Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
When I was a kid being a geek the equivalent of being a pariah. Now the term nerd is seen more a complement that an insult. People fly their geek flags as oppose to hide in their parents darken basement hopping others will not notice them. Geeks are no longer portrayed as Steven Urkle but by the semi hunks of The Big Bang Theory. Not that I am complaining but what happened to usher this new age off geek chic?
Geeks are by their very nature pop culture enthusiasts, and now it seems their passions are becoming main stream. If you doubt this look at the line up for the your youth oriented TV network, CW, with shows like Flash, Arrow, The Originals, Reign, The 100, Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, Izombie and The Messengers. Not only are they targeted for a nerd audience, three out of nine are comic book inspired.
Why? Well like everything else in entertainment, it comes down to money. A while back a gay friend told me that the entertainment business had to market to gays because, since they didn’t have kids they had the most amount of money to spend on things like movies and TV shows. I am not sure if that is true but it makes some degree of sense. Nerds may not have a lot of money but they do seem to be willing to spend more of it on their passions. They are targeted by Hollywood because they are perceived as spenders and main stream pop culture follows along.
The movie that shows that nerd obsessions can = money it is The Avengers and the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe. In high school the comic book nerds where so dorky even I looked down my nose at them. Back in the day the only thing less sexy that comic book collectors were table top role players. Now on some days ten percent of my very casual enforced dress code fellow employees are wearing superhero tee-shirts. Recently one of the hottest girls I saw on the streets of Portland had a black Batman logo on the butt of her jeans.
The avengers combine summer popcorn action with well-acted characters that we care about and opened the door for superhero movies for the next decade. Graphic novels are seen as legitimate source material for movies as literary classics. And comic book movies are just inspiration for superheroes, look at the origins of such movies as The Road to Perdition, History of Violence, 300, Snow Piercer and The Scribbler.
The TV show that helped bring nerds out of the basement the most in the last decade is Dr. Who. It gave nerds of the world wide exposer than Star Trek TOS did in the sixties. Back in the eighties when I went crazy for the PBS released Tom Baker Who, most Americans had very little idea what I was talking about. You may not be in to Who, just like you may not be in Star Wars, but it would be hard to find someone who doesn’t know who The Doctor is as it would be to find someone ignorant of Boba Fett. It also was the biggest thing in the last decade for female geeks to rally and bond over.
Honestly the argument about weather females can be geeks is stupid. Of course they can. But it took something that appealed to all genders before geekdome could move forward in to the main stream. Who like Trek appeals to all walks of life, liberal, conservative, old, young, all races. Everyone can find something in the show to connect with.
Video games are another factors in geek acceptance. I can’t play video games I make the avatar walk into walls no matter hwo hard I try. But let’s face it gaming is a billion dollar business, with the average age of a gamer being thirty-five and nearly fifty percent of gamers being female. It is no longer the geek in a Pac Man fever tee-shirt popping quarters in an arcade. Video game became part of our life when computers did.
The new media is very geek friendly. You are reading a blog that is mainly devoted to obscure works of fiction, movies and comic books. A long time ago geeks only were able to share their passions by word of mouth and memiomographic fanzines. But now thousands and thousands of people can come all over the world and share their geeky obsessions.
The books that did the most to make being a geek seem cool is in my opinion is The Harry Potter series. Not only did it make a magic nerd cool, it was a children’s book that could be appreciated by adults. The first edition of The Sorcerer’s Stone was publish in 1997. Eighteen years ago. So the children who grew up reading Potter are now adults. They grew up with the concept that geekdom was awesome and should be shared. Because many people read it when they were young it had more an influence than say the cyberpunk bible Neuromancer, who though one time was influential has now drifted into obscura.
The biggest geek lit name to rival JK Rowling is George RR Martin. With his Game of Thrones. I have to admit that I am the only geek that I know that isn’t head over heels with the series. It not that I don’t like Martin, I loved his work in the superhero opus Wild Cards. But well I don’t have HBO. And I just don’t want to hop on a bandwagon. I had a friend who was hooked on page one of the first book, but when he got the last page of book two, and saw an ad for the NEW HBO series he lost interest in the books. And that is the sad part about geek acceptance. Geeks use to think they had something unique, now we are part of the big picture. Some have chosen wrongly to oppose women in geekdome because they see the end of their exclusive club. In ways they are junkies that no longer get the same high form their old drugs that they use to, because it is accessible to everyone.
So what is the new age geek cool hunter going to find to be ahead of the curve? Personally I think that it is going to be the classics. I think Lovecraft, Poe, Baudelaire, HG Wells and the like are going to have a comeback. And all of us lit geeks can say I liked that when it wasn’t cool.