Recently we have seen some controversy with people claiming the “geek” title for themselves, and the backlash it causes when other people feel they don’t deserve it. This issue is more complex than you may think, but there’s a very simple and basic issue at its core. We all like to feel special.
(Oh, real quick though, there’s a spoiler for watchmen in this article… I know it’s weird, but I kind of need it for the wrap. So if you’ve already read watchmen or you reeealy want to read this article then read on)
So what makes any individual person feel special? Perhaps they have an unusual talent, maybe they are part of a select group, maybe they have a network of likeminded people that they can count on, perhaps they know something that only a few other people know. We use these traits to distinguish ourselves from people who don’t share them, while simultaneously connecting with the people who do. This exclusivity is important. Starting a club for right-handed people or television set owners sounds ridiculous because almost everyone would be in that club. And what’s the point of a club when everyone can get into it?
A PERFECT, BEAUTIFUL, UNIQUE SNOWFLAKE… IN A BLIZZARD
So let’s bring it back to the topic at hand. Maybe you are someone who can draw superheroes really well, maybe you look just like psylocke in your blue one-piece. Maybe you are one of the regular posters at a popular internet forum about Doctor Who. Maybe you can name every character who has ever been Eric the Red in any X-Men issue, episode or radioplay. Furthermore you’ve always been this way and despite people poo-pooing your hobbies and passions you stuck to your guns and became a better person for it. You have crafted an identity out of the things you enjoy, with the help of people who think like you.
But now there are others. People who have only just discovered that there’s more than one Flash. People who say they love Supergirl, but have never read a comic with her in it. People who are all like “Yeah, I’m a totally gamer. Favorite game? Angry Birds Rio! Best installment in a claaaasic franchise.” They’re wearing our Green Lantern t-shirts, playing with our original He-Mans and putting their arm around us saying “Hello fellow geek, did you know that before The Dark Knight trilogy there was a classic batman movie named ‘Batman and Robin’? Starring the guy from Syriana?” Your blood boils, your eyes bulge out, and when you wake up you’re hitchhiking by the side of the road while sad music plays.
So now you may be saying “Yes! yes! That’s totally it! But what can I do?”
Well, I’ll tell you what you CAN’T do. You can’t stop it.
When a trend begins to catch on you can’t do anything to stop it. And standing on a tree stump yelling at a mob of people is not going to do anyone any good. Now that the mainstream is aware of comic conventions, internet memes and video games in general you cannot expect for this trend to mystically begin to decrease. This does however give us a prime opportunity to analyze our relationship with the shows, movies, books, games and comics we love. Take a moment to think: Why is this new person upsetting me? Is it because of one of the points above? Is it because you feel less special having 10 more people quoting Super Troopers all the time? Is it because you feel that you’ve earned your nerditude by skipping prom to go see The Matrix, but others have not? Is it because you think these Johnny-come-latelies can’t possibly GET the franchise because they’re only familiar with the past five years of it?
If the answer to any of those is “yes,” then I can tell you what you should do. You have three options. You can do it like Dr. Doom, You can do it like Dr. Manhattan. or you can do it like Dr. Who.
DOOM AND GLOOM
Doctor Dooming it is the worst way to go about it, in my opinion. Dr. Doom wants to be supreme and no others can match him. A Doctor Doom Style geek tells you that you aren’t a true geek unless you know as much as he does. He is fond of calling people out, ridiculing others and establishing his supremacy at every turn. But much like the real Doctor Doom someone who espouses this philosophy will often find himself thwarted because you can’t know everything about everything. Also no one wants to hang out with Doom, that guy is a downer. So he spends most of his time alone in his castle, thinking about how if Reed Richards was here he’d totally be like “POW!” And then Sue would be like “Oh No!” and Doom would be like “That’s right baby!”. It’s not pretty.
THE MANHATTAN TRANSFER
The next possibility, and one that I can certainly respect, is to leave. If your uniqueness and individuality is important to you then you can fly out into the universe to discover new and amazing things that no one knows about yet. Let others enjoy that thing you like while you go out and find new things to like. But you might think to yourself “Why should I leave? I was here first.” Because you can’t stop the tide.
Pretty soon everyone is going to be wearing t-shirts with sayings from that weird British show you like, and there’s nothing you can do. If anything the sudden popularity of that thing you’re into only goes to show your excellent taste. Does that mean you have to stop liking the things you like? No, of course not, I’ll always have a soft spot for Nightcrawler’s early appearances in my heart, and that didn’t change when X2 came out and suddenly he was everyone’s favorite X-Man. But you won’t often find me talking about how awesome Nightcrawler is, everyone knows that now, I’ve moved on to other things.
DO LIKE WHO
Lastly, and the one I would recommend the most is to do like Who. The Doctor continually brings new people into his magic spaceship and shows them all that is amazing about the universe. A geek that emulates The Doctor knows that others may not know as much as he does, but that’s the best part. The Doctor gets to bring them along for the ride, he gets to see what it is like for someone to experience awesome things for the first time. It can be very satisfying to look at your friends and realize that you’re the one that got them into whatever it is they’re into. Oh and as a brief aside I do realize that he’s called “The Doctor” but it’s awkward to say “Dr. Doom, Dr. Manhattan and the Doctor.” Especially because you don’t want to confuse him with that guy from The Authority.
Unfortunately out of the archetypes above Dooms are a lot more common, but I think that’s partially because this cultural segment is still developing. You and I have the power to change what goes on, to lead by example and to show others that negativity only spoils those properties we love so much.