what’s in a geek?

Last week, Wil Wheaton blogged about whether Comic-Con is hurting nerd culture through the infiltration of mainstream media and Hollywood types.  His take?  No – this evolution may be disappointing, but our culture will persevere.

I actually think the Comic-Con discussion can be extended to much more than just a single convention – what we perceive as “geek culture” is becoming a bigger part of the mainstream with each passing year.  Comic book movies.  The Big Bang Theory.  A successful Star Trek re-boot that pulled in much bigger box office returns than it would’ve if it had been seen by die-hard Trekkies alone.  These ventures can be bittersweet for geeky fans – we’re getting what we want, but only sort of, and tainted by Hollywood’s desires for big stars, fancy CGI, and re-writes of plots that we know and love into something “marketable.” This has blurred the line between geek and mainstream.  You can love Star Trek, or Tron, or Spiderman… and not be perceived by others as a geek.  Sure, it’s a little different if you get into thematic collecting, or cosplay, or RPGs.  But over the past decade, we’ve seen a shift.  It’s normal to like video games, computers, science fiction, and comic books.  It’s no longer just for the pocket protector crowd.  So what does it mean to be a geek anymore?

I’ve always seen geek culture as an acceptance that you can like whatever you want, and enjoy it in whatever way you want.  You can break down Primer into a poster-sized timeline of cause-and-effect and concurrent time travel events.  You can get into deep philosophical debates about the relative merit of Joss Whedon shows.  You can write RPS MPREG fanfiction about the actors from Lord of the Rings.  And that’s just… that thing you do, as your own flavor of geekiness.  I can’t stand geek elitism.  You don’t have to like Star Wars to be a geek.  You don’t have to speak Klingon.  You don’t have to play D&D, or own any dice at all.  All of this makes geek culture hard to define, and increasingly harder as we also see the shift into mainstream.

The more I think about it, the more I don’t care.  I don’t need to be defined by a word, or be a part of a nebulous culture.  I’m glad there’s a convention where people can wear amazing costumes, play the latest unreleased games, and see a panel about their favorite movie, television show, or comic book.  I’m a little less thrilled about all of the movie adaptations, mostly because I’d like to see more original content on the big screen (but that’s another rant for another day).  You don’t have to like all of it, or see it as a part of geek culture… whatever that is.  However I look at it, there’s simply more out there for me to see.


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