Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rise of the Neo-Geek: Pro or Con?

Geek culture is everywhere it seems. We have more genre movies and television shows in the public eye this year than the entirety of my painfully nerdy middle and high school years put together. Comic books are cool, there is a National Table Top Day, and everyone and their mother knows what "Winter is Coming" means. We as geeks, nerds, or as I like to think of us, the entertainment enlightened, should be ecstatic. After all, suddenly it's cool to be exactly the kind of people we actually are. The geeks have inherited Hollywood and they've finally succeeded in showing everyone what we've known all along; Genre is Cool.

But are we happy about this groundswell of popularity for the books, comics, and movies we love? Not too long ago, I saw a tweet that suggest that at least some of us are not. I apologize for not having the exact tweet to post here, but by the time this idea had brewed long enough to send me to the keyboard that inspirational tweet had vanished. To put it less succinctly  the author was purchasing a copy of the first season of A Game of Thrones, and the cashier was gushing about how awesome the series was and asked if she had seen it, and she felt the need to "#bitetongue".  I understood the sentiment immediately, my fandom, too, is being invaded by all manner of genre noobs. And yes, it occasionally can be frustrating. But, it's never really bite tongue worthy, at least not for me. And yes, I do realize that this nameless tweeter is probably not some fantasy nerd brimming with misplaced fan rage. It's the sentiment that fascinated me.

Are we as a genre culture so used to being insular and marginalized, that any reversal of that position is automatically seen as an infringement on our comic book and Doritos strewn territory? Is this sudden influx of neo or quasi geeks weakening what it means to wear the badge of geekdom? Or does it simply make it difficult to identify members of our tribe? Or could it be something else?

I imagine that it's probably a combination of these and other factors. But of course I have my own pet theory, drawn from my own experience. Prepare for some personal revelations here. I've been labelled a geek and nerd since I was small. I read comics religiously even in high school, and was ridiculed even by some teachers for my reading choices. I remember being specifically told that Stephen King was trash. Of course, I read him anyway, and in open defiance of any English teacher that would discourage reading in any form. But regardless, I've endured the derisive looks from aquaintances, co-workers, and even potential relationship partners for most of my life. I'm sure many of you have had similar experiences. So it's not surprising that we might view these new entrants into geek culture with skepticism and some touch of disdain.

This is where I believe we have a choice to make. Are we going to judge these newly minted pseudo-geeks as secondary citizens, mirroring, even if only internally, the marginalization we experienced? Odds are, we will to some degree. It's human nature, after all.

Perhaps the wiser response is to celebrate the fact that we as a demographic are growing. Perhaps, as our passions become more popular and visable in the mainstream then perhaps those people who looked down on us will see that we didn't choose these books, movies, and comics because we were odd, socially awkward, and strange but because of their high quality and engaging stories. I'm under no illusion that the popularization of geek culture will prevent the bullying of our youth, bullies will always find a reason. But perhaps they'll need a reason other than Dungeons and Dragons or the latest issue of the X-Men.

Accepting these neo-geeks with open arms gives us a platform to expand the reach of the genre by exposing them to more quality entertainment and breaks down the barriers of what has been a marginalized for far too long. It won't be too long before children are required to read The Lord of the Rings and Dune in school instead of just the Grapes of Wrath and The Great Gatsby Stephen King has one his accolades much to the dismay of his critics and it seems we as geeks are getting some long deserved street cred as well. Let's accept it with grace and style.


  1. Hear hear! You pose some very good questions that I had subconsciously noticed but hadn't put forward in such a way, but I am glad that you support the sharing of all geek awesome with others instead of turning to them the same ostracism that we had. The more people who enjoy LOTR and Avengers, and Star Trek the better! Money drives things in a lot of cases and the more support there is, the more these types of things will be supported and thus available. It's a good thing!

  2. Glad you enjoyed my musings on geek identity and inclusiveness. I think that the new focus on all things genre is good for us all, if we can remember to not to give in to the urge to look down out noses as all of the Johnny and Jane Comelatelies