The Evolution of Geekdom (or The Geeks will Inherit the Earth)

I’m feeling like a curmudgeon today, so I bring you this bit of nostalgia from the early 90s.

Back when this song came out, I was a teenager trying to survive high school. I didn’t like fashion, had no interest in celebrities, loved reading fantasy and sci-fi books, wrote my own stories (and was working on a novel) so carried a notebook and pen everywhere, and was just getting into roleplaying games in a big way. Strangely (or not), all of this contributed to me feeling like an outsider amongst my peers, and I struggled to make friends. Even my taste in music, including Weird Al, left me outside the mainstream. I was labelled a nerd or a geek, and teased relentlessly.

I’m the first to admit that they were right. I was a geek. And that’s a badge I wear with pride these days. But it’s much easier to do so now than it was 20 years ago. These days, celebrities are all over the geek bandwagon.

  • Vin Diesel has publicly declared his love of D&D.
  • Alyson Hannigan plays World of Warcraft.
  • Nicolas Cage is a major comic book geek, and named his son Kal-El.
  • Christina Applegate loves Guitar Hero.
  • Simon Pegg (love that man) has just released a book titled Nerd Do Well.
  • Will Wheaton has famously made a career out of being a geek and has a book titled (appropriately) Just a Geek.
  • Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory just keeps on winning awards for his portrayal of super-geek Sheldon Cooper.

This got me thinking about the fact that, back in “my day” being labelled a geek was tantamount to your entire high school life being one long, painful, hellish existence of mockery and misery. These days, being called a geek is often meant as a compliment. Think: Computer Geek, Music Geek, Techno Geek, Movie Geek, etc. etc.

These days, Harry Potter means everyone talks about magic and monsters and wizards, not just the Fantasy Geeks. Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man, and the upcoming Green Lantern movie means everyone talks about comic book characters, not just the Comic Geeks. Even apparently non-geeky pop-culture emblems like Twilight (*repressed shudder*) are essentially just a modern retelling of the old ‘Ugly Duckling’ story. Yes, you too can be a social misfit, and find yourself chosen to be the one-and-only love of the hottest, most amazing (and sparkly) magical vampire sex-god in town. And she wasn’t an ugly duckling at all. She was a beautiful swan.

Kids today don’t know how good they’ve got it. They’ve got geeky heroes to look up to. They’ve got books and movies that make geekiness an acceptable, if not preferable, option. They can even go to Wizards & Warriors Summer Camp and spend their time fighting evil elves, shooting post-apocalyptic zombies, or learning to shoot like Legolas. (Back in my day, no one outside the small geek community even knew who Legolas was!) They’ve got a sweet, sweet deal.

And when I stop feeling this bitter jealousy, I’ll be thrilled that my sons will have the chance to grow up in a world where it’s okay to be a geek.

But knowing my luck, they’ll probably both turn out to be into sports instead.

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7 Comments

Filed under The Inner Geek

7 responses to “The Evolution of Geekdom (or The Geeks will Inherit the Earth)

  1. “Even apparently non-geeky pop-culture emblems like Twilight (*repressed shudder*)”

    Don’t repress shudders when referring to Twilight. Shudder openly, proudly even.

  2. What really made this possible was the internet. No matter what kind of obscure cultural niche element you’re into, you can find your tribe. And, once linked up, those groups can exert cultural influence that they couldn’t when they were all isolated. I’m a geek for (among other things) Dark Shadows, a late 1960s Gothic soap opera, and the DS fandom is so organized at this point that a British company called Big Finish periodically reassembles the old cast members (the survivors, obviously) to record new stories on audio, and next year there will be a movie (starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, and Chloe Moretz, directed by Tim Burton, and I CAN”T WAIT!!).

    And one driving force behind the movie is that Depp is also, like me, a Dark Shadows geek.

    And that’s just a tiny thing compared to, for example, Dr. Who fandom, which is huge.

  3. Gail S.

    My sons are 24 and 30, respectively (Lordy, when did I get that old?!). And they are both jocks AND geeks. Okay, the older one is more into sports than the younger one, but they’re both into both. They played sports AND were drum major of the marching band. (The older one would pull off his shoulder pads at the football game, direct the halftime show, put his pads back on, and go back on the field to tackle people…) (The daughter was a drum major too, but inherited my bad knees…) And they’re into SF and fantasy and video games and reading and…

    I think all us parental geeks have expanded the range of the possible.

  4. You would have fit right in with me and my friends!

    Our parents never had to worry about teen pregnancy.

    • Mine either. 🙂

      Although with all the negative hype about D&D that was around at the time, my parents wouldn’t let me play. So I had to tell them I was going to hang out at a male friend’s place with a group of guys instead. Apparently that was less worrying than the idea that I was roleplaying. Go figure!

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