On Being a Geek, Real or Fake

Demonstrating that I’m probably more “nerd” than “geek,” earlier this week I stumbled across this recent article in The Atlantic, which is the publication’s take on the “Fake Geek Girl” meme, which I guess is actually a thing these days. While this is probably an issue I should have made an argument about last summer after Joe Peacock wrote his piece for CNN’s “Geek Out” blog, I’m never one to turn down an opportunity to fill my own blog with words that could potentially get a reaction out of someone – so I’m going to use The Atlantic as my barometer for current events.

In all seriousness, the whole topic of “fake geek” anything, whether it be male, female, vegetable or mineral is a topic that raises my eyebrows, in large part because I’m a person who despises labels for anything, whether it be religion, politics or social standing. Without becoming too philosophical about things, once someone or something has officially be labeled, there’s an element of absolutism involved that becomes difficult to break without being deemed a fake (if someone else labels you) or a hypocrite (if you label yourself).

Case in point – based on the fact that I write a blog that divulges a lot of personal stories and emotions about my quest to collect every single issue of a comic book series, one may be quick to label me a geek. Additionally, I come in to and out of work every day carrying a vintage Marvel comic book flight bag and sitting on my dresser in my apartment are a set of Marvel Secret Wars action figures from the 1980s. I bet I sure sound like a token geek by that description.

But what does that label actually entail? Because for all of my geeky behavior there are a range of things that I do or don’t do that would probably relegate me as a “fake” by whoever it is that takes these things seriously enough to write an entire column about them on a major news web site. I’ve never attended a major comic book convention in my life and while it’s something I might do at some point before I die, it’s not necessarily something I’ve been clamoring to do. As I’ve openly declared many times before on Chasing Amazing, while I enjoy comic books and have more than an average amount of knowledge about the medium, my weekly pull lists at my local comic book shop primarily consist of the few Spidey-related titles out there (Amazing/Superior, Avenging, Venom, Scarlet) and my one wild card, Daredevil. Additionally, I have no interest in Star Trek (but love Star Wars), I found both the Lord of the Rings books/movies and the Game of Thrones books to be a bit of a bore, and I think the Dark Knight Rises was a pretty bad movie full of plot-holes, contrivances and overall tedium.

So then I’m clearly a fake … unless I’m making the same mistake as Peacock and others by using an arbitrary set of criteria to classify people under certain flags. What is a geek and why does anyone care about this definition? What does casting some people out as “fakes” really end up preserving here? In a sociological situation like this, there’s always going to be somebody with more “cred” than you, so  who is anyone to determine where you can find the bottom of the ladder. As for the way I react socially, I create circles, or communities, whether that be in person, in a room full of people, or on the Internet. I gravitate towards like-minded people who share my level of morals, values, interest and hobbies and then that’s … it. Are we geeks? Can anyone REALLY determine this?

I haven’t actually really gotten into the real heart of this issue which is just the general struggle the comic book/fantasy/sci-fi industry continues to have with connecting with women, whether it be an internet meme created by some people who are obviously incredibly insecure about themselves and the circle of people they’re surrounded by, or an advertisement for a Chuck Lorre sitcom about women in a comic book store. Let me be perfectly clear in that I’m happily married to a woman who certainly has her share of “geek” tendencies, but also doesn’t share the same level of enthusiasm for things like superhero comic books that I have. However, that hasn’t stopped her from attending comic book shows with me (where she is instantly made to feel awkward when she’s not asked to buy a ticket because “what could YOU possibly want to buy at a comic book show”), as well as watch superhero movies and just in general indulge this part of my personality through conversation and birthday presents (presents are great).

I’m guessing my wife doesn’t fit into the description of the “Fake Geek Girl” but what if she did? I just don’t know how anyone can make that determination, though when I force myself to think about it, its overt sexism and narcissism makes me angry. I don’t know why there are some people out there who go to the extremes they do to wear certain costumes, sexy or otherwise, but if it makes them happy so be it. It’s certainly nothing for anyone to feel personally affronted by.

Ultimately (and where I’m going with all this), “controversies” like these embarrass people like me on two fronts – first as a male who regards women as not only equals,  but also of being completely capable of being whoever they want to be sociologically. And second as an enthusiast of some elements of “nerd culture,” who is just sick and tired of people who constantly reinforce the mainstream pop culture stereotype that most “geeks” are socially-inept men who spend the bulk of their waking hours dealing with their own failings by casting stones at others who make them feel inferior.

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