So I weighed in on the whole “who is a Geek” debate a couple of weeks ago. However, the veritable shit-storm that rose up after the Miss USA pageant brought both hope and frustration back into view.
Of course, there were the masses who decried Alyssa Campanella’s claiming of the Geek title as being false, poser-ish, and just all around untrue. Which bothers me for so, so many reasons. First off, this group people judged her entirely off one statement. That’s right, an entire population of people can instantly tell that someone is not a Geek by hearing one statement. Now, I’m not going to say that all these people are close-minded elitists because I don’t know them and I’m more inclined to not judge their personality or background off one statement. However ill conceived it is.
I was happy to see so many voices ring out defending Alyssa. People who I consider advocates of geek life such as Jill Pantozzi, Katrina Hill, and Clare Grant to name a few. People like them aren’t afraid of Geek culture going “mainstream.” The reason is that they see it as something positive because it means that our message, our way of life is becoming more accepted and being a Geek isn’t such a bad word anymore. Which brings me to my other point.
These naysayers really paint a sad picture of where our culture could head. That picture is one where you have to pass inspection before you can claim status, title, and inclusion. If you don’t measure up to someone’s definition of what it is to be a “true geek” then you are cast out to live on the periphery with the other outcasts. You know what that picture looks like? High School.
Devin Faraci of badassdigest.com states that the word Geek and it’s definition, power, and social meaning is dead. I can see where he is going with the statement but I see a different conclusion.
Geek and Geek life isn’t dead. Has it changed in the past 20 years? Yes. Has the meaning and power behind that word changed as well? You bet it has. Devin is correct, geek and nerd started off as derogatory terms that the popular elite used to disparage and entire social group. We touch on some of this history in our article on Wednesday, where popular society identified those who did not fit the social paradigm of the physical ideal child were as different, or as “other” than the ideal children. These were the geeks and that phrase was used to signify their lesser status in society. So what changed?
We did. We found each other, formed groups of likeminded social groups. To put it plainly, we made friends damn it! We found others like us, the outcasts who enjoyed reading about science fiction and imagining worlds of wizards and dragons. Then we decided that we were tired of being pushed aside, stuffed into lockers, and dismissed by the elite as less than them. We took the word geek and turned it into something of honor and prestige. We found strength in numbers and we didn’t turn someone away if they really wanted to know more about our culture. Hell, if that were the case, I wouldn’t have met some of the closest friends I’ve ever had. Because when I met my friend Morgan, I was not what you would classify as a geek. I read some comics, I played rpgs on the Super Nintendo, and saw Monty Python; but I never saw blade runner, or Highlander, or read Superman comics, or any other proverbial crap that the elitists nowadays are saying someone has to do to be a “true” geek. However, they accepted me anyway.
That is what “Geek” is all about. It is about passion, but not just your own. It’s a shared passion for anything; By the way, yes “history geek” counts. Anyone who has been to a Ren Fair can attest that there are plenty of history geeks out there. Now, Devin does make a valid point, there will be some who decide to hop on the bandwagon and self proclaim they are geeks. My response?
So what? Let them. Because for every 5 who are true posers, there will be 1 or 2 who really just want to belong or just don’t understand the culture but they want to learn. Honestly, that 1 or 2 make it worth all the posers that may or may not be out there. I say we stop worrying about the “dilution” of the “geek bloodline” because it is really getting the point where I’m expecting someone to pull a Voldemort and that just isn’t fun for anyone. We should be welcoming newbies into the fold, teach them about our culture and let them figure out how they are going to express it. This is how our culture grows; this is how we will be able to change the world into one that embraces geek culture and stops being so “Us versus Them.”
However, how are we ever going to expect the mainstream and popular kids to take us seriously if we pull this crap on our own? Are mainstream parents going to teach their kids that geek is not a bad word if we keep acting as if it is? That no one is a geek unless they were tormented and teased by that word? It is just perpetuating the stigma, and that is not productive.
So yes Devin, your definition of Geek is gone, not dead but evolved. Evolved into something better, into a living breathing culture that will still be around if the mainstream decides that geek is no longer the “in” thing and move onto something new. We will still be here and we will be stronger. Because being a geek is not just about a passion for a certain comic character or movie genre. It is a way of life and all that matters is how you live it. So who are we to tell someone that how they express their Geek-hood is wrong? If we did then we are no better than the people who tormented us, and do we really want to bring that back?
So that is my two cents and probably a little extra.