It’s pretty cool that geeky things are hitting the mainstream these days. I love that there are a ton of comic book movies coming out (quality’s a different thing). TV geeks aren’t relegated to bully fodder anymore, and have evolved into stars. Knowing more tech stuff than the average person gets you ahead in life, rather than being stuffed in the locker. It really is a great time to be a geek.
I can’t help but feel, however, that the word has lost its meaning. It seems like geeks have become too mainstream, in the way hiphop did in the early 90s, and grunge a few years after. Suddenly, everyone’s a “geek”.
The thing is, not everyone can be a true geek. True geeks are more than just a set of interests, clothes, and mannerisms. True geeks enjoy a certain lifestyle shaped by characteristics at the core of their being. Their very perception is shaped by these traits; in short, you can’t become a geek – you just are one. It’s pretty hard to explain, but I’ll give it a shot.
For one thing, geeky interests were limited to a subculture in society, one that led to oppression, embarrassment, and downright awkwardness. Geeks used to be picked on by the popular kids for being weird. They watched too much anime. They weirded people out by speaking in character during DnD games. They had an odd fascination with imaginary people in brightly-colored tights. They were alien to the mainstream.
It comes with the territory. Geeks are generally a little more hardcore about their interests than what the average person is comfortable with. They have several Naruto costumes in their closet. They’d rather spend 3,000 pesos on a new video game than a bottle of Patron. They can name the best counterspells in Magic: the Gathering, according to casting cost (Pact of Negation, Stifle, Force Spike, Counterspell, Forbid, Cryptic Command, Force of Will). They throw World of Warcraft guild parties where everyone comes in costume and plays their character.
True geeks don’t really care, either. They have loads of fun with their interests. They enjoy having debates on whether Final Crisis was either incredibly brilliant or a massive, confusing failure. They love collecting each character’s ultimate weapon in Final Fantasy. They buy lightsaber chopsticks and make that “snap-hiss” sound when they use them. Best of all, they geek out together.
A lot of people call themselves geeks without really being one. “Food geeks”, for instance, can’t be geeks despite an obsessive love for food – food was never mainstream-uncool to begin with. In the same vein, you can’t call yourself a gaming geek for playing Plants vs. Zombies and Diner Dash. A douchey frat boy can’t call himself a geek because he likes that “Star Warriors movie with the laser swords”. It’s as though people have confused the meaning of the word “geek” with “fan”, “follower”, or “occasional appreciator”.
It takes more than dipping your toes into geeky interests to actually be a geek. One of the defining characteristics about geekery, after all, is that amazing passion you have for it. You don’t just like “graphic novels”; you read, follow, draw, script, re-imagine, and overall fucking love comics. You don’t care if it’s cool or not; you simply just love it.
That’s the thing about geeks that the mainstream should really appreciate. It’s not that the things we enjoy are actually pretty cool and you should have noticed them decades ago. It’s the fact that we feel such passion. It’s the fact that we’ve always just thought outside what mainstream media dictates is awesome. It’s the fact that we’re unashamed of our interests, no matter how weird others will find us. Furries, though, are still pretty fucking disturbing.Guild photo from Lauren