There’s a fine line between “nerd culture” and “people and products you’re ashamed to be associated with.” For every legitimately awesome geeky product there’s some hack writing “The cake is a lie” on a coffee mug, because a marketing executive figured out that idiots will buy anything with references to nerdy pastimes slapped on them. “I’ve discovered a way to make people pay 20 dollars to be reminded of a thing they like,” the exec said, and then business students began worshipping him as a dark god.
That’s how we ended up with the following gifts, which are sold by shameless culture war profiteers and bought by people who claim to watch My Little Pony ironically even after they’re caught masturbating to it. Whenever we geeks gain too much mainstream credibility these products appear to put us in our place, and buying one as a Christmas gift is the adult equivalent of telling a child that Santa doesn’t exist.
8. Geeky Shirts
When it comes to geeky shirts the “actually looks cool and stylish” to “screams ‘I am socially awkward'” ratio is about one to a dozen. But I’m not here to give you fashion advice, and not just because that would make me vanish in a puff of irony. I’m here to plead with you to not gift a shirt featuring a nerdy reference that will be obsolete by the time you’re done recycling the paper it was wrapped in. I’m looking at you, people who bought Digg HD-DVD code shirts.
2013’s worst offender for shirts with pop culture references that expire faster than leftover Chinese food is arguably Grumpy Cat. If you buy someone a Grumpy Cat shirt you’re either buying them a rag or a bunch of questions from their confused relatives at the next family reunion.
Other forgettable Internet memes turned fashion disasters include Doge shirts, so you can immortalise the dark time when the Internet thought Shiba Inus talking like racist caricatures of Asian immigrants was funny, Sharknado shirts, in memory of the entertainment industry discovering that the Internet will get excited about anything if you purposely make it stupid enough, and anything involving twerking or the Harlem fucking Shake. Getting your friend a shirt that says “I Twerk with Miley Cyrus” or “#twerk-o-licous” is a either a roundabout way of saying you hate them or an admission that you learned everything you know about the Internet from local news television and are in desperate need of education.
You’re going to make people hate adorable dogs. Is that what you want?!
7. Zombie Jerky
I’ve already discussed why the zombie fad needs to die, but even I didn’t realize the true depths of the problem. But now I have seen the enemy, and it is zombie jerky.
Zombie jerky is “the world’s first artificial green colored beef jerky,” a claim that is somehow made with pride rather than the shame that it damn well should be. The jerky itself looks like someone blasted gummy worms with the same radiation that gave the Hulk his superpowers.
I don’t mean to shock anyone, but nerds are perfectly capable of digesting ordinary food. We don’t have to be tricked into eating with pop culture references. That’s why we haven’t dropped dead despite the absence of official Settlers of Catan wholewheat bread and Castlevania holy water. No demographic of the human population would be happy to get regular food turned the color of vomit in their stocking, and I’m not sure why anyone would think nerds would be an exception to that. We enjoy the traditional stocking stuffers of chocolate and booze as much as the rest of humanity, so please give us that instead of beef that could be mistaken for a fungus.
6. Bacon Tree Ornament
Speaking of overhyped nerd obsessions: bacon. Fucking bacon, you guys. We’ve elevated an average food to the status of a deity, and now we’re paying for our sin of worshipping a false idol.
Bacon tastes good. I get that. But you’re not clever for pointing out something the rest of the world already knows. Montreal smoked meat tastes good too, and you don’t see anyone building a culture around it. Nobody’s selling salami soap or ginger beef shaving cream, but apparently all the rules get thrown out whenever oversalted pig belly enters the scene.
The end result of this cultural downward spiral is a tree ornament that tells your friends and family that you’re perfectly willing to ruin a holiday with your slavish dedication to a dumb Internet fad. If you gift this to someone they’re going to spend the next year celebrating Kwanzaa.
5. Chicken Burger USB Hub
“As healthy as a PC gamer” is not a phrase you’ll ever hear, at least not in a positive context. Nerds love junk food – this very site has a feature dedicated to reviewing it. Yes, I’m sure some of you subsist on tofu and kale chips, and I’m happy for you. The rest of us will be over here enjoying our delicious processed crap.
But even the most ardent McChicken fan doesn’t need to be reminded of their favorite food with a USB hub. The vast majority of novelty USB hubs are ugly, oversized, and utterly pointless. The same site that sells the chicken burger also sells a potato that looks like a shriveled pigmy brain. Try to think of someone who would want that on their desk. Now try to think of someone who isn’t a serial killer.
Get your nerd friend a USB hub that’s functional and aesthetically pleasing, not one that reminds them of their bad eating habits. And for God’s sake, do not get a novelty USB toy to plug into it. The USB pet rock, for example, is a joke that stops being funny by the time you finish reading the name. Even the seemingly cool stuff, like a USB nerf turret, tends to either break or become boring after a few days. You want to get a USB enabled gift? How about a nerdy flash drive, which can look cool but is actually functional and useful. Just make sure they aren’t accidently creepy, like this one that makes you decapitate Mario every time you want to look at your files.
4. Ugly Christmas Sweater
Ugly Christmas sweaters have somehow become a thing, despite the fact that nobody has un-ironically worn a Christmas sweater since the Reagan administration. But don’t let that stop you from failing to grasp the concept of irony and fashion with this Nintendo Light Up Sweater Vest, which came into existence when an NES gained sentience and fucked a Christmas village.
Or maybe you’d prefer the Yoda Christmas sweater, because Yoda is a character that is not known for being associated with Christmas, and dressing him up like he does is therefore comedic. Or how about Batman and Superman? The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Reindeer threesome? That last one doesn’t really have anything to do with nerd culture, aside from being indicative of the sense of what can generously be called humor that the worst nerds enjoy. Again, someone has to actually be doing the thing you’re mocking in order for it to be funny. Otherwise you’re just the asshole who showed up to a party wearing an animal orgy.
3. Anime Mousepads
If geekdom were a high school, anime would be that one kid who kept getting in trouble for masturbating in class and trying to setup a camera in the girl’s locker room. It’s an unfair reputation, but mousepads with boobs aren’t helping. Buying one is how you tell the world that you’ve never spoken to an actual woman, and gifting one is how you tell your friend that you think he’s going to die alone.
It doesn’t help that there are dozens of different erotic mousepads, and that on most of them the girls look embarrassed to be there. There are mousepads where the girls are completely topless, like this Tifa Lockheart mousepad for Final Fantasy VII fans who always wanted to feel their favourite character’s nipples while she looks at you in profound disappointment. Or rest your wrist on the semen coated ass of a character from Tiger and Bunny, a sci-fi anime series noted for its strong character design and excellent use of CGI, not the fuckability of its leads. “Give a huge surprise to your friends” indeed – the surprise gift of introducing them to the lonely world of sexual deviancy.
“This is demeaning us both.”
If that’s not perverted enough for you there’s always an anime cat with tits, or one of the many mousepads featuring underage girls for the sex offender in training. They enforce pretty much every awful stereotype about nerds imaginable, and are horribly misogynistic to boot, so naturally they’re tagged as potential Christmas gifts. It’s good that people who use their mousepads to masturbate have friends, I guess.
You’d think all 1769 results wouldn’t be sexual. You’d be wrong.
2. Bitcoin Miner
Bitcoins are what you get when you want to use real money to buy fake money to buy drugs and child pornography. Bitcoin miners are what you get when you want to use a lot of real money to maybe get a lot of fake money, if people with even more real money than you don’t beat you to earning all the fake money first.
I’m not going to explain precisely how bitcoins work, because I don’t have the requisite computer science degree and you don’t have the requisite lack of better things to read about. But bitcoin miners basically allow you to earn bitcoins by solving complex math problems, assuming your bitcoin miner doesn’t catch fire and explode from all the heat it’s generating. They can cost anywhere from less than one hundred bucks to over three grand, giving people of all financial backgrounds the chance to sink real money into a highly speculative bubble currency with no intrinsic value.
It’s easy to see how this could end up under a nerd’s Christmas tree, because it’s a high-tech Internet innovation that’s been all over the news, and may or may not be the start of a financial revolution depending on how many libertarian bumper stickers the person you ask has. But think about the logic of giving people real currency in exchange for a device that lets you earn a pretend currency that apparently isn’t valuable enough to be worth those people just keeping their devices and earning the fake currency for themselves. I don’t want to start a debate on bitcoins, because they’re an interesting idea and could very well end up being useful, but maybe let them sort out the kinks before you give the gift of something that might end up being worth less than Monopoly money.
1. Phone Fingers
Do you use your phone a lot? Are your hands constantly slathered in grease? Do you enjoy looking like an idiot? Then you might be the luckily recipient of Phone Fingers, the gloves that helps people who haven’t heard of screen cleaning and basic hygiene avoid smudging their phone.
Phone Fingers come in several styles, including Ugly, Uglier and BDSM. “Even Paris likes them,” we’re told, although it’s not clear if they’re referring to Paris Hilton or Paris, France, which is unfortunate because that would shift my opinion dramatically. If I were living my life like Paris Hilton I would have been written out of a lucrative will and been the star of a terrible sex tape, but the entire population of a cultural capital can’t be wrong.
The original name of “finger condoms” did poorly in focus groups.
If you need to protect your smartphone but don’t enjoy looking like an extra in a porn parody of THX 1138 you can get the “essential accessory for your touch screen advice” known as “mittens.” They guard against smudges, and as a bonus they keep your fingers warm. Holy shit, how has nobody thought of something like that before?
The company that sells Phone Fingers also sells screen guards, which seems like a tacit admission that even they think their products are ridiculous. But if you want to perpetuate stereotypes about nerds having no sense of fashion and are also under the impression that your geeky friends don’t have hands that work like those of normal people, consider your Christmas shopping done.
Previously by Mark Hill: