Geek or Poseur? Here We Go Again…
Criticism of the new Miss USA, Alyssa Campanella, has struck a bit of a chord. I wonder if she realized that referring to herself as a “history geek” would cause such a ruckus? The following email was sent to me by a geek who feels the criticism was completely ridiculous. At this person’s request, they will remain anonymous, but their well-written sentiments still deserve to be seen by more eyes than mine…..
Here we go again.
You’re not a real geek if you haven’t seen Star Wars. Real geeks are people who have lived through torment and bullying. You can’t be a girl and like geeky things. You aren’t a true geek unless you have been your entire life. You can’t be an attractive geek.
When I was growing up, I didn’t have many friends. We lived in the country in a sparsely populated area, so I was forced to keep to myself a lot. I was awkward and didn’t wear brand-name clothes. I read Lord of the Rings and Hitchhiker’s. I played Atari and watched kung-fu movies. I discovered DnD, LEGOs and after a while, the Commodore 64. I was mercilessly bullied in middle school and high school and even quit the marching band in a vain attempt to avoid further persecution. In other words, I have all the cred a geek approval board could ask for. Right? Wrong.
Being a geek isn’t about how many raids you’ve led in WoW, how many game consoles you own, or your GamerScore. It’s not about holding an infinite knowledge of the Doctor Who universe. It’s not about being picked on for your hobbies or how unattractive you feel and it’s DEFINITELY not about creating an exclusive club where only the aforementioned criteria grant you access. It’s not even about whether or not Han shot first…even though he did. Being a geek is about one thing and one thing only. Passion.
Passion is what keeps you awake until 3am trying to take down Magtheridon and fuels the debate over the best starship Captain. Passion makes you spend an obscene amount of money on the latest exclusive figurine, or scour longbox after longbox for the missing issue of Captain America that will complete your collection. Hell, passion even sparks the need for the exclusivity that drives these arguments.
But here’s the rub. Passion isn’t confined to science fiction or the Marvel universe. My parents are both geeks, yet neither one could tell you what LARPing is or recognize Felicia Day. My mother was a librarian and then a teacher for twenty years. Her passion is books. My father is a mechanical engineer and a math nerd with a passion for woodworking and robotics. Their passions define them, and even though they don’t identify with the title, I would certainly call them geeks.
And if passion truly defines one’s geekiness, then some of the planet’s geekiest people are sports fans. I know this is going to curdle your blood, true believers, but hear me out. They paint their faces and wear all manner of outfits to display their passion. Cosplay, much? They spend hundreds and thousands of dollars to live out their fantasies at sporting events or to find the rare Billy Martin card where he gives the cameraman the bird. And have you seen fantasy football?! It’s basically Dungeons and Dragons with athlete statistics.
But here’s the greatest part – this passion binds us together like the Force. Do you know why you feel awesome at conventions, aside from the alcohol? It’s the community that’s created from being around like-minded, passionate people. So, how is it that a group brought together by their mutual loves and interests can be so dispassionate towards others and even members of this shared community? Who are we to question another person’s passions?
We stand up daily and proclaim our love through t-shirts, tattoos, Twitter and blogs, but when others try to do the same, we call them fake and demand proof. It’s as if being bullied and excluded has somehow granted us this right. When we were younger, we all wanted more people to share our passions, but now that we’ve found one another through the internet, our club is somehow full? Things change. People change. LABELS change. Why not SHARE our passions instead of spurning those of others? That’s MY community of geeks.