Argh! This Geek Girl war of authenticity just won’t go away! It has gotten under my skin over the past year to such an extent that it has manipulated my fingers into typing my own, personal take on it. For those of you not aware of how this issue has hit the inter webs again, a well know tweeter/ writer Tara Brown (@tara) wrote an article on Forbes.com titled “Dear Fake Geek Girls Please Go Away”. Now the title was a little bit more inflammatory than the actual post, as her closing thoughts were more of ‘digging deep’ into what interests you in order to call yourself a real geek, but it did talk about those ‘deserving the label’ and ‘exposing the posers’. And this troubled me. For who defines posers and the deserved? Unless there is a Masters of Geek, no one can or should. (A great dissenting article on the Mary Sue site can be read here). I actually thought Tara’s article meandered (I reserve the right to be meandering as I am not being paid by forbes), and never made a strong point as to how geeks should rise above their doppelgangers. But what it did reflect to me was our lack of a true ‘geek’ definition (yes she used the original definition of a circus freak, we’ve all pointed that out in myriad posts). In some instances, it seemed like a geek was a person highly versed in the entire geek canon (Patton Oswalt), in others, simply someone who is passionate and skillfully knowledgable about something (the young girl who knits). So by extension, you can’t call yourself an Avengers geek unless you know the canon intimately. Let me come out of the closet. I don’t. But I will still be going to the midnight showing with a geek flag in hand.
I *wasn’t* a geek in school. I didn’t read X-Men, my dad didn’t give me his Foundation Series books to read (which I give him shit about now). Instead, I read (and liked) Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew books, I obsessed over clothes and boys. But I was also a competitive skater who trained 5+ hours a day and had to keep straight A’s. Girls especially, liked to ‘hate’ me. Even when I was part of the popular crowd, I never felt comfortable…and that continued all the way through college. I felt different. Had I known that there was a world that I could have found support and solace in, things probably would have been easier. But I survived, as we all do.
Fast forward to today. I consider myself a geek. Would I pass a geek litmus test? HELL NO. Did you see how I read Sweet Valley High instead of Spiderman? I have a lot of catching up to do and I do it earnestly. But just the other day I was talking to a fab woman in our digital space about a geek girl show idea, and she asked me if I’d be in it. I hummed and hawed because of my fear that in labeling myself in a show as a geek girl, I would open myself up to attack and challenge. I think of that now and it saddens me. Thankfully Tara’s article made me address it. (I have not to addressed the ‘girl’ element of the current debate but it’s an important one).
What I think we all might want to start considering is that geek culture (and the fictional worlds that it espouses) represents a new mythology for our era; a framework giving a growing majority of people’s lives context and meaning. The term geek has evolved past a ‘person or group descriptor’ and into a cultural one. We’re entering a new millennium that is devoid of instructions, one that is challenging (even rejecting) the social norms that have defined our society for the last hundred years. We need a map and a wise guide to navigate our existence and that’s what the ‘geek’ world does. Or at least that’s what it does for me. From Rowling to Gibson to Asimov to GRRM – I am able to sketch out my future while making sense of my now. From the badass females in pop culture film and tv – I have recoded my genome – at least re-expressed it. It’s a passing of the torch from one rigid set of rules dictated by a king or priest or corporate suit, to one flowing beyond our known world and evolving, expressed by passion and imagination. Which is why I get upset when a ‘geek’ steps on a pedestal. No one geek is better than another. Yes, there are ‘geeks’ out there who were geeks before many of us knew where to look. They are the elders, and for their early pioneer work in dangerous lands (and I’m not being facetious) I am highly grateful. But the masses are coming. Whether it’s a movie star who just played ME3 or a mom who picks up DUNE, the culture is speaking to more of us everyday. It’s here to stay – no reset button needed.
**Taryn here- thank you for all of your tweets and RTs today! The comment option seems to hidden on my new site here, so I have to remedy that. Sorry if it limited any discussion that could have occurred.**