Opinion: Geek Culture is Dead! Long Live Geek Culture!
Geek; a person who has excessive enthusiasm for a specialized subject or activity
I have always worn the geek badge with pride, I don’t think the definition above fits perfectly but it works, despite that niggly word ‘excessive’. I don’t know the exact moment I became one, I don’t know why I love what I love, I don’t think you’re born a geek but it’s certainly something I feel is a huge part of my life. It has to be! My enthusiasm began as a child with Captain Planet, with the Amiga and saving my First Communion money for a Super Nintendo, with entire summers in front of the TV with Ren and Stimpy and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to letters to Santa begging for a list of new games. It was the wall of my shared bedroom covered in cuttings from the Nintendo magazine, to paper maché Pokémon, dreams of opening an Arcade (yeah, that’s where the name of this place comes from) to awkward teenage crushes on characters and tears spilled over fallen heroes.
In the 25 years since “Revenge of the Nerds” debuted at movie theaters, geek chic has grabbed hold and catapulted the brilliant, yet often socially inept, into the realm of — dare it be said — the hip and the cool. (Lisa Respers France, CNN)
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means, not so much the word but the identity and the people who wear it, who breathe it and live it every day and the line that’s drawn between the ‘casuals’, the ‘normals’ and the ‘hardcore’. There has been this outspoken voice within the community and it’s echoed throughout the culture, either you’re all in or you don’t count, you play hard or go home that only those who can recite reams of rules from player manuals, stacks of comics immaculately packed in plastic sheets and figures still in original packaging sitting behind display cabinets. Every group does this, it’s not uncommon but right now geek culture is pop culture, it’s the thing everyone talks about, it’s gone from this niche tight-knit group to the whole world, spread by the internet.
Being a geek isn’t about the marathon players or compulsive collectors sitting in the dark at home, glued to screens and pages, the stereotype isn’t dead it’s just not uncool any more. We lash out tropes displayed in programmes like The Big Bang Theory and Beauty and the Geek, one-dimensional characters dressed up and placed in front of clichéd settings with the odd geeky reference and while they might be distasteful or annoying, they have helped change and shift the mainstream’s notion of what it means to be geeky.
Our below-the-topsoil passions have been rudely dug up and displayed in the noonday sun. The Lord of the Rings used to be ours and only ours simply because of the sheer goddamn thickness of the books. Twenty years later, the entire cast and crew would be trooping onstage at the Oscars to collect their statuettes, and replicas of the One Ring would be sold as bling. (Patton Oswalt, Wired)
Elitism still clutches to life, clutching to an outdated notion, snubbing and hissing against the new life, new identity before them. The sense of entitlement and ownership has bred some resentment and the pop in pop geek culture has been a bang for some, warning shots to steer clear of property kept sacred for years – the bang has fizzled out.
The spread of geek culture has been nothing short of positive even when the attention and the light shone on us has exposed an ugly side, it has irrefutably been for the best.
Please understand I’m not implying that now everything smells of roses in the garden of geek, far from it but we are at a point where the issues of gender, inclusion and equality are being discussed more and more, it’s not always met with civility or respect (Anita Sarkeesian has received death threats), it’s not going to get better overnight (Spiderwoman Variant Cover) but dialogue is the first step towards progress. It has had another impact!
Getting your hands on merchandise had been an art form, an expensive one and while there are those highly coveted items (Action Comics #1 Sells For Millions) but for the most part, you can pick up a Thor t-shirt in Penneys for €10, an Adventure Time mug for the same and wrap them all in Star Wars wrapping paper for €2 (and give them to me!).
It’s probably a selfish thought but the transition from subculture to mainstream has helped those of us on smaller budgets find ways to express our identity.
The definition has changed, step foot into a convention or an expo, just step foot into your local comic book store, you will see people from all backgrounds, families, eager kids with even more eager parents, veterans and dabblers.
Being a geek is about passion and love, about that experience, that feeling and rush you get when the end game credits roll up, the care and time poured into a cosplay or the maintenance of a collection, that last fiver spent on a must have issue and the walk home, that last roleplaying session where you left your sword and soul on the table – it’s hours, days, months and years of my life all spent with out regret because; they have been shared with the parent trying to bond, the date trying to impress, with strangers across the other side of the world and with the closest of friends.
Geek culture is dead! Long live geek culture!
Editor-in-Chief, part-time super villain and hoarder of cats. If you can’t find me writing, I’m probably in the kitchen!