Jennifer Love Hewitt Has No Nerd Cred

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Count me non-plussed by the idea of Jennifer Love Hewitt starring in a show that's theoretically a female version of The Big Bang Theory. The fact that this is even under consideration by a major network strikes me as evidence of the basic and continuing injustice done to female nerds. One of the reasons The Big Bang Theory is kind of a cool thing simply to have out there, is that it seems to respect its nerds for who they are. The show didn't just take a bunch of hot dudes, slap glasses on them, and push them at the audience and say, "Hey, these guys are dorks now!" Instead, they cast a crew of funny, not exceptionally great-looking guys and build characters consistent with genuine nerdiness. The most popular character on the show has a lot of traits of Asperger Syndrome and no particular interest in romantic relationships.

This gets to happen for male nerds in popular culture; they get to see actual, functional representations of themselves across a fairly broad spectrum. Whether it's the Big Bang Theory dudes, or Hodgins, the bug-lovin' gazilionaire on Bones who just wants to stay in his lab and do what he loves best, male nerds get to be themselves.

It's a lot different if you're a girl. If you're a female nerd, Felicia Day's microseries, The Guild, which lives happily on the Web without hope of network distribution is about as good as it gets. Day's main character isn't just a hot smart chick with glasses on, which is about as far as mainstream popular culture's been able to get towards understanding female nerds. Her priority is the community she's formed through online game-play, and there's no real argument made that she's defective. She should be allowed to get with the hot stunt-man down the hall without having to quit playing or behave differently. Temperance Brennan's not a terrible alternative on Bones, she's a great socially awkward scientific genius, but the show makes a lot of her social mainstreaming (she is, after all, smokin'-hot) and her emotional dysfunctionality. I do love the character, but I would like to see someone a bit...weirder represented in the mainstream culture, someone who is able to be smart and absorbed without being required to be a fox, too, a requirement that's never particularly imposed on male pop culture nerds, who are allowed to have girlfriends anyway. Jeph Jacques' webcomic Questionable Content has kind of gone off the rails, emotions and story-telling wise, but his introduction of a female hardcore gamer's been refreshing. Marigold just might be the right model.

And at the end of the day, part of my objection to this Jennifer Love Hewitt possibility is the actress of herself. Her career has shown absolutely no engagement with nerd culture, or even with particularly nuanced female characters at all. In person, she's the kind of starlet who just happens to stage encounters with the paparazzi in ridiculous costumes on her birthday. I'm not saying everyone has to have a deep and abiding connection to all the material they work with, but her career's kind of been a rejection of something she now appears to want to make a living off of. I don't want her representing me and mine, no matter how shiny her hair is or how cute she was on Ghost Whisperer, or whatever.

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Alyssa Rosenberg is a culture writer with The Washington Post.

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