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.
Geek 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.