Friday, June 22, 2012

It Geeks Better

"Come at me, bro."
Yes, yes. It has been a while since I've updated here, I know. I have no excuse - other than I just haven't had anything about which I felt like writing. Those of you who know me are now looking incredulously at your screens and saying, "Brady? The know-it-all who has an opinion about everything? Who just this morning corrected a stranger on Twitter about koalas having poisonous stingers? Nothing to say?"
Well, come on. They had it wrong. It's the platypus. And they were telling Jeri Ryan. You don't give 7 of 9 bad info. You just don't.
Anyway, maybe I'll get into why I haven't been writing later (or maybe I won't.)
". . . "
Today, however, I decided that I have something to share.
Last weekend, I went to my first Comic Con, which was the very first Denver Comic Con. Why had I never been to one before? I think it's been partly a matter of opportunity and partly a matter of me just not being particularly star-struck. I'm not into getting autographs or having my picture taken with celebrities. I'd love to sit down and talk with Patrick Stewart about playing Claudius in Hamlet three decades apart (first to Derek Jacobi's Hamlet, later to David Tennant's), or about his interrogation scene in the original Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy where he acts opposite Sir Alec Guiness and speaks not one word of dialogue, but the seventy-five people standing in line behind me with Picard dolls waiting to be signed are hardly going to sit still for that conversation.
I digress. It's not important why I'd never been to a con before, just that I was at one last weekend.
And by "important," I mean in my usual superfluous way.
Overall: I loved it. I loved the artist tables, the costumes, the exhibits, and I must say that it was pretty cool to look up at one point and see Bruce Boxleitner sitting back and taking it all in, too. Tron, yes. Babylon 5, yes. Scarecrow and Mrs. King, sure. But, to me, he was first Billy Montana in the Kenny Rogers as the Gambler movies. Brady Hawkes (Rogers) was the first time I had seen a character anywhere with the same first name as me. When you're a seven-year-old kid who's been listening to "Brady Bunch" taunts for two years, that's kind of a big deal.
Right. Digressing again.
Okay, my favorite thing about the comic con: . . . wait, no. My favorite thing is a little personal and wouldn't mean anything to you all anyway. Let's go with my second favorite thing.
Second favorite thing about the comic con:
I saw a boy who was probably about thirteen years old walking around in a Batman costume. judging from his gait, he was probably a little bit awkward in his regular, uncostumed life, but today he was walking a little bit taller. He was wearing the cape and cowl of his favorite superhero -possibly his favorite person, real or fictional. I get that. It's pretty easy to identify with Batman when you're an awkward, nerdy teen. (I probably don't need to tell you that I speak from experience.) Batman is smart, kind of a loner, largely misunderstood, and he fights for what's right. He looks out for the little guy.
Coolest guy at the con. Hands down.
But comic books aren't cool. Not when you're thirteen. Maybe not even when you're 38, but "cool" is quite a bit more important when you're thirteen. I'll bet that kid would dress like Batman every day if he could. That's how important Batman is to him. I know. He was that important to me. So were Spider-Man, Green Arrow, the Hulk, Magnus Robot Fighter, Han Solo, the Doctor, and Commander William T. Riker.
I was hit by two emotions when I saw this kid - and the dozens of boys and girls of all ages just like him. First, I was filled with this sense of joy as I watched them get their geek on, so to speak. Wearing the logo of their favorite heroes proudly on their chests or fully-embodying these legendary figures in reverently handmade costumes, they were saying to the world (or at least the geek-world) "This is my hero! These are the ideals with which I identify!" (My hope is that the people dressed as the Joker were just saying, "Check out my awesome costume!") Second, though, I was hit by the realization that most of these people - especially the adolescent ones - have to keep their hero worship under wraps in their daily life.
I heard them. I'm sure these kids hear them, too. Even though there is a measure of "geek chic" these days, and supermodels are happy to tell us on talk shows what "big nerds" they are, there's still a line in the sand for being too nerdy.
There are "cool nerds" who are mostly just trying to capitalize on this culture of geek fandom, but they really have about as much in common with that kid in the Batman costume as Dewey Finn has with Jaime Escalante. (Oh, look it up.)
I looked at that kid, and I remembered the Halloween that I dressed up as the Tom Baker Doctor and everyone thought I was Arnold Horshack.

I tried to explain this amazing show called Doctor Who, but eventually, it was just less humiliating to be dressed as the guy with the funny voice on Welcome Back, Kotter reruns.
Either way, I was frequently nearly strangled with my own scarf throughout the day, and the girl I liked rolled her eyes at me and called me a dork. Not a banner day.
I don't wish to diminish the message of the "It Gets Better" movement by purloining their slogan for this blog post. At the same time, it's important to remember that it's not just the gay kids who get bullied.
I wanted to go up to that kid and say:
"Hope. Change. Web-shooters."
"Hey, I think it's awesome that you like Batman. Don't let anyone ever tell you that it isn't cool to like Batman or to like comic books or science fiction. Batman, Superman, the Doctor, Captain Picard: these are the Gilgamesh, the Hercules, the Cu Chulainn, and - dare I say it? - the Jesus of the modern era. When our President made a public statement endorsing the rights of all people to be married regardless of sexual orientation, that wasn't his Christian ideals guiding his hand so much as his fanboy ideals. 'With great power, comes great responsibility.' That's Spider-Man. Legends have always served as the guideposts of civilization, and modern civilization needs modern legends. Obama gets it. I get it. And you get it. I feel sorry for the people who don't get how important the work of Bob Kane, Gene Roddenberry, and Stan Lee are to the future of our society. Even more important are the people who read those works, and who get it. The world needs heroes, and you picked a good one."
Of course, I didn't say that to him because a stranger accosting thirteen-year-old boys wearing spandex is the sort of thing that I assume gets one thrown out of a comic con. So instead when I passed him, I said, "Cool costume, man."
I think he knew what I meant.

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