The Venn Diagram of Geeks, Nerds, Dorks and Jocks.
August 5, 2013 10:20 AM   Subscribe

 
It leads to some interestinghead-poundingly awful examples of cognitive dissonance, like when Ben Kuchera in the PA report compares gathering in groups to sing songs from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic like some sort of cultural rite of passage that shouldn't be mocked while his employer actively engaged in erasing and denying the real identities of real, human people.

"Geeks are not an oppressed minority. There are certainly many members of oppressed minorities who are geeks, but geeks are not an oppressed minority. The n in 'N-word' does not stand for nerd, or neckbeard. You are not owed attention for the 'real you', especially if you insist that a hard drive full of scanlated manga is the real you." -- Nick Mamatas, horror, fantasy, science fiction writer; editor of the Haikasoru translated Japanese science fiction novels
posted by ShawnStruck at 10:37 AM on August 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


Postmodern Geekdom as Simulated Ethnicity.

Was hoping this was just a link to the word NO in large type.
posted by Artw at 10:37 AM on August 5, 2013 [40 favorites]


Re: the second article linked in the OP, neither Superbad nor Knocked Up are movies about geeks or starring geek characters. The writers are confused about the distinctions between geeks and nerds ( and perhaps slackers ).
posted by Bwithh at 10:44 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah , and the first article is conflating geek and nerd too on first glance.
posted by Bwithh at 10:45 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a strong parallel here to the self-perception of American evangelicals.

On the one hand, they've got the dominant position in American society, with their needs being disproportionately catered to. You hear the loud boasts that America is a Christian nation. Similarly, geek culture has taken over mainstream culture and we're proud of it. On the other hand, you get people like this guy comparing himself to Rosa Parks because shop clerks sometimes wish him "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." See also the term "nerd blackface." I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that The Big Bang Theory is somewhat less problematic than racism. Self-righteous delusions of persecution can be good for one's self esteem, all the more fun if one doesn't have to get through any actual persecution.

The pride of the ruling class plus the sense of moral superiority proper to the underdog: the persecuted hegemon.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:48 AM on August 5, 2013 [38 favorites]


I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that The Big Bang Theory is somewhat less problematic than racism.

Two things can be congruent without having the same meaningfulness.
posted by DU at 11:00 AM on August 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


I don't think there is any debate that individuals who happen to identify themselves as nerds or geeks are sometimes bullied.

I think the question is whether nerds or geeks are actually an identifiable group at all aside from shit they spend money on. Even that definition doesn't make sense anymore, is there anyone who doesn't like GOT?

If, however, you want to define nerds or geeks as somehow neuroatypical, and that being a brony is some sort of symptom, maybe there is something to the concept of nerds being some kind of coherent group.

Of course I don't really mean just bronies. I mean a specific way some people seem to relate to the world. What is odd is that we all seem to recognize it but are not able to pinpoint exactly what it is.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:02 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think there is any debate that individuals that happen to identify themselves as nerds or geeks are sometimes bullied.

I doubt there is a single identifiable group that doesn't include a population that has been bullied.

But, there seems to be this aspect of nerd/geek culture that wears being bullied (whether they actually were or not) as some sort of code for "This excuses a lot of what I do."
posted by Thorzdad at 11:14 AM on August 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


yes, but what about dweebs. Also Superbad and Knocked Up seemed to be mainly about dweebs.
posted by sweetkid at 11:17 AM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is there an online petition to add "geeks" to protected classes under Title VII yet?
posted by entropicamericana at 11:20 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe we need a new word for "survivors of traumatic bullying aimed at those who don't conform to cultural stereotypes of femininity or masculinity"? And maybe we don't also use that word for everyone who likes Doctor Who.
posted by straight at 11:24 AM on August 5, 2013 [31 favorites]


But, there seems to be this aspect of nerd/geek culture that wears being bullied (whether they actually were or not) as some sort of code for "This excuses a lot of what I do."

I think that is the least charitable reading. I also don't know if it is an excuse as much as a reason. None of us here are qualified to judge whether or not people we don't even know have been bullied and what long term affects, such as PTSD, it may have caused.

Maybe geek/nerds/whatever is the wrong term for what I am describing.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:26 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have legit heard dozens straight people tell me, a queer dude, that using geek and nerd was reclaiming a slur like the n-word or queer and it took all my restraint not to launch them into the Sun.
posted by ShawnStruck at 11:30 AM on August 5, 2013 [31 favorites]


Obligatory Cat & Girl.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 11:33 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Two things can be congruent without having the same meaningfulness.

But we do have Godwin's Law for a reason.
posted by Garm at 11:33 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


is there anyone who doesn't like GOT?

Yo.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:34 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, while "we" used to get bullied for an obsession with Star Wars, now Star Wars is owned by the megacorporate Disney. Similarly, the "commonalities of the working class identity" have been bullied by neoliberalism, and now I subscribe to Jacobin Magazine to prove I'm one of "us" instead of one of, well, one of those people who has to make everything about "us" vs. "them."
posted by gobliiin at 11:35 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think straight said it better than me.

This conversation always bothers me because whether or not they are oppressors, people can still be victims of brutality and I don't think it minimizes the effect it has on the individuals brutalized that they think it is cool to wear a fedora and talk about the friendzone or whatever.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:44 AM on August 5, 2013


I agree in principle but I don't think wearing a fedora or talking about friendzones has anything to do with being a geek or nerd? Isn't the traditional criteria generally a great deal of interest in science fiction and/or fantasy, computers, video games, and displaying social awkwardness, shyness, and possibly anxiety issues?
posted by Justinian at 11:46 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am just mentioning the more objectionable things that seem to get associated with geek culture nowadays. Maybe it is just my perception.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:49 AM on August 5, 2013


The writers are confused about the distinctions between geeks and nerds

There are no distinctions between geeks and nerds; just nerds thinking calling ourselves geeks will make us more acceptable and vice versa.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:53 AM on August 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


I certainly associate talking about Friendzones with the kind of people who complain that nerds are an oppressed minority just like [your pick of actual oppressed minorities].
posted by Artw at 11:55 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


See also the term "nerd blackface." I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that The Big Bang Theory is somewhat less problematic than racism.

Analogies do not suggest absolute equivalence. Ever.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:56 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wonder what the Ancient Geeks would have made of this
posted by iotic at 11:57 AM on August 5, 2013


Not one iota.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:59 AM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


I agree with the first article's definitions of nerd and geek.

But I think the concept referred to as "dork" is more complicated than just lack of social skills. That lack of social skills can be bound up in any or all of the following:

1. Obsessive nerdiness or geekiness that crowds out interest in social skills.

2. Social condemnation of the kind of thing someone is obsessed with. Guys who are football geeks and girls who are fashion geeks don't get labeled dorks.

3. Not being conventionally attractive. I think that this sometimes leads to a lack of social skills because someone who has to learn, as a survival skill, to ignore voices saying, "You're fat. You're ugly. You're clumsy. Your clothes are ugly," may have a hard time learning to accept voices saying, "You need a shower. You shouldn't stand so close to people. You shouldn't wear a fedora."

4. Actual difficulty at understanding social cues (including stuff like Asperger syndrome).

5. Blameworthy, self-centered failure to care about other people.
posted by straight at 11:59 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


probably a comedic farce.
posted by gauche at 11:59 AM on August 5, 2013


I certainly associate talking about Friendzones with the kind of people who complain that nerds are an oppressed minority just like [your pick of actual oppressed minorities].

Yeah that is sort of what I meant. Not to get too into the stereotypes. But the dudes that are into "2D" and have those waifu cuddle pillows and are always saying shit like "swag is for boys, class is for men" while tipping their fedoras and calling women m'lady.

I'm guessing most people on metafilter don't run into those guys online.

I don't want to pathologize those guys but I think there is something going on beyond liking science fiction.

Maybe I am the real nerd hater here. I dunno.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:00 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


FAKE GEEK 4 LIFE
posted by Artw at 12:03 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's the group where everyone is into pretty goofy stuff but everyone's cool about it and there's no judgment and everybody's welcome, like, you don't have to dress a certain way or be a certain way you can just hang out with us and enjoy our weird things that we like from time to time and later we'll have a barbeque or whatever and its totally fine that you're into that really odd thing you can share it if you want that's cool here have a wine cooler

Is it still the goth kids? They were always my favorite.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:10 PM on August 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


ETEWAF! It's time to die. Really.
posted by bdz at 12:11 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are no distinctions between geeks and nerds; just nerds thinking calling ourselves geeks will make us more acceptable and vice versa.

I think there are distinctions. Nerds seem more knowledgeable and more likely to apply their knowledge for someone's benefit (either their own or society). For example, in popular culture there's the "evil nerd" type: Mandark, Bill Gates in the 90s, Syndrome, Lex Luthor. There's no equivalent "evil geek" in pop culture.
posted by FJT at 12:11 PM on August 5, 2013


Yeah that is sort of what I meant. Not to get too into the stereotypes. But the dudes that are into "2D" and have those waifu cuddle pillows and are always saying shit like "swag is for boys, class is for men" while tipping their fedoras and calling women m'lady.

You can just say "Reddit".
posted by Artw at 12:14 PM on August 5, 2013 [26 favorites]


I call myself a dork. I mean, I was a literal mouthbreather for all of elementary school and painfully shy up until college and it feels like the most accurate term, for whatever reason. But mostly I embrace the term as a self-identifier because I have a persistent history in being interested in things that are considered in no ways cool--I wore a bald cap with spots drawn on it to school in 1999, long after Alien Nation was canceled, because I was that obsessed (I also had a t-shirt with something written on it in Tenctonese. "Newcomer," I think?) I mean, I like Star Wars, too, and a few other mainstreamy things, and it's not like I wear the badge of non-mainstream-geekness as a source of particular pride or anything but there's this feeling of social isolation, in being a dork, which you don't really get when you're a geek which seems to be all about loving the same things. Whereas I've had the persistent feeling of being just a half degree out of step with both the mainstream and the dominant geek paradigm.

There's a privilege there, in being a dork. I have never had my geek cred questioned. And I definitely don't think I'm an oppressed class. I mean, deep down, I'm happy loving the things I love. But that doesn't make me any less dorky.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:15 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


You can just say "Reddit".

Yeah. Maybe I always make a big deal because I really want to say "just because we both like LOTR doesn't mean I'm also into clopping. Those nerds over there are sick and I'm just kinda weird but not really because LOTR is a billion dollar industry. But those guys are really weird and I'm not like them"
posted by Ad hominem at 12:18 PM on August 5, 2013


Analogies do not suggest absolute equivalence. Ever.

Actually, I think they almost always *suggest* it for rhetorical value, right -- they just never prove equivalence empirically.
posted by aught at 12:18 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remain in awe of the ability on display here to simultaneously deny that a group is stigmatized, while bringing out a parade of negative stereotypes. I'd doff my my fedora if I owned one.
posted by tyllwin at 12:25 PM on August 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


Just don't boff it. Everyone knows that LARPers are the worst.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:27 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


But, there seems to be this aspect of nerd/geek culture that wears being bullied (whether they actually were or not) as some sort of code for "This excuses a lot of what I do."
...
Maybe we need a new word for "survivors of traumatic bullying aimed at those who don't conform to cultural stereotypes of femininity or masculinity"? And maybe we don't also use that word for everyone who likes Doctor Who.

These aspects are actually a big, big reason why I don't really care to identify myself with any of the words being thrown around here. In the holistic sense at least; if anyone asks, yeah, huge Star Wars geek right here. But identifying with the concept of geek or nerd or whatever centrally? I can't do it, not with the way the self-described-geek community behaves or reflects upon itself or discusses itself, is treated in the media, and treats others both within and without the community.

I consume all sorts of SF/Fantasy/etc. media, I master dungeons, I spend hours of my life discussing bad horror movies. On Saturday night, I spent parts of Pacific Rim clenched to my fiancee's hand so tightly out of excitement that I may have injured her. If there needs to be cred, I got cred.

But literally none of my excitement or interest or enthusiasm has anything to do with my current or prior social standing, how I was and am treated by my peers who did not share such interests. That stuff is literally the last thing I ever want to talk about because it is a) boring-to-sad and b) overwith. I cobble together an identity for myself just like everyone else. I'm not about to start hanging onto cobbles covered in horseshit.

Are there lots of self-proclaimed geeks, nerds, etc., who are, well into adulthood, still haunted by specters of former bullying, still bullied, still having a tough time out there? Yes. And it sucks, and it should absolutely be pointed out, and the people suffering should have a hand extended to them.

But, dear god, I can't see why anyone would want to take a bunch of concept that all revolve around imagination and fun and exploration and forcibly brand SUFFERING onto it, and then show off that brand like a cool new pair of shoes.
posted by griphus at 12:29 PM on August 5, 2013 [32 favorites]


Ad hominem: I think the question is whether nerds or geeks are actually an identifiable group at all aside from shit they spend money on. Even that definition doesn't make sense anymore, is there anyone who doesn't like GOT?

Probably the best research I've seen on this was the paper that identified nerd girls as a linguistic community of practice based primarily on a high value for academics and rejection of the regional teen slang and inflections.

Which is one reason why I'm kinda baffled by the insistence on extrapolating that beyond high school into perpetuity. Do other people perpetually identify themselves as jocks or preps?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:29 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, fuck this.
posted by Legomancer at 12:30 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Everyone wants to be persecuted minroity without being persecuted or a minority.

Can't they just get a weird haircut or a nose-ring for their safe rebellious period?
posted by The Whelk at 12:31 PM on August 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


My favorite geek joke:

Q: What's the difference between a geek and a nerd?
A: About $50k a year.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:32 PM on August 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


But, dear god, I can't see why anyone would want to take a bunch of concept that all revolve around imagination and fun and exploration and forcibly brand SUFFERING onto it, and then show off that brand like a cool new pair of shoes.

For me, embracing the dorkitude is all about acknowledging the child I was and evolved from and refusing to sweep her under the rug in shame even though I got braces and am much more socially functional now and am aware that the world doesn't want to hear me singing the Space Cases theme 24/7. It feels empowering, not tragic.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:32 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just don't boff it. Everyone knows that LARPers are the worst.

Jack: We may not be the best people
Liz: But we're not the worst

Together: graduate students are the worst.
posted by The Whelk at 12:35 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Female geek/slacker duos like Enid and Rebecca from Ghost World merit further research.

I have a feeling the "researcher" is going to do this in slo-mo over and over until he's spent his grant money all over the laboratory.
posted by four panels at 12:39 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Look, maybe I'm missing something but last time I checked mainstream culture hadn't been cleansed of prejudice, leaving geek culture as the last bastion of sexism and racism on earth. I think people should be really careful about ascribing geek culture's endemic sexism and racism to the things that make geek culture unique. I think that's a mistake that both the geeks who attempt to justify their prejudices and the geeks and others who call them out on it make. A lot.
posted by NathanBoy at 12:41 PM on August 5, 2013


Yet another metafilter thread about hipsters? Jesus Christ, give it a rest!
posted by chrchr at 12:42 PM on August 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Some people actually do suffer. Whether that suffering has anything to do with liking science fiction is the question. We all know someone who liked science fiction and was still considered cool. We all know someone who was bullied no matter what they were into or how hard they tried to fit in.

Maybe I'm not a nerd or a geek. I never felt empowered. I felt under constant threat. I am willing to accept that maybe I share some interestests with nerds or geeks is sheer coincidence.

I am willling to cede the words geet/nerd/dweeb/dork and bring back the word poindexter since nobody is using it.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:42 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remain in awe of the ability on display here to simultaneously deny that a group is stigmatized, while bringing out a parade of negative stereotypes. I'd doff my my fedora if I owned one.

You'd also see a parade of negative stereotypes in a thread about rich WASPs, it doesn't make them a persecuted minority.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:47 PM on August 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Whether that suffering has anything to do with liking science fiction is the question.

I would guess that for me the interests were coupled to the suffering in that I wanted an escape, and roleplaying games and speculative fiction provided that escape. I suspect that I would have liked them regardless, but they're not unrelated in my mind. I don't think in my specific case that the bullying was made any worse because I liked RPGs and SF; it was as bad as it was because I fit the no-social-skills-and-few-friends profile of an easy target.
posted by Jpfed at 12:49 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just don't boff it. Everyone knows that LARPers are the worst.

Don't knock it till you've tried it. Foam fighting is a ton of fun!
posted by Jpfed at 12:51 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whether that suffering has anything to do with liking science fiction is the question.

I think if you talked to many con attendees twenty or thirty years ago you'd probably get some rather emphatic answers. There's a reason FIAWOL was a thing. Does it still need to be? Maybe not. But people in this thread seem to be denying historical realities based on current trends.

To be fair there was always a debate between FIAWOL and FIJAGH.
posted by Justinian at 12:52 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


To be fair there was always a debate between FIAWOL and FIJAGH.

You make a salient point, but if I may make a rejoinder, what
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:55 PM on August 5, 2013 [18 favorites]


Heh. The fact that you have no idea what I am talking about would seem to be evidence that being a science fiction nerd really was a well defined subculture in the past.

FIAWOL = Fandom is a Way of Life
FIJAGH = Fandom is Just a Goddamned Hobby
posted by Justinian at 12:56 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fandom is a way of life vs fandom is a hobby.

What I have always wrestled with is what are the root issues that cause people to think liking Star Wars is a way of life. Like that is your whole being, you are a fan.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:58 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Media fandom is a new thing quite distinct from historical science fiction fandom. Liking science fiction was practically incidental to the latter.
posted by Justinian at 1:00 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's the difference between "being a fan/liking something" and "fandom." Do you ride a bike? You like bicycles or are a fan of biking. Do you spend most of your spare time fixing bikes, riding bikes around in groups, hanging out online or in person with other people who spend most of their time thinking about bicycles? I guess you could call that "bicycle fandom." Same thing. It's a subculture.
posted by Electric Elf at 1:01 PM on August 5, 2013


Everyone wants to be persecuted minroity without being persecuted or a minority.

Can't they just get a weird haircut or a nose-ring for their safe rebellious period?


Or perhaps wear a silly hat?
posted by Zalzidrax at 1:03 PM on August 5, 2013


gathering in groups to sing songs from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic like some sort of cultural rite of passage

Sounds like most rites of passage: humiliating, painful, and covered in fedoras.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 1:03 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, ad hominem: Jo Walton's Hugo, Nebula, and BSF award winning Among Others is a wonderful examination of why someone would tie their identity up in SF. Though, again, it is centered exclusively on written SF.

I agree with you about those media weirdos. That doesn't make sense. (am I serious? Even I am not certain.)
posted by Justinian at 1:06 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think one of my other big, big problems with the culture of victimhood in geekdom (which is adult-run) is just how poorly it serves the twelve year old kids spending lunchtime reading Dune in the school stairwell because they don't fit in. I don't know, maybe (probably) I'm projecting but it presents a community that almost requires one to acknowledge the importance of the bullying, as if it has deeper meaning than "people will always find a reason to be a dick to you." Like leaving it behind with a "whatever" means you're not really a geek so, hey, another place you don't fit in.

You don't have to hide your tastes and enthusiasm to fit in and make friends and be social and have fun with people who are different than you. And you also don't have to oppose society at large, declare yourself a victim on the fringe, and live your life and make your way always in opposition to whoever it is you picked to be The Normals. There's always a middle way, even if it involves telling both sides to go fuck themselves (or, more realistically, knowing when to be capital-e ENTHUSIASTIC and when to chill the fuck out) and living with the consequences.
posted by griphus at 1:07 PM on August 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


Yes of course. I was using Star Wars as an example.

The same thing applies to anything else.

The difference I see is that some people like things to the exclusion of all else in a very single minded way.

Maybe it happens with bikes too.

I'm just digging a hole here based on my own tendency to fixate in the same way.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:10 PM on August 5, 2013


The problem is that geek culture has ossified into an enormous tribe, and the narrative of suffering is all-important for this tribe. It's a collective consensus specter of persecution that unites the tribe and gives geeks a reason to privilege their "rich inner lives" over those they perceive as having shallow, empty pursuits. In the 80's/90's, a geek kid getting picked on for being really into Star Wars would hopefully find a friend to commiserate with. Now if it happens it's noteworthy enough that it makes the front page of Reddit and people pour thousands of dollars to the parents' paypal account because of some perceived righting of cosmic wrongs, and then some people find phone numbers and addresses and start harrassing the bullies. There's a combative, trench warfare pathology that permeates geek culture, whether it's desperately showing that comics/games are VALID ART WORTHY OF BEING IN A MUSEUM or YOU'RE JUST FAKING YOUR GEEK INTERESTS TO GET SEXUAL ATTENTION. It's off-putting, needless, and comes across as more aggressive and ego-driven than "jock culture" ever was.
posted by naju at 1:13 PM on August 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


Honestly, Ad Hominem, from where I'm standing--that being a still reasonably obscure piece of geek terrain--the criticism I'm used to seeing from *within* a community that self-identifies as geeky (or "fannish", as is more often the case) is directed toward the behavior talked about in the second article. Furthermore, it's a reaction against the absurdity of observing people who were once socially marginalized and mocked become mainstream, and then turn right around and mock those of us who still aren't. FWIW this actually includes people in our own "turf", as it were...we are often as analytic of ourselves and our behavior as we are of media.

Vidders are, like fic authors, media fans at heart. We *are* Star Wars, Dr Who, Trek, etc fans, and any other media you'd care to mention. Our mode of interaction and expression is still frequently considered hilaaaarious, and an object of scorn and derision among the very geeks who have inherited the earth.

Fan-vidding*, with some dramatic but rare exceptions, is dismissed, downplayed and even erased from geek culture...at least the type that has always and continues to be dominated by women, many of them LGBTQA, and has been around since at least the 1970s (fanfic, slash, even longer than that)

People in my acquaintance occasionally get mainstream media attention or internet famous, as happened fairly recently, and sometimes close personal friends end up in museum displays for People Who Pay A lot of Very Close Attention to Media Studies, but other than that...it's the Brony remixes and then poor Jonathan McIntosh trying really hard to get a journalist to actually pay attention to the history of the hobby, and to maybe talk to one of the thousands of women who create, document and perform academic study of fandom.

Often when vids get positive attention, the focus is on male creators with a backhanded jab at...people like me. It's been like four years, and I still think about this BoingBoing post. "Fandom: more of this. Less slash"

LOL! SLASH! FANGIRLS! LOL! Said the official blog of the Socially Acceptable Geek.

Now, for an awful lot of vidfans and vidders, mainstream acceptance/exposure is basically the last thing they want...if they're even paying attention to it. Whatever the case, we do our thing, and we have an awesome time at bitchin dance parties to stuff *that we and our friends made* just to have fun with one another.

But when the Judd Apatows of the world get up and lament their lot while becoming the culturally dominant force and mocking people like us with their very next breath...well, you know, tiny violins all around.


*not to be confused with AMVs, for reasons that...well honestly, there are actual books about
posted by menialjoy at 1:13 PM on August 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


And you also don't have to oppose society at large, declare yourself a victim on the fringe, and live your life and make your way always in opposition to whoever it is you picked to be The Normals.

Embracing labels that were once used to persecute you doesn't mean you're "declaring yourself a victim on the fringe." Like I said, I didn't face a ton of persecution personally (some teasing, mostly by my family)--the reaction to me from both geeks and mainstream peeps was usually a polite blank smile. But I can understand how and why the people who had it worse than just being called "weird" on occasion would want to turn around and embrace those labels as a positive identifier.

I don't think it's fair for those of us who have chosen to deal with trauma one way to tell other people that their way of dealing with trauma is bad.

(I've also been working on reclaiming other terms; I was verbally abused. I was poor. Openly stating these things makes some people--including some people who faced similar hardships--very uncomfortable. I'm not saying it to be a victim, though. I'm saying it because these are parts of myself and I'm not ashamed and because it feels good to take ownership over my own narrative.)

Often when vids get positive attention, the focus is on male creators with a backhanded jab at...people like me. It's been like four years, and I still think about this BoingBoing post. "Fandom: more of this. Less slash"

Yes, this is true, and there's still certainly a hierarchy. Which is why I made the LARP crack (totally tongue in cheek, seriously). It's okay if you like Star Wars or Doctor Who or Game of Thrones but you sure as hell better not be a furry, or a LARPer, or a slashfic writer, or whatever else it is that hasn't yet been properly monetized so as to enter the geek mainstream yet.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:20 PM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's true, as people lament being bullied by "the Normals," they bully other geeks. That was my high school experience, which I would have got over if it hadn't kept happening and happening and happening with geek events and meetups, RL or online. I like geeky stuff, but geek culture in both its male and female varieties can't go away soon enough.
posted by Electric Elf at 1:22 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


It always seems, and I'm not offering an excuse here, that sometimes people who feel victimized seek out victims themselves.

I just think this is a much deeper issue than some people like science fiction and are dicks.

I'll go think about it while not watching fringe because fucking netflix cruelly yanked season 5.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:25 PM on August 5, 2013


Wait is that what happened? I've been having a month-long Fringeathon and I got the "S5 is here!" email and got excited and then I think I got another email saying it is coming in September or something?

Well, either way, I'm still only like halfway through S3.
posted by griphus at 1:28 PM on August 5, 2013


Which is why I made the LARP crack (totally tongue in cheek, seriously).

Oh, I got that, no worries.

True story: I used to run around in hardcore RPG circles (tabletop, LARP, freeform...ALL). A guy I was dating, someone who put his 36-hours-in-character LARP photos on his OK Cupid profile (in full costume) regularly made fun of the fact that some (a lot?) of the women in group liked anime and wrote fanfiction.

It was a pretty formative "lol, whut?" moment.
posted by menialjoy at 1:28 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's how abuse perpetuates, of course, and also just that after having our behavior policed we become somewhat habituated to behavioral policing. It's how the powerless feel more powerful, and it's ugly, but it's pretty easily understood in human psychology. I don't think that means that there's no good that can come out of fandoms. Because I've experienced a lot of good, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:29 PM on August 5, 2013


desperately showing that comics/games are VALID ART WORTHY OF BEING IN A MUSEUM

The classy thing to do, of course, is to state that this is self evident and ignore anyone who says otherwise. No need to plead the case, it's undignified.
posted by Artw at 1:29 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Help! Help! I'm being repressed!
posted by slogger at 1:30 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait is that what happened?

Yeah. They released it before the agreed date somehow and had to remove it. It will be back September 12th. I was halfway done with S5 when they yanked it too.,

Welcome back BTW.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:32 PM on August 5, 2013


A friend of mine recently introduced me to a friend of his by saying "This is [mediocre], he's an eccentric." I wasn't sure how to react to that, I'm self aware enough to know that in High School I was a social misfit because of obsession with the internet, sci-fi/fantasy and a horribly ill-advised goth phase. But I am also self aware enough in retrospect to realize that a good amount of this wasn't people automatically dismissing me, it was me automatically dismissing everyone else. I had adopted the mantle of the outcast because it kept me in a place where I didn't have expectations of anyone else and no one else had any expectations of me. When you look at the individual components of my younger life, it would look much more like that of a "cool kid" then I wanted to admit at the time. I was in, on three seperate occasions in the most popular rock band in my school. I owned and operated an all ages concert venue/nightclub. I was a DJ at a local radio staton. When that job went away, I was the DJ at the pirate radio staton I ran out of the aforementioned venue/club. People, I later learned, actually really admired and looked up to me in that town because of how willing I was to just dive into something full steam whenever I had an idea. Girls even crushed on me. But I hated myself. This hatred of myself took the form of hating everyone else, which took the form of me convincing myself that they all hated me. Eventually, this became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the bottom line that I was not nearly the feared, spat upon, leperous teen I thought I was.

So I shook her hand and said "Eccentricity implies wealth, I'm just a dude."
posted by mediocre at 1:32 PM on August 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


That last episode of season 3 of My Little Pony is some fucking bullshit.
posted by Artw at 1:33 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


What's the group where everyone is into pretty goofy stuff but everyone's cool about it and there's no judgment and everybody's welcome, like, you don't have to dress a certain way or be a certain way you can just hang out with us and enjoy our weird things that we like from time to time and later we'll have a barbeque or whatever and its totally fine that you're into that really odd thing you can share it if you want that's cool here have a wine cooler


Metafilter?
posted by louche mustachio at 1:36 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


> It always seems, and I'm not offering an excuse here, that sometimes people who feel victimized seek out victims themselves.

You desperately want to never be the bottom of the pile. This isn't a nerd thing, it's a monkey brain thing. And yeah, it sucks for everyone.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:37 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Was it Kierkegaard or Dick Van Patten who said, "If you label me, you negate me?"
posted by entropicamericana at 1:37 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hi! I'm young, I'm white, and I represent the most materially wealthy generation of human beings on Earth that has ever lived. At no time in my life am I without instant access to endless entertainment and educational resources. I am surrounded by novelty and whimsy wherever I go.

A huge percentage of the products conceived in Silicon Valley are designed to make my life, and the lives of people just like me, as comfortable and convenient as possible. Vast armies of workers, millions of them, in China, toiling for wages that I would find intolerable, produce the toys and gadgets that entertain and comfort me.

Another huge percentage of human creative and organizational resources, in Hollywood, are spent crafting spectacular entertainment events specifically around the things I love.

Major cities welcome me, and thousands of people just like me, to their convention centers and hotels, where we gather to congratulate one another.

I am so oppressed.
posted by Ratio at 1:37 PM on August 5, 2013 [34 favorites]


Postmodern Geekdom as Simulated Ethnicity.

Complete with its own sickle-cell anemia: autism.
posted by jamjam at 1:37 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's the group where everyone is into pretty goofy stuff but everyone's cool about it and there's no judgment and everybody's welcome, like, you don't have to dress a certain way or be a certain way you can just hang out with us and enjoy our weird things that we like from time to time and later we'll have a barbeque or whatever and its totally fine that you're into that really odd thing you can share it if you want that's cool here have a wine cooler

Your friends, hopefully.
posted by thivaia at 1:39 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, absolutely, PhoB.

Interestingly, Mr. Menialjoy credits getting into fandom and specifically female-dominated fandom for being the man he is today and so I guess I really owe some major respect.
posted by menialjoy at 1:41 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am unsure whether to be relieved or disappointed that his example of geek violence was a Star Wars versus Star Trek standoff and not a metafilter versus reddit trivia rumble.
posted by bukvich at 1:43 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I googled "subkulturkampf" and got no results, how is that not already the name of somebody's blog?
posted by zvs at 1:44 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Or some sort of UK82 filk band.
posted by griphus at 1:47 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a larger set encompassing the Venn diagram in this article, which is Buy Stuff. Everything within is more or less demographics of Buying Stuff. To be part of certain subcultures of geekdom or nerddom, for instance, you have to purchase Doctor Who Ultimate box sets or Arduino kits to open up your dog's house door.

Above all the inter-demographic squabbling, the main point is that you Buy Now to secure your place in your little slice of Venn.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:49 PM on August 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


You desperately want to never be the bottom of the pile.

See the Hierarchy of Geeks.
posted by immlass at 1:53 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whoa hey, nobody is saying to Stop Buying Stuff, that's crazy, it's downright unAmerican, just keep buying stuff and arguing over which is the correct thing to buy and how much. The stuff is very important. Go out today and get more Stuff where Stuff is available.
posted by The Whelk at 1:55 PM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


it's really hard for me to identify with nerd/geek subculture these days, even though i WAS a nerd in the 60s and early 70s and went through all sorts of holy hell for it

i pretty much felt like a minority of one and still do - and i'm far too anti-social to go for a label and gather up similar people to myself

i read through two pages of the last article and can't really identify with identities that are being mediated for me through the media

besides, i made an important discovery in my early 20s - if you crank up an electric guitar to 11 and play it well, they may still dislike you, they may still think you're weird, but they're NOT going to call you a nerd anymore
posted by pyramid termite at 1:56 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It will surprise nobody here to learn that as a child, I struggled with notions of cliques and popularity and geek and nerd greatly. This came to a peak in the sixth grade, when I both:

1) left surveys on every kid's desk demanding a definition of "popularity" that could be communally approved, or else popularity was merely subjective and there were no kids more popular than everybody else, and

2) wrote a girl a love letter, but heard through the grapevine that she wasn't sure what to do with it because "he's so geeky." So when she came up to me to say that maybe we could be friends, I instead glared at her and said, "Nerd. Not geek."

(I left then with a dicknose flourish, knowing of course that she knew exactly what I was referring to. Oh, that grapevine!)

That mistake wherein we conflate shared interests with a sign of intelligence or shared values is a really irritating one. I was thinking earlier today that there is next to zero difference between a Doctor Who fan who owns all the DVDs and a couple of models, and a big Phillies fan with all the pendants and jerseys and taped videos. Both fetishize physical copies of things, both watch way too much TV than is good for them, etc. The only differences are pretty much arbitrary. (Would that LARPing could be as big a physical activity as football or baseball is today. I'd have loved to LARP in gym.)

There are more groups in the universe than Doctor Who nerds and Phillies jocks. Film fans, literature buffs, metal fans... these people can all be elitist pricks, too. (Don't get me started with fucking poets.) But most of these groups are relatively niche – they belong to such distinct cultures that they're usually identified along with them. Jocks are starting to go that way too, actually. Nerds, meanwhile... the nerd umbrella has become so huge and expanded to cover so much ground that there isn't necessarily any common ground between two people who fit all the nerd stereotypes. What's more, as more and more iconic geek things become signifiers of being "in" this culture, they start to lose any meaning they once had. Which is great inasmuch as some of those things are pretty terrific, but bad as far as forming a community around that stuff goes.

Way back in 2008, when The Dark Knight was still new and the Watchmen movie was a terrifying event on the horizon, my high school friends and I were talking about how this was a part of the hipster "I was into this before it was cool" backlash. It used to feel like knowing Watchmen, knowing 2nd edition D&D, knowing Monty Python or Spaceballs or Dune or whatever you'd like, was a sign that you were a particular kind of person. It probably wasn't, even then, but there were some shared interests: in world-building, or mythology, or game mechanics, or whatever it was about a particular thing that sparked obsession. And then along comes D&D 3.0/3.5/4, the Watchmen movie, a huge wave of Mel Brooks and Monty Python mania and references, and suddenly that thing you used to use to classify yourself has become moot. (Dune survived, I think. Anybody who's read Dune is still a good person. /partialhamburger)

Of course, in 2008 I felt I was one of those people whose tiny group was being dissolved in waves of normals; in 2013 I can reflect back and say that dissolution was pretty much a good thing. It introduced me to people I'd never have met otherwise, it made me realize you can like dorky things and still be pretty cool, it helped me find interests in more normal things without feeling like I was somehow betraying my inner superiority. (Or rather, it dissolved that inner superiority somewhat. Everybody's awesome! Yay!) And now I realize that the "culture" I was trying to "defend" was the culture that had contributed to my sense of isolation in the first place.

Nowadays I don't think "nerd" is as big a thing among young people; it's been supplanted somewhat by "hipster", but "hipster" is fading too. My younger brother is as loserly as they come (he said lovingly), what with the Vonnegut reading and stage managing and obsessive classical-music-and-indie-rock-scouring and a bunch of other things that would have marked an antisocial blackshirt at my high school just half a decade ago. Yet he has, like, an ordinary social life. He has a ton of friends, they all hang out and shoot the shit about Minecraft or whatever, and then they do some other social activity that has nothing to do with "being a geek" per se. While I was home this month, transferring from one city to another, he invited a girl over to watch him play Demon's Souls, and apparently this is a normal thing to do. It boggled my mind. Can't say I wasn't a bit envious.

Ultimately, "nerd" isn't going to last. There simply isn't enough isolation anywhere online that you can keep to yourself, in the dark, without at least a little sunlight coming in. The antipathy of the whole nerd culture means that if you've found a dark little hideyhole for yourself, a bunch of other nerds will come in and start shitting on you; even dark places like /r/atheism are constantly bombarded by critics, seemingly for no other reason than that the critics can't stand to see people there happy with themselves.

w/r/t the evangelical Christian comparison, I can see the parallels. Maybe we should try and get all the evangelicals onto Reddit. It would probably be good for them, it would be good for your average Redditor today, and it would be freaking hilarious for the rest of us. Anybody savvy enough to fake a Bible reading that'd claim the Antichrist will reveal himself on Reddit or some such? I'm sure it can be done.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:59 PM on August 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Thom Yorke wrote a song about that, it's called "Anyone Can Play Guitar"
posted by sweetkid at 2:00 PM on August 5, 2013


Yeah, I think at least personally, the Consumption as Identity part of modern fandom is one of the more-unnerving aspects of it. I mean, I can say that I do geeky things, but I can't really say that I feel like I am a geeky person. Largely because of that consumption aspect.

I'm not interested in buying props to look at on my wall (Got to be authentic, of course), or collecting every book or movie in a series to point to and never read (Got to be extended premium director's cut, of course), or buying color-changing TARDIS mugs that I'll never drink from (Got to keep them pristine, of course).

I'll work on a system hack for Apocalypse World, sure. But that's an act of creation, not consumption. I can identify with making something. But I'm not a capital-m Maker. I'm just a guy who's into tabletop RPG system design.
posted by CrystalDave at 2:03 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


a huge wave of Mel Brooks and Monty Python mania and references

I'm pretty sure this never happened. Mel Brooks and Monty Python have always been relatively mainstream, though I will admit that quoting Monty Python is a common nerd/geek/whatever affectation.
posted by stopgap at 2:12 PM on August 5, 2013


Nowadays I don't think "nerd" is as big a thing among young people

It is an it isn't. The trouble is that everything that those of us who grew up in the 80's would identify as markers of "nerd culture" have gone mainstream (cf. hipsters). I mean, everyone uses computers now. Video games are bigger than Hollywood in terms of mass popularity. Tabletop RPGs are passe across the board. Comic books are still sort of less popular, but the moves have completely been taken over by comic characters and franchises.

So what would a young person even do today to be a nerd? Wear glasses I guess. Dress badly? Those things have timeless quality about them when it comes to being marginalized by your peer group. But even those aren't that big a deal. I suspect kids today are just less consciously divided today than they were, but perhaps I just don't see the divisions because I'm old and out of touch.

But nearly every kid I've met from my kids' social circles does something that I would have considered to be a "nerd" activity in 1984 (which I will arbitrarily define as the peak of the nerds with Anthony Michael Hall's biggest films, plus the release of Revenge of the Nerds). Video games, fantasy books, manga - everything seems mainstream now.

What the heck constitutes a fringe activity these days anyhow?
posted by GuyZero at 2:16 PM on August 5, 2013


Thom Yorke wrote a song about that, it's called "Anyone Can Play Guitar"

Well when your band's chief guitarist is Jonny Greenwood your perspective gets a little skewed.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:17 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's the group where everyone is into pretty goofy stuff but everyone's cool about it and there's no judgment and everybody's welcome, like, you don't have to dress a certain way or be a certain way you can just hang out with us and enjoy our weird things that we like from time to time and later we'll have a barbeque or whatever and its totally fine that you're into that really odd thing you can share it if you want that's cool here have a wine cooler

The Juggalos.

[not even kidding]
posted by komara at 2:18 PM on August 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's also kinda nutty in that the things claimed to be hallmarks of geek culture are often blockbuster pop-culture phenomena.

One of the reasons that I'm a bit uncomfortable with the "I was/am oppressed because I was a geek" thing is because, in my experience, a large chunk of that wasn't about science fiction or reading too many books. (It certainly wasn't about Star Wars because Star Wars was everywhere back then.) It was primarily about anti-gay prejudice and gender-checking. There was also an element of social class town/gown tension in my community. But then again, I'm one of those persons who sees feedback loops and systems theory behind everything. Literary therapy was as much a response to peer abuse as a cause of it.

Of course, to me that was then, this is now. I'm now in a job where I can buy my books rather than borrow them (and subscribe to Netflix). I have a comfortable work culture. And I have three major industries chasing my dollars with multi-million-dollar blockbuster entertainment.

Part of my distaste for geek oppression rhetoric is that it often seems like an excuse for guys with privilege similar to my own to excuse cred-checking or pushing out women or to engage in anti-gay expression, on the grounds that they're the marginalized culture in that relationship.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 2:19 PM on August 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, komara, I can see that. I didn't really know any juggalos during my formative years but I can see how that torch was passed to them.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:19 PM on August 5, 2013


Yeah nerd battles are long over; LOTR movies and Harry Potter were the decisive victories. The dominant social clique battle of our current era isn't nerds vs. jocks, it's hipsters vs. bros. Overlapping in many ways but still separate from the previous war. All pretty meaningless, of course.
posted by naju at 2:19 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


What the heck constitutes a fringe activity these days anyhow?

Religion.
posted by mediocre at 2:19 PM on August 5, 2013


Oh, another other thing. There's a bit of overlap, but I think it comes out of the same instincts. When in mixed social groups, it's Gatekeeping. And in more stratified groups, it's what I've taken to calling nerd/geek dick-waving. (The gender bias is a bit intentional, as it's behavior that I've predominantly seen done by men, and in a similar manner to other types of 'dick-waving contest'.)

On gatekeeping, Scalzi et al. has a particularly good bit of coverage on it, but it seems to come down to (often heavily gendered, and I've seen accounts of it being racially selected as well) ingroup policing, as mentioned above. By saying "I'm better than those people, I have social skills" or "I have deep thoughts & interests, rather than those people with their shallow popular interests", it's a way of defining oneself into exclusivity. Which is bullshit, and pushes people out of shared interests, but is way too common.

Then there's what happens when there's no obvious Other around, but hierarchy must continue to be asserted. Nerd dickwaving. It shows up in a few ways. Trivia (or more accurately, proper trivium) being one of the most-commonly mentioned ones above. "I'm a better Dr. Who fan because I have a scarf & sonic screwdriver prop" "No, I am, because you misattributed the episode where the scarf showed up!" "I spent the most money on getting the Ultimate Reverted Un-Lucas-ified version of Star Wars", etc.

Get enough people who buy into nerd as identity into a room together, and it'll rarely be long before they start comparing nerd-peen & arguing over who's got the better ruler to measure eachother by. And somehow, it always comes down to "I spent the most resources", whether it's money, time, or mental capacity & focus. (There's a weird offshoot when this gets combined with nostalgia in the form of "Things were best in the form they were when I was 14" and becomes grognardia, but that's an entire post on its own)
posted by CrystalDave at 2:21 PM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


It was primarily about anti-gay prejudice and gender-checking.

Or at least about power hierarchy and normative behaviours.

Coincidentally I re-watched The Breakfast Club with my kids on the weekend and was surprised a) that the pot usage was so casual, I guess I'd forgotten and b) that "fag" was used so frequently and casually.

Man, The Breakfast Club may have been about accepting who you are, as long as you bought into a pretty narrow view of gender expression and relationships. It comes off somewhat dated depending on what lens you look at it through.
posted by GuyZero at 2:23 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is fantasy getting more mainstream outside of Harry Potter, LOTR, and GoT, though? In my experience, I'm not sure that it is--a lot of it is still treated as though marred by girlcooties (unicorns) or dork cooties. I actually had this long convo with an editor recently about how she doesn't think most YA fantasy fans, particularly of Harry Potter, are translating into fans of the broader genre, and I've found this blog post to be generally true, that parts of the genre that readers enjoy are seen as exceptions rather than exemplary examples.

Surprised that comic books are seen as at all niche, though, what with the huge comic book franchise films and the popularity of graphic novels.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:23 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always defined the "social skills" thing as "figures out what the other kids are doing and blends in with them." As a nerd or dork or horrible person or whatever, I was unable to figure out that I should be pegging my pants until I was forcibly told to...and then was still pegging them years after everyone stopped.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:27 PM on August 5, 2013


even dark places like /r/atheism are constantly bombarded by critics, seemingly for no other reason than that the critics can't stand to see people there happy with themselves.

There's a thin line between self-acceptance and self-satisfaction. Crowds prefer the latter.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:32 PM on August 5, 2013


even dark places like /r/atheism are constantly bombarded by critics, seemingly for no other reason than that the critics can't stand to see people there happy with themselves.

/r/atheism was a default subreddit until recently. And it's not like they're either quiet or subtle. I'm not sure I agree that's a good example of a "dark place".

People still playing Magic in the back of comic book stores? That's a (literally) dark place.
posted by GuyZero at 2:37 PM on August 5, 2013


I've said it before, I just don't see the typical nerd/jock/mean girl dynamic in teen hood anymore, not from my own memories, talking to my younger brother, or reading media meant for current teenagers.

rich/poor is a bigger divider with huge side dish of class/ethnic strife.

And in some schools, Church/Not Church is huuuuuge.
posted by The Whelk at 2:39 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ultimately, "nerd" isn't going to last. There simply isn't enough isolation anywhere online that you can keep to yourself, in the dark, without at least a little sunlight coming in. The antipathy of the whole nerd culture means that if you've found a dark little hideyhole for yourself, a bunch of other nerds will come in and start shitting on you; even dark places like /r/atheism are constantly bombarded by critics, seemingly for no other reason than that the critics can't stand to see people there happy with themselves.

There's always /b/.

In re the post, the second article, though quite long, seemed rather un-cultured and undergrad-y. They ramble on about Jews, nerds, hipsters, sex and the 1960s for about 2,000 words out of the 10 and never once mention Portnoy's Complaint, for example. Also Woody Allen plays a nebbish, but is a hipster, who was slaying them at The Bitter End on Bleeker back in '61 and who's obsessed with Jazz and Paris.

Discussion of Spielberg and Lucas is interesting though. The love of melodrama is nigh-universal, but if there is a unifying factor in the simplicity of S+L's love of genre and B-flicks and the current mania for superheroes and sci-if it's perhaps in their emotional simplicity, their iconism. Black hats and white hats, good and evil. The later films which have tried to complicate this have been rather incoherent as a result. The simplicity is necessary for the escape. I feel like there's some common string there but I just can't grasp it, something about centering one's emotional life in something other than the everyday human society in which one is embedded.
posted by Diablevert at 2:40 PM on August 5, 2013


I've said it before, I just don't see the typical nerd/jock/mean girl dynamic in teen hood anymore, not from my own memories, talking to my younger brother, or reading media meant for current teenagers.

Regina George getting hit by that bus changed EVERYTHING
posted by sweetkid at 2:42 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's always /b/.

Not for long!
posted by naju at 2:48 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I expect a dancey yet earnest song about Internet trolls any day now.
posted by The Whelk at 2:52 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have great sympathy for some of this. I came up as a fan of science fiction, horror, and fantastic literature. I played role-playing games as a boy, and often played the more challenging and somehow less satisfying board-based war games that were their fellow travelers. I was the subject of bullying, and sort of split off from typical school activities and joined in small groups of kids who shared common interests in these sorts of things. I still take them seriously, and have built a large part of my career out of remaining engaged in the things I first started to care about as a boy.

And when you're in school, there's no doubt that there is an institution that supports some kids, ignores most, and actively excludes some. While schools maintain some system of support for academic excellence, they indicate to students a hierarchy based on financial commitment and how attention is focused. And that hierarchy clearly puts sports at the top, and somewhere down at the bottom are things like math or chess clubs, which make do without any financial support, usually with the volunteer labor of a sympathetic teacher, and will never enjoy their own version of homecoming dances or pep rallies or parades. The schools even press gang other groups into supporting this -- school marching bands often exist primarily as a mechanism for bolstering sports. There may be some schools out there that have the marching band lead a Souza march at the start of a debate match, but I have never heard of such a thing.

At its best, it sends an institutional message that some things are valued and some aren't. At its worst, it encourages cliquishness and encourages bullying on behalf of the most privileged cliques. But it is an institutional message, and the message it sends is "you students who are into nerdy hobbies are valued less -- and sometimes held in open contempt -- by the very institutions that define your experience.

And I know it has become popular to suggest the issue with nerds is that they are somehow socially maladjusted. I benefited from being part of a diverse selection of social groups as I got older in school, the product of a wide range of interests and a sort of social curiosity on my part. And I can safely say that every single group I was in had the same number of social incompetents and noxious idiots and people who were way too interested in something nobody wanted to hear about. Kids are just kids, for the most part, and we all have been surprised to discover that the kid who seemed the most popular in high school remembers the time as one of misery while some seeming social malcontent who barely registered remembers high school with great pleasure and satisfaction. Nerds to not invite their own mistreatment; nobody does. And that list -- the popular one, about weird nerd social habits? There's not a social group I have ever been part of that didn't have people who exhibited all of these.

I really think the root of misbehavior toward so-called nerds is this social balkanization that happens in school, implicitly supported by the way schools privilege one set of extracurricular interests over another. And of course it's not the same as being a black person or as being some other historical oppressed group, but it still stings, and it still sends a certain message to certain people, that they're tastes (which are actually perfectly quotidian -- most of the tentpole films that come out are science fiction, so it is hardly an obscure preference) are too nonmainstream to receive any attention. And, as I said, at worst is encourages people to bully other people entirely based on a sense that some kids are just too weird not to deserve it.

I don't know of many nerds who feel like they were bullied specifically because they liked anime, or whatever. But I know they felt like they were institutionally being set aside as some sort of social other, and it was this category of experience that made them targets. And that is am institutional failing, especially at schools. And maybe they should get over it once they graduate to a world that actually offers enormous support for these people and their interests, and once they move beyond the institution of school into a world of ComicCons and Sci Fi groups and whatnot they should realize that really the issue was that they simply had a relatively popular collection of interests that nonetheless had no mechanism for support in school.

But, you know, I've been told to get over things I wasn't ready to get over yet, and I'm not sure I know how long something should hurt until we can reasonably expect it not to hurt. Some people had it much worse in high school than I did. Some were on the receiving end of bullying that left them suicidal. So I'm not one to assume I know how bad it was, or when they should be done hurting.

I know that some of this is based in the fact that there are nerds out there who misbehave horribly. That within these social groups there are, for example, some awful men who want their fandom to be a male-dominated place, and are openly hostile to women. Who say casually racist things, and express privilege unwittingly.

That makes the nerd world exactly like the rest of the world. And we should address it as we do the rest of the world. It's terrible and we should have no patience for it. But that doesn't mean we can't have sympathy for the fact that certain important life events can genuinely be made worse, for no good reason that the alumni puts money into the football program and not the math team.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:56 PM on August 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


rich/poor is a bigger divider with huge side dish of class/ethnic strife.

And in some schools, Church/Not Church is huuuuuge.


This was true in my school and I'm a fair bit older than Whelk. Also being smart made you at least sorta cool in my school, so I was sorta cool. No one made fun of me by the time I got to high school, and I was so wrapped up in my own activities (drama, chorus - those were the "cool" activities. Also social activism, but that was "not cool") that I didn't really care.

But not that many people wanted to be friends with me or god forbid date me. I think this is mostly because I had always been super shy and that's how they knew me, plus the way I looked had me classified as "ugly" where I grew up (super white and I'm not).

Basically the minute I got to college the ugly thing and the not wanting to be friends thing changed. Like literally the first minute.

Also a lot of the Church kids aren't so churchy anymore. And the dudes who thought I was ugly think I turned out really ok and write me FB messages about it. I guess that's part of why I left high school outsider feelings behind a long time ago.
posted by sweetkid at 3:09 PM on August 5, 2013


I feel like the meaning of the term "geek" has undergone significant semantic drift in the last decade or so.

Nowadays, it's almost always used to refer to someone who consumes certain types of media (comics, sci-fi, anime), or (as TFA notes) who consumes media in a certain way (obsessively).

That's always been part of it, but it seems like the primary meaning of the term used to be "someone who is highly intelligent in a left-brained sort of way; interested in and proficient with technical/scientific/academic pursuits; probably socially clumsy".

Am I crazy, or has the meaning/usage of the term shifted a bit?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:10 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hey Benjamin Nugent wrote the book American Nerd wherein he argues that the nerd stereotype had its basis in anti-semitism. He says that schools introduced athletics as a way to counterbalance academic dominance by Jews who, according to the stereotype, studied excessively and were bad at athletics. He discusses it with our own Young American in this episode of Bullseye.
posted by chrchr at 3:27 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you read the title "Postmodern Geekdom as Simulated Ethnicity" and were instantly turned off, let me say that you should probably read it if you had any interest in the low quality trolling (literal, old fashion trolling - trolling for page views by writing a lazy polemic) of the Jacobin article. Despite the "Postmodern" in the title it actually doesn't really dip that heavily in to theory. Think of Postmodern as instead meaning "Post Industrial" or "New Capitalistic".

The Jacobin article exists solely to spark the sort of "you suck," "no I don't, in fact you do" conversation that's easy to imagine following from it. In contrast, the other article is actually about something: specifically analyzing several key cultural artifacts associated with geeks and placing them within various historical contexts.

The main idea behind the Postmodern Geekdom article is looking at "losers" (and the article actually covers many ways that one can be a loser) who lack access to mainstream society, and the configurations that's taken as different valances attributed to obsession with technology, pop-culture, and fantasy have changed over time.

I've mentioned it before, but I think this is one of the really interesting aspects of Game of Thrones. The villains are all the capable, able and powerful. The heroes almost universally have some sort of "disability" (dwarfism, bastardism, femininity, low SES) which denies them access to real power. Even the grey area characters (Circe, Littlefinger, Varys) suffer from this same sort of deficiencies which make them seek power, but in less noble ways than the true heroes. For all its narrative faults (there are many), it's a great incidental mirror of the ascendancy of the nerd/geek/dork in modernity.

The Postmodern Geekdom article also mentions The Social Network, which I think is a good movie in spite of itself (more specifically in spite of Aaron Sorkin). Something more that I'd add to their analysis is that there's a huge anxiety that surrounds the new position that technology plays in our lives - intelligent agents replacing jobs thought formerly secure, our social lives being flattened in to the space of a status update, ubiquitous surveillance even if you try to opt-out of it. The gross ahistorical mischaracterization of Zuckerberg (as in: it doesn't even attempt to be realistic, and instead paints Zuckerberg as Jesse Eisenberg's fidgety inept misogynist devoid of depth) is a sort of parting shot of old media to new media. The way that the movie distorts Zuckerberg's character is a similar way that our own lives are distorted by relying on social networking technology driven by advertisement as a sort of cybernetic graft to our "real" society. In much the same way that we surrender our control over our lives and representation when we agree to Facebook's terms and conditions, Sorkin and Fincher do what they will with Zuckerberg's character in what is ostensibly a Bio-pic. For all his hundreds of millions they still depict him despondently refreshing his status page, waiting for a Skinner box bit of recognition from the woman he can't get over.

Eisenberg was in another great movie that seems to be all about the uneasy idea of loserdom: Adventureland. To put it briefly, Eisenberg plays to type (fidgety, nebbish, intellectual, insecure) as a college student who's had his dreams of an ivy league education deferred when his father loses his job and can no longer support him. He has to move back to shits-ville Pennsylvania, and work at an amusement park with a bunch of blue collar people in an amusement park. Eisenberg is one sort of loser: a carefully curated one, with a well developed knowledge of Lou Reed and comparative literature who meets a kindred spirit in Kirsten Steward's character - a sort of idealized nerd girl who's the right kind of nerdy (smart and cultured) while still being attractive.

In the film there's a distinct class divide, notably between rich-nerd Eisenberg and his poor-nerd friend (played by Martin Starr). Eisenberg has fuck-up after fuck-up, and eventually ends up having to spend his savings to fix these fuck-ups, squashing hopes of grad school in New York. But, as Starr's character points out, Eisenberg is still rich enough that he can get out. Starr lives in poverty with an abusive mother and needy sibling. Despite being as talented (in much of the same things - culture and literature), Starr can never really leave. Eisenberg's character has had his little lower class adventure, and can move on to the next thing (a hip, bohemian lifestyle in New York with Stewart's character). I think it got written off as riding the coat tails of Superbad (released around the same time with similar advertising), but it's a great film that encapsulates a lot of what both articles talk about.

Hey Benjamin Nugent wrote the book American Nerd wherein he argues that the nerd stereotype had its basis in anti-semitism. He says that schools introduced athletics as a way to counterbalance academic dominance by Jews who, according to the stereotype, studied excessively and were bad at athletics. He discusses it with our own Young American in this episode of Bullseye.

On preview: that's a great point, and the racial undertones of nerd/geeks/etc. (specifically that they used to be known as Greasy Grinders, because they *gasp* had to study to succeed) is covered in great depth in the Postmodern Geekdom article.
posted by codacorolla at 3:32 PM on August 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


Thank you for pointing out the class/money issues tangled up in this question codacorolla, which I think gets closer ti the heart of the issue then dicking over labels. The idea that you can buy your way into social acceptance, or if you have a safety net to be "eccentric".
posted by The Whelk at 3:38 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


( or the salient point that most of the vocal and virulent Randians and such tend to be Failed White People, people who are convinced they deserve a better lot in life because they think the " right, rational" way but are unable to get past the first few rungs of the ladder for reasons they can't understand.)
posted by The Whelk at 3:40 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


( or the impression ones gets from reading too many books about old school, Prep/WASP culture, that it's gauche and unseemly to be seen trying to hard or wanting something to much, because the right stuff is just supposed to happen to you, because you are SECURE in your position. Striving is for people who don't know where thier next break is coming from or had to " buy thier own silver." If they where the right sort of person they wouldn't have to try so hard, they would allready have it.)
posted by The Whelk at 3:44 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


class/money issues

This I believe is why my high-school experience, despite being chockablock with nerd-dork interests never seemed to follow the received narrative of ostracism. When the average household income in your neighborhood is barely dog paddling the poverty line ain't nobody got time for class bullshit.

We probably did have some racism, though.
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:55 PM on August 5, 2013


I've never thought much of these nerd/dork/geek definition things. They didn't seem to describe what I really saw or experienced growing up.

Now I realize it's because there is a term missing: freak.

The freaks are the other end of the axis. They were the primary targets. There's a reason today's geeks chant, "One of us!" It's not real camaraderie at the real bottom of the pile; it's an appropriation, a subconscious acknowledgment what the real fear is. If the average person calling themselves a nerd/geek really did try looking into that place where they dare not look, they'd find the freaks there, staring out at them.

On preview: loser is another important term, though popular stories have cast the "loser" too much as someone who buys into the whole framework, who wants money and fame and the attention of the handsome/popular one. They win and the people who called them losers are often shown as "the real losers", but it's all very fake and far from reality and reinforces a shitty social framework more than it subverts it, IMHO.
posted by bleep-blop at 4:07 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Interestingly Geek probably comes from circus geeks who were literal freaks, displayed for normal audiences to make them feel more normal by comparison.
posted by codacorolla at 4:09 PM on August 5, 2013


Bunny Ultramod: "And when you're in school, there's no doubt that there is an institution that supports some kids, ignores most, and actively excludes some. While schools maintain some system of support for academic excellence, they indicate to students a hierarchy based on financial commitment and how attention is focused. And that hierarchy clearly puts sports at the top, and somewhere down at the bottom are things like math or chess clubs, which make do without any financial support, usually with the volunteer labor of a sympathetic teacher, and will never enjoy their own version of homecoming dances or pep rallies or parades. The schools even press gang other groups into supporting this -- school marching bands often exist primarily as a mechanism for bolstering sports. There may be some schools out there that have the marching band lead a Souza march at the start of a debate match, but I have never heard of such a thing."

You will NEVER GUESS WHAT I'M ABOUT TO TELL YOU, although actually it's usually like a string quartet or a jazz trio that plays for crowd entertainment before debate matches because it's not a big enough venue for a marching band. Also the marching bands primarily exist to go to marching band competitions and win those, football is just where they practice. Also at a school with a big marching band half the parents will leave after half-time because they were only there to watch the band and the football was the incidental entertainment. There's a big push in schools to focus on what makes co-curriculars actually CO-CURRICULAR. Sports are really important because they a) keep certain kids at high risk of dropping out in school; b) emphasize discipline, achievement, and character when done properly; and c) help kids keep physically active. Those are all important. But there's a lot more focus on academic bowl, mathletics, and chess club, all of which are huge big deals around here, some of which receive curricular funding and not just extra-curricular funding (curricular funding is better). And they're certainly recognized at the homecoming pep rally, which is punctuated by a football game and a dance but also typically involves some sort of academic competition and the recognition of the high school heroes includes the kids who are winning academic competitions. The Friday before the big state chess competition (again, weirdly big deal around here) the cheerleaders "dress" to show their support for the chess club. We now spend more on academic co-curriculars at the junior high level than on athletic co-curriculars (though sadly little on art co-curriculars), and a lot of districts are like that. (If not for the equipment and insurance costs of football, which are partly covered by parent fundraising, it'd be actually pretty close at the high school level, too ... pool maintenance is another big athletic cost but pools bring in more in rent than football stadiums, proportional to program costs.)

Our teacher advisers are ABSOLUTELY paid for chess club and mathletics and academic bowl. Stipends for various extracurricular activities are in the union contract and negotiated by the teachers and administration in the contract process. The football coach stipend is a lot (comparatively) because he works a lot of extra hours (actually my beef is too many paid assistant coaches, but to be fair, football teams are huge so they do need a lot of adult supervising), but they're primarily paid by extra hours worked. New clubs that students form typically have to find a volunteer adviser their first year, but principals have some discretionary extracurricular funds to pay at least a small stipend for that sort of thing. If your chess club coach isn't getting paid, your teachers need a better union. (Or, you know, a union to start with.)

Anyway if this shifting focus and funding with respect to co-curriculars helps fewer students be marginalized, then that's another good thing.

---

Where I live taking THINGS serious is good, but taking YOURSELF seriously is not. I think "geek culture" or "fandom" or whatever we're calling it, because it takes THINGS so seriously, can be a real haven for young people who take THEMSELVES too seriously (which is all young people, that's part of being young, but double-extra emotionally sensitive young people), because it's a place where it's OKAY TO BE SERIOUS and kind adults have a lot of tolerance for teenagers who take themselves too seriously. When I read these pieces about people who still feel persecuted as nerds/geeks as adults, it often seems to me that the people who feel persecuted are still taking themselves seriously. Not always, but often. If you can laugh at yourself and be like, "I mean okay I'm complaining about realism in a book about DRAGONS, but seriously ..." people will cut you a lot of slack to be enthusiastic and serious about strange things around here. I guess it's just ... having the perspective to be able to look at the world and your place in it, which usually manifests as humor or humility about yourself, vs. people who are still really self-centered and tend to conflate their personal tastes with universal moral judgments and truly can't see that (for example) who plays the Doctor matters very little in the grand scheme of the universe.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:12 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


This I believe is why my high-school experience, despite being chockablock with nerd-dork interests never seemed to follow the received narrative of ostracism.

I think you needed a certain confluence of circumstances to get the stereotypical nerd-jock divide.

One, the community had to be somewhat racially and culturally homogenous.
Two, everyone had to have a roughly similar standard of living.
Three, there had to be opportunity for kids to socialize among themselves while also having fairly few outside influences beyond mass media.

In short, affluent suburbs of white people. I think this peaked in the 80's for a bunch of socio-economic reasons and that the passing of the nerd-jock dichotomy is as much the fault of changing demographics and economics as it is the cutting social insight of John Hughes movies.
posted by GuyZero at 4:29 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: out on a limb and somewhat less problematic than racism.
posted by jonp72 at 4:31 PM on August 5, 2013


Also all the really well off are in private/religious/etc schools, unless you're in an area that has awesome public schools anyway and thus will be defacto rich areas (the plot to The Slums Of Beverley Hills, etc).
posted by The Whelk at 4:37 PM on August 5, 2013


Where I grew up the public schools were awesome. Only "bad kids" went to private school.
posted by sweetkid at 4:40 PM on August 5, 2013


And really nice public schools drive up house prices like whoooooa. There is a reason we moved around so much. So we could coud stay in the same school district.

I may have grotesquely over identified with the situation in Slums Of Beverly Hills.
posted by The Whelk at 4:50 PM on August 5, 2013


I don't think Metafilter can discuss this in a coherant way, since so many people here have their identity tied up in being a 'geek' or a 'nerd'. And that sense of identity and 'opression' can lead to geeks to marginalize those who they don't feel respect that self-constructed identity.

The best writing on it I've seen is by MeFi's own Dave Ex Machina: “When Fascism Comes to America it Will be Wrapped in White Plastic Armor and Carrying a BlasTech E-11 Blaster Rifle” — Sinclair Lucas and at Stuff Geeks Love

I'm a geek, a nerd, a dork or whatever you want to say. And I don't want to tie my identity up in what I consume, or pretend that liking Adventure Time or videogames makes me some kind of persecuted minority or higher life form; the Anita Sarkeesian controversy and the uncritical love of empty entertainment prove that we're not.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:11 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]



I think one of my other big, big problems with the culture of victimhood in geekdom (which is adult-run) is just how poorly it serves the twelve year old kids spending lunchtime reading Dune in the school stairwell because they don't fit in. I don't know, maybe (probably) I'm projecting but it presents a community that almost requires one to acknowledge the importance of the bullying, as if it has deeper meaning than "people will always find a reason to be a dick to you." Like leaving it behind with a "whatever" means you're not really a geek so, hey, another place you don't fit in.

You don't have to hide your tastes and enthusiasm to fit in and make friends and be social and have fun with people who are different than you. And you also don't have to oppose society at large, declare yourself a victim on the fringe, and live your life and make your way always in opposition to whoever it is you picked to be The Normals. There's always a middle way, even if it involves telling both sides to go fuck themselves (or, more realistically, knowing when to be capital-e ENTHUSIASTIC and when to chill the fuck out) and living with the consequences.


YES YES YES
I didn't learn this until I stumbled onto Something Awful's mock threads about TV Tropes. It was such a relief to realize I didn't need to tie my idenity to being a weird outsider and just be a guy.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:14 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


One, the community had to be somewhat racially and culturally homogenous.
Two, everyone had to have a roughly similar standard of living.
Three, there had to be opportunity for kids to socialize among themselves while also having fairly few outside influences beyond mass media.


You know, that actually really jives with my high school experience. I was prime candidate for being bullied, and I can't think of it actually happening. Seriously, I was in band, overweight, bad skin, terrible glasses, read science fiction. I had a shirt that was 10 reasons Kirk was better than Picard, and another that was about loving chocolate. Yet nothing.

I don't think Metafilter can discuss this in a coherant way, since so many people here have their identity tied up in being a 'geek' or a 'nerd'.


I think this conversation was perfectly coherent. At least until somebody started talking about it being incoherent for no reason.
posted by Gygesringtone at 5:15 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Any type of bulling I can seriously remember was in Middle School, and some first year freshman stuff, the bulk of High School? Nope. The administration was pretty hard nosed about that stuff and the school was most famous for its debate , robotics, and drama teams which got all the funding.

I am fully willing to admit I may have gone to Hogwarts based on other peoe's recollections of HS.
posted by The Whelk at 5:19 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Boomers like Lucas and Spielberg obviously “get” idealistic geeks (c.f., Luke Skywalker, Roy Neary), but they tend to disregard, render comedic, and/or rehabilitate rakish scoundrels and especially disaffected Gen-X slackers. Boomer geek creators frequently depict slackerism or social nonconformity as lonely and empty, as in Han Solo’s lack of idealism and “love of money” in Star Wars, which Luke and Leia both castigate him for. Slackerish rakes like Han Solo are usually reformed of their scoundrel tendencies in mainstream boomer geek films: as when Solo whooshes back in to save the day in Star Wars’ climax, the scoundrel sidekick has change of heart and grows up, revealing that he ultimately embodies the same conformist values as his geekier friends.

This is pretty instructive, and explains something that's confused me. On many geek-focused sites, I see 'hipter' used as an all-purpose epitath, something aximotically oppossed to geekdom. And its puzzled me why that is, since 'hipsters' seem so harmless. But they're the modern version of this.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:23 PM on August 5, 2013


I don't think Metafilter can discuss this in a coherant way, since so many people here have their identity tied up in being a 'geek' or a 'nerd'. And that sense of identity and 'opression' can lead to geeks to marginalize those who they don't feel respect that self-constructed identity.

Meh. I don't think I was oppressed in high school but I had the identify of "geek" thrust on me before I even knew what it was. In high school I was pretty much at the very extreme end of being a big geek and then I got to university and like everything else about me I discovered I wasn't much of anything. If I'm not coherent enough to discuss the topic than no one is as no one else should really care about it.
posted by GuyZero at 5:31 PM on August 5, 2013


My high school was one that was majority Hispanic and combined a lot of kids from the University area with a lot of kids from poorer areas of town and a handful of kids from the Air Force Base-- a pretty unusual demographic mix. The honors classes were whiter than the other classes, though they weren't 100% white, but it was obvious that there were some major class/race issues going on based on who made up what classes. There were a lot of cliques, but it really seemed like those cliques ended up having their own hierarchies inside of them and they didn't tend to care a lot about what other groups thought of them, so there wasn't as much of a jock/geek divide, it was more that there were like 30 different divides and each one had its own reigning royalty and underlings.

But I also came from a city where we split funding between all the schools in the district (as opposed to having it come from property taxes directly), and my school had pretty much the worst sports ever. Like, I think one year we might've had the losingest basketball team in the country. The school was also way too much to really know many people outside of the clique that's in your classes with you, your extracurricular cliques if you have them and maybe 1 other group.

But popularity was still determined by place in a popularity hierarchy, it's just that you got some limited choice as to which hierarchy you were a part of, and it was big enough and geeky enough that there were some pretty significant geek social cliques.
posted by NoraReed at 7:37 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Man am I glad the second article brought up Crumb. Pretty much every complaint I've ever heard from self-identified persecuted geeks/otaku about women is all rolled up in that guy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:00 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think Metafilter can discuss this in a coherant way, since so many people here have their identity tied up in being a 'geek' or a 'nerd'.

We are clearly reading different threads. Because this all seems pretty coherent.

There's no right answer, people are going to have different analyses and opinions.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:09 PM on August 5, 2013


Maybe it's not obvious but the principle that public school was a shared traumatic experience is a form of privilege.

I remember high school as a sometimes painful but mostly all right oasis away from loneliness and the frequent emotional and physical abuse I suffered at home. I was bullied at school but that was an emotional pain so it was easy to handle. I had nerd friends into anime and D&D, I joined Tech Lab where we did nothing but play Starcraft and Quake over LAN, I joined Quiz Bowl where we spent more time practice quizzing and shooting the shit than we did studying, I read countless volumes of SF&F at a rate of two books a week, holed up in my room, staying up past midnight with an old keychain flashlight, my chin and my hands going numb as I hung down from the side of my bed. I did all this to get away from my life. School was part of that.

There is no doubt in my mind, knowing what I know now, that there are not only people who shared my experiences but had it worse than I did. Kids who come from completely broken families where drug abuse and alcoholism are rife. Kids living in the midst decaying or nonexistent infrastructure. Kids who are malnourished. Kids whose parents did not make college an inarguable goal and who could not afford SAT/ACT tutors. Kids who weren't taken along for the flight out into the suburbs. There are kids right now who are going through just that. It seems to me that we place bullying on a pedestal because it's the few remaining ways for the children of well-off suburban folks to suffer regular abuse. It costs money to send your kid to CBT, sheesh. And we ignore those other problems and attribute them to agent decisions, the ol' bootstrap.

As many have pointed out in previous comments, the discourse of 'nerd/geek suffering' is one that primarily belongs to people of white, middle-class background who feel cheated out of the few privileges that they did not have. Bullying is a problem. It can be very damaging. But it is not the only problem.
posted by dubusadus at 8:36 PM on August 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


As many have pointed out in previous comments, the discourse of 'nerd/geek suffering' is one that primarily belongs to people of white, middle-class background who feel cheated out of the few privileges that they did not have.

Wow, is that an uncharitable way to present it. I do not presume to know somebody else's motivation, and presuming that it is simply that they really wish they got all the white privilege possible is about as petty a motivation as one could ascribe.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:35 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bullying is a problem. It can be very damaging. But it is not the only problem.

Has anyone anywhere ever suggested that it is?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:44 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, is that an uncharitable way to present it. I do not presume to know somebody else's motivation, and presuming that it is simply that they really wish they got all the white privilege possible is about as petty a motivation as one could ascribe.

Maybe you missed the part of the article and thread that discussed the prevailing demographics of nerds/geeks.
Melodramatic tropes are deployed to create sympathy for white male geeks beset by their own sexual, racial, and gender problems. For example, R. Crumb characters Whiteman and Fritz the Cat are driven to angst by the carefree lives of African Americans they encounter as well as the ease with women this blitheness imbues them with. Similarly, Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), protagonist of Mike Judge's Office Space (1999), hates his unapologetically mainstream boss Lundberg (Gary Cole), both for work-related humiliations and because Gibbons wrongly imagines that his new girlfriend has had sex with Lundberg. Gibbons expresses his rage at Lundberg's perceived victimization of him by destroying an office copy machine in a slow-motion sequence set to gangsta rap music: it is Gibbons' and the film's racialized fantasy of violent, melodramatically justified geek vengeance.
Maybe it's just me but it's not hard to read white, male privilege as being implicit in those representations via appropriation and gaze, respectively. Also, attributing privilege to someone doesn't mean that I think the person who wants privilege is saying to themselves 'Golly, if only I had all the white privilege possible'. It is usually invisible to the people who are victims and players but functions as a root cause. It's why we talk about the patriarchy or cultural imperialism when we can.

Has anyone anywhere ever suggested that it is?

It was suggested earlier in the thread and also in that quote that possessing a 'bullied' status is part and parcel to geekdom/nerdom. I am suggesting that this status is placed on a pedestal among the socioeconomic group most geeks/nerds belong to. After all, there has to be a reason why this identity especially is used as so much leverage.

I'm also partially influenced by the news I keep hearing about the new anti-bullying program at the school I used to attend along with the news that they are currently in the process of paring down their public assistance programs for students of a lower socioeconomic status. I'm sure you're aware that public assistance programs in many states are being cut. And yet major media outlets seem to do a hell of a job talking about anti-bullying measures and online harassment. This seems, at least to me, to be an act of cutting assistance to those of a lower socioeconomic status while focusing only on issues that primarily affect those living in the middle class in above. Perhaps I'm wrong in this interpretation. I'm open to new ideas.
posted by dubusadus at 10:22 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's not obvious but the principle that public school was a shared traumatic experience is a form of privilege.

That your experience at school was not as bad as your experience at home does not mean that others can not have the opposite experience and claiming that it is a form of privilege for that to be true is not just wrong but offensively wrong.

One upping victimhood is not a pleasant way to proceed in these discussions.
posted by Justinian at 11:53 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


One upping victimhood

I'm not sure how to begin to respond to this. I guess if you think I'm hilariously, stupidly wrong, I would like to see a lucid argument that isn't just an unkind characterization of my comment. If there is a reason why you think my particular socioeconomic focus is wrong, I'm open to discussing it. Otherwise it just feels like you're taking a shit on my comment for no reason other than you can.

What I remember from previous threads about school lunches is that public schools are a godsend for kids living on the margins. Having a functioning public school in a relatively poor area full of marginalized people is akin to having a decent social welfare program, at least for the kids. If people can provide for their children without much assistance from those schools, great but the ones who are often the most critical of schools as wastelands of abuse are usually the ones who don't need that. Shows like Freaks and Geeks and Daria feature white, middle class and their depictions of the suffering geekdom goes through is laughable in comparison to the lived realities of someone attending, say, Harper High School. And those are the schools getting the least out of current domestic educational policies.

I'm keeping an open mind as to why this is stupid interpretation, though. I'm just waiting to hear it.
posted by dubusadus at 12:15 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Because two different things can be bad at the same time, even if (in your opinion, or objectively) one of them is worse than the other.

A thread about dealing with poverty in schools would be a good thing, and no doubt a fascinating discussion. But this thread isn't really about that, it's social categorisation and dynamics.

You're point essentially seems to be 'some people have it worse that you, so your pain is meaningless'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:33 AM on August 6, 2013


Walk and chew gum, people.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:59 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dork originally meant penis. It was first used in Jere Peacock’s 1961 novel Valhalla:

“You satisfy many women with that dorque?” (Lighter [v. 1] 638).


I suppose that explains torque.

If you read the title "Postmodern Geekdom as Simulated Ethnicity" and were instantly turned off, let me say that you should probably read it if you had any interest in the low quality trolling (literal, old fashion trolling - trolling for page views by writing a lazy polemic) of the Jacobin article.

Judging from the first 100 or so comments, I was a bit worried that no one actually read the essay. ... and now I'm worried again.

Read it. It's not bad. Here's the thesis in case you missed it: "the geek seeks a simulated victimhood and even simulated ethnicity in order to justify his existence as a protagonist in a world where an unmarked straight white male protagonist is increasingly passé"

The analysis of geek melodrama, and how The Social Network fits in, was spot on to me. I'm not too familiar with R. Crumb, but I enjoyed that analysis too, as well as the discussion of Spielberg and Lucas, and the analysis of "the dangerous nice guy."

There's good stuff in there (the first link). I dunno. I liked it.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:15 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, Julia Serano is mentioned as a counterpoint in the conclusion, and Julia Serano is great. That's all.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:18 AM on August 6, 2013


Sorry, am I on the wrong thread? I thought the thrust of the linked articles characterized the geek/nerd cultural paradigm as on that relies on appropriating signifiers from groups who are actually marginalized. Here, less than 300 words into Postmodern Geekdom as a Simulated Ethnicity:
Our investigation proceeds through three core concepts / tropes prevalent in geek-centered visual narratives:

"geek melodrama" as a means of rendering geek protagonists sympathetically,

white male "geek rage" against women and ethnic minorities for receiving preferential treatment from society, which relates to the geek’s often raced, usually misogynistic implications for contemporary constructions of masculinity, and

"simulated ethnicity," our term for how geeks read their sub-cultural identity as a sign of markedness or as a put-upon status equivalent to the markedness of a marginalized identity such as that of a person of color.
Or from the Jacobin article:
As with so much of modern capitalist life, the acquisition and consumption of things serves as a substitute for actual class equality. [...] Neoliberalism has made geeks of us all: jocks, nerds, and dweebs alike. In the background are the corporate owners of the media which geeks love, setting man against woman, rich against poor, black and brown against white, all on manufactured lines of consumption. Ideally, the commonalities of working class identity would trump these, easily and swiftly, revealing the absurdity of the heated arguments between consumption cohorts which geek culture identity politics stir up.
It's encouraged on MetaFilter to RTFA before commenting, correct?

Also, I wonder why it's perfectly fine when someone who identifies as a white, male nerd points out privilege but when I do so it's 'victimship one-upping'. Or why musing on a question posed here is considered off-topic. Or why it's fine to have repeated comments illustrating the parochial fixation on male privilege and how it impacts female participants within the culture but bringing up poverty is off-topic. As far as I understand it, contextualization is not only a valid strategy within discussions like these but an important one. And it's not diminishing insofar as you think being called out on your privilege is diminishing and not intellectually empowering.

Additionally, this thread is chock full of anecdotal accounts of why people adopted signifiers of the nerd/geek identity growing up and what that meant to them in hindsight. It's infuriating to hear that my interpretation of why I was a geek or a nerd is considered off-topic or invalid because you took it to be a sob story. Every one of the pithy comments characterizing my point in that way might as well have just said 'Go fuck yourself'. I am reminded of when I did try to talk with my geek/nerd friends about my home life and how this was misunderstood as a statement of 'I'm better than you' instead of a plea for help, for an understanding of what their lives were like and how my home life was an issue that I should have sought professional help for.

So if you want me to go fuck myself, then say it plainly. Don't hide behind chickenshit semantics.
posted by dubusadus at 11:20 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I wonder why it's perfectly fine when someone who identifies as a white, male nerd points out privilege but when I do so it's 'victimship one-upping'.

When that's how you do it, that's what it is. Your argument seems to be 'murder is worse than robbery, therefore it is not worth caring about robbery,' while suggesting that people who do care about robbery don't care about murder. It's ridiculous. It's entirely possible to do both.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:31 AM on August 6, 2013


Did you only gloss my comment? Or was my point unclear?

The articles in this thread reference privilege and the parochial nature of geekdom. Many comments explicitly reference privilege and the parochial nature of geekdom. Comments provide specific reference points as to why this is parochial. Some come from a feminist lens. Some are structuralists. Some are post-structuralists. Why is it invalid to see this from an socioeconomic one considering the Jacobin is explicitly Marxist?

I am not putting one above the other. The point that I am trying to express and having attempting to do so for the past few comments is that this fixation on bullying as a signifier of suffering reveals a socioeconomic bias. Does this mean all of the conversation here can go to shit? No. It's a reference point. If you don't want to talk about it, fine. But in my eyes, it's equally valid.

When that's how you do it, that's what it is.

Again, either tell me to leave or don't bother. Characterizations aren't refutations of point, they're a shitty way of using unvocalized norms in order to silence someone.
posted by dubusadus at 11:47 AM on August 6, 2013


[A couple comments nixed, cool it or go do something else.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:41 PM on August 6, 2013


Bullying is not a signifier of suffering? Huh. I guess you're right; getting beaten up on a daily basis throughout my childhood was a privilege. My bad. I'm sure it never would have happened if my parents made less money. 'Cause that makes complete sense.

I am sorry that you had to go through what you did. Nobody deserves that kind of shit. I am not saying that your pain is worthless, rather that the luxury of only having to worry about bullying happens because of your socioeconomic background. The way it's used within the context of geekdom is done so with disregard to that privilege. When it's used in that way, it actually does diminish the lived experiences of others. It's situated on a pedestal in order to trade cultural capital while actively lessening the ability for geekdom to focus on the suffering occurs outside of bullying, as has been my experience. However, knowing this does not and should not diminish your personal pain or your life. You had no agency over it. Your parents had no agency over it. It just places bullying within a larger narrative.

Leave

I'm sorry you had to go through the shit that you had to go through. If this is opening wounds for you then it's not worth it to me to advance this argument. You are not one-upped by me. Nobody should have to suffer. I'm sorry.
posted by dubusadus at 12:41 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am not saying that your pain is worthless, rather that the luxury of only having to worry about bullying happens because of your socioeconomic background.

This is what doesn't make sense to me: You honestly believe that geeks are a socioeconomically homogeneous group? All white, all male, all middle-class? And that the Oppression Of Geeks is the only problem geeks care about?

I'm afraid those assertions will need to be backed up, big time.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:49 PM on August 6, 2013


Depictions of geeks in media have largely featured white, males working middle-class jobs (or unemployed but living in middle-class luxury). The second article provides plenty of evidence to this and one of its major contentions is that these white male geeks establish their identity through appropriating the narrative of the oppressed.

If you have a beef with these assertions, it's with the article. I'm taking its points at face value, as I've said before.
posted by dubusadus at 1:02 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm taking its points at face value, as I've said before.

Why? They're bullshit. Cherrypicked examples from pop culture does not equal evidence.

(Whither Urkel?)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:07 PM on August 6, 2013


(Whither Urkel?)

Does anyone actually know anyone like Urkel? For better or worse I've known people like the characters in Big Bang Theory or whatever geek stereotype you want to trot out. Its an interesting counterpoint but seems to be more of an outlier to me.
posted by GuyZero at 1:11 PM on August 6, 2013


No, they're not great evidence but it's better than nothing. Also, your counterpoint is a singular example of an African-American nerd. I can name possibly one other (Donald Glover) before I run out. And this is of course ignoring the historically racist depiction of African-Americans in Hollywood, the dearth of leading men and women who are black, and the regular practice of casting white actors in roles written for minorities.
posted by dubusadus at 1:14 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


And also ignoring that both of those examples are solidly placed within the context of the middle-class or the way Urkel's nerd identity was traded as a source of laughing-at-him-not-with-him comedy.

The only time I've seen something outside of that threshold is in the backstory of Elijah Prince from Unbreakeable. But of course, spoilers, he ends up being evil, near insane, and of course our white, middle-class hero has to send him to jail.
posted by dubusadus at 1:19 PM on August 6, 2013


Does anyone actually know anyone like Urkel?

Black nerds? Yes, I know a bunch. It's weird that people sometimes seem to insist they don't exist.

(Not picking on you necessarily GuyZero).
posted by sweetkid at 1:22 PM on August 6, 2013


Sorry if this is "appropriating the narrative of the oppressed," but isn't making assertions about whole swathes of actual people based solely on fictional depictions of their demographic kind of problematic?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:26 PM on August 6, 2013


Black nerds? Yes, I know a bunch. It's weird that people sometimes seem to insist they don't exist.

Yeah, I'm not insisting anything. I haven't reached total solipsism yet.

That said, there seem (to me at least) to be more actual "black nerds" these days than when Family Matters was on TV. But again, I'm not saying that's some universal truth.

Also, if "nerd" by itself wasn't sufficiently reductionist, "black nerd" is probably worse.
posted by GuyZero at 1:31 PM on August 6, 2013


It is when you consider that the assertions are being made by what white, middle class geeks understand about oppression. They are appropriating it via a limited context and borrowing qualities from the abstract knowledge they have about particular movements by oppressed minorities to reclaim privilege within American society. It is problematic because they have so much of that privilege already and are using that narrative to establish more cultural capital within their demographic group (which is already buoyed by privilege).

From a passage I've quoted above:
Williams' model helps us see how racial marking becomes desirable to white geeks: if suffering equals virtue and moral superiority, then the virtue of a marked identity type (black, female, gay, disabled) can be reduced to how much one suffers for it. Here is also the key to why our analysis reads geeks primarily as straight white men. The anxieties of the straight white male geek's identity are transformed into the authenticating devices that paradoxically make him a moral hero in a postmodern world in which an unmarked and untroubled straight white male hero would normally be out of place.
posted by dubusadus at 1:32 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Guys! I have totally solved this problem providing we assume all nerds are equal volume spheres!
posted by Artw at 1:32 PM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hey are you calling us fat
posted by dubusadus at 1:35 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not even sure Urkel was a nerd. He always seemed like a severely socially crippled buffoon with some nerdy accoutrements tacked on.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:42 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]



Also, if "nerd" by itself wasn't sufficiently reductionist, "black nerd" is probably worse.


I didn't know what you meant by 'actual people like Urkel' but assumed you meant something like "black people who are nerdy." If you meant people who wear suspenders and push up their glasses on their face and have crushes on teenagers named Laura, yeah, I guess I don't think a lot of people have met actual people like that.

I don't know what's wrong with saying "black nerd" either. I can see how it would be like saying "woman driver" or something, but that's not at all how I meant it in this context.
posted by sweetkid at 1:43 PM on August 6, 2013


He always seemed like a severely socially crippled buffoon with nerdy accoutrements tacked on

But he had a laboratory.
posted by sweetkid at 1:43 PM on August 6, 2013


All the same, his character seemed more cartoon than human sometimes. Over-the-top in wardrobe, speech and behavior, in some overspun caricature of what "socially stunted weirdo" is supposed to be, I guess.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:47 PM on August 6, 2013


yea, 90s sitcoms gotta sitcom and have their caricatures. Better than the "Sassy Black Friend" on most mainstream mostly white sitcoms though I'd say.
posted by sweetkid at 1:48 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


that's not at all how I meant it in this context.

yeah, sorry, that was just tangential. We're talking about a certain thing here, but in general usage "black nerd" is terrible, reductionist label that implies a bunch of incorrect things about both black people and nerds.
posted by GuyZero at 1:54 PM on August 6, 2013


yeah I agree. I wouldn't use it otherwise.
posted by sweetkid at 1:57 PM on August 6, 2013



This is what doesn't make sense to me: You honestly believe that geeks are a socioeconomically homogeneous group? All white, all male, all middle-class? And that the Oppression Of Geeks is the only problem geeks care about?


Dave Ex Machina makes the point in one of his essays that you need to have money to consume as much as modern geeks do, so you need to at least be middle-class. We're not talking about sci-fi fans hiding in the library anymore. We're talking about the most-courted, most-marketed to group in the world right now.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:58 PM on August 6, 2013


We're talking about the most-courted, most-marketed to group in the world right now.

I don't know about that. "Geek culture" seems to have this thing about latching onto stuff that's pitched for children and teens with their parents in tow. It's not surprising to me that most of the comic-book action movies of the last decade were PG-13. Harry Potter and Twilight are also probably examples of things that geeks adopted and started spamming the internet about. But I don't think they were primarily written for adult fans. RED 2, a movie which strikes me as one of the geekiest in the summer in that it appears to be mostly meta-humor about genre, appears to have been a flop.

Sure, the studios will do the convention screenings and trot their actors out in costume for promotional stuff. But I don't think the Marvel, Hobbit, or Trek films are being written or directed for people like me who probably know too much about the source materials from which they're derived.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:09 PM on August 6, 2013


I don't know about that. "Geek culture" seems to have this thing about latching onto stuff that's pitched for children and teens with their parents in tow.

Game of Thrones? The entire multi-billion dollar videogame industry?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:19 PM on August 6, 2013


Game of Thrones?

I'm flat-footed there because I've not read the books or watched the miniseries, but I can't imagine that HBO would be content funding such a massively budged miniseries just for a minority (geeks) of a minority (people who read books). As television, Game of Thrones is part of a larger trend of costume dramas that include quite a bit of sex and violence (Tudors, Spartacus, Borgias), and if anything, the TV market share is boosting book sales, not the other way around.

The entire multi-billion dollar videogame industry?

Video games have not been a geek exclusive for over a decade (I'm not certain they ever were that exclusive). I was shocked to discover that my aunt and uncle have video game consoles. Shocked not because they're a full generation older than me, but because they're born-again jocks. Apparently, my eldest cousin who is 90-something also plays with her son who's been in and out of the bottle for most of his adult life. For the most part, Nintendo has always been in the business of grabbing the family and youth market. X-Box is just another luxury appliance to go with the DVD player.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:52 PM on August 6, 2013


I think you're defining geekdom too narrowly. The specific elements of what it meant to be a geek were always based in franchises. Marvel, DC, Capcom, Interplay, Star Trek, Star Wars, these were all franchises where geeks and nerds obsessed over published fan fiction and game strategies and storylines.

In the past 10 years, we've seen a boom in television adaptations and big budget action based not only on comic books but based on those specific titles that are considered canon in the genre: Nolan's reboot of Batman and how it takes cues from Frank Miller's comics, Miller's 300 has become an openly discussed topic among bro culture, the new Superman movie takes cues from All-Star Superman, and the Avenger's franchise borrows from The Ultimates. Kick-Ass has become a film franchise too and The Walking Dead went from much-loved niche comics to currently topping the zombies craze. And the zombies craze! Who can forget that?

There are also things like the mainstreaming of Japan focused media. Anime and manga has Bleach, Naruto, etc becoming popular with the pre-teen crowd and JRPGS, once the domain of the extreme geek, turned out a major partnership with American darling Disney and produced the Kingdom Hearts series. Arguably, Pacific Rim follows the anime model of big monster action movies far more than Cloverfield or Godzilla with its de-emphasis on the military industrial complex and its focus on psychic linkage, close bonding, and nakama-style grouping.

Knights of the Old Republic was a love letter to the original Star Wars saga written by the people who grew up with it and wondered what it would be like to have an adventure of their own in the Star Wars universe. KOTOR II was a serious ethical treatise on the functions of the Force. Fallout 3 and New Vegas are now household names, Deus Ex has a reboot, Thief 4 is in the works, steampunk and cyberpunk have penetrated into the mainstream as have werewolves and vampires.

If you want a lucrative job, you go major in computer science now. Bloomberg Businessweek has covered a phenomenon known as the 'brogrammer'. Everyone owns smartphones and almost everyone obsesses over niche apps that have turned them into foodies and coupon clippers and gamers. Munchkin has introduced mainstream D&D elements to a larger audience and almost everyone I know plays Settlers of Catan now.

These elements that 20 years ago would have had your branded a social outcast are now common parlance. Revenge of the Nerds was tongue-in-cheek but that's only because they couldn't guess at the cultural realities of the post-Millenium. That the Big Bang Theory is even a television show, however reductive it is, however much it does not speak to 'real' nerds, however comedic it makes people on the autism spectrum out to be, it gets ratings and it has mass audience appeal. People connect with the show. Normal, everyday people.

You can define geekdom or nerdiness by your personal standards in order to isolate for yourself an identity but a great number of people will disagree with you on where the boundaries separating nerds and geeks from 'normal people' (whatever that means) lies.
posted by dubusadus at 11:03 AM on August 7, 2013


dubusadus: I think you're defining geekdom too narrowly.

No, I think the concept of defining "geek" as a counterculture in relationship to mainstream blockbusters, and then claiming that those things were specifically written and marketed to geeks is ridiculous. Star Wars was mainstream culture when the movies were first out. Most people saw the movies, most critics were writing about the movies, and Lucas did a very good job of getting a Star Wars character in your kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.

The specific elements of what it meant to be a geek were always based in franchises. Marvel, DC, Capcom, Interplay, Star Trek, Star Wars, these were all franchises where geeks and nerds obsessed over published fan fiction and game strategies and storylines.

It's the second half of this sentence that actually makes sense. Marvel, DC, Star Trek, and Star Wars are ubiquitous pop culture at various points in their history. This decade is peak Marvel. 20 years ago would have been a modest peak for Batman with the Burton films. 25 years ago was peak Star Trek. 30 years was Star Wars, with Superman on the way out due to the lackluster sequels. At some point in the last decade, Mario characters were more recognizable than early Disney or Loony Tunes characters.

You're not a geek if you've seen Avengers. The domestic gross for that film was $623 million. That's $2 per capita. You might be a geek if you're still talking about Avengers today when most of that audience has moved on to the current summer blockbuster experience.

But Avengers isn't substantially different from the blockbuster formula that was perfected by Lucas and Spielberg in the 70s. (The one that Michael Bay repeatedly fumbles.) Nor is it substantially different from the previous 90 years of cinematic appropriation from comics and the pulps.

You can define geekdom or nerdiness by your personal standards in order to isolate for yourself an identity but a great number of people will disagree with you on where the boundaries separating nerds and geeks from 'normal people' (whatever that means) lies.

If you define geekdom in terms of films that made $2 for every person in the United States, then the conclusion is that everyone is a geek.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:46 PM on August 7, 2013


You're picking and choosing the most blatantly pop culture examples that I provided. Even then, you don't think it's significant that Joss Whedon, patron saint of geeks, was the director? You don't think it's significant that the current crop of superhero films, not just Marvel, (Watchmen was DC, 300 and Sin City was Dark Horse) is far more pervasive and spawning far more franchises than in the 80s or the 90s? You don't think it's significant that Wolverine has replaced Schwarzenegger as the ubiquitous masculine ideal?

Your argument is essentially that, one, exclusivity and niche is intrinsic to geekdom and two, that obsession over a single particular franchise is geek. If the quality of being a geek is delineated by the behaviors of niche and obsession, then who isn't a geek or a nerd? Is someone who obsesses over Western style riding and goes to Rolex every year, who knows the riders and can name every single cross-country jump a geek? Is someone who plays soccer exclusively, who follows European leagues and teams, who knows the names of dozens of managers and the stats for players a nerd? According to you, Cory Doctorow or Randall Munroe would not be geeks. They would be far too ubiquitous to be niche anymore and their interests are far too broad to be considered obsessive. Even though I don't particularly enjoy Boing Boing or really spend much time reading XKCD, I think you'd be pedantic not to call them as such.

I am not defining geekery 'in terms of films that made $2 for every person', I am defining geekery by through a combination of which consumers choose define themselves as nerds or geeks, what producers create for that particular demographic, and how gatekeepers have appraised these products and accepted them within that domain. Defining groups by behaviors is to say that different qualities of what it means to be a human being are specific only to a certain sub-culture; that's not only a weird argument but one that you'd have to create an entire subset of artificial boundaries in order to define.
posted by dubusadus at 2:17 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is someone who plays soccer exclusively, who follows European leagues and teams, who knows the names of dozens of managers and the stats for players a nerd?

You've never seen Big Fan, have you? The main character is definitely some kind of geek, and is even played by geek comedian, Patton Oswalt. And let's not forget how popular sabermetrician turned political analyst Nate Silver was last year.
posted by FJT at 4:27 PM on August 7, 2013


dubusadus: You're picking and choosing the most blatantly pop culture examples that I provided. Even then, you don't think it's significant that Joss Whedon, patron saint of geeks, was the director? You don't think it's significant that the current crop of superhero films, not just Marvel, (Watchmen was DC, 300 and Sin City was Dark Horse) is far more pervasive and spawning far more franchises than in the 80s or the 90s? You don't think it's significant that Wolverine has replaced Schwarzenegger as the ubiquitous masculine ideal?

Whedon isn't the only fan of multiple forms of media to become a hit director (Lucas), and he wasn't especially obscure to start with. That superheros are the flavor of the decade in Hollywood doesn't mean that those movies are made primarily for geeks. And I don't think Wolverine is making a dent in superwholock, much less Schwarzenegger (whose muscle-man rep came from SF&F movies).

Your argument is essentially that, one, exclusivity and niche is intrinsic to geekdom and two, that obsession over a single particular franchise is geek.

Yes on the second, no on the first. My argument is that the apparent relationship between geeks and popular culture often involves appropriation and retroactively claiming the appropriated icons as being counterculture to start with. I'm thinking here of Patton Oswalt's ridiculous attempt to define Star Wars as countercultural vs. Carrie Fisher's lament that Lucas encouraged millions of kids to tear her head off and pour shampoo out of her neck.

The Avengers movie was not written for geeks. The print comics are written for geeks, and they're incomprehensible without a fair bit of subcultural knowledge. Star Wars was not created for geeks. Star Trek was not created for geeks. Harry Potter was not created for geeks. My Little Pony was not created for geeks. Avatar, The Last Airbender was not created for geeks. The Hobbit movies are not created for geeks. Pixar, Disney, and Ghibli, are not generally creating movies for geeks. The XBox isn't created for geeks.

Thinking that mass-market products are all about you is arrogant as heck. Thinking that children's media is all about you is creepy as heck. This is at the root of why many bronies have a bad name. They can't grok the idea that the product wasn't about them to begin with.

Of course, you're proposing a behavioral definition as well around the verbs, "define," "appraise," and "accept." Nothing wrong with behavioral definitions. A lawyer is a person who practices law. A doctor is a person who practices medicine. Here, I'll agree with you that the geek community (such as it is) isn't just about consuming media, it's also about certain forms of self-definition, appraisal, acceptance, and gate-keeping as well.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:50 PM on August 7, 2013




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