Friday, July 27, 2012

But We Don't Want the Irish!

There has been some furor lately over who's a real "geek" and who isn't - stemming from a seething and immature CNN blog and an eloquent - if a bit naive - response. The resulting meme:
"Nobody gets to tell you if you are a geek."
Nice idea. If only it were truly so.
You see, right now, "geek" and "nerd" are really actually cool things to be - in some circles, and to varying degrees. As I said in a blog a few weeks ago, there are people becoming millionaires by appropriating the word "nerd," and there are supermodel/starlets who "confess" in men's magazines about what big "geeks" they are because they've seen every episode of Firefly.
"I've got heathens a-plenty here."
On the one hand, I'm glad that there is money to be made from embracing geek culture, and I relish the idea of sitting down with a starlet/supermodel and swapping theories about the true history of Shepherd Book. (I espouse the idea that he was a police detective in Greenwich Village for a time.) On the other hand, somewhere right now some brainy kid is defending himself against a physical attack by seven bullies who are calling him a "geek." Somewhere some socially awkward young guy has finally worked up the nerve to ask his crush to accompany him to a film festival screening of Serenity, and she just laughed in his face. Or maybe she was polite enough to say, "sure," knowing that she would cancel an hour before  the show. (Is it just me, or do girls seem to spend a lot of time washing their hair?) Somewhere some bookish young fellow just overheard his father on the phone complaining about his "weird" kid who doesn't want to try out for the football team.
These kids are being called "geek", "nerd", "freak", "brain", "spaz", "weirdo", "dork", and a host of other names that I can't think of right at the moment, because I seem to have misplaced my high school yearbook.
Don't get me wrong, here. I'm not endorsing Peacock's venomous attack on "booth babes." He is way out of line, and I suspect his tirade may have been sparked by being shot down at SDCC by a woman in a Harley Quinn outfit. However, I do understand from where some of that resentment originates.
At the same time, while I agree with Scalzi's indictment of the "geek hierarchy," I can only endorse with certain caveats his assertion that anyone who wants to can be a geek. (And I fully recognize that these caveats may reveal logical and/or emotional flaws on my part.)
When a former reality TV star builds a media empire on his nerd status but continually demonstrates his lack of knowledge about things like Doctor Who and Spider-Woman, I cannot help but bristle a little bit. When Hollywood's "it" girl of the moment goes on a late night talk show and talks about what a big nerd she is, I am keenly aware of just how thoroughly washed her hair looks.
Again, though, I recognize that these reactions are rooted in my own past experiences with the darker effects of geekdom. They are, however, experiences that have been and still are shared by many people in this world who embrace comic and sci-fi cons as opportunities to truly be themselves and as respites from a world in which they are either social outcasts or deeply and unsatisfyingly closeted.
My friend Jessica has a saying/hashtag that I really like: Own your dork. By that she means that you should embrace your geekiness - wear your nerd status like a badge of courage. I wholeheartedly agree.
I am learning to take those words and sentiments that were once hurled at me like weapons and forge them into a suit of armor - or at least a really cool hat. (By the way, if I can be permitted a further gush about Jess: she's wondrous. This is her blog.)
Scalzi is right that geeks should not be exclusive. We've been excluded so often ourselves that we really ought to know better. Peacock's blog post is vengeful, and we should not seek vengeance. So come on in! Come one, come all! We'll talk about Batman, Magnus Robot Fighter, and why Mary Tamm was such a wonderful foil to the Doctor as the 1st Romana. (You are missed, Time Lady. Greatly missed.)
There is no maniacal gatekeeper at a bridge of death who is going to test your level of geekness. You are welcome in this place. Here are your badges labeled "GEEK", "NERD", and "DORK." You can wear them one at a time or all at once, it's up to you. We've filed down the sharp edges, but - out of respect - we've not wiped them completely clean of the blood and tears. Wear them with pride. All that we ask is - before you put them on - you take a second to remember that there have been those who have worn them against their will.

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