Jeopardy Champ Arthur Chu On Nerds, Entitlement And Elliot Rodger
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now we want to dig a little deeper on a story that we've been following closely. That's that shooting in Santa Barbara. We spoke earlier this week about the nearly 140 page manifesto the shooter, Elliot Rodger, left before he killed six people. He said he resorted to violence because women weren't attracted to him. And he was disgusted by quote "outgoing, boisterous jocks". Blogger Arthur Chu says what he heard in the manifesto was not so far off from what he has heard many times from other so called nerds and in the media. And in fact this is such a widely accepted storyline, it's a cliche, shy, awkward, but lovable guy chases hot girl crush. In the movie version he eventually wins her over. But Arthur Chu says we, nerds and everybody else, need to rethink this storyline because it can actually be uglier than it sometimes seems. Arthur Chu wrote about this for The Daily Beast in a piece called "Your Princess is in another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlements and Nerds". And he is with us now. Welcome, thanks for joining us.
ARTHUR CHU: Thank you, thank you for having me.
MARTIN: And let me start by just saying you come by your nerd credentials honestly, and I mean this with the utmost respect. You are the 11 time Jeopardy champion, for people who are wondering where they have heard that name before, that is you and you are a blogger and an actor and a comedian. You know, with that being said what gave you the idea for this piece? Is this something that came to you right away or is this something that you'd been thinking about for a while?
CHU: Well the issues is something that I have been thinking about for a long time, it's been part of my life for a long time, and I think if most people from my background, most, you know, introverted, gifted guys, who grew up in a certain culture would acknowledge that this has been an issue for a long time. But it really struck me after, first the shooting itself, the news of the shooting and then the response, you know, on Twitter was Primarily a hashtag, #YesAllWomen, which was a response to, #NotAllMen, which was this ongoing conversation online where over and over again women have been telling their stories about being victimized and guys don't want to hear it. A guy like Elliot Rodger, wanted to other him, to make him a monster, someone who is completely unlike ourselves. And I feel like we need to own up to the fact that there's this undercurrent in our culture of entitlement when it comes to women, that provides the motivation, provides the context for a seriously ill person like Elliot Rodger, to do what he did and think what he did.
MARTIN: I mean, you said in the piece that you expected Elliott Roger's manifested to be incomprehensible madness. But you know, you write quote "the overall problem is one of a culture where instead of seeing women as, you know, people, protagonists of their own stories just like we are of ours. Men are taught that women are things to earn, to win," and you say we male nerds are force fed this script. Talk a little bit more about that.
CHU: A lot of guys who for whatever reason have not had much success in dating, don't have a girlfriend, you know, The term on the Internet is "Incel" - involuntarily celibate, and they've kind of Medicalize it and make themselves into a community. They feel like they are owed a sexual relationship with a woman or their life is incomplete. And the problem is, you know, that's not a thing someone can give you. Someone can give you money. No one can just give you a woman. Women aren't a thing to be given. Every individual woman you meet has a choice whether or not to want to be in a relationship with you, And I will say we put a lot of shame on lonely guys. And I don't want to make this about, like bashing, you know, nerdy guys, like some people have said that I did. But when you are suffering, it is very hard for you to see outside your own suffering and so these guys, you know and I have been there too, blame women and say like, women as though they are monolith group should be doing this. I am owed this, I am owed a relationship, I am owed sex.
MARTIN: Can I just stop you here for a minute here. One of the things I read in your piece though, is a kind of counter manifesto to nerds, to say now that we are at the center of the culture, we need to step up. We're not the victims anymore, right? One of the things you say and I need to edit, a little bit the language, but you say, what did Elliott Roger need? He didn't need to get laid. None of us nerdy frustrated guys need to get laid. When I was a, and you use a word here, a - hole, with rants full of self pity and entitlement, getting laid would not have helped me. He needed to grow up. We all do. And part of what you're saying is look, now that nerds are in ascendancy, now that we worship Steve Jobs and tech gurus, that people who have traditionally seen themselves as victims, they need to take some responsibility for their behavior and think anew about these things. Is that part of what you're saying?
CHU: It is true that this persecution narrative, it is particularly hard to sustain now. It's beyond ridiculous, that the tech industry is lauded by all the major publications, that everyone worships at the feet of the Internet, everyone wants a piece of that dollar. And we're still saying that people should be given a pass because they are, quote unquote, nerds that we are the underdog. And not being able to see how in someone else's story you could be the bad guy. That other people don't exist to be your supporting characters, and a lot of girls who were in these subcultures, where they had a lot of guys who grew up with this victim complex, you know, it's almost like there is a sense of entitlement that, I'll put it bluntly, that the cheerleaders didn't accept me so you have to. And if even you reject me then the world is so unfair, I'm going to kill myself. This is like, a narrative that plays out in high schools across the country and a lot of the women that I've known, have grown up with this sense of duty. That is what's messed up about it that, it's like your duty to go help guys. That sense of duty is this very oppressive thing for all women to grow up with.
MARTIN: I have to be honest with you. That I've been hearing in the last couple of days from male colleagues and acquaintances of mine, who have said similar things which is to say up, until the part where he decided to say he was going to kill everybody and punish these people for not serving his interests, that could've been me, you know, that sense of being angry and having a sense of entitlement that, hey I got good grades, I have top SAT scores, I should be getting the girls. You know, that kind of thing. A number of people have said that could have been me. I wanted to know for you because you said this, what was your lightbulb moment? When did it go off for you that that was messed up?
CHU: There wasn't a single lightbulb moment. You know, I was friends with my wife for a long time before we actually started dating. You know hearing her stories about what it was like to be sexually harassed, about, and not necessarily, I think when they said yes all women, it's because all women have some story. And if you just listen to those stories and you listen to what it's like on the other side, when you are reaching out, you are trying to grab that validation, that comfort from women and you're making those demands it feels like you are in such pain and that your needs are so paramount and then flip it around and look at it from the perspective of the person, of whom those demands are being made, the person who is expected to fix you. The thing that really made me angry, you know, Elliot Rodgers gone I can't be angry at him. But there's all of these men who want to just say he was crazy, that he was a monster and now he's dead and the problem is over. And we can move on with our lives, and I do not want us to move on with our lives. I want us to talk about this, you know, I want this to be public. And it was some very brave people on Twitter who started this ball rolling and it has been this big, big, big conversation. And I am very flattered that my piece has gotten so much attention, but ultimately what the stories about and what I want to focus on is that women are telling their stories and guys aren't listening, and that is what I want to tell my fellow men to do. So just listen. Hear what the things that you do as a man sound like and feel like. What the experience of that is like from the other side, and just think about that the next time you're in a situation where you feel that sense of, you know, resentment, entitlement, all of those emotions.
MARTIN: Arthur Chu is an actor, comedian and blogger and 11 time Jeopardy champion. His piece for The Daily Beast is called "Your Princess is in Another Castle: Misogyny Entitlement and Nerds". And he was kind enough to join us from member station, WCPN, in Cleveland. Arthur Chu, thank you so much for speaking with us.
CHU: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.