Sunday, July 14, 2024

A definitive ranking of the years in my nerdy life

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That thing happened over the weekend where people gave me gifts to commemorate that time I took my first breath free of amniotic fluid twenty-seven years ago. To me, this birthday officially sounds like a “long” time to have existed. It also sounds like that age where I’m really supposed to have my life figured out. But instead of worrying about that, I’ve decided instead to celebrate the wild ride that has shaped me into the bizarrely analytical geek that I am today. To do so, I have definitively ranked each year I lived based on its nerdy merits.

  1. 1999

Is 10 too early to be a cynic? I hope not, because this was the official year the wool was pulled from my eyes. I have mostly George Lucas to thank for that, with the release of The Phantom Menace. Hopefully this is self-explanatory. This film taught me what true disappointment is. It also caused me to be embarrassed on behalf of all other 10-year-olds, thanks to Jake Lloyd.

However, secondarily, this was also the year that the “Rock Raiders” Lego sets were released, a premise so profoundly stupid I’m not even sure it’s worth explaining. Maybe they were trying to make mining sexy again? If so, a rock monster is totally not the way to go about it:

I remember my brother and I laughing a good deal, but it was also the moment I where I suddenly understand the dark face of consumerism.

I guess the year wasn’t a total loss? Friends peaked with “The One Where Ross Got High,” an episode I still rewatch every Thanksgiving.


  1. 1989

In some ways, the year where I wasn’t even self-aware should probably rank the lowest, right? But then again, it also didn’t disappoint.

I don’t think Year 0 did much in the way of seeding my nerdy predilections, even if 1989 is truly the greatest on earth:

From what I’m told though, it involved a lot of watching The Little Mermaid on repeat, at my brother and sister’s request. Then they’d try to get me to recite Flounder’s lines and become incredibly frustrated with me when I’d inevitably fail. But at least there were no Star Wars prequels back then…


  1. 2010

2010 was not a year without its merits. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1) came out, slightly restoring my faith in movie adaptations, for instance. Of course this was also the same year that The Last Airbender was released, so…

But while I could pretend that my reason for 2010’s low performance on this list is the result of the pseudo-intellectualism with no rewatch value dominating the box office (Inception and Black Swan, looking at you), there was only one event that occurred which I took into consideration: Lost’s conclusion.

I had sunk six good years of my life into this show…and not just watching, but actually participating in the “fandom” and theory crafting; blowing off my studies so that I could argue whether the four toed statue was Taweret or Sobek. Guess what? None of it mattered at all because Lost was the ultimate “long con.” I could go on, but my blood still boils. Not okay. To the sin bin with you.


  1. 2012

2012 was the year I finished my Masters program and tried to pretend I was an adult by picking up shows like The Good Wife and Newsroom while ignoring the geek renaissance ushered in by the Avengers. It did not go super well. This was also the year I went through a bad breakup and binge-watched Smallville as a response. Then to end on a real stinker, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was my Christmas movie.

Yeah…I could do without a repeat.


  1. 1998

As I noted before, I didn’t know true disappointment until I was 10. But at 9, I began to suspect something was amiss with the release of the Rugrats movie. Why tamper with such a good formula? Also, Seinfeld ended, which was, in many ways, my third parent. I’m still not sure I’ve recovered.


  1. 1990

I’m pretty sure the majority of this year was spent with my siblings making fun of me for not being able to locate Waldo in his riveting “Fantastic Journey.” But like, how miserable could I have been?


  1. 2008

There was actually a lot decent about 2008, even if it is finding itself near the bottom of this list. For one, The Office hit its peak with the perfect “Dinner Party” episode. The Dark Knight was also released, which was good, you know? Objectively good. Even if it cannibalized all conversation and ushered in an era of fog-horns sound in all action trailers.

But sadly for me, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King was released, and with it went my sophomore year grades. So totally worth it for that “Undying” title, though.


  1. 2011

I’ll be honest with you, 2011 was the year that I marched in commencement on a Monday and began grad school on that Tuesday. I didn’t have a ton of time to nerd out, though I did pull a solidarity all-nighter in the library (after my finals had finished) and spent it playing Super Mario 64 on a rom with WASD as my movement keys.

Let’s see…the Harry Potter movies ended, and as much as those felt up and down to me, it was hard not to get emotional. Game of Thrones also aired, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t immediately sucked in and excited. I was a sweet summer child ¯\_(シ)_/¯.

Yet the reason this year isn’t quite the middle of the pack is that I was also made to do that thing all tiny gays do where I watched all of The L Word to you know, keep up on “the discourse.” Not only was that show just not very good, but it was very difficult to find through illegal means. I want my money back.


  1. 1993

So at age 4, I still wasn’t allowed to play with kool kids toy, but I did have pretty sweet motor skills. Which meant a whole lot of blocks. But here’s the thing: my 8-year-old brother would always insist on building Tenochtitlan. You know…the ancient Aztec altepetl. So I’d help him build this long row leading up to a pyramid, which would of course have a sacrificial altar at the top.

All of this would have been fine, but he insisted on sacrificing the mailman from our Fisher Price “main street” set.

So…definitely helped shape my love of the bizarre, I will say that.

I think I also rewound my Aladdin VHS a lot? It was a wash.


  1. 2000

In 2000, I was in Middle School hell. Everything is terrible in Middle School. I think it’s a rule. In terms of media that stuck with me, all I remember is finally watching Cruel Intentions, and seeing Buffy in such a manner infinitely confused me. What were these feelings? Damn if I figured it out for another decade.

However, the reason 2000 ranks in the middle-ish of the pack, is that I have very fond memories of how I rang in the new year. Keep in mind: Y2K panic. My brother and I decided to take refuge in our basement, where we also took it upon ourselves to construct the set of Goldeneye in Legos. Not Goldeneye, mind you. The set. As if the Lego people were producing the 1995 movie. We even had a key grip.


  1. 2009

2009 was where I realized that WoW tanked my grades, so I should probably focus on those newfangled engineering course thingies. However, it was also the start of Parks and Rec (I’m a sucker for any mockumentary), and a love interest introduced me to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Maybe sitcoms aren’t the “worthiest” media in geek culture, but they’re damn enjoyable.


  1. 1991

Idk man. I just feel like 2 was probably fine. Sesame Street taught me not only the letter “B,” but a pretty sweet Beatles song.


  1. 2003

2003 was quite the middling year for me. On one hand, the OC premiered and for some reason in my addled teenage state, I felt the need to watch. However, on the other hand, Lord of the Rings: Return King made me so excited that I watched its trailer on repeat in my Beginning Web Design class (coincidentally, my only “B” in high school). Plus Homestarrunner was sweeping the nation, which is never a bad time.

It was also when those weird feelings of mine intensified. You see, Pirates of the Caribbean was released, and I rushed to the theaters due to my love for Legolas. Somehow I left no longer finding Orlando Bloom attractive. It was all the wig, man.


  1. 2006

In terms of nerdiness, this year was nothing to write home about. Unless High School Musical is now niche enough? But I didn’t listen it. Nope. Okay I did, but it was just on my workout playlist.

However, this was the golden era of comical TV, in my mind. And by that I mean it was the year I started watching South Park, Family Guy (boy did that tank), and The Daily Show. Which yes, I was l late to the party for all of them, but I like to think it’s how I really honed my snark.


  1. 1992

1992 is totally deserving of its middle spot. And not just because Seinfeld (my third parent) hit its hay day with “The Contest” (which yes, I did watch. At three.). No, it was mostly because this was the year I began to read. The first thing I ever read was the back of a Brain Quest box. I like to think this was the moment I became a book snob.


  1. 2007

What’s to even say about this year? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. I bought my own copy despite my family owning two others, and finished it in the span of three days. Then I sat in a corner while my friends held a poker tournament, crying in disbelief. Then I reread it.

I can’t say that the ending of the franchise felt as thematically satisfying to me as say, Legend of Korra, but that experience of being so invested in something and seeing it through is pretty unforgettable.


  1. 1995

Man, this was a good year to be a nerd. For one, my brother was introduced to the King’s Quest game series by a mentor, and it’s all anyone in my house played. I also got way into Risk, the board game. Great way to learn geography. And then to cap it off, I started reading a pretty sweet book series based on Clue (that board game). Sure, my television was basically limited to Rugrats, but there’s much worse ways to pass the time than solving the Cliffs of Logic.


  1. 2013

I have nothing but fond memories of 2013. However, there were a few shows that were not in their strongest season, Legend of Korra and The Office especially. Even if the latter did manage to somehow break a fifth wall. It was creepy.

The good news was that this was the year Orange is the New Black and House of Cards came out on Netflix, which were not only both quite enjoyable, but showed a lot of promise for television moving forward. And then after recovering from a night of bad decisions, I binge-watched all of Orphan Black and fell in love with Tatiana Maslany. But to be fair, who hasn’t?


  1. 2005

In some ways, I was tempted to rank 2005 a bit lower, because Revenge of the Sith came out, and a few of my friends actually enjoyed it. Which was…disillusioning, to say the least. It made me question things in a much different way than Sarah Michelle Gellar.

However, it was also the year that Half Blood Prince was published, which fight me, it’s my favorite. And wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, as I was putting in a load of laundry, I turned on my television that happened to be set to Nickelodeon. I was treated to the scene of Uncle Iroh telling Zuko that he needed his duck before he could teach him the next set. And that was how I started watching Avatar: The Last Airbender.


  1. 1997

Dudes. I don’t think I can pinpoint the exact moment I became comfortable calling myself “a nerd,” but sitting in the movie theater 45 minutes early, wearing my R2-D2 shirt, and bouncing up and down from excitement at the mere prospect of seeing The Empire Strikes Back might come pretty close.

This was the year that the three original Star Wars films were remastered and released to theaters, like, one month apart I think. And that was my first time seeing them Needless to say, the rest of the year was spent collecting as many action figures as possible. Which wasn’t made easy by the fact that my mom got me a “Death Star gunner” instead of Darth Vader.


  1. 2004

I expressed my disappointment over the ending to Lost, but there’s gotta be endings, or there wouldn’t be beginnings (right?). And I really do think there’s a lot to say about the beginning to Lost. This was my first introduction to a “fandom” of any kind. I signed up for the 4-8-15-16-23-42 forums and fell down the theory-crafting rabbit hole quickly.

And suffice it to say, had I not fallen down that rabbit hole, I likely never would have jumped into the multiple whirlpools I’m currently enjoying.

  1. 1994

This was when I turned five and my parents decided I probably wouldn’t swallow Legos. Aaand, that’s what I did for the rest of the year. Though I should note that my first set was slightly problematic:

Maybe it just armed me to critique the Noble Savage trope later in life?


  1. 2015

Last year was a good year for nerds. Really good. I’m talking Steven Universe basically exploding, Jessica Jones demonstrating that heavy subjects can handled with an impactful sensitivity, and uh…the force kind of woke up. And destroyed me.

But the mere fact that a Jonas Brother wannabe in a bathrobe that revealed chest hair was put on my screen and called “Trystane Martell” keeps 2015 from claiming a top spot. Or the fact that this show was then showered in awards…I won’t belabor the point.


  1. 2001

I may have begun to read at three, but it really was Harry Potter that turned me into that person who always carried around a book. However, being a bby hipster or something, I refused to read the franchise until 2001, when the movie was coming out and the hype was so unavoidable that there was actually a social cost to not reading.

It was a good decision; I ended up finishing all four published books in the span of two months.


3, 1996

I may not have been calling myself a “nerd” yet, but I think 1996 speaks for itself. I got so hugely into Greek mythology that I heavily considered taking it up as my own religion (everyone else seemed to have one), I reread The Witches (Roald Dahl) to the point where my binding cracked and I lost the second-to-last page, and my brother persuaded my parents to let him buy a Nintendo 64 with a passionately worded essay, leading to our first game system in the house. It was awesome. I used to pop popcorn and watch him fish in Ocarina of Time for hours. Catch that loach!


  1. 2014

In some ways, this seems like a super bizarre year for me to rank this high, as it was the year that Game of Thrones officially fell from grace in my eyes. However, this was also the year that I got so completely invested in A Song of Ice and Fire that I ended up writing essay after essay for a reread project that centered on six chapters. And even though Lost was my first foray into fandom, I think posting on the threads was much more of a trial-by-fire.

This was also the year that Legend of Korra concluded, in what I would call the most satisfying resolution to a show that I’ve seen yet. Good timing, too, because this was the same year I began talking to some other nerd who told me to focus on like, themes and stuff. It shouldn’t sound eye-opening, but it was eye-opening.

Oh, also this is completely silly, but there’s nothing like embracing your geekery by going with a friend to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 in theaters on a Friday night where no one else is there but a dad and his seven-year-old. It was awesome.


  1. 2002

In some ways, 2002 had an uphill battle, because Attack of the Clones came out, proving that The Phantom Menance was not a one-time fluke on Lucas’s part. “Oh. This is actually the story they’re trying to tell.”

However, this was the year I first saw The Fellowship of the Ring, just a few months before its sequel was to come out. I don’t know why I didn’t see it in theaters the year before, other than the fact that around 12 and 13, you’re kind of still at the mercy of your parents.

But it didn’t matter that I was watching it on a crummy television screen; I was hooked. I was so hooked that I couldn’t wait for The Two Towers, and read the entirety of Tolkien’s trilogy within a couple of months. I loved Star Wars with every fiber of my being, and had already read The Hobbit, yet consuming The Lord of the Rings just made me feel as though I had come home, somehow. This was my place. I haven’t looked back ever since.

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