The Most Meaningless Nerd Insult

Just a brief musing today.

As I was rewatching Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace today for a special podcast episode that will be revealed soon, I had reason to think about what’s become the most meaningless nerd insult.


20 years ago, as I was in the odd position of having to defend a Star Wars film, I was called “fanboy.” It was a word meant to degrade someone’s reaction as less objective than others. A “fanboy” is someone so steeped in the culture of their preferred franchise(s), they’re incapable of honest reaction.

I’m aware that calling someone a “fanboy” now isn’t inclusive enough of the ladies, but I mean no offense. Whatever current form it’s now taken (fanperson? fanbeing?), the traditional insult is “fanboy.” If there’s an updated form, feel free to let me know.

You could say that Marvel movie fans are in this camp right about now, as each release is immediately categorized and cataloged purely within the context of its relation to the other releases. I call it “Grading on a Curve.”

Either way, the term took an odd twist and became truly versatile in the short span between the release of Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Those who were critical of The Last Jedi were called “fanboys.” Those who loved Solo were called “fanboys.” It came to mean someone who was both excessively critical and excessively forgiving of a franchise release.

It’s made the term “fanboy” truly versatile. Unfortunately, it’s also made it so versatile as to have broken it. Now it’s as weak an insult as calling someone an “idiot.” It’s so relative as to be useless as a universal measure.

When people insulted me for liking The Phantom Menace, the term “fanboy” was something mean and dismissive. When vicious assaults were launched from places like Ain’t It Cool News the term was the signal flare of sneering distaste from the self-appointed tastemakers of nerd culture.

What a weird time to live through a term’s most vicious cycle and the moment during which it lost meaning. It’s got to be some sort of record.

And to think it all seems to have happened within the same franchise lifespan!