Open Letter to My Fellow Geeks

My Fellow Geeks,

We need to have a conversation.

Growing up in the 1980’s geeks and nerds were not popular at school, in film, or in pop culture. Films like Revenge of the Nerds and Weird Science showed geeks and nerds as outcasts, misunderstood and perpetually destined to live in mom’s basement and make robot women.

Steadfastly, we found heroes in our nerdom. Characters we could relate to whether geeky like Val Kilmer in Real Genius, heroic like Superman, or business savvy like Steve Jobs. We found a kinship with them, many times alone, sometimes with a few trusted friends.

We dreamed of the day we’d be accepted. When it would be okay to love comics, video games and sci-fi. When the bullying would stop. But something happened…

Geek culture became pop culture. Geeks became celebrities in the mainstream. Our beloved comics, books and video games became box office summer gold. The King of our people, Joss Whedon, got a chance to make material (Avengers) that we never thought possible growing up.

And then the geeks became the bullies.

I don’t know if it comes from a sense of ownership or entitlement, when geeks claim ownership of “our” art before it went before mainstream. But occasionally the entitlement pushes a geek into becoming the one thing they hated most – a bully. I don’t know if it comes with the hours of alone time in our childhood where some of us never learned (or wanted to learn) how to interact with people and learn to agree to disagree in a civilized way.

What I don’t understand is why after spending so much time looking for acceptance and finally attaining it we don’t embrace it fully. Instead we turn on it. We attack those who create new things. We attack those that support a new incarnation. We insist that our childhood is ruined.

Is it that we are jealous that as children we had to endure bullies for collecting comics and now there are conventions world-wide where people who don’t own one comic book get a ticket to the con but you can’t?

Is it that we are mad at ourselves for hiding our geek away until it was cool and now we call out others when we think they might be doing the same?

My sweet geeks, I am one of you and proud to wave my geek flag high but seeing geeks turn into bullies is a conversation we need to have because we can and must do better. We need to look at ourselves and ask, have we become what we hate? Have the victims turned into tormentors?

I saw geeks with #Gamergate attacking and threatening death on fellow game developers. I saw geeks attack Joss Whedon (again, the King of our people), who in response shut down his Twitter account and stepped aside from making films. I saw fans turn on Star Wars because of casting. I see fans assemble to destroy a movie like Ghostbusters, something they loved once.

OuroborosGeek culture is becoming Ouroboros, the snake that eats itself. (Yeah, I’m that kind of geeky).

“The Jungian psychologist Erich Neumann writes of it as a representation of the pre-ego ‘dawn state’, depicting the undifferentiated infancy experience of both mankind and the individual child.” –Wikipedia

We geeks have been trying to relive our childhood way past when we should. Whether it’s still collecting Star Wars merchandise or reading more comics than novels. It hasn’t helped that the geeks we grew up with are now running media and toy companies. They too want to relive their childhood so we’re getting remake after reboot, after re-imagining in all forms of media as well as the toys with it. We’re being asked to stay in the undifferentiated state of adult and child.

The problem with this is, many of us geeks didn’t have a lot of play-dates or friends when we were little. Some of us didn’t learn to share.

It’s been 39 years since Star Wars.

44 years since the first video arcade game.

46 years of Comic Con.

50 years since Star Trek premiered.

78 years since Superman appeared in Action Comics #1

It’s time to share. It’s time for us to grow up.

If we are lucky enough to be parents, it’s time we share our geekdom to our children. Let’s teach them how to share with others, not to bully others if they don’t like that geekdom. What we’re teaching the new generation right now is that being a geek means being a jerk to people who like or don’t like a certain thing, or bullying those who like something they liked but it’s been re-invented. We’re teaching our kids to be the same close-minded bullies who attacked us on the playground – only now we do it on the internet. (Ironically something geeks invented.)

There wasn’t a day that I resented being a geek or loving geek culture, but this year…there have been too many days where I’ve been ashamed and disappointed in our collective culture. We can do better, and if we don’t, geeks will once again be shunned to the basements, this time as bullies. We haven’t been though all of this just to become what we hate, have we?

I know the knee-jerk reaction comments will come. I know that I have most likely upset a few of you by saying something negative about something we love. Listen to the mantra of our Prince of Geeks, Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick.”

I hope you’ll see that geeks who were once outcasts, now accepted, are becoming the worst of us. It’s not too late to turn this beat around. We can still relish in our fandom and not attack others for theirs.

So how can those that identify as geek or nerd (or just like comic book movies) stop this onslaught of harassment and bullying toward fellow geeks/nerds/just-like-comic-book-movies?

How can we flip the script and instead of tearing into factions or “us against them” but unite in our geek culture?

How can we learn that it’s okay to like or dislike something and not be attacked for it but instead discuss or agree to disagree? #protip everyone doesn’t have to like the same thing.

When will it be enough is enough of geeks destroying their own people and own fandom’s for us to say these vocal few don’t represent the majority of us?

I worry about the new generations of geeks that are forming are learning from our shortcomings. The one thing we forgot to teach them is what it feels like to be bullied and how to deal with that. Perhaps we haven’t learned how to deal with it yet. Maybe now is the time.

Much Love,

Kate Chaplin



Note: Unfortunately we live in a time where I need to say this (AKA someone ruined it for the rest of you): This is my blog and I reserve the right to approve comments. My blog is not a democracy and your freedom of speech does not apply to my comment section. I am not a corporation or an organization. I am a person (whose name is not Anakin). When you comment I will have your IP and email address so any hate speech or threats of violence make it even easier to report you to authorities. I encourage thoughts, ideas, debate that forwards the conversation.

14 thoughts on “Open Letter to My Fellow Geeks

  1. Victor Miller @millerking51 aka blaqnangry says:

    It makes me sad to think that you felt that you needed to put this out there, it makes me even.sadder to know it’s very true. And needed to be put out there so thank you for being brave, and know that my Geek Tribe is strong in the ways of doing right by others and tree all with the respect you yourself deserve and expect. #eachoneteachone is what I say. From the day we formally met I have been very happy to know you and consider you a friend. Keep being the geek you are and we will keep flying that flag togeather!

  2. Judith Ann Eudaly says:

    I don’t disagree with anything you have said. Unfortunately, I see it everywhere, not just in geekdom.

  3. Andrew Gilbert says:

    Well, well said. An impassioned call to reason. It floors me that this even needs to be brought to our attention, but you’re right, it does! Thanks for having the courage to step up and say it.

  4. Josh says:

    Great blog. This is something that more people should be saying. Thanks for being brave enough to stand up and speak what most won’t say

  5. Lynne Pepin says:

    I hate to say that this problem is not just a geek or non-geek problem. This is a society problem. You can put any type of like in this and have the same problem. (aka: homeschooler, non-homeschooler, stay at home mom, working mom, breastfeeding mother, bottle feeding mom, farmer, non-farmer etc) the anonymity of the internet leaves people feeling they can say whatever they want and never look someone in the eye. We are constantly being asked to rate and judge things. We all have to grow up and learn that we can have different likes and opinions without attacking other peoples likes and opinions.

    This is an ongoing struggle that man has had for generations and it can only change when we decide to make that change in our own lives. So “teach your children well” and be the example to society of the society you want to see. I know you have always done this and will continue to.


  6. Jason Olshefsky says:

    I think the center of this kind of behavior comes from what one says after, “I was [bullied/disadvantaged/targeted]”. For me, the next thing is, “… and I don’t want anyone to experience that.” But what I’ve found, much to my dismay, is there is a very large other group whose follow-on is “… and I want to have the power to do that to others.” Whether it’s geek culture or corruption in our local government, the response is split. And you’ve got no idea what goals the person next to you has.

  7. Kyna says:

    Damn, Kate, GOOD FOR YOU for writing this. Thank you, we need it. I’ve known you only online, but for several years now, and know you to be a champion of geek culture and also women in film. I think it’s amazing what you’re doing with your life as a “creative” and artists, and giving back to the community to empower people, bring them together, and geek out. I agree with Lynne, it’s a problem of our society. In a post-modern, subjectivity-obsessed, corporatized culture, our cultural products — comics, films, music, entertainment, literature, art, etc. — are subject to rating, ridicule, critique, shaming, and a general lack of rational, decent debate and disagreement. It’s shameful what’s happening, and there’s something to be said for not spending too much time online because anonymity and/or emotional/physical distance can allow people to succumb to their basest instincts and turn into monsters. But at the same time, there’s a community of people who love the way the online world allows us to come together, celebrate, empower, inspire, engage, and collaborate & cooperate. You’re part of that. Don’t lose heart. You can always find us here supporting each other. (I can’t wait to meet you face to face sometime soon!)

  8. Will Southworth says:

    You make for some excellent points Kate. Like you, I’m raising Geek Princesses who can kick ass at any RPG games simply because they ran into trolls that say, ‘You’re not a real geek, ‘cos you’re a girl’. They drag me to the latest superhero movie! (Admittedly, I don’t put up that much of a fight.)
    It’s so satisfying when my daughters cosplay and know more about comics then the person who is trying to one up them. We’re trying to raise the bar here in Texas. I’ve got strong, smart women who are opening up some closed male minds.
    I think the Double Clicks said it best: Nothing to prove.

    1. Kate Chaplin says:

      Perfect video to add to the conversation! My friend Sara Corn is in that video. I’d love it regardless if my friend was in it or not, what a wonderful message! Keep raising those geek princesses to know that kindness, smarts and passion are the best weapons in a geek’s arsenal.

  9. Goth Kitty Lady says:

    Reblogged this on Goth Kitty Gazette and commented:
    We shouldn’t have to keep saying this over and over and over again…but apparently we do. And Kate Chaplin has said it very, very well.

  10. Spish says:

    Nice article. I think many, not just in geek/nerd culture, have had self-loathing ingrained in them in their younger years via bullying or other emotional abuse at home and/or in schools, and I think judgment, criticism, and verbal destruction of others makes some feel temporarily better (feeling better about oneself or superior to others by cutting others down). It’s such a destructive MO and does nothing but foment further discord in society.

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