Here are a few of my favorite things: Nintendo, Penny Arcade, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, Harvest Moon, Fallout, Dungeons and Dragons, books, dice, Professor Layton, Shadow of the Colossus, Minecraft, and so much more. I'm going to talk a lot about video games, I sincerely hope you don't mind.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Who is a geek?: Delving into the 'fake geek' concern.

This has been on my mind for a while, but I've been unable to formulate full and complete thoughts that could be compiled into a cohesive and intelligent article. The sudden influx of 'fake girl geek' articles spreading like wildfire through the web has kicked enough brain particles into gear that my snowflakes are turning into a blizzard. I'm not sure where the environmental disaster analogies are coming from.

This is a photo of me, and it is a valid question. About 95% of my shirts are
video game or geek culture related. It's what I love, and it's part of who I am.

Forbes kicked things off with an article from Tara Brown, and from there I've read at least five more. Each of them contribute something to the greater issue of the 'fake geek' phenomenon, and some of them also point out the relevance of this being a sexist issue. The author over at Dunlap Dabbles painted an excellent picture:

"Say we see a guy walking around in a Spider-Man t-shirt. We probably think that he grew up on Spiderman and really likes the character. He’s just like us. We give him the nod. Good day, gentleman of distinguishing comic book taste. Now we see a girl wearing a Spider-Man shirt. She’s attractive. The shirt is kind of tight. But not any tighter than a plain shirt that plenty of girls wear. Not tighter than a normal shirt marketed to women. Does she really like Spider-Man, or is this supposed to be a super hero powered sexy ice breaker for the Spider-Man shirt guy we just saw? When did she start reading Spider-Man? Has she read all the back issues? Does she know the difference between Amazing and Spectacular Spider-Man? We have lots of questions. Maybe we’ll ask her. But we’re already suspicious and, unless she’s perfect, we will find her responses lacking because we already kind of made up our minds beforehand. She didn’t know anything about Spectacular Spider-Man. A-ha! Well, maybe that’s because she thinks Spectacular Spider-Man sucks. And guess what, that guy just liked the movies. But we didn’t ask him any questions. His rep is still intact in our minds" - dunlapdabbles 3/28/12

How poignant, right?* I am guilty of this myself, both questioning women and accepting men. I also run through this particular scenario in my mind whenever I buy a new geeky shirt. Case in point! I love Back to the Future, I'm a huge fan and I have no qualms saying this. There are plenty of things that I don't know about the movies; I've never watched behind-the-scenes footage and yet that doesn't make me feel like less of a fan. I'm thinking this is because I've enjoyed the films for as long as I can remember. The moment I saw an 88 MPH shirt on teefury I purchased it without a second thought.

But then! Last year I was given a shirt that depicted the Delorean and the TARDIS crashing into one another. At that point I had heard of Doctor Who, and I vaguely recognized the TARDIS, but I had never watched the show. I was intensely nervous about wearing the shirt in public. I was positively terrified that someone would approach me and start talking about Doctor Who and I would have to stammer out that I hadn't watched it yet but that I loved Back to the Future and then they would think I was a huge phony and a 'fake geek girl'. For the longest time I only wore the shirt in the safety of my own home. Is that how one would spell 'ridiculous'?

The damnable shirt itself. Thanks shirtoid!

Eventually I encountered people who were jazzed about my shirt, and I had prepared a breezy speech stating that while I hadn't yet had an opportunity to watch Doctor Who, it was absolutely in the cards and that all the same I loved Back to the Future. To my delight, all of those people responded with a resounding enthusiasm for Doctor Who and only encouraged me to start watching it sooner.**

I was fortunate then that I was surrounded by the type of people who welcomed newcomers, accepted budding hobbyists, and had such a pure love for their interests that it brought them happiness to invite new people into the group. The majority of geeks that I know downright glow when they have a chance to explain something that they're infatuated with to a new person. Do you want to see me geek out, nerd out, gush, verbal diarrhea, etc. etc. over something? Then go ahead and ask me about Harry Potter.*** My goal is not to show you up, or make you feel that you don't know enough; my goal is to exude love and appreciation for something that I hold so dear to my heart. The affection doesn't stop at me, I want everyone else to love it just as much (which is precisely why I will stammer open mouthed until slapped in the face if you tell me that you hate Harry Potter).

Or I'll start screaming that. Depends on my mood. 
Thanks graphjam.

In any interest group there will be elitists. It's simply a personality type that we have to accept. I first encountered these people within the music group. How many of you have been kicked and beaten out of a conversation (in the position as a novice among masters) for not knowing songs off of a first album? For not knowing a song's inspiration? For not owning every EP that had ever been released?

It's those experiences that have left me scarred and nervous in situations such as with my TARDIS/Delorean shirt.

And yet, I know what it's like; having someone come into the sacred territory of something that I feel helps to define who I am as a person, and then display little true affection or only a passing interest, and then act as though they love it as much as I do. But this is unfair of me, and it's a knee-jerk reaction in an attempt to protect something that I believe deserves only the best attentions.

I prefer to welcome new people, I love to share, and it would be wonderful if everyone had this mindset. There have been situations where someone says, "Oh I love Zelda!" after seeing my tattoo. I then begin to speak animatedly about how much I love the games and ask which ones they've played. If they haven't played one that I love, or if they've only played Ocarina of Time, my immediate response is, "OMG play WIND WAKER!!" Who am I to say that they don't really love the games just because they've only been exposed to one? The Legend of Zelda is an expansive series, and depending on someone's age and economic status while they were growing up they may not have had the same experiences and chances that I have had. No one should be chastised for being late to the game/movie/music/comic/whatever.

The Legend of Zelda gaming collection. There are some international 
duplicates in there, but you get the idea! Thanks Kotaku!

So, is there such a thing as a fake geek? Or does the word geek just not mean what it used to? Languages change and evolve, and it seems that the definition of a geeky person is not what it once was.  It's not hard to see why this can be difficult for some people though, especially since for a lot of people the stigma of being a geek or a nerd was so powerful and frequently negative only a few years ago. I remember the first time someone outside of my dorky, computer, gamer friends posted a meme image online. I about fell out of my chair. It's true that at first it felt invasive into my way of life. But hey, it's a fantastic way of life. Why shouldn't more people be involved?

My biggest gripe, and my only real definition of a 'fake geek', is a person who does something that isn't geeky whatsoever but claims to be because they're not sure what it means, they only know it's currently popular and widespread. Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty shirts where they're wearing black rimmed glasses? That's... not... geeky... . Thinking an actor that plays a dorky part in a movie/TV show is cute? How is that geeky? Someone played one session of Halo/Smash Bros./Super Mario? "I'm such a geek, I know." But you're not. Doing something once doesn't make you a thing. If you put one tomato plant into the ground, you're not a gardener. If you own an expensive DSLR, that doesn't magically make you a photographer. You went to the zoo? You're not a koala bear.****

"I’ve never met a pseudo geek, not once in my life…and I’ve made a lifelong study of science fiction culture. What we’re seeing here is a misnomer: people who call themselves geeks because they feel awkward or because they once read a comic book and saw the movie it was based on. But that’s not geekhood." - Carol Pinchefsky, Forbes. 3/28/12

Hot damn that is well stated. I mean, we have words that mean specialized. They are there for a reason.

This one cracked me up. I made a meme about the over 9000 thing once >.>

Do we even know this girl's back story? Did she mean to be turned into a meme? She looks like she's about thirteen, and I'll bet she's trying to find herself and is dabbling in a lot of things. So she dipped into the nerd culture with the large glasses, she also has sorta scenster hair and she's almost doing ducklips. She's just... figuring things out, you know? 

A lot of the articles I've been reading focus heavily on the whole 'fake geek girl' thing where a girl "pretends" to like something in order to gain popularity or attention online/in person/at conventions, etc.  Why is this even a concern? It's not my problem. It's not your problem. You or I or anyone else will never be able to contain and/or control the things that other people do. It's unfortunate when what they do affects us on a personal level, but it's important to continue with our lives. I feel the ripple of distress when someone has watched all of the Harry Potter films but never bothered to read the books and yet they claim to be a huge fan. OK, they're a fan in their minds, and they're missing out on something so amazing, but if they don't want to read the books then I shouldn't continue to wind myself into a tizzy over it.

It's simple enough for me to find people who love what I love and start an in-depth discussion about Harry Potter, continuity mistakes in the books, translation errors to film, and where we think the characters are now.

Let's all continue to love what we love and share it with the world. If we meet someone that we think is "fake", then encourage them to dig deeper. They'll either love it or lose interest and move on. Everybody wins!



*I love Spider-man, it's the first comic book I ever read and I only read Ultimate Spider-man. I've never read Spectacular or Amazing. I'm unable to keep up with the comic books, so I just read what I can when I can. I would really enjoy to have more Spider-man knowledge, but I simply don't have access to the comic books. When this comes up I do my best to be forthright about only reading Ultimate Spider-man.

**I started watching Doctor Who a few months ago and I love it so much. I just finished season two and I ugly cried for the last ten minutes of the finale. No joke. This is an instance where a fan who has loved the series for years and years could tell me I'm not a true fan because I'm new, but they have no way of knowing how I feel about the Doctor. They're not in my head and heart as I lay awake at night thinking about the tear rolling down number ten's cheek with his face against the wall. Excuse me... *sob*

***You can do this with Nintendo, Zelda, and Harvest Moon, too.

****Heyo all the Friends fans out there! <3 <3 <3 Yet another thing that I will go on and on and on about.


Have a rambling, long comment!

There this idea - If you're not hardcore, you're nothing - and it's one of the things I had to kickpunch my way through college dealing with. It's absolutely RIFE in the Computer Science field where I went to school. It's like there's no option for a girl to be a casual programmer, or have other interests (like, basically, all of mine.) CS kind of expects 'geek' to be the reason you're in it, as if anyone who isn't a geek couldn't possible want to play.

Geek kind of does mean 'in depth love to an extreme', but I think that people take that as an identity box and fill themselves in it. You are a Spiderman Geek or a Star Wars geek.

Hell, I geek out over stuff, but it's not my identity.

It's weird. I've had to be actually _aggressive_ in my casual stance on aspects of geek culture. It comes through most when talking about WoW. Most conversations end up something like, "Oh, cool, I can talk shop with you, but I am casual so I've never tried that thing you're gushing about. Sorry.' It's a really weird unbalanced social Thing until I can turn the convo around and get the other participant to tell me stories of stuff I really can't be bothered to do.

And I do think there's an element of sexism to it. To be interested in a Boy Thing you obviously have to be a geek about it or you couldn't keep up 'cause you're a Girl. Obviously bullshit, yes, but I've run into it again and again and again.

Also, HUGS about Doomsday. <3 I know, I know. I understand.

Very true about the hardcore thing. If you don't like *all* of something then you're not "into it enough" and therefore you can't call yourself a fan, or however someone wants to describe it.

It's so strange that people would claim they couldn't identify with you because of their perceived "intense geekiness" within you because you play WoW. That sort of thing doesn't seem to happen in other circles, but I could simply be ignorant to them.

And yeah, girls aren't allowed to have passing interests in video games or comic books, because if they're not hardcore about it then they're doing it for the attention. What a lovely black and white take on the situation! I can't imagine the crap that you've had to deal with!

I'm so glad that I was watching Doomsday alone. It would have been difficult to cry that much with someone else in the room. I'm glad that I was free to react how I wanted xD

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A wild comment appears!

Communities of interest (COI) provide space for us to connect and pass along shared experiences in ways that not only help us develop relationships, but further explore the topics that have triggered our passion.

nerds/geeks/dorks are, by definition a COI based in passion for any range of specific topics. This is to say, there is no entry-test for "true geekdom." By displaying a genuine, unabashed passion for something you have "earned" a place within the COI.

This community is predicated on that kind of openness and accessibility because of its history in society. Before the age of the nerd really took hold in our mainstream culture, our parents and grandparents were ostracized for their passions. Where we find acceptance and friendship, they found ridicule and swirlies.

We have an obligation to those who came before us to continue a tradition of openness, acceptance and encourage anyone who shows a budding interest in our own passions, to follow that path for as long as it keeps them enthralled.

We have a lot of work to do as a community. Sexism, homophobia and overtones of racism still plague our ranks and the industries to which many of us are consistent patrons.

Continue the conversation, continue to advocate and most of all continue to encourage and welcome newcomers. It's the best and easiest way to make things better.

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