Editor’s note: When he’s not teaching the Internet how to fist-fight, why being weird is awesome or how to self-publish your own books, Joe Peacock tours the world, showing his extensive “Akira” art collection. He has 13 cats and loves you.
We know who you are. You shine like a beacon. Geeks aren’t blind: We see you, geek poser.
We know it’s suddenly cool to be smart and passionate. Those qualities earned us derision and exclusion from our peers at one point, and the term “geek” was thrown at us like it was meant to stab us in the heart. But now, it’s become something of an honorific.
These days, people actually want to be us – kind of.
I’ve seen geek posers whip out their iPhones while wearing the Secret Wars or Domokun t-shirts they bought at Target for $9.99, telling their friends what a great time they’re going to have at DragonCon or San Diego ComicCon, as if those are the happening parties of the day. They say things like, “Deep down, I’m a geek” or “I just have to embrace my inner geek” or “I bet you didn’t know I’m such a geek!”
It reminds me of the late ‘80s, when teenagers would wear Vision Street Wear or Vans shoes with a Bones Brigade T-shirt because they saw Christian Slater do it in that totally rad movie “Gleaming the Cube” (which, if you weren’t alive then, you may know as “A Brother’s Justice” – one of the few examples in film history in which a simple title change made a movie go from utterly awesome to completely crappy).
Or the early ‘90s, when everyone was wearing Z. Cavaricci pants and Cross-Colors jackets because MC Hammer was all over MTV singing “U Can’t Touch This.” Or when every white kid over the age of 13 was wearing flannel with corduroy and Doc Martens because Pearl Jam was the hot band of the day.
For some reason, “geek” has become the label that the mainstream has placed on a culture that mixes comic book fandom, sci-fi and fantasy movies, and tech consumerism. And those things all together have become very popular. So the trend is to call yourself “geeky” if you like them.
But that’s the problem. Those things aren’t the sum total of geekdom. Geek isn’t a scene. It’s not a fashion. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s a life – my life. Geek is who you are. When geek posers are off doing the next trendy thing and “geek” is, like, so 2012, we will still be us.
Sure, we’ll still be at the midnight showings of the latest Marvel- and DC-related films. When the Harry Potter septology is played across an entire weekend at that one artsy theater, we’ll be there.
We’ll also still be attending maker faires where we sit in rooms that smell of solder and sawdust as we tweak Arduino projects to get those LEDs flashing in just the right order. We’ll still be hacking our Xbox Kinects to become motion sensors for Nerf auto-cannons. We’ll still be playing tabletop role-playing and card games.
We will be exploring alternate realities, both in our heads and in meatspace. Because we want what’s next. We’re addicted to learning, to exploration. We’re hooked on sharing and making and living and breathing what it is we love.
“Geek” is what happens when passion overrides your need to be accepted or fit in. It’s loving something so much that you throw yourself wholeheartedly into it.
Unlike other “scene”-based social movements, we aren’t wearing T-shirts with our favorite comic book or sci-fi heroes to advertise a status or identify ourselves as a member of a group. We are wearing them because we love the fact that there’s a cool T-shirt with Wolverine ripping his way through it. We love that there’s a poster with Serenity flying across it. Some of us even like dressing up as the characters from the comics and shows we love during conventions because we love those characters so much, we want to pay tribute to them.
It’s a lot of work to be a geek: to be smart and passionate while ostracized and isolated because our intensity makes us weird. It is absolutely easier to buy the shirt and wear the geek label, because by doing so, you get to become smart and passionate by association.
I’ll be the first to admit, right now, we geeks are indulging a little. It feels good to be validated in mainstream society and, even if it’s a whisper, to say “we told you so.”
If you’ve ever met a real geek, you know that the second you mention something they are into – comic books, “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” cars, mystery books or any other niche – they light up. Even the most introverted and quiet geek suddenly begins talking, asking you what you’re into and what you’ve seen and oh, have you checked out this other thing? I have it ripped on my thumb drive; let me give you a copy!
It’s because, more than validation, geeks seek to share.
We want to know what you’re into so we can fill you in on what you’ve missed or find out from you what we’ve missed. We devour information and want more than anything to share it with people who are interested. And the Holy Grail for a geek is finding that special willing, open person we can take under our wing and show a whole new subculture.
“You’re into the ‘Avengers’ movie?” we’ll ask. “Ever heard of Jack Kirby? No? Well, let me show you what you’ve missed.”
I become giddy the second I meet someone who loves art but hasn’t seen or read “Akira.” I get equally giddy when I meet people who haven’t seen “The Wire” or read Zelazny’s “Chronicles of Amber” or heard Jeff Buckley’s music (and several hundred other things I care very much about).
Sure, I love being the guy they get to point to and say, “He introduced me to it.” But much more important, I like having someone new to talk to about this thing I love. I love knowing there’s a new joy in your life you didn’t previously have.
We geeks have spent our entire lives in pursuit of joy. And we couldn’t care less if you like our shirt that has a picture of what brings us joy.
We just wish you’d quit pretending. Because you look and sound silly – but worse, you’re actually being myopic and rather condescending toward a much richer culture.
If you insist on being a tourist in our culture, so be it. Just know this: It’s OK to learn the language. We’ll be happy to teach you!