Nerdcore Class, Jeopardy, and Susan Cole
A largely underground music genre, nerdcore, is receiving a lot of welcome attention because of Legislative Services librarian and Jeopardy contestant, Susan Cole. Cole appeared on Jeopardy on October 12 and gave a contestant interview that went viral. The show’s host, Alex Trebek, opened the interview by saying that Cole’s “favorite type of music is something that I’ve never heard of but it doesn’t sound like fun.” Cole shook off the negativity and said that she is a fan of nerdcore, a genre of hip hop that, in her words, is made by “people who identify as nerdy, rapping about the things they love, video games, science fiction, having a hard time meeting romantic partners, you know. It’s really catchy and fun.” Trebek waited a beat, then doubled down, and said that nerdcore artists are “losers, in other words". He backtracked, saying that he was just kidding, and moved on to the next contestant.
I asked Cole how she felt about Trebek’s comment. She said she was “a little surprised and a little annoyed in the way anyone would be when someone speaks disparagingly about something you love.” But, she said, her annoyance “was a fleeting thing” and that Trebek is a “pleasant, nice man”. As the game started back up again, she concentrated on managing her nerves and doing some trivia. She went on to win three games of Jeopardy and $67,800.
Cole filmed the show in early August and didn’t give Trebek’s comment a second thought. But, when the show aired, audiences latched onto it and the exchange became pop-culture news. Some people delighted in what they considered a hilarious burn coming from Trebek. The media has largely been interested in portraying the exchange as a vicious combat between Cole and Trebek. Headlines and articles describe Trebek’s comment as “merciless”, “cold-blooded”, “savage”, and portrayed Cole’s winning as “revenge”.
But the reaction from Cole and the community she’s come to represent has been a lot more, well, nice. Many media outlets have contacted Cole for comment about the interview, but she’s turned most of them down (except this Jeopardy podcast and us!) because she had no interest in adding to the negativity. She says she’s “proud of the win, she loves nerdcore, and she loves Jeopardy” and she wants to remain positive about the experience.
Nerdcore artists have been pretty nice, too. There have been diss tracks aimed at Trebek but by the very nature of nerdcore, they are charming and self deprecating. And as much negativity and “suck it Trebek” comments there are out there, there’s a lot more love for Cole. For instance, Mega Ran gave her free tickets to a show he was playing with MC Lars and mc chris in Maryland. The rappers showered her with swag and bragged online about meeting her.
Love is coming from the fans, too. Like, actual declarations of love:
And tons of people are excited about the attention she’s bringing to the genre, seeing her appearance as a sea change moment.
And they’re not wrong. Nerdcore is garnering a lot more attention than it has since 2011 when the genre saw a peak in interest that may correspond to the release of the free compilation album Nerdcore Now.
I asked Cole if she had received any negative attention and she told me that she wasn’t examining her own internet fame too closely. She did say she’s been the target of some trolls who “go out of their way to say negative things, but they're not real” and that most of the reaction she’s seen has been positive. All this positivity, she says, is in keeping with the genre that Cole loves. She says that artists and fans of nerdcore embrace and celebrate the things they love, which she appreciates because that’s “my ethos, too” she goes in for “anyone who’s enthusiastic for things they love”.
At the end of our talk, I asked Cole if she had anything else she wanted to add. She said that she simply wanted to say that she was “super proud to have been on Jeopardy and to get more people interested in nerdcore”. And there you have it, my friends, a genuine show of class here, of all places, on the internet.