Thursday, November 15, 2012

The “Fake” Geek

Somewhere in the past few years, being a geek became acceptable in society. I’m still not entirely sure how or when this happened, but it did. Some people even consider it cool to be a geek. A geek of comic books, or movies, or television shows, or art, or sci-fi, or whatever. It’s not about being smart, but showing an interest in something that’s considered off-the-cuff/not the norm. Sci-fi has a niche market. It’s a good area, but still small in comparison to action or romantic comedy.

And for a lot of us that have been geeks for the whole of our lives, we’re becoming unnerved. We see new people jumping into our culture and try to play it up like they are the best of the best, but can’t tell us the difference between a phaser and a lightsaber (hint: one is not from Star Trek). So here they are, trying to take up all of the attention, and the geeks that have always been geeks get put down once again. And then we do this song and dance ritual where we have to prove that we’re a “geek” by answering questions that a “real geek” would know.

Personal opinion time: There is nothing wrong with new people joining a fandom or becoming a part of a geek culture/sub-culture. If new people didn’t come in, that fandom would have died out after the first generation. Captain Obvious is obvious. What I’m concerned about is this need to test people to see if they are “worthy” of being a geek. It reminds me all too often about how much this happens to me. I’ve been a gaming geek for nearly my entire life. I still have my very first game system, an Atari 2600. I’ve been a sci-fi geek since I was at least 8. Film geek since I was about 7. Anime geek is still in the works, but nowhere near the level of others, so maybe age 20 on that.  

I was never part of the in-crowd and I never will be. My interests were always outside of what people considered to be normal. I’ve been labeled a lot of things, but I call myself a geek proudly. I love who I’ve become in spite of all of the things thrown at me by society in trying to make me fit their mold.

So when I see someone profess being a geek but not had to take on any of the hardships myself and others have endured, yeah I get a little jaded. It’s not fair that I got picked on for half of my life (and still do) for being me. Geeks, nerds, dweebs, dorks, whatever your word of choice: if you were not considered normal you were a target. We all got hit with some type of verbal or physical attack, anything from being ignored in school to getting killed. But now apparently it’s cool to be a geek so no one picks on them like they use to. It still happens of course. It will always happen when you’re not like everyone else. But so many are skating by without having to deal with any of the prejudice that so many of us before had to face. It sucks and makes us feel a little more “holier than thou.”(I say all of this with the note that I am not a mean person. I’m never going to be rude, condescending, or go out of my way to intentionally hurt someone. Am I going to be annoyed that someone is a geek and never went through anything? Sure. But I would never hold that against them for the person that they are.)

Now this is where things get tricky. This need to test people to prove that they are a geek of a fandom. There hasn’t been a single day that’s gone by since I felt like I was a geek where I’m not tested. Constantly. Why? Because I’m a woman. That’s another anomaly. Not only am I ostracized for being a geek of different fandoms and not a normal woman, but just being a woman makes me more of a target within the geek universe.

I want to link to an article someone had posted on their Facebook: The Myth of the Fake Geek Girl. When one says geek, we automatically contribute it to be masculine. The same goes with gamer or politician. We have to quantify these words with girl, woman, or female but never with boy, man, or male. It’ll always be geek and geek girl; gamer and girl gamer; politician and woman/female politician. All women are continually tested because we don’t fit into the male dominated worlds.

So when I read about geeks checking others with tests and quizzes, it makes me cringe. I get that ENOUGH by being a woman. I know how horrible and degrading it is, not to mention tiring. Being subjected to it…I just can’t do that to anyone else. No matter how much I might dislike the fact that they claim to be a fan of Star Trek but not know who Klingons and Romulans are, I would never quiz them on it.

This is starting to sound more and more elitist. And slightly off track. Finding a position on this is difficult because I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. I think of myself as a geek, a club of specialness that few belong. But I’m also challenged to prove my geek stature because I’m a woman. I know how the “fake” geeks feel.

It feels like so many of us are becoming the people that use to be our bullies. The ones that felt they were better than us, so they beat us down. Now, geeks are doing the same, beating up the new kids by bombarding them with “show us your geek” tests. We’ve become the thing we were trying to stay away from: the normal people. Wasn’t the point of being a geek was to include all of those that didn’t belong?

This reminds me of an episode of The Big Bang Theory. I want to say Season 3, but don’t quote me. Penny and her ex Zack are hanging out and drop off Leonard and Sheldon’s mail. Zack makes a comment about their science magazine and says how much he loves the stuff, but his knowledge is very limited. The guys, including Raj and Howard, start teasing Zack and Penny calls them out on it. The geek universe is effectively doing the same thing to the new members, fake or not. This is no longer the inclusive community “come here where it’s safe from all of those who want to harm you.” Now, we’re the bullies.

How did this happen? And the weird thing is, it’s always been like this for as long as I can remember. It’s just more prevalent now with geek culture entering into main stream. So many of us have unconsciously dealt with it for years and accepted it. Wow…this was just a revelation.

Every group has its set of bullies. You don’t always meet them, but they’re there. Geeks are not immune to this cycle either. There will always be a few that feel they are the kings and will push to have it their way, or no way at all. That’s why anyone new, or a woman or a minority, basically anyone who is not white AND male, will get constantly pushed to make sure they are “true” geeks.

Whatever your position is on the “fake” geek phenomena, I’m going to speak out against the bullying and elitism that goes on in our circles. We spend so much time preaching about how bullies made us fear damn near everything in school, and we’re doing the same within the geek community. No more. If I see someone being isolated because they’re not a “true” geek, I’ll speak. If I see someone being peppered with questions to test their faith to a culture, I’ll step in.

We need to be the examples that this type of behavior is not ok and the only way to do that is to speak up. No one has deemed anyone as a “worthy” geek. As geeks, we should be all-inclusive. Who cares if someone is a new geek, an old geek, female or Hindu, African or Buddhist? Being a geek is not about how much you know, but loving the culture for what it is.  Everyone should be welcomed.

I realize this went kind of all over the place and derailed from the original topic. So I’m going to try to tie this back up.

If you’re new to the geekdom: You’re going to be asked questions and constantly trying to prove yourself. Don’t let it get to you. Stand up for yourself. And guess what? You’re allowed to enjoy your fandom however you wish. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

If you’re a current geek: Stop beating up (physically, verbally, written, or mentally) the new people, even the “fake” geeks. Just because they don’t practice loving the fandom your way, it doesn’t make them wrong or inferior. If you feel that it is, then you’re no better than the bullies that use to pick on us when we were kids.

There is no such thing as a “fake” geek. To be “fake” means that they have to put in some effort, and any effort makes you not-fake. Maybe watching The Avengers movie is their way into comic books, just like for so many of us the dubbed Sailor Moon series was our way into anime. That doesn’t make them wrong. They are allowed to enjoy the fandom their way. If they get certain terms wrong, who cares? There are polite ways to correct them without laughing or bashing their ways of fandom.

We need to go back to the original geek idea: inclusion in a world that isolates us for being different.


  1. that was really eye opening.
    #geek pride

    1. Glad to read. Even now, I still feel the same way and I see it happen at conventions more and more. But is kind of silly. Why fault someone for getting into comic books after watching the Iron Man movie? It brought in someone new to the fandom. Who cares how they got there and how they wish to pursue it. They're in. That's all that should matter. :D


Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

We ask that you please do not include any offensive, sexist, or derogatory language - otherwise your comment will be removed.