Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Have the Geeks Won?

Freddie deBoer writes that geeks need to stop playing the victim card because they've won.

The success of the Avengers is only a small part of a broader phenomenon: the rise of “geek culture” as the single most powerful force, commercial and cultural, in the art and media landscape. The major genres and media once consigned to the realm of geek or nerd culture, such as science fiction, high fantasy, comic books, and video games now dominate both in terms of commercial success and popular attention. They are simply unavoidable. Year in and year out, the most highly promoted and widest opening blockbuster films come from broader geek culture. Superhero movies have become so ubiquitous that filmmaker demand is outstripping the supply of comic book characters that could plausibly carry a movie. (Jonah Hexx happened for a reason.) Coverage of video games is now prevalent in general-purpose newspapers and magazines. Television shows like Game of Thrones and Grimm bring Dungeons and Dragons-inflected fantasy—once a bridge too far even for many genre fiction fans— to a large audience. Even the traditionally high-brow cultural media, publications like the New York Times and The New Yorker, devote more attention to sci-fi and superheroes than they do to opera, orchestral music, and ballet.

Yet despite this dominance, there remains a remarkable sensitivity towards perceived slights among these genres’ most dedicated fans.

It's a good essay. I wonder where this feeling comes from. As deBoer points out, it wasn't that long ago that geeky things weren't taken quite as seriously as they are today. However, I don't think it's proximity to the recent past that is fueling the aggrievement. My guess is that it comes down to two things.

One, on a large scale, geeks may have won. I don't think the same can be said on the individual level. A pasty-white, math genius who loves Dungeons and Dragons is a lot more likely to get teased and picked on and bullied than the star quarterback. It's hard to proclaim that geeks have won when you're getting shoved into lockers on a regular basis.

Two, geeks are still portrayed as sort of oddball losers in many forms of media. Not in every show and movie, of course, but in many. People are good at taking portrayals of their group in media and making it their own whether or not it matches their own experiences.

These are just a couple of off the cuff thoughts I had while reading deBoer's essay and not any sort of rigorously thought out ideas. Maybe I'll think differently tomorrow.

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