Afternoon Inquisition 10.9

I’m not a geek. Never have been. Never will be. I’m not into role-playing games, fantasy and science fiction books and movies/TV shows, comic books, or many of the pastimes traditionally associated with geeks, though I am interested in many other things that can be termed geeky. Plus, I like all types of people and find value in knowing and interacting with everyone, no matter the group with which they most identify.

However, I think being an “outsider” to most cliques disqualifies me from truly understanding the dynamics involved in a particular group (I don’t know the secret handshakes or anything like that). So I admit a certain level of ignorance to the foundational elements, the strengths, and especially the potential longevity of any group to enter the social consciousness; in this case, geeks and their related brethren.

So, I apologize if today’s Inquisition reflects my ignorance.

Is Geek Chic just a fad, and if so, will it fade as fast as it arose, or is there something inherent in it not found in other trends — trends that have fallen by the wayside — that will allow it to prosper indefinitely?

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. I think “geek chic” has some staying power. All the kids who were picked on in school for being smart grow up, get good jobs, buy lots of tech toys and high-speed Internet access, and then gather on message boards and forums to congratulate each other on being better than everyone who picked on them in school.

  2. When you say “geek chic” I’m not sure what you mean. If you’re asking if “geekdom” is here to stay, then it definitely is. Geeks have been around since the beginning of time. Aristotle, Pythagoras, Gallileo, Newton, Bohr, Einstein, those were all geeks. My dad is a geek and he was a kid a long time before electronic computers even were. He was heavy into ham radio and built his own stuff. I’ve been a geek all my life, preferring to live in a world populated by the wonderful and fantastic and not worrying about if I wore the right clothes or associated with the right people. I didn’t go for sports (and still don’t.)

    However, if you mean whether being a geek will always be trendy, that’s a different story. It certainly wasn’t when I was a kid, but with the advent of video games and the like, being a geek is easier than ever, not to mention socially acceptable. People who are into computers and science and all that other stuff that doesn’t involve what you wear or what you drive or who you’re with are no longer ostracized as they once were. Acceptance, I think, is forever, unless we have some breakdown in human culture which reverts us back to the dark ages or further.

  3. @vbalbert:

    I mean, anyone who needs a definition of each word before they answer a question. (I’m kidding. I’m kidding. It’s all jokes.)

    You actually bring up a good point, and I think you answer your own question and mine quite well in your comment. I suppose I mean how long will being a geek be terendy.

  4. @Sam Ogden:

    who doesn’t love a bizarre and off-the-wall sense of humor?

    Apparently Prince doesn’t. But as Al points out, “You can’t copyright a wimpy mustache.”

    He’s a freakin genius (Al, not Prince). I think I’m going to go buy the new song again, just so I can give Al more money.

    I am a Hedge

  5. full disclosure: i am a nerd, not a geek, but i think there are enough parallels to qualify me to make this statement-
    we will be cool as long as norms need us to help them d/l songs onto their ipod, help them program their GPS, and stay up on the new techie stuff. after that we’re toast. enjoy it while it lasts my pretties

  6. @hotphysicsboy:
    Ah, but that’s why there’s always a new version, and the old versions become obsolete and unsupported. This is why all technology is ten times as complicated to use as it needs to be. You think that’s an accident? They will always need us. We’ll see to that.

    I am a Hedge

  7. @Sam Ogden: At which point a whole type of “geek” will emerge and it will be called something else… and it will find itself totally unique and oh so different from all the other fads of trendiness that have come before it…..

    Some level of “geek” will be around for a long time… and the idea of a group of people being outsiders and then becoming cool will possibly never go out of style.

  8. I tend to associate the word “geek” with obsession in a niche subject. Comic geek, Star Trek geek, math geek. Up until relatively recently, such people were marginalized. If you lived in a small town, there was a good chance you were the only one who cared which two Star Trek episodes the set of The Andy Griffith Show appears in, for example.

    With the advent of the BBS, the world wide web then broadband, these people became less isolated as they located other like-minded people. What was a scattered group of outcasts became a community. The same happened for other people engaging in non-mainstream behavior. Ubiquitous communication has de-marginalized the marginalized.

  9. More and more of our gadgets are being turned into disposable items. Not because they are truly disposable but because the cost to fix them is becoming greater than it cost to buy them. For example, at one time you would take your radio into the shop when it stopped working. Now you just toss it and buy a new one, most likely one with even more features simply because the labor alone costs more than it does to buy a new one. When I fix a computer, I don’t actually repair any components, I just replace them. Hard drive bad? Hope you have a backup, toss out the old one and buy a new one. I get paid for knowing whether or not it’s the hard drive, the motherboard or the driver which is actually causing the problem. Full featured computers will get to the point where it’s cheaper to toss out the old one and get a new one. We’re a ways away from that, but I see the day coming. Most cell phones are already there and they’re just tiny computers.

  10. If PAX is any indication, the geek subculture is just starting to gain momentum. Over 58,000 attendees showed up this year to play all manner of games (video, table-top, role-playing, etc), rock to nerdcore musicians, attend panels, and generally geek-out for an entire weekend.

  11. @Steve:
    I think you hit the nail on the head. Being able to find people who share interests online allows us to form communities where none existed before.

  12. I think geek chic will continue to split up into various coexisting factions as it evolves. If you look at the definition of “geek chic” on places like Wikipedia, you can already see it happening just by all the different people that claim to be into it.

    @Sam Ogden: Your question about the proliferation of technology is a valid one. I think that a certain amount of “geekiness” will be needed just to survive in an increasingly technological world in coming years. However, I think the true future of technology will be to become more unobtrusive in daily life, to the point where it will be essentially invisible unless it doesn’t work…Sort of like PC’s, calculators and cell phones have become today.

  13. @Sam Ogden: “City on the Edge of Forever” and “Miri”. In “City on the Edge of Forever”, Joan Collins and William Shatner can be seen walking past Floyd’s Barber shop.

  14. @QuestionAuthority: Exactly… you aren’t really a geek today if you cn work your PC… but back when they were new, you might have been… or is that nerdy? Either way.

    I think geekiness has more to do with something being obscure… when things become mainstream they might still be called “geek” but they really aren’t anymore.

  15. Hi there!

    When I went to high school, (1985-1989) being a geek was much of an “alternative lifestyle” than it is today. Maybe other people had different experiences, but for me, it was harrowing.

    My school worshiped the sports teams. Mostly the football team, but the soccer and field hockey teams were also held in high regard. The geek “clique” was about 4 or 5 of us who played Dungeons & Dragons on the weekend, and the jock/preppie clique was … everybody else. I remember not bothering to cover my science textbook or my English textbook, but making DAMN WELL SURE that there was a cover on the D&D Players Handbook, the Monster Manual, and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Being seen with those books could get you kicked down the hall. I had heated conversations in private with my friends about the Mutant Massacre in the X-men comics back in ’87, but if a jock walked by, we pretended to be talking about Bon Jovi or Def Leppard.

    So when I see big athletic kids nowadays wearing Wolverine t-shirts under their high school letter jackets, or hear sexy college girls talking about last night’s episode of Heroes, … I just can’t help but to think that I was born into the wrong era.

    Not too long ago, I was watching some guy on the football team tell a hot young cheerleader that he was up late last night playing XBox, and added: “I’m such a fuckin’ geek”. I wanted to get up in his face and scream: “You are NOT! Can you tell me the average hit points of a kobold in first edition rules?! Huh!? What issue did Wolverine attempt to kill Rachel Summers in the Hellfire Club’s mansion? Memory fuzzy? I bet you can’t even name me TWO Ewoks. No Wickett doesn’t count!! Fucking everybody knows Wickett, you musclehead!!”.

    But then as I watched him talk about video games with this girl, it occurred to me that: If this guy plays Xbox regularly, would he really go to town on some teenage geek for carrying a D&D book? Would any of the jocks of today slam someone up against a locker for reading a comic book? Or have the youth of today morphed into something different? Someone that can throw around a football and yet still lead a 10-man guild on Uldamann in the same weekend??

    It boggles the mind, really!

    (Doesn’t answer your question at all, but still …)

    — Craig

  16. I wonder how the children of today’s geeks will rebel. What will they have to do to be outsiders? (On a similar note, I’m looking forward to the inevitable backlash against hipsters though, and plan to invest in a shampoo company once things stabilize.)

  17. @Draconius:

    Hey, don’t worry about it, Craig. As I mentioned, I enjoy everyone’s perspective. I always have, and I think that’s why I never really fit into the various cliques in high school and beyond. I got value out of all of them, and I’m sure I was given the crook eye on occasion by all them as well.

  18. @Draconius:

    I must not be a geek after all. I can’t answer anything on your quiz.

    I don’t really even like Star Trek. I’ve just had to learn a bit about it to be able to understand the analogies my coworkers use. The first thing I remember having to learn about was “The Borg”.

    “It’s like The Borg”

    “Like what?”

    “The BORG”

    “What’s a borg?”

    “Not A borg, THE BORG. FROM STAR TREK”

    “Oh, I don’t watch Star Trek”

    “What? Um, it’s like um .. you’ll be assimilated,no it’s like… nevermind”

    I guess I’m not as cool as I thought.

    I am a Hedge

  19. “I wonder how the children of today’s geeks will rebel.”

    I lie awake at night worrying that my children will become middle managers in the public relations field.

  20. Here’s why the “geek chic” (I hate that term btw) has a little more life in it than, say, the Big Band/Swing craze isolated in 1999:

    Geeks (and their socially awkward brethren and sistren, the Nerds), long pushed into the fringe, now are the ones who know how to work the technical gear. They are the ones who are from the first generation that grew up on video games. A few of them are creative people, and they write (Seth Green, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, Seth MacFarlane etc…). They write funny things. Funny things like “Optimus Prime gets cancer in his kidneys” (Robot Chicken, for those not paying attention).

    Non-geeks can still respond to that, and the geeks get all the cred.

    Bout damn time too. The Gatorade of the sports-jock has been replaced with the hot-pocket of the nerd.

  21. I lie awake at night worrying that my children will become middle managers in the public relations field.

    Awaiting arrival of my first sprog in about 4 months. Nothing scares me as much as this.

  22. Hi there!

    @ I’m a Hedge :

    Actually, looking it up afterwards, (because beforehand would have been CHEATING) I found that the Mutant Massacre was actually 1986, and I’m not 100% certain on 1st edition kobold hit points. (it’s like, what? 1d4? 1-2?)

    There seems to be room for dispute when it comes to being a geek. I really don’t know a lot about Star Trek, (but I know who the goddamn BORG are) I can’t really program in Basic, never mind C, C+, C++, Cobol, Linux, or Perl, and I’ve still never gotten around to watching Doctor Who. :(

    But I’ve always thought of being a geek, nerd, dweeb, etc., was more about being a social misfit than which subculture of geekery you fit into. If you’re the most popular kid in school, and yet you’re also an expert in Halo or Guitar Heero, can you really call yourself a geek or a nerd? Or are those words just .. outdated? [shrugs]

  23. @Draconius:

    But I’ve always thought of being a geek, nerd, dweeb, etc., was more about being a social misfit than which subculture of geekery you fit into.

    Hey, that’s me. I’m a geek after all. Phew. Thanks for the reassurance Draconius. Now I feel like I fit in again.

    I am a Hedge

  24. Geek Chic. you mean like this:

    or do you mean like this:


    geek Chic is alive and well,my friends. The thing is, though,that hipsterdom is littered with people who actually WERE geeks and nerds until 10th grade or so, when they started doing drugs and figuring out how to be cool (because they got geekily obsessed with it and then went to art school).

    They are not the same as lifer nerds, though, and
    there is a HUGE difference. The current hipsters would have been best buddies with the lifer nerd until about puberty, when the proto-hipster’s hormones won the battle between sexand fantasy (it also depends onother factors, like physique…ok maybe entirely on that).

    Aw,hell,I could write a goddamned paper on this, if hipsters and nerds are gorillas, then I’m Jane Goodall and I’ve been in the jungle my whole life.

    Anyway, then there are people who were never nerds, and someh0w turned out to be hipsters or at least marginally “cool”. They have appropriated the Geek Chic that the former nerd hipsters…

    Jesus Christ, I can’t believe I’m writing this.

    Yes, Geek Chic will pass. The cycle is almost up. Next it’s going to be Jock Chic, mark my words. We’ve already gone through Autistic Chic (indie kids from 1995-2001), Fag/Faghag Chic (Electroclash, early ’00’s), and Black Metal Chic (Current). Geek Chic is pretty much out to to point of geek hipsters most likely either being for real or tragically behind. Hippie Chic is about to look as dated as Electroclash. Shave your beards, Williamsburg!

  25. Geek Chic? You mean like biting the heads off chickens and swallowing knives and such? (Or am I thinking of the other kind of Geek?)

  26. @Im a Hedge: Yes we did. My kids love Weird Al. My 3 year old daughter likes to watch Al videos on Youtube at night as a bedtime story. My background is in molecular biology and my husband is an engineer working on PhD in neuroscience. My kids don’t have a chance:) My 5 year old can quote the beginning of Star Trek TNG, complete with Picard accent, sound effects, and music. If being a geek means you are an educated critical thinker, then I hope both of the them are geeks whether it’s trendy or not.

  27. @DNAmom:
    Excellent. I almost wrote Al a message telling him he got the gravity formula wrong in “Pancreas”, but I figured I’d let him off the hook with “artistic license”.

    I just about lost it when I first heard the line.

    “My pancreas attracts every other pancreas in the universe with a force (with a force..) proportional to the product of their masses, and inversely proportional to the distance between themmm”

    Of course, it should be the square of the distance between them, but still, Al totally rules.

    I am a Hedge

  28. @Im a Hedge: Generally I am willing to grant a certain amount of artistic license to an artist I enjoy. Monty Python’s Galaxy Song features a lot of rounded numbers, in the Dead Milkmen’s song Punk Rock Girl, the song California Dreaming is a Mamas and the Papas song not a Beach Boys song, and although they admitted it was incorrect in the liner notes, Dropkick Murphys song Wicked Sensitive Crew features the line

    I cried when Mickey died in Rocky 2

    (he died in Rocky 3).

  29. @killyosaur42:

    I cried when Mickey died in Rocky 2

    (he died in Rocky 3).

    Does it make you sad that you know that? It makes me sad that I know that.

    On a lighter note, I hope when they make Rocky XIII, they use Al’s “Theme from Rocky XIII”. Although, they could have just used it on the last one..

    “Fat and weak, what a disgrace”
    “Guess the champ got to lazy”
    “Ain’t gonna fly now, he’s just taking up space”
    “Sold his gloves, threw his eggs down the drain”

    I am a Hedge

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