So, Let’s Talk About Geeks

When I was in high school, I won’t say that I was picked on for being a geek. Back in the late 90’s, early 2000’s (I graduated high school in 2001, so you have an idea of the time period) I wasn’t so much SHUNNED for an interest in sci-fic, fantasy, anime, vidoe games pro-wrestling and comics, but…well, I was definitely treated like a geek. And no, I dont mean our modern definition of “geek” I mean like the old side-show definition. I was a spectacle, only instead of eating chicken heads I had all these weird non-feminine interests…but I seemed to GENUINELY LIKE THEM. It wasn’t some ploy to get boys to like me.

Even back then, in the days when wild Angelfire homepages roamed the ‘net, I knew I wasn’t alone. There were plenty of girls out there creating forums and webpages dedicated to the sort of things I was into. And I also knew that there were plenty of girls who liked the same things I did, they just wouldn’t admit to it so readily in public.

Keep in mind, this was before the days of adult swim, when anime on TV was rare and still being dubbed “for kids.” The new Doctor Who series was YEARS away, girls were NEVER shown in video games commercials, and we were willing to accept the awful adaptation of Tomb Raider (not that it was necessarily a bad MOVIE, but as an adaptation of the games and character it was pretty bad) because, hey, at LEAST it was a female video game heroine on screen, right?

The point stands: at 18, I was a geek and it was something to treat like an novelty.

And now, at 28? MTV has a “Geek” website.

Being a “geek” has been absorbed into pop culture the same way just about any trend will eventually be. I’ve compared it to commercial acts like The Spice Girls adopting slogans from the Riot Grrrl movement: eventually people who want to sell you stuff will adopt things that are popular in the underground. Which, hey, everybody’s gotta make a living, right, and it’s not as if geek culture has traditionally been anti-consumerism, but well. Sometimes, I get scared.

See, when I was a teenager, I remember reading a preview of the first X-Men movie (which I was greatly looking forward to) in a teen magazine. But instead of acknowledging that, hey, maybe there were girls who knew the X-Men from the comics or even from the popular 90’s animated series, they suggested you view this film “with your boyfriend, so he can explain all of the difficult comic concepts to you.”

It enraged me. “Difficult comic concepts?” Because being a girl means I couldn’t understand that the guy with claws coming out of his hand WAS A MUTANT?

BTW: Maybe by X-Men 3 somebody’s “boyfriend” should have explained to Brett Ratner difficult comic concepts like…oh, forget it, THE MOVIE JUST SUCKED.

And so, you figure I’d be happy that 10 years later that kind of stupid statement would be taboo…because geek culture is in, right?

Yet I worry that the “take your boyfriend with you to explain” has been replaced with “go see the hot guys on screen and then impress a hot geek boy with the fact that you came to see this movie!”

(Not that going to see superhero movies for the hot guys is necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, that is the only redeeming factor in a bad adaptation. Hell, I watched Wolverine: Origins just because Ryan Reynolds was in it for two scenes. Okay, and also to see how utterly awful it was.)

(Also, I don’t know where all these hot, single geek boys we’re supposed to be impressing are all hiding. ‘Cause the ones I meet are GENERALLY either assholes, uninterested in me, or taken and no amount of conversation about The Dark Phoenix saga is going to change that.)

I worry that the whole idea of “geek” being cool for girls is that it’s something that will ultimately get you boys. That the idea that a girl might still be into comics or gaming or anything like that for her own sake is still seen as completely impossible. Obviously, the reason to be into anything geek is because it will get you A MAN and if you claim it’s anything else you are a) weird or b) lying.

And so sometimes I get worried and sometimes I get MAD that it seems like people are buying in and that things I have genuinely liked for years have been boiled down to the equivalent of a mini-skirt. And sometimes, I get angry that a lot of young women out there may be faking their geekery.

Couple this with things like DC comics still refusing to accept that there are women making comics. In a recent statement, they said that they were sure there were “DOZENS” of other women creating comics, aside from the handful they already employ. Which is like saying that “Every year, there are DOZENS of kids who played football in high school who don’t get to play in the NFL.” It’s such a gross underestimation and it’s a slap in the face…and I worry that they’re able to believe that because of the very shallow “I’m in it for attention!” attitude towards geek girls.

AND THEN? I put down my cane and stop telling you kids to get off my lawn.

Because I remind myself, I do not get to be the gatekeeper to the term “geek.” I do not get to decide who is and isn’t allowed into my party. And rather than slamming doors in people’s faces I should instead be opening it, waiting with a handful of informative literature. “Oh, you went to see Batman because Christian Bale is hot? Well, have you ever seen how illustrators tend to draw Nightwing in the comics?”

The thing is, yes, I think the concept of MTV Geek is a shallow, self-serving one and as soon as a new trend comes along geeks will once again get tossed to the side. But until then, I should seize this opportunity to encourage other girls to keep holding onto their geekiness after the fact.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that this message isn’t for girls who were like me in high school. I was never ashamed to be a geek. This is for the OTHER girls, the girls who may go back to being ashamed of their geekhood once MTV tells you that Geek is out and something ELSE is in. Don’t listen. This is an open door for you. Read the comics based on the movies you like, or seek out indie titles, the internet makes that kinda easy. Play video games, watch bad sci-fi series because you find it entertaining and NEVER APOLOGIZE.

And most of all, geek, non-geek, pseudo-geek, faux-geek? Everyone: be true to yourself. Screw fads and fashion. Forget “what will the boys like?” You are the only person you’ll have to live your entire life with.

Shouldn’t you be someone who’s company you enjoy?