Co-opting a Culture

Geek CultureOur culture is being co-opted. What culture you ask? Our geek culture. When I was a kid, I was ridiculed because of the things that I liked: comic books, action figures, and sci-fi. Now, all that stuff is socially acceptable. Heck, one could even say that it’s cool. That pisses me off. Of course, if you listen to our show, you know that it doesn’t take much more than a warm breeze to send me into a ranting rage.

Let me lay out my point with a bit of background. I’m a geek. I always have been a geek and I always will be a geek. It wasn’t until after I’d been married to my wife for years that she realized that it wasn’t just a phase I was going through. It’s who I am. And it’s only after I’ve come to terms with who I am that I have been happy with my life. You see, I was a closet geek. I’d do geek things alone. Going to a comic book store with my friends was something that I’d never do because I knew that I’d be outed as a geek. It’s how it was and I accepted that.

I tried to “come out” as a geek a few times. In 1989 I wore a Batman shirt to school. I was in junior high at the time and should have known better. But hey, the movie made $411 million worldwide, didn’t that mean it was OK to like Batman? Not at my school. I got slammed into some lockers pretty hard that day. Junior high kids were mean anyways, but to a geek, they were just sadistic. After that, my favorite shirt became a weekend shirt.

A few years later, my step-father took me to my local comic shop to pick up my weekly hold. I was a regular in this place, and had become friends with the owner. Yes, he was somewhat Comic Book Guy-ish, but he also ran a personal protection company in which he was one of the primary bodyguards. He didn’t look like much, but he was actually someone you didn’t want to cross thanks to his martial arts background. Anyway, my step-dad went into the store with me. I didn’t like this; he was encroaching on my turf, my safe haven. I was right to be wary of his presence because as we walked out to the car, he said “So all you comic nerds are fat losers…” Even to family, the people who are supposed to love you no matter what, being a geek was unacceptable.

These are just two examples, but like I’m sure you do, I have many, many more. My point is that being a geek was never cool. It was never acceptable. It was something that caused kids to be put into lockers and get beat up on the playground. It was something that kept you from getting invited to the parties on the weekends. It was something that ensured that that one hot girl who was way out of your league would forever remain so. It was what many of us call “our youth.”

NOT the actual Stolendroids team

Fast forward to last summer. The Stolendroids crew all got together and recorded our weekly show, then went to a midnight showing of The Avengers. Being the geeks that we are, this made perfect sense. That is until we arrived at the theater and discovered it to be filled with bros and their ilk. Where were the geeks? Where were the cosplayers? Where were the people who actually knew who these characters were? We were in a theater full of idiots wearing superhero t-shirts from Hot Topic and Hulk hands who were playing with toy Captain America shields and acting like the place was a frat party. I tried to look past it and enjoy the movie, but everyone has a breaking point. Mine came in the form of Thanos.

NOT Red Skull

Once the movie ended, and the now famous scene showing Thanos came on screen, one douche bag in front of us stood up and yelled “RED SKULL! THAT’S RED SKULL!” Um… No. NO. NO! It’s not freakin’ Red Skull! Open a damn comic book and learn about these characters that you profess to love and know so much about. It was at this moment that I realized that the geek culture, OUR culture, is being co-oped by those who ruined our adolescent years. Am I the only one who has a problem with this?

Hayden Panettiere
Nerds are icky

“But being a geek is cool now.” No it’s not. That’s what everyone wants you to believe because you’ll go to the movies and buy the merchandise, but never forget who you are or what people think of you. Remember when Hayden Panettiere from Heroes had to interact with, and touch, nerds at ComiCon? I do. This, as I see it, is indicative of how geek culture in general is perceived by the “cool kids.” Sure, they say that we’re cool, but lots of people say lots of things that they don’t really mean.

Conversely, never forget that being a geek is awesome.  No matter where you go, if you are a geek and run into other geeks, you have a friend. You are part of a community that will (mostly) accept you for who you are and what you enjoy. We have entire conventions of sweaty strangers who become life-long friends because they both think that Moon Knight is better than Batman. (Just kidding, nobody thinks that.) And yes, having our culture taken over by idiots sucks, but at least it’s easier to buy the clothes we like.

So what do we do about this co-opting of our culture? Well, I’m all for getting angry because that’s what I do, but is that the best course? Does excluding and mocking the bros and the d-bags make us feel better? Most certainly. In fact, I’m all for it but when you look at things rationally, if we stoop to their level, that means we’re no better than they are. If there are people out there who genuinely want to be part of our culture, we need to teach them and welcome them with open arms. We need to stop with the “fake geek girl” crap and just be glad that girls are paying attention.  That jock that beat you up who now bags groceries? If he asks you about the character on your shirt, be nice. Sure, he may not have been, but don’t stoop to that level. We are better than that. Our community is better than that. We shouldn’t be deciding who is or isn’t a geek. That’s a personal thing. If we start passing judgment, we just become the bullies we hated. Plus, by exposing people to the things we like such as games, comics, Magic the Gathering, etc., we’re inviting them into our world of full of level 30 Rangers and Rainbow Wyvern decks. We’ll be gods among men…

Jeremiah Zohner

Owner and CEO After developing a love of Star Wars and comic books as a child, Zohner was destined to be a geek. With interests touching on computers, video games, technology, books, TV and movies, and toys and collectibles, he is the epitome of a well-rounded geek. Zohner is one of the founding members of Stolendroids. After stepping away for a time to work on other endeavors, the time was right for him to make his triumphant return to the one project that he truly loves. When he’s not writing articles or podcasting, Zohner can be found spending time with his family, managing projects for a software company, or hanging out in the gym knowing that it won’t do a bit of good.

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