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The Nature of Geekery or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love

Geeks are, to put it simply, people who love things. We usually love things–TV shows, movies, video games, board games, card games, roleplaying games, books, history, science, the list goes on and on–that “the average American” (whatever that means) probably doesn’t even think about in everyday life. We love them, ostensibly, without regard for their popularity–or their lack thereof, for that matter–but for their own inherent value. What they are, what they mean to us. Some of us, perhaps even most of us, have suffered some teasing or humiliation in our lives for this willingness to love in the face of the zeitgeist, and we endured. We did not break. And now, we flock to the Internet, the greatest instrument in the history of the planet for meeting and associating with others who share this certain affinity… and proceed to find ways to rule people out and kick them out of “the club.”

Has Star Wars taught us nothing about overcoming evil without being consumed by it ourselves?

I thought we were over the obscenely stupid myth that girls can’t be “real geeks,” but I was wrong. I think (and I certainly hope) it’s coming from the minority… but it’s clearly still there. Alyssa Campanella has been the lightning rod this time, but this is nothing new. There were similar outcries when SDCC was “invaded” by the predominantly female “Twi-hards.” Even when it’s not directed at women, there are similar accusations anyone doesn’t fit someone’s preconceived notions of what a “geek” should be. That needs to stop. Now that we have the ability to find others who love the same obscure or unusual things we love, more obscure and unusual things will be rising to the surface–and that’s a GOOD thing.

Have the X-Men taught us nothing about embracing the evolution of our species?

Grumblings persist in the “geek community.” Self-appointed arbiters of authenticity devise litmus tests to determine the validity of these self-proclaimed, DEEPLY PROUD geeks; to prove–as if such proof is owed–whether they are, in fact, “real geeks;” to sniff out “pretenders” in a sort of countercultural witch hunt. A Geekish Inquisition, of sorts.

Has Harry Potter taught us nothing about the wickedness of demanding a pure-blooded pedigree?

Yes, there are women who love “traditionally geeky” things. A lot of them! But there are also women AND men who consider themselves geeks because they love other things altogether that are similarly eschewed by the popular culture. They’re not “invading” geek culture, they’re expanding its horizons. They’re not a threat to geekdom; they’re just giving us new geekery to experience, if we so choose.

Has Star Trek taught us nothing about exploring the farthest reaches of the universe?

I have a dose of Cold Hard Reality for you; you can take it or leave it, but it’s true either way. In five years, geekdom isn’t going to look the same as it does now. Obviously, there will be a lot of common elements, but some will fade or fall away entirely, and others will take their place. This isn’t new, either. Geekdom didn’t look the same five years ago, and five years ago it looked different than it did ten years ago. The truth is, there really is no such thing as a single, homogeneous “geek community.” But that has ALWAYS been what made geeks great. We’re not being diluted when new people join our ranks; we’re expanding. We’re EVERYWHERE now. We may not all take the same path to get here, but we never did. That wasn’t what united us.

Has The Lord of the Rings taught us nothing about how to work together, even when we’re sometimes going in different directions?

What should unite is the common thread that makes geekdom so special. It’s not the genres; it’s the enthusiasm. The unbridled delight we can take in something, no matter what anyone else says. That’s not going to look the same to everyone, but that’s not what’s important; the joy we take from the freedom in truly claiming and owning that geekdom, that part of ourselves that enjoys something purely and without artifice, is what makes being a geek worth celebrating, no matter what superficial form it takes.

Has D&D taught us nothing about how diversity is not only beneficial, but essential to achieving any sort of long-term success?

Yes, I love Star Trek, Star Wars, LOTR, gaming, literature, and many, many other things that a geek supposedly “should” like (depending, of course, on whom you ask). I’m also a lawyer. I also like playing music and watching sports. I’m also a cooking show junkie (okay, yes, Good Eats is my favorite show, but Bitchin’ Kitchen is great too!), and I almost always keep at least one eye on politics (in spite of myself). I even enjoy (some) musical theatre. They’re all important to me, but they aren’t me. I’d rather be identified by the energy with which I love those things (not to mention the willingness with which I’ll try new ones) than the things themselves.

Has Twilight taught us nothing about the value of stupid, foolish, preposterous, beautiful, guileless love?

Did that one make anyone wince? I’ll admit I cringed a bit inside when I wrote it, because I happen to be one of those people who doesn’t like Twilight. But you know what? I don’t have to like it to respect the fact that other people do–and it’s not any more out of place in this rant than any of the other examples I used. In fact, if anything, this example fits best of all.

Geeks are defined by their love, not their hate.

Geekdom is beautiful because of its passion, not its vitriol.

And I want to be known as who I am, not who I’m not.

I want that even when it’s hard. Even when terrible shows somehow manage to stay on the schedule for season after season while shows like Firefly vanish before they have a chance to shine their brightest. Even when the SciFi Channel changes its name in a misguided attempt to grow its audience. Even when George Lucas makes a drastic change to a beloved character’s iconic moment and eviscerates its character-defining power so he can feel more comfortable with how it plays for kids.

Even in politics. Even with religion (or the lack thereof).

Even with people who don’t fit our preconceptions of geeks. Even with people who aren’t geeks. Even with people who mock us for being geeks.

I’m not saying all ideas are of equal value (they aren’t), and I’m not saying all opinions are equally valid (they aren’t). I’m not saying you shouldn’t be angry when it’s justified (you should), and I’m not even saying that you shouldn’t fight sometimes (you should). But don’t fight against something; fight FOR something.

Criticize the writing. Point out the flaws in the logic. Recognize the bad acting. Give superior alternatives. Debate has a long, storied history in the annals of geekdom. But don’t question the validity of someone’s passion just because you don’t share it. The passion for the things we love doesn’t need to come at the expense of someone else’s passion for something we don’t.

It’s not easy. Hell, if you asked me two hours ago if I could name something I hated, I could’ve fired off dozens of things. I probably could right now, even after writing all of this. If you wait half an hour, I could give you twice as many.

But it’s worth trying. We can be better. We’ve loved things for their own sake all our lives. Can’t we start acting like we love people for their own sakes too?

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Discussion

6 thoughts on “The Nature of Geekery or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love

  1. *slow clap*

    Posted by Starman | June 23, 2011, 10:07 PM
  2. Very good post, I’m digging the use of geeky things as lessons.

    Posted by elgaladwen | June 24, 2011, 12:05 AM
  3. I liked this a lot. The bit about cringing while using Twilight as a lesson was a nice touch, as I did the same. Also emphasized your point. ^_~

    This is a nice hopeful take on the future of geek culture. It’s truth that we are currently known for being canon-obsesed purists, rules lawyers and anti-retcon activists. These are all combative, exclusive roles. The current state of things insists that we revel in our stubborness. But they are so beautifully passionate and hopeful that I want to see the subculture succeed. I want more music and video games and stories and movies. And we do that by becoming a larger group.

    I think one of the larger fears is that if a group is more inclusive, the existing group members become less special. They lose their uniqueness– that they will get lost in a sea of numbers and statistics. Hell, part of the geek definition is that they are unpopular, and they wear it like a badge. What we need to come to terms with first, I think, is that just by considering yourself part of the culture IS special. We like codes of ethics and honor and loyalty. We like optimistic futures where the human race has figured it all out and hellish futures where the human race works hard and struggles for its successes. We are SUCH bloody romantics sometimes that it breaks my heart when reality sets in and crushes us but it’s still all so beautiful.

    This is getting a bit ranty, so I’ll close just by saying that it’s not our exclusivity in numbers that makes us special, it’s the values we hold dear, the passion we have and the hopes we have. So, uhh, get the fuck over it. And quit trolling the newbies. ^_~

    Posted by Vari | June 24, 2011, 10:05 AM
  4. Excellent! As much as I disliked the sentiment that drove them, I have enjoyed the wonderful responses to the “what makes a true geek” over the past week. And you’re right – it’s our passion. And no one should tell us that our passion is not there, or in the wrong place.

    Posted by Amy | June 24, 2011, 3:44 PM
  5. This was a great post, and I heartily agree with the lessons proposed here. I’ve seen a few too many geek elitists, and it’s unfortunate they try to exclude anyone from trying something new. After all, as geeks we’ve all been excluded in some way from something at some time. Why do it to our own?

    Posted by Chris | June 30, 2011, 10:28 PM

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