It's another quiet week in the land of geek, and the mental effort it cost me to review a book entirely in Regency English has me a little strapped creatively. I'm hoping to bring you some interviews soon, but everyone has been swamped with film festivals and travel, and so I decided to bring in Entertainment Earth's Geek Girl Diva for a discussion on the State of Geekdom.
In the last year and a half I've spent writing The Beat, there have been a lot of changes to our niche entertainment. We're now living in the shadow of the Marvel / Disney deal, and wondering just what might come of the newly formed DC Entertainment. It's too early to write conclusively about these things and what they might mean for movies, comics, and television. All I know is that it's a brave new world out there, and what was once a fad is now going to saturate our culture in a way that's both exciting and exhausting to contemplate. As we watch two corporate juggernauts form to do battle, I can't help but think that the "geek" world is about to become nonexistent.
Of course, geeks aren't limited to the universes of Marvel and DC. It's World of Warcraft, Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, Firefly, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Battlestar Galactica, and so much more. As Cinematical is a movie site, I've had to restrict the Beat topics to sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book movies. Naturally, there's been a lot of focus on the latter because there's been so much more to talk about, something that this sci-fi drenched summer has really helped change.
But honestly, the success of District 9, Moon, and Star Trek also makes me wonder about the lines of geekdom. For the first time since who knows when, the mainstream world was talking about Star Trek like it was any old thing, and not something they had derided for years.
The lines of our niche community are blurring. They're disappearing. People are discovering (or rediscovering) that a movie set in space or Gotham City isn't any different from a movie set in 1920s Los Angeles. The stories are just as exciting, the dilemmas are precisely those you and I face every day, it's just that the people are dressed a little differently. Maybe they're wearing a fedora, maybe they're wearing a Starfleet uniform, but at the end of the day it's just a story about people and places.
I think this sudden constriction is why fandom has begun to react so aggressively lately. I've been meaning to tackle the New Fandom in a column, but I keep hesitating as I feel it'll come off as whiny and inflammatory instead of merely thoughtful. But there's a lot of hate floating around in geekdom right now, an atmosphere that is killing discussion, enthusiasm, and criticism. Whether it's directed at Twilight or newcomers to whom Chris Pine is Captain Kirk, many geeks are trying to hold the line of the final frontier, and it's something that worries Geek Girl Diva greatly.
For myself, I'm struggling with my feelings of what exactly geek is, whether we'll ever lose this flashy corner of fandom, and how torn it makes me feel. Naturally, being two geek girls who have often been employed due to our arcane knowledge, that came up a little bit too. If male geeks are weirded out by being popular, it's even weirder for female fans. We're still treated as strangers in a strange land by both sides of society. (Heidi MacDonald of The Beat just addressed this too, and one of these days I will pull her in to chat on here!) It's a strange thing to be a symbol of how geek has gone mainstream, and yet be dismissed as newcomers lured in by Twilight.
Obviously, we couldn't begin to come to a conclusion, and it's worth noting that we were both quite tired as we attempted to sort out definitions, descriptions, and feelings. Hopefully, you'll see it in the spirit it was intended, which was to draw my readers into the debate. Let's jump in, shall we:
Elisabeth: We're post-Watchmen, ComicCon, Wolverine, etc., and in some ways I feel like the term "geek" is becoming extinct!
Geek Girl Diva: Oh, see, I think it's overused. Suddenly everything's geeky!
Elisabeth: Yes! That's a very good point. I wrote a column once debating "what is geek" because people were calling Transformers, Terminator, G.I. Joe "geek movies" And to me, geek is very specific. Geek is the stuff you might wear a costume to. Star Trek. Watchmen. Lord of the Rings. The stuff no one really knows about.
Geek Girl Diva: I always think of Geek as the niche stuff. The stuff that people might like, but they'd laugh at you for dressing up or writing fiction for, or reading expanded universe for. Or, tech stuff. The GeekBoy has a passion for Ars Technica and he looks at sites that show things like custom built PC towers and the like. I call it his "Geek Porn." But I do think that the term geek in pop culture is overused.
Elisabeth: Oh yeah, tech stuff is definitely on the geek end of the scale. It's so funny because when you get into true obsession -- even with something as mainstream as sports, there's not a lot of difference
Elisabeth: And yet whenever I go to the airport and the shuttle driver asks me what I do, they're like "Really?! Wow. I mean, I liked comic books but I grew out of them." But they don't think twice about Raiders fans, that's not as odd as an adult reading a comic book for some reason.
Geek Girl Diva: Exactly. Of course, it still seems much more acceptable for people to be sports fanatics --
Elisabeth: Maybe Big Fan will change that. :P
Geek Girl Diva: ::grin:: Nah. It'll still be okay. People understand sports nuts.
Elisabeth: It's insane though! If you saw this trailer with a comic book geek storyline, people would be like "Oh yeah, so twisted, people like that are so wrong."
Geek Girl Diva: People who read comics at our age - especially men, are just another Jeffrey Dahmer waiting to happen.
Elisabeth: But because its sports, it's healthy or rare. But you know, I was more of a hockey fanatic, I still ran into the same kind of prejudice as I do now. It was "Wow, a girl hockey fan! I wish my girlfriend liked hockey. You're so unusual." Or they assumed I was a puck bunny.
Geek Girl Diva: I mean, I know girls who like sports and girls who like Star Wars. I'm both. And I've been lucky enough to find men who think both of those things are cool. But I'm also lucky and choosy about the guys I hang with.
Elisabeth: I've been lucky too. I think I'm luckier now that I gave up my so-called jock life, geek guys are way more accepting than sports guys.
Geek Girl Diva: Geek guys are generally more okay with girls liking what they like, tho. I mean, if you like D&D, you're unique.
I kinda want being geeky to go back to being a bit uncool. Is that bad?
Elisabeth: No, I feel the same way. It upsets me on some deep level to see X-Men and Gambit t-shirts at Forever 21 stores (see left). I feel like such a hypocrite because I bang the drum for geek girls, and how these storylines are very mature and complex, not to be sniffed at by adults of both genders. But then when it becomes very mainstream, I get a little worried.
Geek Girl Diva: Um ... oh man, this is so wrong of me to say. What if being a geek really was just an analogy for being socially inept?
Elisabeth: I don't want to think it's a socially inept thing. I think it's kind of like geekdom was like a pristine tropical island, and now the tourists are coming in. We're worried our island is going to be trashed because the newcomers aren't just going to leave footprints, they're just going to trash our mythology with amnesia bullets.
Geek Girl Diva: Well, okay, not inept. Because that's not what I mean. But geekdom is generally born of having time to get into certain fan ideas deeply and time alone helps with that. Oh, see, I like the idea of people being allowed on the island. Because, I look at it this way. The people that get it, that truly get it, will enjoy it and see the scenery and relish it. The tourists. They'll stop by, buy a t-shirt and leave. I see the same thing in the goth scene. Some people club every weekend, every night. It's a culture to them. Some people visit and never come back. And some, like me, get assimilated.
Elisabeth: They'll move onto the next thing. I want people to come to the island too, it's bizarre of me. It's so silly to be overprotective.
Geek Girl Diva: Nah, I think it makes sense. You love the island. You see the beauty. And you get sad if other people don't or trash it. But I figure, the island of Geekdom is strong. ::grin:: It can clean up after the idiots and still look awesome. I just get sad because I want Geeks to be more accepting.
Elisabeth: Yeah, that bothers me too. I'm constantly handing over my comic books to people, or trying to get them to come to ComicCon with me. But when I first visited Star Trek conventions, oh man, people were so rude to me.
Geek Girl Diva: The posers will come and go. But I've seen geeks get all down on other geeks. That's mean.
Elisabeth: It's a weird thing. I would have thought that kids who were beat up for liking Star Wars wouldn't beat someone else up.
Geek Girl Diva: I mean, no offense people, but you're dressing up like a Romulan. You're already skirting the edge of normal. So, why pick on the Goth kid who likes The Nightmare Before Christmas. I've seen geeks go off on other geeks cause they weren't geeky enough.
Elisabeth: Exactly. Just because they sell it at the mall doesn't make it cool, really. Not in the mainstream sense of cool.
Geek Girl Diva: And, sorry but, if you can quote Star Wars, you're a geek. If you know Columbia's tap solo from Rocky Horror, you're a geek. If you know how many touchdowns Joe Montana threw in his lifetime, you're a geek.
Elisabeth: Yeah. I feel fandom is inherently geeky no matter what it is. If you're obsessing about something, you're a geek. Which in some ways ... that's why I almost feel like the term is extinct. When you see Dr. Horrible on the Emmy's, I feel like the line between Us and Them is gone. That it's all just entertainment. Mad Men, Dr. Horrible, Bones, and Battlestar Galatica. It's all the same now! There's no more Others, it's just the Dharma Initiative or something. :P
Geek Girl Diva: See, I look at it in a good way. Because, the geeks get it. They get a nod. We get some love. And the people who don't get it, sort of smile and move on.
Elisabeth: I wonder how many people at the Emmy's were like "What is this 'blog' they speak of? Is that like Ain't It Cool News? Like Julie and Julia?"
Geek Girl Diva: Yeah, but wait a sec. Battlestar Galatica? Nominated, but no love. I mean, look at Edward James Olmos. The man put down some AMAZING performances. But never got a nod. Because it was a sci-fi series.
Elisabeth: True. The moment I think the line between genre and mainstream is gone, I run into people who are like "I have no idea what that is."
Geek Girl Diva: Is Bones really geeky or is it loves by Geeks. Isn't it the Moonlighting of our generation? Mad men, loved by geeks, but geeky? But shows like Battlestar Galactica and Dr. Horrible get nominated for webisodes. Because geeks made those categories. So, we're awesome and we maybe found a niche. Geeks have always been good about spotting good shows.
Elisabeth: Oh, I don't think Bones or Mad Men is geeky -- I just feel like maybe something we think of as more obscure, like Battlestar or Dr. Horrible, is just as mainstream now as those. But maybe not.
Geek Girl Diva: Nah, I can still mention BSG and Dr. Horrible to plenty of people and they look at me blankly. How do you know it's geeky? The blank stare test!
Elisabeth: Every once and awhile, I end up surprised. I was in the airport shuttle, and these two old ladies, both in their 70s, started talking to me about Batman. They were like "Oh yes, the franchise went downhill once Michael Keaton left, but Christian Bale was a fine replacement to reboot it."
Geek Girl Diva: ::grin:: Hey now, old ladies in airports are the bomb. But geeks are ageless. And tell me you got a pic with them!
Elisabeth: I wish, they got off at a different terminal and I lost track of them! They were fascinated by my "insider" knowledge though.
Geek Girl Diva: Heh. Maybe that's it. Maybe it's because so many people are online and have info.
Elisabeth: I think the Internet broke down a lot of barriers.
Geek Girl Diva: I do too. And geeks tend to rule the internet, so maybe the geek factor is amplified? But maybe it's just because like attracts like.
Elisabeth: Well, my big theory all along is that there's no difference between Wolverine and Dirty Harry, Iron Man and Indiana Jones, that it's all put there by marketing. People love big movies, big characters. I mean, everyone loves pirates. But come Pirates 4, some mainstream magazine will be all "Geeks love that pirate sh**!" What?! Pirates were acceptable for everyone back in the Errol Flynn days. No one said "Man, that pirate stuff is for geeks."
Geek Girl Diva: Yeah well. That's part of my annoyance that suddenly people think geek girls are new. Because of Twilight.
But, here's what I realized. Go ahead and market Twilight to me. I won't see the movie. One day you'll have to figure out what fangirls like. But I also think it's incumbent on geek girls to find a way to tell the mainstream media. Without sounding pissy. Man, that's tough. I hate being mad and then sounding like a cranky female.
Elisabeth: I know. It's frustrating to see a lot of my colleagues on all the movie and geek sites going "Umm, we've BEEN here." I mean, I thought there was a lot of fuss about the Girl's Guide to ComicCon, I laughed it off at the time and still do. I have more of a problem with this idea that only with Twilight did girls find out what a comic book convention was.
Geek Girl Diva: Oh, see, I got peeved about that. When a gal's telling me I want to go to comic con to drool over Jake Gyllenhaal's abs, I get cranky. Because I'm sitting here wondering why she's making me look like an idiot.
Elisabeth: LOL see, I thought "Well, the guides tell guys to go for Megan Fox!" When I did a riff on it, I very much sold it as "Hey, go ahead and gawk at the dudes because they'll be staring at booth babes. And I followed it up with the Hot Guys of ComicCon gallery because I thought why the hell not. It's time to say yes, girls go and they have healthy appetites. They like their men dressed up!*
Geek Girl Diva: And we still had 40% female attendance at SDCC.
Elisabeth: Something else I wonder about geekdom -- the way Marvel, Disney, and DCE are becoming such huge, huge, companies. If you have Silver Surfer everywhere, and he's as common as a Yankees t-shirt, is that still going to be geeky?
Geek Girl Diva: For the guy who collects every comic, every figure? Yeah.
Elisabeth: I really do see our lines dissolving in the next few years. I think there will always be a few obscure things -- D&D, Firefly -- but for the most part, it's all going to be very, very ordinary.
Geek Girl Diva: I don't know if geekdom's about the property. It's about the level of obsession. I think, if people love something, then it's geeky to them.
Elisabeth: Ah. I think you've probably nailed it.
Geek Girl Diva: But, here's a question. Does it have to be out of the mainstream to be geeky? Or can't we love things other people love?
Elisabeth: I do think that this year we've seen such an expansion of the term that people will come to understand that -- that if you're obsessed with poker, pug dogs, or Food Network, you are a geek. You are a geek for that thing, it isn't just because it's Star Trek or space. I think it USED to mean that.
Geek Girl Diva: Yep. We have cooking geeks and dog show geeks and I know we have poker geeks.
Elisabeth: Because I do feel like that's a misconception that has dogged our little community for a long time -- if you were a geek, you couldn't like sports. That was some kind of betrayal. And if you liked sports, if they found out you were reading comic books or watching Star Trek, they were like "But you're not a geek, you're normal."
Geek Girl Diva: But Bill Gates proved computer geeks can be rich and Phil Ivey proves poker geeks can be awesome. Yeah, but I wonder, if you think about it. Who made that rule? I mean, it used to be Geeks and Jocks and Prom queens. But we saw Revenge of the Nerds. And Lewis got Betty. That's when it all changed.
Elisabeth: I think high school made that rule. And the entertainment industry! I think it was like -- if you were still into something when They decided it was Over, then you were officially a geek.
Geek Girl Diva: Or maybe geeks did. In rebellion. And now, we're not so awkward any more. Now we're acceptable and maybe being accepted is hard for people sometimes.
Elisabeth: I think Trek started it. I really do. I think everyone had personal obsessions and it was all cute and overlooked, but when they unified, you needed a label.
Geek Girl Diva: Oh gosh, shut me up. I'm drunk and waxing philosophic.
Elisabeth: I'm cool with being accepted. Honestly, if I could retire the term geek, it'd be awesome because I get sick of typing it. I wish it had a synonym. As a fan of words, I would be sad to see the label vanish, but I'll be happy if the separation does.**
Geek Girl Diva: Personally, I think geeks need to learn to be accepting of other people liking what they like. And geek is just a term for super into. With less letters. And much kinder than "obsessed." And it's cool. I like geeks. Cause they're good with who they are. Maybe it'll just go back to being a term and not a status symbol. Then we can go back to our relative obscurity.
Elisabeth: I definitely cherished my status. I liked being unique.
Geek Girl Diva: But, I'm not sure I want that. I like that geeks have control over movies and TV. It means I get BSG and Sin City. I mean, the 70's had a lot more Happy Days than BSG. These days, we have an entire channel. That's a good thing.
Elisabeth: Yeah. If we want more, we have to be popular. Sure, we're no longer unique snowflakes but we're entertained. I'd rather be entertained than watching my tiny Firefly collection. I love it, but man, I can't watch it FOREVER. Got to have something to break it up.
Geek Girl Diva: I'd rather have a world in which Firefly didn't get cancelled. The more geeks at network, the better the odds. And, for the record, Nathan Fillion now has a show and he's being allowed to be geeky. This is good.
Elisabeth: Exactly. If being "one of the crowd" means there's a crowd to make the noise and save Firefly, I want that crowd!
Geek Girl Diva: So, we agree.
Geek Girl Diva: Hm. We suck at debate.
*As many comments noted, the Hot Guys of ComicCon didn't appeal to girls alone. No oversight intended there! :)
** I know the origin of the word geek, but it doesn't mean "person who bites the heads off chickens" any longer, so let's not repeat it for the millionth time.