The Three Episode Expert: Examining Competitive Fandom and the Quest for Coolness

Fandom often feels like a race to who is the biggest tantrum-throwing train wreck. We have gatekeepers, Sofa Soldiers, Keyboard Warriors, The Armchair Army (I could go on forever, baby). And all of them want to prove one singular thing– that they are truly fans of said franchise, you are not, and here’s all of the swollen lexiconic reasons why you are an inauthentic shit heap and they are correct. Hooray, taking part in your own abuse is fun!

But within this back and forth that is the ever so pleasant fan base of a certain thing, there is one person who stands out. And today on PopLurker, I am going to coin them “The Three Episode Expert“.

At first glance, you might say to yourself, “The Three Episode Expert? Isn’t that just a ‘Fake Nerd’?” This is a fair and valid question, but I’m here today to help you understand the differences. But first, a little subjective breakdown on the headspace of the deep dive fan of… anything.

Back in the day before “Nerd Culture” was Pop Culture, many of us lonely children and teenagers were, to put it bluntly, bullied for our hobbies. Sure, there were some TV shows and book series that transcended to the Normies and if you liked said piece of media, you were Regular and Good and therefore accepted into the human populous without scrutiny. Like of course you watch this thing– all regular people do. But then, you had the things that well….only nerds liked. Such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Batman, anime, comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, fucking cartoons at one point in time, man. Reading. Drawing. Playing with toys, dolls, or action figures anywhere after age 10. Anything creative. For wearing a Marvel or DC shirt. Depending on where you were located, some of these things were plug and play, and the degree of nerdism varied depending on whether the douchebag in front of you thought WWF wrestling was fun or for geeks.

Wrestling has always been a variable.

Thus, with this ostracizing and overall lonely feelings associated with the stories we love, it’s understandable for long-time fans to feel some bitterness that all of a sudden, in the not-too-distant-future, it’s hip and cool to enjoy what for the longest time was labeled as Nerd Shit. This “jock” over here today is applauded for his Captain American shirt when you were shot down for your Justice League one. Toy Collecting is cool now when not too long ago, The 40-Year Old Virgin told us that Mint in Box collectors were losers. And that girl over there is deemed sexy for her big glasses and anime shirt when you… I… were… was… declared unfuckable for yours…. mine.

Trust, I get it, fam. Therefore in that bitterness, in that anger, in that trauma of the past, we declare others who were spared our suffering as Fake Nerds. People who grab onto a trend, according to our limited knowledge and judgmental definition. So, no– being a “Fake Nerd” isn’t the worst sort of nerd because the parameters of the definition are limited to what the person judging or labeling the “Fake Nerd” are. It’s a one-sided decision stemmed from a place of insecurity or bitterness.

That’s not to say that the person labeling another as a “Fake Nerd” isn’t correct sometimes. I’m sure that your plastic princesses and their toy collecting tits just loooooooooooove NECA and are just soooooooooooo eager for your… ahem… friendship. OnlyFans links are below and presents can be sent to my P.O. Box.

But with the Three Episode Expert, which is not simply a “Fake Nerd”, the practitioner is lying to themselves. You know you have no fucking clue what you’re talking about. You know you only give mild numbers of shits about whatever the thing is, and for one reason or another, you’ve decided that lying about the depths of your interest is worth being in some loser bullshit club that at the end of the day is irrelevant.

Let’s break down my definition of what the Three Episode Expert is. We will do it using a spoken scenario– everyone loves dialogue.

Person A: “Hey! I love that G.I. Joe shirt you’re wearing. I can’t believe you’re a fan. I thought I was the only one!”

Person B: “Oh dude, I’ve been a fan forever. Yeah, my favorite show and toy line ever.” ::turns to Person C:: “What about you? You like nerd stuff– are you a G.I. Joe fan?”

Person C: “Are you kidding? I looooooooooooooove G.I. Joe. I’ve been watching it forever!”

::In a panic, Person C rushes home, hoping that G.I. Joe is accessible on YouTube because truthfully, it’s a franchise they detested as a kid and never paid attention to. But the nerd community is suddenly G.I. Joe crazy, and therefore to be part of the club, to be cool, to be viewed as an authority or not to lose clout as a Nerd Who Does Nerd Shit, said person quickly consumes three episodes of G.I. Joe and quotes moments or anecdotes from these episodes casually as though they were a long time fan::

Plug and play G.I. Joe with anything else– Power Rangers, Transformers, whatever the hottest anime or cartoon series is, and so on.

Being a Three Episode Expert is a dangerous game– you’re teetering a fine line. You’ve placed yourself on a trapeze and the moment you let yourself falter and admit that you don’t know everything about everything, you’re going to be found out. You’re going to fall. And no one is putting themselves up against this bullshit wall– it’s you. You have such fear of missing out, such fear of not being in the club, such fear of being dismissed that you will be a Three Episode Expert of a thousand insignificant things.

From my experience, (and again, my reality is subjective the same as your reality is to you) the Three Episode Expert is used to being the nerdiest person that everyone knows. Back in high school, you were probably the resident geek. (Like, dork-type, not biting off chickens heads type). You likely took pride as being the guy people came to when they needed to know something about a comic book series. You were probably the cute nerd girl that hot dudes made blow them at the park at night and never told anyone that it happened afterward. You embraced your role as this Dorkthority and in your small fish pond, you didn’t need to know more than what you were sincerely interested in.

But when the stakes are raised and you’re suddenly a small fish in a huge pond and there will always be someone nerdier and more knowledgeable that you, you take it upon yourself to pretend you know everything about every pop culture thing, by consuming a very tiny amount of it and declaring yourself a long-time fan and expert. I’ve seen Three Episode Experts literally look at some artwork of a Gundam series and pretend they’ve seen the entire show.

I learned very early on in my pop culture writing career that there is no way I can consume content as fast as many of my contemporaries. I don’t power blast things for the sake of making a review video, and I’m a parent whose time isn’t wholly my own. And that’s all good– I personally still managed to carve a niche for myself within nostalgia, toys, and my… convictional reactions to the shit I see around me using colorful language punctuated by vulgar insults. When I began pitching articles to various publications in 2015, I did feel that sense of insecurity– I thought if I didn’t know everything, no one would read my work. I thought if I didn’t present myself as sexy, no one would want to follow me. And that if I didn’t present myself like a dick-warming-party-favor, I would have nothing to add the conversation. But I quickly realized I was wrong, and that by writing what I know, the voice is so much more authentic and the pressure of having to be good at everything simply isn’t there. This prevented me from being a faker, a poser, a Three Episode Expert. But if I didn’t have that integrity and the desire to not have to keep up some psychotic façade, I fear I could have slipped into the terrible Three Episode Expert personality type. As a teenager, I probably was one, too.

To quote one of my favorite motivational speakers Lisa BilyeuYou don’t like everyone, so why does everyone need to like you?” This is the core lesson that will set The Three Episode Expert free. Don’t worry so much about having to be the best at everything. Just get it done. Handle business, love what you love, hustle the hustle, and don’t worry about impressing fans or having to prove your fandom all the time. Open a dialogue and tell the truth– either “Oh, I’ve heard of that but didn’t watch it (maybe you were a kid at the time when the thing was popular or it passed out of your interest radar!) can you tell me more about it?” And then once you’re aware of its existence, let it join the collective– you don’t have to suddenly be the biggest fan of it. Just be regular. Don’t be the worst kind of fan. It takes a lot of energy.

Because in the words of Lisa Bilyeu:

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