The “Mainstreaming” of Geek Culture

Lately, I’ve been hearing/reading a lot of complaints about “poser geeks”, “hipster geeks”, “geek chic”, “fake geeks/fake geek girls”, and the like. Now, to be fair, I’ve also seen plenty of people putting their feet down and refusing to pander to that nonsense – but the fact of the matter is, the idea that people could be posing as “fake” geeks because it’s the “cool” thing to do these days has been popping up far too much in the past year and a half or two years. I mean come on, there’s even a “Fake Geek Girl” meme! (And it’s nowhere near as amusing as most other memes out there – nor is it in any way necessary.)

I think that those who complain about geeks and geek culture becoming more mainstream are overlooking a few things – namely, how long it has taken for this to happen. How it has slowly built up over the years. How the internet – especially sites like Reddit and Tumblr and even YouTube and Twitter, to an extent – has made it seem as if geek culture has only recently exploded into “real life”, when in actuality it has been there all along, and we were merely lacking the outlet to express ourselves until more recent years.

Think about it. Dungeons & Dragons has been out since 1974. Star Wars: A New Hope is 36 years old, and this year is in fact the 30th anniversary of Return of the Jedi. Commodore 64 computers were in production in 1982, and in fact my husband Steve grew up with one in his home. The NES console was brought to the U.S. in 1983, after the video game crash that year, and is therefore nearly as old as I am. And speaking of myself – for me, the internet has been a home fixture since 1999, and most people I know had it available to them before that, or at least very soon after. Even if you look at more recent situations where formerly “geeky” things exploded into pop culture, for instance The Fellowship of the Ring was released in theaters nearly twelve years ago.

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And that’s not even the half of it, really. Of course, for much of that time, labels like “nerd” or “geek” were pejoratives – but as the years have passed by, they’ve became less so. And as I said before, that did not happen overnight – it’s simply more prominent now because those of us who are okay with putting ourselves out there, with being called “geeks” and even referring to ourselves as such, with letting it be known that we are fans and we have feelings, nowadays have [fairly large] pockets of the Internet where we can express ourselves.

Fellow geeks, please listen very carefully, here: this is not a bad thing. And in fact, those people out there who believe that there are “fake geeks” and that those “posers” somehow “deserve” to be called out as such need to take a chill pill. Admittedly, yes, some issues have cropped up that have in part probably caused or been due to this mainstream geek culture movement – Big Bang Theory, in which they laugh at us geeky people rather than with us, comes to mind (for a show that does the opposite, check out Community). And as a convention goer and cosplayer (as much as I hate that word…), Syfy’s Heroes of Cosplay and the fact that it makes it seem as if all cosplayers are as fame-seeking, money-grubbing, and uber-competitive as the people that show features is frustrating at best. And as fun (and funny) as Tumblr can be – as much as I love that it makes sharing and saving fandom finds from the internet amazingly easy – many of its users (too many of them) also far too often tend toward childish and argumentative behavior.

Of course I understand that the aforementioned things can be a bit maddening. I’ve lost count of the number of times my non-geeky friends ask me if I watch The Big Bang Theory, and are shocked when my response is an emphatic “No.” The cosplayers featured on Heroes of Cosplay, with their obsession with costume contests and their ridiculous ideas about who should wear what, and the Tumblr users who can’t stop tagging their hate and generally just being internet bullies have made me facepalm I don’t know how many times.

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But the thing is, I’m 30 years old, and I can look back and remember how ashamed I felt of my interests when I was younger. And I can look at now and understand that things that were once considered the epitome of uncool – because they were “geeky” – aren’t so uncool anymore. That being into those things and having vast amounts of knowledge about them isn’t looked down upon quite as much. Which means that kids out there may not have to feel ashamed for loving Tolkien and wanting to learn Elvish, for loving Star Wars and devouring the EU novels, for loving gaming and spending their free time playing everything from D & D to WoW to Halo without worrying that whether it’s okay to talk about one but not about the others.

And if they shouldn’t have to worry about being judged for being geeks, they sure as hell shouldn’t have to worry about being judged by fellow geeks for being “fake”, simply because they don’t have to (or don’t feel the need to) hide away the way other geeks did (or do). Think back on that time when you were made fun of for your interests, for being a geek – and remember that we’re all on the same side.

Truth be told, this so-called “mainstreaming” of geek culture is really going to make geek life a hell of a lot easier for all of us. So put on your big boy (or girl) pants and stop complaining about something that doesn’t effect you personally in the slightest.

spiderman deal with it

Author: Tara Lynne

Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.


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