I know who Robert de Boron is – so I’m a literary buff, right? Or maybe that’s not enough... And I also know who Theodore the Studite is – so I’m a history buff, right? Or maybe that is still not enough...
How do you determine who’s a geek and who isn’t? Knowing about Boba Fett isn’t enough: that, I can say for sure.
First, we must ask: what is a geek? Where do geeks come from? When did geekness began, exactly? Were there geeks in 1930? Was Lovecraft a geek? What action figures did he collect? What about Poe? And Tolkien? Is geekness linked exclusively to Kirk, Spock, Batman, and RPGs? So there were no geeks before, let’s say, the sixties, is that it? Or maybe geekness existed for thousands of years, and just recently “evolved” into its comic books / Star Trek form. Maybe that’s just Contemporary geekness. In the days of the cavemen, maybe the geek was a skinny guy who knew all about mushrooms. In the Middle Ages, maybe the geek was a girl who knew how to read, owned three books, and died on a pyre while her fellow villagers yelled “witch!” because she could speak ten words of ancient geek – I mean Greek.
We could debate this theory for years and never come up with a definitive answer. And it still doesn’t help us with the question at hand: who’s a geek, and who isn’t? The Urban Dictionary says:
A geek is a person who is socially excluded from a general population. Unlike nerds, geeks do not necessarily have to be smart. They often create groups among themselves, and generally have these similar characterizations: 1) Lack of participation in physical activities, such as sports; 2) An interest in computers; 3) A crude sense of humor radically different from common society; 4) A negative attitude toward common society.
In current use, the word typically connotes an expert or enthusiast or a person obsessed with a hobby or intellectual pursuit, with a general pejorative meaning of a “peculiar person”.
With The Big Bang Theory, that “negative attitude toward common society” vanished completely, and the “peculiar person” simply became a mainstream normie.
When I was a kid, I remember being so disappointed whenever a movie’s title proved “second degree”, or a metaphor. For example, something called The Seven Devils was NOT about a group of nasty grinning horned devils, but simply the tale of an elaborate corporate heist, and something titled Death’s Door had nothing to do with any Gate to the Underworld: it was the story of a woman in a long coma, and her husband’s desperate pain. That was then.
Now, it’s the opposite. Every title is straightforwardly first degree – and everything is sci-fi, fantastic, or fantasy: Black Death recounts the real plague in the real Middle Ages; White House Down is truly about the physical destruction of the White House; Oblivion really chronicles the non-metaphorical end of life as we know it... What about a movie with a title like Snakes on a Plane, but it would tell the story of an airport executive running a Ponzi scheme!
The Eye of Sauron is a perfect example. In the books, it is a metaphor, referring to the palantír, but also to Sauron’s evil, pervading awareness of almost everything that goes on in and around Mordor, and sometimes as far as the Shire. But in Peter Jackson’s movies, the Eye of Sauron is a real, visible, tangible huge eye of swirling chaotic flames. Get rid of all the subtleties – there you go!
It’s become a first degree world, people. Nothing we can do about it now.
The entire world is “geeking up” at an alarming rate. All my friends ever watch are things in which there are laser guns, bastard swords, zombies, magic, or superpowers. When I need to buy a birthday present, I never grab Steinbeck’s To a God Unknown, simply because that great book is NOT about Crom or Yog-Sothoth or Morgoth. But really, what a shame.
I reread Howard Buten’s Reckless Driving: it is so good – with no bastard swords anywhere, no laser guns or dolphins in space or anything! And I finally saw Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song: that’s insanely good too, and it’s not a set; everything you see on-screen is the real 1972 Los Angeles. When you’re accustomed to elaborate studio sets (Boardwalk Empire, Gotham) and you suddenly see some glorious authentic ’72 streets, it’s a mind-blowing shocker.
But the seventies still saw a lot of movies meant for grown-ups that were enjoyed by kids. Nowadays, it’s the opposite: lots of children’s books / movies / games are also enjoyed by grown-ups (Lego, Pokémon, Harry Potter, you name it).
I love being a geek. Loved it even in the early eighties when it wasn’t fashionable at all, at the peak of the Jock Era. And I suppose being a jock nowadays, in the Geek Era, isn’t as much fun as it used to be in the eighties. But, Thou Shalt Never Take Pity on Jocks, am I right?
Role-playing games were not intended to become mainstream, ever. In the very beginning, RPGs were a counter-cultural thing, to use La Farge’s words. It was supposed to be a fringe phenomenon, not some gigantic multi-platform social hype now inducted in the National Toy Hall of Fame...
Also, too many cons – there is one every other week now. The geeks of old were much more “unconventional”, and I’m not saying that just for the pun. Really. It has become very much mainstream.
There are too many Cthulhu board games. It’s annoying. It’s like these game designers are scrambling desperately to get it just right. Arkham Horror takes too long. Elder Sign doesn’t take long enough. Let’s make another one, Eldritch Horror – and then Mansions of Madness – and of course there’s Cthulhu Wars...
It kinda feels like those Apple products: iPad, iPhone, smaller iPad, slightly bigger iPhone, medium iPad, even bigger iPhone... Is the smallest of all iPads actually smaller than the biggest iPhone? You reach a point when it’s just Too Much Crap. But let’s get back to the issue at hand.
When 75% of the people become geeks, well, there are no more geeks. Because that word means “strange” and “different”. When 75% of the people become geeks, it’s the non-geeks who are strange and unconventional – like my dad who only loves Goethe and Chopin and Mozart. My dad is now a geek. He is one of the New Geeks – they honestly don’t know who this Peter Parker guy is. That makes me the jock now, I guess. The Sci-fi Jock and the Gaming Jock...