Geek Culture: Taking the Lion-o with the Mumm-ra
Welcome to Geeks Anonymous; you’re among friends!
Icame to know I was a geek at a very, very young age. It was the day I saw Star Wars for the first time- it changed me forever. Sure, I had seen the original Star Trek, and loved it. I was a huge Planet of the Apes fan- but Star Wars spoke to me. It made me believe there was a place for me in the world- there were like-minded people who had the same intrinsic beliefs and feelings I did. I kept my geekness at home, in my room. Walls plastered with Star Wars posters, Star Wars sheets and curtains, toys, comics, books about space; it was a geek wonderland.
At school, however, it was another thing. There was a kid in my class named Derek, who was outwardly geek. I believe every school has had, and will have a Martin Prince from the Simpsons. Derek was ours. For his geek pride, he was pummeled practically every day. After Christmas break, the year Empire Strikes Back came out, Derek came to school wearing the exact same coat Han Solo wore on Hoth. He showed off all of the features- the hood, the pockets… it was truly a thing of beauty. I was horribly jealous, as this was something I would never have- kind of like the Boba Fett action figure he brought to school earlier, after mailing away for it. Frankly, I hated Derek for having such cool stuff, but I was also in awe of his collection. At the end of the day, I saw Derek, his new Han Solo coat ripped to shreds. The bullies at school had trashed both him, and his winter outerwear. To this day, I still believe it was one of the worst bullying events I had ever witnessed- he didn’t end up in the hospital, or anything, but watching how devastated he looked every morning, coming to school looking like a homeless Han Solo who had been through a shredder- it broke my heart.
Luckily, I had a brother who was into hockey, and blowing stuff up, and passing gas with great volume. When it came to being “one of the boys” I could hold my own. My “autographed” picture of Rocket Richard gave me extra cred, and the sick set of goalie pads my brother and I made out of old seat cushions made us the envy of the neighbourhood. In all honesty, I hated hockey. It was violent, loud, and pretty stupid. When my parents went out on the weekends, my brother and I would sit on the sofa, always watching hockey. Well, he would watch hockey- while I drew massive galactic battles on pads of newsprint (I’d pay enough attention so I would have references for the playground on Monday). I kept being a geek to myself until middle school. By then, I couldn’t hold it in. I would write book reports about the novelizations of Star Trek episodes, my creative writing classes were epic storytelling sessions about the further adventures of Han, Chewie, Leia (never Luke. Never.). Much to the chagrin of my teachers, I would draw flip comics in the corners of the school dictionaries- always x-wings blowing up tie fighters. It was a couple of years where people seemed oblivious to me, and my being a geek. I suppose in middle school, every kid has their own problems, right?
Unfortunately, there was one individual who paid close attention to my being a geek in middle school, and when I entered high school, he used it to prey on me on a daily basis. My new bully was a bratty, mouthy kid who had become quite the popular individual for his break dancing abilities. He would pop and lock his way passed me, all the while knocking me down about my love of Star Trek and Star Wars. Imagine this-I felt as low as low could be by a kid wearing parachute pants and a pink and purple wind breaker. The kid carried a piece of cardboard with him to school every day! Cardboard! Throughout high school, I was terrorized by this individual (seriously. I remember one instance, he came to school with a Mego Captain Kirk head stuck to the top of a pencil, and said to me “how do you like that? I beheaded your hero?”), and as he grew in the ranks of high school popularity, he soon had entire classrooms making fun of me for being a geek.
I went back into hiding. I tried to deny my geekness by changing my style, my attitude, what I said, and what I did. It was all a lie. By the end of high school, I was finding salvation in comic books, and the fact something awesome had come into existence- the neighbourhood video rental store. Once again, my life outside of my house was a lie- inside, I was a kid watching every science fiction movie I could rent, and reading as many Batman comics as I could get my hands on. At school I was celebrating the world of New Wave music, popping my polo shirt collar, and using cans of hairspray every day to make my hair look like whatever that was supposed to be that we did to our hair in the 80s. But what can we say about the state of geek culture now? Certainly, it has made something that was hard for myself, and others as kids main stream. That should be good, right? Well, it was good that Harvey Dent had a coin with two sides on it, so maybe.
Because geek culture is popular does not mean the majority of those that buy into it are actually geeks. We grew up in a time when, thanks to Star Wars, merchandising exploded. We had toys with cartoon tie-ins, and we all got our Transformers, Thundercats and GI Joe on. There’s a reason why our generation has been mined of its cultural references- it made HUGE money in the 80s, and now we have the money. Nostalgia is a great way to rob you of your coins. The biggest movies over the past few years have been live action reboots of cartoons from our childhood, or films based on the beloved comic books of our past. Why? Because the franchises already exist- there is less risk involved, and they are pre-branded. Are you going to take you child to see something you know nothing about, or take them to see “The Avengers”- a brand you are well aware of already?
Here’s what bothers me the most- just because you are aware of certain genre references, or liked some of it in the past, it doesn’t make you a geek. I watched football with my dad when I was a kid. I don’t really care about football now, and hardly did then. I do know the rules, understand the game, and when I was a kid, I had Pittsburgh Steelers pajamas. Does this make me a football fan? No. I was a passing onlooker, nothing more. One of my deepest beliefs is the punk philosophy of doing it yourself- whatever you want, because no one will do it for you. My writing, and my art are based on this value. I wore Doc Martens on my wedding day, and I still wear them for every interview I do, or when I meet a new client. My cats look at me confused when I throw on “Pressure Drop”, and ska around the apartment. Does this make me a punk? Absolutely not!
Just because you have a cultural reference to something does not make you that thing. Do you spend date night with your wife in Warcraft, or Elder Scrolls online? Then yes, you are a geek. Did you go through long boxes at comic conventions ten years ago, trying to complete your line of George Pérez Teen Titans? Then you are a geek. If you went to a comic convention recently, you went to a corporate entity. CSI was at least year’s Comic Con. CSI! Just because you have a smartphone does not make you a geek. The guy who invented the cell phone- he designed it after a Star Trek communicator- THAT’S geek!
If you enjoy the latest craze of comic book movies, and all of the merchandising and tie-ins that come with them, that’s great. Enjoy them! But I think it is important to remember this fact- when “grunge” was a thing in the early 90’s, it was brutally exploited by big business. Fashion week in Paris included established designers parading models in flannel and cargo shorts, Docs became available in a rainbow of colours, and inexplicably, the death of Kurt Cobain became the biggest news story at the time. Big business relies on finding trends, and exploiting them. In the process, those who have followed that trend become overwhelmed by how watered down the original product becomes (in the case of grunge, Goo Goo Dolls, anyone?). I remember during an epic 3 hour long Risk game at “geek night” a few years back, one of my friends (who was wearing an AWESOME Weyland-Yutani Corp shirt… still think you are a geek?) told us about this new tv show we had to watch- The Big Bang Theory. In the beginning, the show truly was a geek paradise. Great geek references, introverted characters- but as it grew in popularity, it shrunk in its geek values. Now, it is nothing but Friends in a different city- it has become a distant echo of what it originally was. Sort of like when Happy Days introduced Mork from Ork.
The best thing about this geek culture movement is the side effects. Sure, geek chic is designed to take your money from you, but there are true benefits. Artists (myself included) have been able to express themselves through their medium, and be recognized through sites like Red Bubble and WordPress. Now, independent artists can share their work, and even offer others the opportunity to wear unique items not controlled by a corporate machine. The Steam Punk movement has become a grassroots opportunity for designers and artists to create beautiful items by re-purposing. In fact, steam punk has become more than reading HG Wells, it has become an “off the grid” mentality that shows there are others in this world who do not believe in commercialism, and do not want to be caught up in it (well, that is, until there is some huge steam punk movie).
Lastly, and probably most importantly (sorry, you are not the most important person in the world), children can proudly walk around displaying their love for the same heroes I had to hide in my bedroom. I love when I am in a grocery store, and I see some young child wearing a batman cowl, or I am on public transit, and a young girl is reading a comic. Kids dress up as Spider Man, and Iron Man, and jump around playground equipment. I was at a mall recently, and watched as a young boy tried to manoeuvre around adults, all the while attempting to see through his Darth Vader mask.
Considering how distracted parents are today, and how unwilling they are to put the effort into being a part of their child’s growth, at least kids can still get lost in cartoons and movies where the bad guys are super bad, and the good guys are AWESOME! And because of that, hopefully, children will not have to hide their passions, or fear repercussions as I, and so many geeks in the past have had to do.
So geeks of the world rejoice! As much as you have had to suffer in the past, the world is now yours- however, for those fair weather “geeks”, I believe we need to create a new name- “metro-geeksuals”, perhaps?
See More From Chris Goursky Here
A $5 Kickstarter pledge helps ensure the magazine keeps going, plus gets you a year worth of digital copies of the magazine. Pledge more, and you’ll receive some AWESOME rewards!