiles. Nobody wants to associate themselves with sexist, creepy pedophiles. Sexist, creepy pedophiles belong outside the fandom. Moreover, they belong below the rest of the fandom. This is the Nerd Hierarchy.

The Nerd Hierarchy is an interesting concept. At its core, it centers on the idea of instilling a sense of “class structure” into a community based around a nerdy hobby, such as gaming or anime. Naturally, Nerd Hierarchy advocates are almost invariably out to place themselves in positions higher than other groups of nerds, and are often out to get nerds they find “acceptable” on-board with ostracizing (at best) and vilifying (at worst) nerds on lower rungs of the ladder.

Appearing as sort of the antithesis of the “nerd pride ‘movement’” that’s been gaining traction over the past few years is this “movement” of nerd denigration, in which nerds disparage other nerds for being too nerdy. It’s a strange thought process that seems preoccupied with pleasing general society, the same general society that so vehemently rejects nerds and nerdy hobbies. In a way, it feels like some people have forgotten where they came from, and, rather than stand with fellow nerds and show people in our own way that we’re not all bad, choose to stand against fellow nerds and show that they, too, can be that jerk from highschool and hate on nerds.

The Nerd Hierarchy concept, as employed by the Anti-Moé Brigade, seeks to turn the anime fandom at large against the moé fandom.

These people support moé and moé is killing anime!

It’s also for pedos!

And it’s creepy!

And misogynistic!

Thus pathologizing moé fans and discouraging them from participating in fandom. Moreover, it encourages moé fans to further wall themselves off from fandom and not participate in the moé discussion. To people seeking a legitimate dialogue about moé, this is a bad thing. A dialogue about such a contentious topic is only effective if it includes as many perspectives as possible. For the Anti-Moé Brigade, however, this is fine, as it allows them to spread their viewpoint unopposed.

I will continue to repeat this until everyone understands it:

“We all share a passion for the same medium and many of the same activities. However, a number of us need to be reminded that what we do and enjoy is found by many to be childish, silly, or creepy. Therefore, it is important that we ultimately stick together as anime fans and not cut each other down because somehow your cartoons are better than my cartoons, his cartoons, or her cartoons.”

Nerd Hierarchy is something that was made up so nerds can make others feel bad about liking different things and, in doing so, elevate their own position relative to other nerds. Being a nerd isn’t a zero-sum game, but people who advocate for Nerd Hierarchy treat it like one. For them to gain self-esteem, other nerds must lose theirs.

We can all lift each other up. We don’t have to play this dumb game where we cut down people we should instead, at least on a basic level, be identifying with, in order to please whomever. Nerd Hierarchy is useless, as it parses fandom into levels of “cool” that only matter to people who already subscribe to the Nerd Hierarchy (Who, no doubt, put themselves on top.). These people aren’t cool to the rest of the fandom, nor are they particularly cool to people outside the fandom.

The mentality that these people promote is ultimately self-serving and quite honestly a cop-out. It’s not easy to stand in solidarity with people you don’t agree with and who like things you dislike. It’s much easier and more convenient to simply try to dismiss people you don’t like from the community.

After all, they’re just nerds, right? Since when did nerds deserve any respect?


Stay frosty.


18 thoughts on “Nerd Hierarchy”

  1. Bravo for an excellent post. As I’ve said in my blog, the Anti-Moe Brigade and other people in other fandoms with this behavior are, in my opinion, the worst kind of nerd. They view their hobbies as “serious business” instead of something fun that they happen to be passionate about. I’ve always been nerdy, and I have been bullied mercilessly by people in my school because I was different, had different opinions, and liked different things. Then I look at these “Nerd Hierarchy” people, and I see that they are no different than the bullies who picked on me (and maybe even them) at school. They claim to have nerd pride, then call anyone who is socially awkward and likes the same medium but in a different way to be lonely and pathetic losers with no life. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and is the major reason why I don’t like to go on the internet much anymore. These people don’t treat their fellow fans with any respect or human decency, and it’s disgusting.

  2. Nerd Hierarchy is terrible and people who buy into it are terrible. As drawinggirl mentioned, it’s nothing more than bullying someone because they’re a nerd in a way you don’t approve of and as someone who was once a victim of bullying too, I find this mindset and the behavior it encourages to be just disgusting.

    With that said, Nerd Hierarchy doesn’t just exist in the anime fandom. I’ve seen Nerd Hierarchy in other fanbases (movie fans and videogame fans to name a few). At the end of the day, Nerd Hierarchy is well, a nerd problem.

  3. There’s also arisen fandoms specifically to hate on other fandoms.

    Rather than enjoying what they enjoy and ignore what they don’t, they rather waste their time to make themselves feel good.

    It’d be like me having a blog specifically made to hate on western made FPS games, but I’m not going to do that because it’s not my business to tell others what they can and can’t enjoy.

  4. There is something in particular which bothers me about the whole Nerd Hierarchy thing, and that is it’s possible origins.

    With some of the people who propagate this ridiculousness, I believe that this form of bullying happens because of prior bulling. Some of the people who created this farce are people who themselves were pressured because of their hobbies and were made to feel ashamed of them, whether it be by their peers, their family or society at large. They are unable to throw aside what they love in their heart of hearts, but because of their insecurities they want to “legitimize” their hobbies so that peers/family/society will accept them. Nerd Hierarchy is a prime way of doing this, as they see it as the best way to expunge the “undesirables” that make them look bad by extension. With such a caste system, they can make themselves into the “Cool Geek” that they always wanted to be, still maintaining their hobbies but being “normal” enough to be accepted by people who don’t share their hobbies. And all one had to do is to become the very thing they once probably dreaded and become a bully themselves. In essence I feel that a good number of the people who propagate this petty bullshit are victims of bullying that, because of insecurities, extreme self loathing (as VZMkII would point out) and feeling the need to prove themselves to the world at large, become bullies and ostracize members of their fandom just as much as they were once ostracized themselves.

    As was pointed out by Niwa, Nerd Hierarchy is something that is present in all manner of fandoms, not just Anime. One can see this scenario in particular with the Video Game fandom. Rather infamously, the late Roger Ebert declared that Video Games are not art. To have an “Authority” on the arts such as him say such a thing to the medium that is the youngest by far compared to TV, Movies and Books and by extension the most unsure of itself, was not a good thing to hear to those in the Gaming community who wanted to “legitimize” Video Games by showing them as art. The result is more or less exactly as I describes, with the Indie crowd in particular exemplifying it. You have people like Jonathan Blow and Phil Fish decrying WoW as having immoral game design and saying that Japanese games suck, all the while saying Games have potential to be “More” and to explore the big questions in life. It is Nerd Hierarchy borne out of self-loathing which itself is borne from insecurity, and the fool’s errand that is proving something to people who will never accept it. It is both saddening and angering that instead of trying to find solidarity amongst people who share your interests, you turn to the very crowd which ostracized you in the first place and aid them in their peer pressure so as to call yourself one of them. As I said before, it maybe a sad situation, but it is also disgusting as well that you were too week to either stand on your own or find aid from like minded people.

    Now, I am aware that there are, in all likelihood, a good deal of people who create this Nerd Hierarchy simply because they are horrible people who simply feel the need to be superior due to something deep within, and will always be assholes. I however am not concentrating on them because if you are a dickwad simply to be a dickwad, then the only help to you is a swift dose of lead to the brain. I am more concerned about the people who propagate this farce who do so out of a need to “legitimize” their hobbies because although they are nothing but elitist assholes now, they have some (if however small) potential to change and it would be a wondrous thing if they could see the error of their ways.

    I am not holding my breath however.

  5. Apologies in advance, I’m running on about 3 or 4 hours sleep.

    This is something that needed to be said, full stop. The sheer bubbling cauldron levels of snark have poisoned any real discourse among fandom. I guess you could argue that, in some ways, we as a collective community are responsible for letting this kind of thing run rampant. I’ve been watching this stuff for around 17 years and whilst I won’t go as far to say that “things were less hostile back then,” uh, they kind of were. There was no social media providing anonymity for people to take advantage of in those days. Now, anyone with a library card and a vendetta against a “class” of fans can haphazardly bellow all day long about how their entitlements aren’t being met or how they aren’t being pampered enough compared to “X” people.

    Things haven’t changed one damned bit from just a few years ago when people were on ridiculous Internet crusades to rid the world of “undesirable” nerds. I think a lot of this stems from the “it’s cool to be a nerd” atmosphere that sprung up relatively recently. It’s reactionary. Anytime something niche-filled manages to wriggle it’s way through the jaws of the mainstream, the extremists come out of the woodwork. This is hardly an anime thing.

    I’ve always embraced my geeky interests even at the expense of furthering myself up the social ladder. Why deny myself to impress a bunch of people that don’t like me for being me? That kind of company has no personal value to impart.

    That was a fairly lengthy comment, but one that really does seemingly hit the nail on the head. How much of this behavior is symptomatic of insecurity, self-loathing, and willingness to jump on the groupthink express? This would make for an interesting/horrifying psychological study.

    1. There was a reason why I used to deny myself to impress others, but I really don’t want to go into that, as I’m not comfortable with sharing with the world about my inner turmoils. I can admit that I was wrong for doing that, but I was young and didn’t know any better. I’m still young and I don’t know any better. I’m still trying to learn a lot about how to be a better person and be more secure about my opinions and what I like, but I’ve found that it’s a journey that could take a lifetime.

  6. Thanks for writing this Anubis!

    It makes me really sad to see people just blindly hate on each other because the cartoons we watch are different, as if the cartoons define who we really are as human beings. Anime is entertainment, fantasy, escapism, not our political party or religion. No one should be judging anyone else because of what they watch; especially when they don’t even know the person they are talking down to personally.

    The Fall 2013 Anime Preview Guide’s thread on ANN perfectly illustrates the Nerd Hierarchy you discuss in this article. A few posters are putting other posters down and crying stuff like misogyny, woman hater, rape apologist, male power fantasy, etc… It makes me ill just reading some of the posts and Zac encourages this behavior with his snarky and often condescending replies! Do these people live and breathe schadenfreude or something? I mean what benefit is there to calling the fans of a show sexist or something else derogatory? Do they think people will nod in agreement and say “yup, you got me! I’m sexist and hate women! What gave me away… oh right the anime I watch”. No constructive conversation starts with an accusation that someone is a horrible human being for watching certain anime shows. Japan does not read these posts nor would they care about them one iota if they were reading them. Japan does NOT make shows for these “fans” but for the otaku in Japan who actually buy their merchandise. There’s no constructive reason to discuss things like perceived misogyny in anime when you are not a part of the actual demographic that Japanese anime companies are targeting with their shows.

    So if these people want to actually be constructive and not contribute to Nerd Hierarchy, then they should just stop watching the new anime that pisses them off and stick to the older shows they love. The trouble, I fear, is most of these individuals act selfishly to bolster their own ego at the expense of others, like you posit Anubis. I look forward to the day we can just watch anime again and stop bashing each other with stupid and incredibly pointless arguments. I’m at the point I’m drastically reducing my time on ANN just because things are so toxic there now, sigh. Thankfully there’s still other anime websites I can frequent where people treat others with respect and encourage constructive discussions, like this one.

  7. I found out this blog a short time ago, and I find it quite interesting to read constructive defense of moe. For the first time, I fell like reacting to something.

    While I do agree that trying to enforce a hierarchy among nerds and dismissing someone for what he likes is abusive and should not be tolerated, I’m under the impression that most people here are accusing of this any person criticizing what they like.

    I am sure there is legitimate cases of bullying, but how the hell is solely debating an opinion that can be qualified as “elitist” immediately a personal attack on a given group of nerds?

    If people want to or think it’s important to debate sexism and others subjects in a media, that’s their right (and it’s not like they never explain why it feels important to them). If you ask someone who did nothing to you to shut up and to stop consummate the same media as you because you feel threaten by their opinions, then you are the insecure bully who goes against discussion in fandom.

    And before people get angry at me, let me tell you something about me: I have been on both side of the fence, and bullied each time by the other group. I have been bullied for defending moe, and I have been bullied for criticizing fanservice. In the latter case, I have even been bullied by the same person who previously defended me from bullying in the former case! I know better than anyone what being bullied in a fandom means, and I can tell you two things: your group is not the only one suffering from bullying (far from it), and you are perpetuating it to others groups if you try to prevent them from discussing their favorite media the way they want to.

    If you want to really feel better than the people who you feel are toxic to you, then you can do the following things:
    – Don’t perpetuate the vicious cycle by being toxic to them.
    – Try to put yourself in their shoes sometimes.
    – Try to open your mind to new and different ideas, and take them into consideration, even if you don’t agree with them.
    There is no other way for sane discussion between opposed opinions to happen, and for the different sub-groups of the fandom to live in peace with each other. To preach rejection leads only to more bullying.

    1. Here’s the thing, and it comes back to this all the time: The problem is not that people criticize media we enjoy. The problem is that we feel that the media we enjoy was never given a fair shake in the first place and that, when people condemn it for being pedophilic, creepy, and misogynistic, they’re not looking to have a discussion about it, they’re just looking to condemn that media, and often parts of that media’s fandom with it.

      Nobody’s telling anyone to shut up and only watch the anime I like. This is not and never was about that. This is about the pathologization of one group of nerds in order to make them look bad and make other groups look good.

      Nobody is trying to prevent discussion. In fact, discussion is what I want to encourage because that’s the only way a lot of these problems are going to be solved. What I want to prevent is people saying disgusting things like “Fans of Anime X are pedophiles,” or people deriding other nerds because they wear trillbies, or people calling other people autistic or “aspies” based on the media they like, or people insisting that all moé fans are hardcore conservatives, or people creating websites predicated completely on the concept of making fun of nerds who say things you don’t like.

      This goes way past “This person doesn’t like what I like, he/she must be trying to install a nerd hierarchy.” This is “This person portrays me as a horrible person in order to make me and people who like the same things as me feel bad about ourselves, to make other nerds hate us, and to make themselves look better.” That kind of despicable behaviour is what I stand against, and to say that it’s just a difference in media preference is a gross oversimplification, and completely misrepresents the issue.

  8. Dude awesome post, I am so happy I found this. Would you mind if I use the following quote

    “We all share a passion for the same medium and many of the same activities. However, a number of us need to be reminded that what we do and enjoy is found by many to be childish, silly, or creepy. Therefore, it is important that we ultimately stick together as anime fans and not cut each other down because somehow your cartoons are better than my cartoons, his cartoons, or her cartoons.”

    For a blog I am writing for, I will link to this page in the post and quote you. I had a fall out with a community of fans, that I had a part of for years, got called a self-hating fanboy and a bunch of other stuff. Which is fine, but it made me start to dislike anime fandom in general and then I found your site.


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