This place matters

This place matters

Thursday, October 25, 2012

All Aboard

A couple weeks back, Jeremy and I went with some friends to a bad movie night at a theater in Columbus. As with any event that involves ironic enjoyment of things, the place was crawling with hipsters. Now, I know what you're thinking: my friends and I were enjoying things ironically - doesn't that make us hipsters? The answer is no. In order to be a hipster, one has to be hip, and there is no risk of that among our crowd.
And we noticed something. Everyone around us was dressed like Halloween costume versions of us. Superhero and cartoon character and and sci-fi t-shirts, brightly colored Converse sneakers, blue jeans that have been out of style since before we bought them. The difference between them and us was that we've always dressed this way (we dressed this way, in fact, before it was cool). At first we were like "hey! It's our people!" And then they were like "I can tell you are not wearing that X-Men t-shirt ironically. Attack!"
When I was a kid, geek was an insult. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, geek, which came to be associated in teen slang with socially awkward technophiles around 1983, used to refer to a circus or sideshow freak. This might come from the word geck, for a simpleton or idiot (so kind of the opposite of what it means today). This may have come from an old Germanic onomatopoeia geck, meaning to croak or cackle.
It's ironic that the thing that people mocked geeks for is the thing that brought them to the top. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates grew up to become the bosses of us all, and now we're like, one whole rung up on the food chain. Now the comic books we got mocked for loving are all over the big screen, half the costumes at the Halloween store are wizard-themed, and stars from Cameron Diaz to Katie Perry are claiming to have been geeks as kids (please. You know Katie Perry and her friends set geeks on fire and threw them in dumpsters. Not in high school, either. Last week. For reals. I read it in Star).
I miss something about the days before the geeks inherited the earth. I miss the organic nature of geek-dom. When I discovered Star Trek TNG, I was the only kid in my class who watched it. I persued brainy stuff not because my friends were, but because that interested me. At my all-girls high school, I never met another comic book lover. That's how it used to be for geeks. You became a geek organically - you didn't just buy a package.
That's what I don't like about the geek sub-culture coming out of its parents' basement, so to speak. It used to be all about what you love, and now it's a little bit about what marketers want you to love. For instance, a couple years ago, Geeks all started loving bacon. ThinkGeek.com has a wide variety of bacon products - from bacon wallets to bacon flavored candy to (I kid you not) bacon magnetic poetry. I mean, I love me some bacon, but what the hell does bacon have to do with being a geek? I suspect ThinkGeek did a marketing survey, found out that geeks are statistically likely to enjoy bacon, and decided to capitalize off of it by telling us that geeks love bacon? Why do we all worship duct tape now? That's got nothing to do with being a geek either. 
I don't know what my point is. Other than to say that I was a geek before geeks were cool. Also, geeks aren't cool.

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