The Bolshevik Revolution. The French Revolution. The Iranian Revolution. The Geek Revolution. What do these—as well as many (some might even say most) others—have in common? It’s not the slogans or the tendency toward dressing in fun costumes that I’m thinking of. It’s not even the relative validity of their causes. What these revolutions have in common is that they toppled monsters, and in the process, became monsters (to some degree or another) themselves.
After a coup, there are always executions. Those who have been wronged cry for the blood of those who wronged them (or at least somebody who represents those who wronged them), so those who find themselves in newly acquired seats of power give the people a spectacle. But, as we see again and again throughout history, the vox populi always cries for more.
So, the Geeks have taken over. Geek culture has risen up and become the mainstream. What was once a pejorative term is now a badge of pride worn for all to see. The blockbusters, the bestsellers, the prime-time tv shows, and pretty much every measurable aspect of the zeitgeist reflects the ascendancy of everything geek. It was a bloody struggle, but the smoke has cleared, the bodies have been carried out of the capitol buildings, and the new regime has moved in to the seats of cultural power. What I ask is simple: Has the new regime improved things?
Now, before I answer that, you may notice that I say all of this in the third person. I do so because, though I think of myself as a nerd and/or geek, I do so with a lower-case “g.” I use the term “geeks” as a description rather than a label or a title, and that puts me at odds with the new movement. Because, you see, that is always the biggest problem with revolutions: the dangers of a post-revolutionary climate.
In a post revolutionary climate, people toss ideals that they might hold dear at any other time out the window. Objectivity? Impartiality? Graciousness? Dissent? How unpatriotic! Surely you have more loyalty to your comrades than that! Don’t you care about The Cause? Accusations and test of loyalty are the currency of a post-revolutionary atmosphere. They are the means to power and the quickest way to crush an enemy. Oh, you disagree, do you? And I suppose that you want our OLD leaders back?
Soon, it becomes a game or ridiculous posturing where everyone is trying to out-revolutionary everyone around them. How much evidence of your pre-revolution life can you destroy? How many revolution-related jargon words can you cram into a single sentence? How loudly and publicly can you talk about all of your revolutionary interests? How angry and derogatory can you be about whomever was in power before your party took over?
And this, my friends, is where we find ourselves now. We’re rebuilding our society after the Geek Party has assassinated the old regime and took their seats in the senate, house, judiciary, and executive offices. We all try not to say a word about how maybe some things may have been better people who were passionate about computer games or comic books or math or science fiction just did them because they loved them, and didn’t feel the need to prove to everyone else just how much they loved them. We try not to let anyone know that maybe we don’t like Dr. Who, or that maybe we think that Big Bang Theory is a terrible television show. We hope nobody’s spying on us when we watch a football game, and if somebody does see us, we try to show them that we did a bunch of statistics equations to optimize a fantasy football roster.
This is where we are, people. This is where we are and I really hate it. If you’d told me ten years ago that geeky stuff (a lot of which I really like!) was going to take over and become the norm and that I wouldn’t have to feel embarrassed about my nerdy interests, and would in fact be part of the “in” crowd for having them, I’d have done a dance of joy. I would have looked forward to the future with rapturous excitement in my eyes. We’re the underdogs! I’d think, dreamily. We’re the sweet, gentle-hearted good-guys who always get the short end of the stick! Finally the good guys will be on top for once! The only people who won’t be tolerated will be the big mean jerks!
Oh, but of course that term was left open-ended. No need to define it. Everyone knows who the jerks are, right? Once the cultural coup happened—that is, now that “we” had control of the guillotine—suddenly the term needed a definition. However, any attempts to define the bad guys resulted in making a longer list of who the term contained. The jocks. The popular kids. People who don’t like math. People who aren’t particularly academic. And so on, and so on. It wasn’t long before we’d done what no 1980s coming of age movie would have ever led you to believe could happen: The nerds got mean.
"Geek" and "nerd" are terms which suffer from a considerable ambiguity of definition, and all attempts to finalize or nail-down definitions for them always seem to be tentative and are almost always immediately disagreed upon. Furthermore, even if consensus were suddenly reached, it would still be ex post facto. But despite the amorphous labels, one feature seemed to be consistent about geeks: they did what they loved and were delighted to find any others who shared their interests. Math club, AP classes, pre-2000s comic book conventions, message boards, gaming servers. Geeks didn’t have lots of peers who shared their interests so they banded together and had fun with the few who did.
If, say, twelve years ago, a football player at my high school had suddenly taken an interest in science fiction, I’d have loaned him a copy of Ender’s Game with as much speed and enthusiasm as I contained, and so would any of my scifi-reading friends. I haven’t really changed in that regard, i don’t think, but somewhere along the line, all the other geeks did. Somewhere along the line, it went from “these are my interests, and I’d be glad to share them with you if you’d like” to “these are my interests, and I’ve been into them WAY longer than YOU have, so you’re not a REAL fan of them, you big fake.”
In a post-revolutionary atmosphere, you always have to prove how genuine you are. How devoted to the cause you are. How far back your ties to the cause go. Somewhere in the last five years or so we suddenly starting seeing, Well, I’ve been playing Magic: The Gathering since third grade. I’m a real fan. And somewhere in there we started hearing, Oh, you like Star Wars? Do you even know who Grand Moff Tarkin is? Geek culture, which started out as a dismissal of public opinion in favor of one’s personal interests, has now become all about being accepted by public opinion. Instead of bucking the norm, geek culture has become a normative force.
In no case is this sad fact more evident than in the way female geeks are treated. No! Not the geeks! Surely they wouldn’t perpetuate the same misogynistic trends of the men of every previous stage of cultural vogue! *Sigh* I’m sad to inform you that they do. From image macro memes on the subject, to popularized hate-speech phrases on internet forums (“tits or GTFO!”), or gamers using the feminine as derogatory (“oh, I’m sorry, does your vagina hurt, loser?”). While geek culture seems to demand that everyone show off their nerd cred, it demands that female geeks prove theirs.
Luckily, we will occasionally see some sexist “geek” get completely owned (look at me using geek words!) while going out of his way to mock a girl geek (like this delightful foot-in-mouth example), and sometimes, the women take it upon themselves to fight back, (like this wonderfully sarcastic woman). But more often than not, women get the short end of the stick. They end up having to prove that they like something.
And if not women, then people who look like they might not have always been into some nerdy passion their whole life. That guy looks pretty buff: he must not REALLY like comic books. That guy is clean shaven and dresses well: he must not REALLY be a TRUE gamer. That guy watches football: no WAY that guy is into science.
And I, my friends, have had it up to HERE with this bullcrap.
So, despite my many so-called “nerdy” interests (which I will not list here, because I’m not interested in proving myself to you), I’m officially emancipating myself from geek culture. I quit. I’m done with you. You’re the same as the “jocks” or whoever was in control before, only you walk around every moment pretending you’re the nice guys or the underdogs. You’re every bit as mean, exclusive, dismissive, sexist, rude, condescending, and vile as every 1980s meathead football-playing jock bully stereotype ever was. If not worse, because they probably didn’t think of themselves as the underdog nice-guy while doing it.
I’m done. I quit. I got caught up in the spirit of things as the old banners were falling, but regained my senses and I see that pigs and men are indistinguishable from one another.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go do something I enjoy, but I’m not going to make a single effort to prove to you how “real” of a fan of it I am. And I will enjoy it so much more as a result. Have a nice night.