New geeks welcome, thank you

At Forbes, Tara Tiger Brown's attack on "fake" geek girls —"Pretentious females who have labeled themselves as a “geek girl” figured out that guys will pay a lot of attention to them"—has gotten the response it deserves. Here's Leigh Alexander:

The author of the article takes great pains to establish her own authenticity and attack the authenticity of others, for... why again? Presumably she feels threatened, like her "geeky" pastimes should remain secret forts that everyone needs to know the password to get into. It's a weird, sad way for an adult to behave.

And here's Susana Polo:

Who are you to say that a stranger, someone you’re never likely to meet, is not genuinely interested in the thing they appear to be interested in? Who are you? I just… what? I’m rendered incoherent. ... [We] take it at face value. Why? Because we don’t actually have a reason not to. Because the alternative breeds a closed community of paranoid, elitist jerks who lash out at anyone new. The proper response to someone who says they like comics and has only read Scott Pilgrim is to recommend some more comics for them.

The blogtastic new Forbes, publishing exclusionary sneering from someone eager to establish their own credentials? You don't say. [via Metafilter]


  1. She could always write a new version about hipsters (she was a geek before it was cool). Ironic retorts look a lot like support.

    1. It is funny that it’s never the founders or even early adopters of any cultural phenomenon who nominate themselves the gatekeepers of credibility… it’s those who feel inauthentic themselves who need to draw lines so that they feel like they are on the inside of them.

      Regarding “geek” interests, the real shock is when you meet someone genuinely contemptuous of everything around them, like the stereotyped villains in 80’s teen movies. The things we label “geek” are generally gloriously delightful by any measure.

      Why do we think the top selling books and movies are science fiction and fantasy?

      Set up a telescope tracking Saturn and try to find someone who can “meh” that sight. Or a wondrous display of projection mapping… or light-painting, or animatronics embedded in cosplay regalia, or eerily graceful robotics.

      The population set that views such things with disdain rather than amusement, if not joy, is miniscule. I think they only exist on internet comment boards.

      1. Thinking further about this, amateur astronomy is a good example. For optical viewing, as opposed to imaging, the whole motivation is to show these things to other people, to share the experience with enthusiasm rather than try to withhold it from those you may feel are insufficient to join your little club.

        And once you get them interested, maybe they’ll get their own scopes. Make computer-guided scopes cheap enough, and they’ll be as common as bbq grills. Get them that widely distributed, and people will start to understand why light pollution is such a problem and we’ll finally start putting hoods on security lighting and street lights, and we can all see the stars again. Imagine walking out into the yard and seeing the Milky Way pinwheeling across the sky.

        Trying to decide who is “cool” enough to appreciate your “geeky” fascinations is a contradiction. Enthusiasm and evangelism is what it’s about. If you’re the kind of person whose appreciation of an experience makes you want to get others to see how thrilling it is, you’re there.

        If what you really crave is not the experience itself, but the exclusivity of being able to brag about an experience which you want to insist your audience be denied, then congratulations on your aristocratic coolness, and get the fuck out of the way of the rest of us… you’re blocking the entrance to the funhouse.

  2. I sort of agree with the Forbes blogger…  
    if I had £1 for each tweenage girl in fake glasses and an Atari T-shirt that I see running round Camden or Shoreditch every day, I’d have enough money to go and buy my own fake glasses and Atari T-Shirt.

      1.  How many of them have even used an actual atari console? That box with a stick and a button in the corner? Moving something 5 pixels wide on your CRT television?

        My hands are shaking in anger at the mere idea of someone faking something so important, no, vital!

        1. How many of them have even used an actual atari console?

          I grew up in the age of Atari too, but I never understood why I should be so damn proud that the video game graphics of my childhood were inferior to the video game graphics of today. We had a rotary-dial phone too, I’m not going to flip out every time I see a 20-something with a T-shirt showing one of those.

      2.  It’s a little asinine but at some point it’s no longer about what the clothing represents.  That’s how fashion works, and why I’ve been wearing the same jeans and T-shirt for 15 years.

        Which, coincidentally, also explains that smell.

      3.  Atari T-shirts are cool, even if you’ve never played on one.

        But for some reason fake glasses rub me the wrong way. I don’t want to sound too stodgy, but I think it comes down to the whole form/substance thing.

        1.  Yeah, I’m not fond of the fake glasses either. I’ve had prescription lenses since I was six, and while I don’t mind wearing them, I have a hard time understanding why someone would fake a weakness, as it were. Cool logo paying homage to classic video gaming, even if you never had one yourself? Sure, fine. Ocular appliance you don’t need, just to make yourself “look smarter”? I’m a little insulted.

          1. I’m 6′-2″. Should I deride short people who wear heels?

            I think you got the analogy backwards.

            “I’m 5’2″. Imagine how I feel when 6’2″ folks wear lifts.”

          2. Also, Antinous, high heels aren’t functional on the level that ocular assistance is, so it’s not really analogous.  Unless you think that life for us shorties is much more difficult than the cakewalk your long legs gives you.

          3. At 6’3″, I can expect dirty looks from shorter folks whenever I wear heels. Usually, they’re from average-heighted men or below-average women. Honestly, I’m going to get stared at regardless, and heels can be fun, so why wouldn’t I wear them? I have to duck getting on the subway anyway.

            Mind you, I wouldn’t wear them so much if they didn’t force me into a better posture which is easier on my knees than my natural splay-footed gait when wearing flats.
            (Also, sorry we’re all responding to you, Andrea! Disqus can only handle replies so many levels deep? Sheesh.)

      4. Probably nothing.  At least no more than is wrong with myself or anyone else.

        Wear what you want for whatever reason.  But there was a time before internet where visual cues could tip you off to shared interests between yourself and others in the geek world.  Yet I grew up thinking it was, and is, silly to make a statement with clothing, or to make judgments based on clothing or the way a person looks.  I did it anyway, though, because I could recognize things in people that I saw in myself.  Not with everyone, but sometimes a thing would click and it would be a warm feeling that kept the geekiness from being too lonely.

        Now, maybe internet isn’t entirely to blame, but there’s certainly been an influx of popularity of geeks in popular culture, which has resulted in the marketing of geek things.  A big part of the reason for the influx of popularity is because of geek presence in technology and other things that have turned out to be pretty remarkable.  Once pop culture accepted geekdom, it became socially acceptable to advertise your geekhood in a way I was never able to do comfortably.

        Older now, I don’t have the same passion for new geek things, and I’m not sure why.  Retrospectively, I feel the same passion for the things that I used to feel passionately about, but the current atmosphere feels cold and mechanized to me, in a completely unwelcoming way.  So, ironically, from my perspective, this new (welcoming?) geek culture has me feeling outcast.

        This is just my perspective, but my guess is that the writer of the article feels similarly.  Maybe it’s just part of growing older (although I’m only 27), but I no longer feel a part of the smaller geek culture of my youth, and certainly not a part of this huge and accepted one.  However, I don’t feel any hostility toward the new crowd.  It’s just the way things go.

      5. They’re co-opting legitimate social awkwardness. Fake glasses are fake glasses. Real glasses are for people with vision problems.

        Geek used to be an epithet, a stigma. Have we forgotten Steve Urkel and Screech? Those charachters weren’t geeks because they wanted to be geeks.

    1. It really seems analogous to the punk scene.  How do you know that this tweenage girl in fake glasses and an Atari T-shirt isn’t just waiting for someone to pull her aside and invite her to a D&D game?  Then once she’s there and seems cool, you can tell her where to get colecovision t-shirts and to ditch the fake glasses. 

      If nobody ever pulled me aside to listen to The Freeze I never would have gotten past the first 2 Metallica records. I’ve met people with full-blown bright red mohawks who have never heard of the Exploited.  But that’s ok because I know that a hairstyle is not a lifestyle.  It’s just fashion.  When I see a Hot Topic punk I see that as someone politely asking to be invited into my club, not as a threat to the “real scene”.

      1.  Some of them are, some of them are not. It’s a good point anyway – it’s hard to say who are just posing vs. who are interested (if unfamiliar), and treating every newcomer as if they were from the former camp is unfair and counterproductive.

      2. “a hairstyle is not a lifestyle”
        Hot damn it feels good to hear someone say that. Last time I said it to a couple of pretentious, holier-than-thou punk girls I thought they were going to chew my head off. So fucking sad.

        1. It takes a whole lot more courage to walk around with a pink mohawk than it does to sit in your cubicle and exchange snarky messages with your think-alike buddies.

      3. I spent all of high school as a freak dying to be a geek. The day I was invited to play D&D was a dream come true. 
        I had always been too afraid of people like that blogger yelling at me for not knowing enough to even ask.
        Moral of the story, ask that chick with glasses to join in. If she is anything like I was, she’s practically begging to be invited to play. 

      4. When I see a Hot Topic punk I see that as someone politely asking to be invited into my club, not as a threat to the “real scene”.

        I like you! That’s a good way to put it.

    2. When I was young I had a t-shirt with a tiger on it, and I never even had a tiger. I’m such a dick.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with kids being into the aesthetic of the 8-bit era. As for shallow affectations like non-prescription glasses, well that isn’t what she’s complaining about.
      She’s complaining about women, and exclusively women, who enjoy being into tech, but who she perceives as not l33t enough, so they shouldn’t be allowed claim it for themselves.

      That’s being a) a dick, and b) something of a female misogynist, two things which I’m guessing you wouldn’t support, no matter how stupid somebody’s glasses look.

      1. I pretty much agree with you, but let me play devil’s advocate.
        I know more than one girl who has attended a con in a revealing outfit just because they wanted the ego boost of getting attention from the nerdy guys who they saw as supposedly sex-starved and desperate to see a girl in tight clothes. Neither of these girls knew anything about games, comics or SF in general – in fact they would constantly deride me for being into what they saw as “guys’ stuff”. This may have been more of an example of vanity than fake geek girl syndrome, but nevertheless it did kind of annoy me that they saw what I’m passionate about as something to make fun of. 
        I think more than anything shows that you shouldn’t invest too much of your identity in any kind of scene or culture, as there will always be fools and vultures willing to exploit it for their own means. The anxiety about co-option of any subculture tells me a lot of people base their sense of self-worth on external factors and that is kind of depressing…

    1. Why is this a misogynistic thing? It’s a person (a woman, incidentally) angry at her field of interest being shallowly coöpted as a fad.

      edit: As she’s clarifying in the comments, the annoying part isn’t really people claiming to be geeks without being geeky enough; it’s the impression that some people are adopting the outwards stylings with no interest in the content. A bit like I imagine the punks felt towards the end, I guess.

      1. “Punk’s not dead. It just deserves to die. When it becomes another stale cartoon. A close-minded, self-centered social club. Ideas don’t matter, it’s who you know …”

        1. Ok, that’s a decent point. Geek culture could use some fresh air … and I didn’t mean that as stereotypically insulting as I just realized it sounded.

      2.  “Why is this a misogynistic thing?” Because it took place in a misogynistic culture. Women can and do enforce misogyny as well.

        And if this is about consumer culture absorbing a subculture, two points. 1) Get in line; 2) why all the remarks about young women, or rather, “pretentious females?” Why are the title and most of the article about “fake” geek *girls*?

        1. 1) My point exactly! This happens, keeps happening, and it’s going to annoy those involved. This is another of those cases. Why the righteous fury?
          2) Because it seems to be mostly girls, for whatever reason?

          edit: Also, regarding 2) : Being a geek girl has always been extra-hard, both because it indeed is a somewhat misogynistic culture, and because it used to be very low-status among the other girls. That has got to make the “I suffered for it and you’re treating it as a cheap styling trick” – annoyance stronger.

          1. “That has got to make the “I suffered for it and you’re treating it as a cheap styling trick” – annoyance stronger.”

            Yep, yep!!! Or for me… “I didn’t see _you_ in the computer lab with all of the rest of us uncool kids!” I seriously don’t mind more geek girls, the more the merrier! But, how about actually _being_ a geek? My extensive collection of geek t-shirts are not a fashion statement, they are who I am (today I’m showing my allegience to the Alliance). And I wear glasses because I don’t see much without them. Being a geek is not about some #!#”!”#¤ fashion trend for the “cool kids” to sport! Gah!!!

            For some reason it seems now also seems to be ok to be a geek girl… if you are a hot girl. Annoys me equally much!

        2. Well, how many guys do you see flaunting their (real or fake) geek swag to get ladies to pay attention to them?  None, because it wouldn’t work.  Not that some of us wouldn’t do it if it did work, but it doesn’t so it’s not the issue.

      3. Because of the way context works? I mean– listen, people co-opt genre all the time, but…well, let’s play a thought experiment. You see a guy & a girl wearing a Star Wars t-shirt. Now, imagine which of them is going to be asked to prove that they are “really” a Star Wars fan.

        1.  If a girl says “I’ve been a star wars fan for ages, and lately I’ve seen a lot of girls wearing SW t-shirts that have never even seen the movies, and that annoys me”, we’d have a more comparable situation.

        2. Most would be more reluctant to believe the person that says they haven’t seen Star Wars. I must have missed the point :/

    2. I get the feeling she’s actually referring to women like Olivia Munn and Jessica Chobot, who clearly don’t know anything about gaming or have any respect for SF fans, yet use “geek chic” to try to make themselves more interesting than the average glamour model/attention whore.People like that have made it even worse for women within the culture. Used to be the geek scene was a place where you went if you didn’t fit into the mainstream ideal of beauty where you could find acceptance and not ridicule. Now we have mainstream standards of beauty (ie: being a skinny white chick with long hair and big boobs) imposed on us within the scene. :/
      As someone who is considered attractive by society’s standards, I’m not saying if you’re pretty you can’t follow those interests, just that I can imagine it’s disheartening for a lot of people to see something they’ve felt passionate about for much of your life being used as a prop or a gimmick. 

      1. & what I am saying is that responding to hierarchies of exclusion & oppression…by building your own hierarchy of exclusion & oppression, then you are doing it wrong. We all know Olivia Munn’s name & that we are supposed to dislike her for not being a “real” geek, but what about other G4 men or male Spike TV hosts? We don’t bring the same value judgements on them…well, because this is more about policing women then it is about some perceived purity of the scene.

        1. I agree, women are subject to more scrutiny as to their credentials – believe me, I’ve experienced this myself! 
          I should have worded my comment differently to say that it’s more the fact that G4, Spike TV etc will employ some girl from a modelling agency over a chick who’s really keen & knowledgeable on the subject just because she looks good. It’s just another instance of the douche-y elements within the gaming/geek scene telling girls that they really aren’t worth shit unless they look like Lara Croft or Emma Frost. But that comes down to society as a whole valuing women on their physical assets rather than their intellect. That is what I was criticizing, not girls who aren’t supposedly “core” enough. Yes, we are more likely to attack a female’s credibility but sadly that’s not exclusive to geek culture. 

          And just to prove I’n not being biased, I have encountered ‘fake geek guys’ who’ve really obviously feigned an interest in SF and gaming just to get into my knickers. ;)

  3. Seriously people… it’s taken how long for girls to even show up?  Be quiet.  You might spook them.  Now go home and bathe before the slide deck is up.

    1. Seriously???? Seriously!?!?!?!? Since ages eternal have we been here!

      “Go home and bathe”??? So, I gather you aren’t a geek, either?

      1. Well some of us are from smaller towns than others and would have never met an extra-terrestrial … and likewise would make a lot of bad assumptions about bathing.  Fair point though.  College dispelled a lot of that.  

        “We come in peace!”  

        “Did you hear that?  They come in peace!  WEE!”

  4. I don’t mind a bit if girls (or guys) want to get interested in geeky pastimes and call themselves geeks. It does bother me a bit when I hear people say things like, “I’m a football geek” or “I’m a movie geek”. Having a hobby doesn’t make you a geek.

    1.  I think the word “geek” is starting to be used to describe someone who is unusually obsessed with a very particular subject, especially one that is obscure.  The word “nerd” would be more appropriate in these cases though.  It is a pretty subtle distinction.

      1.  I don’t think “nerd” is appropriate just from my own experience with the word.  It seems more geared towards people who are academically successful or involved in a technical pursuit or hobby.  For example, I’ve only very rarely heard the phrase “comix nerd” and usually only from people outside comix culture.  Someone who reads and collects lots of comic books is a “comic book geek”, not a nerd. 

        The idea of a geek who is bad at math makes sense to me; the idea of a nerd who is bad at math doesn’t make any sense to me.  If that makes any sense.

        1. The difference between a geek and a nerd is social awkwardness.

          There are in fact comic book geeks, comic book nerds and comic book dorks, though for obvious reasons nowadays, I doubt many in the comic book community would self-identify as either a nerd or a dork.

          When I was growing up in the 80s, no one in labeled themselves themselves as geek, nerd or dork. Those were terms that other people called you when they were mocking you. Even today, only geeks are cool.

          1. The difference between a geek and a nerd is social awkwardness.

            This is why I qualified my post with “in my experience with the word” and “makes sense to me.”  You’re talking about the usage as you understand it.  That usage is not universal. 

            From my perspective, “social awkwardness” is not an intrinsic property of a person.  Take someone who is “socially awkward” in one conversation, put them in another conversation, and watch that person come alive.  Perceived “social awkwardness” on the part of both geeks and nerds seems to me to have more to do with the fact that a) geeks and nerds are often unenthusiastic about small talk, b) geeks and nerds are easily bored by conversations about things they’re not interested in, and c) geeks and nerds frequently bore other people by talking about the things they’re interested in.  I’ve had several experiences of “mediating” conversations between geeks/nerds and other folks by finding connections between what the different parties wanted to talk about.  Once everyone is engaged in the conversation there is no more social awkwardness.

            So for me, social awkwardness has nothing to do with being a geek or a nerd.  For me, based on the usage I’ve personally been exposed to, “geek” has to do with an obsession usually involving obscure or arcane knowledge about the subject of obsession and “nerd” is very similar but with connotations of obsession with specifically academic knowledge (math, science, history, literature, etc.).  “Computer geek” and “computer nerd” seem almost synonymous to me, though I’d expect a “computer nerd” to have an opinion on whether NP=P or not while a “computer geek” might just be into fiddling around with hardware without knowing the first thing about computation theory. “Dork” seems more generic to me; someone who makes corny puns all the time isn’t necessarily a nerd or a geek but I might call such a person a “dork”.

            On the other hand, I came of age in the 90’s when the internet had already gotten a head start on rehabilitating both geeks and nerds.

      2.  There is no real difference between “geek” and “nerd.” Different people switch the meaning of the two in from I can tell is a random distribution; it’s not even like the way the terms “soda” and “pop” which have a regional distribution in which is used. So really any meaning that distinguishes the two is arbitrary and useless.

        1. So really any meaning that distinguishes the two is arbitrary and useless.

          All word-meaning pairs are arbitrary. 
          And fixing the meanings of two interchangeable words so that they are no longer interchangeable is not useless.  In fact, it’s happened innumerable times in the history of every language on earth.  Usually for pragmatic reasons, i.e. because it was useful to do so.

          1.  The thing is there is no consistent pairing-what is a “nerd” for one person is a “geek” to another. The thing is that there is no noticeable pattern in how the terms are paired in meaning; it’s as if people didn’t agree to call purple and blue by purple and blue, but about half called blue purple and purple blue. Maybe one day a set meaning will emerge, but now there is none.

    2. There is a difference between football/movie fans and football/movie geeks but there are certainly people obsessive enough about football and movies to qualify as geeks.

      Actually, I was always struck by just how geeky some of the sports fan dudes I went to college with were about it.  They’d know names, numbers, positions and stats of dozens of players.  I was always like “how is this cool?”

      1.  I guess I wouldn’t consider those football fans to be “geeky”. They’re fans, short for “fanatics”, and as such, they’re somewhat obsessed with their hobby. When that hobby is football, I wouldn’t expect anyone to call the fan a “geek”. We don’t call someone obsessed with sex a “sex geek” and we don’t call someone obsessed with their religion a “religious geek” we have other terms for them like horn-dog, player, holy-roller, zealot, etc.

        If we redefine the word “Geek” to mean “Someone who is obsessed” then we’ve taken away the cultural associations of the term. Also, we imply obsession where it may often not exist. For example, a person who is academically inclined and who’s hobbies include D&D, science fiction & fantasy literature, and math, but who is not particularly obsessed with any one hobby.

        Perhaps my definition of “geek” is old-fashioned.

        1.  Did you miss the part where I said there are both football fans and football geeks and that there is a difference?  I’m saying some people’s obsession with football goes well beyond the normal interest and those people can safely be called “football geeks.”  As far as sex goes, there are certainly porn geeks (not just people who like porn but people who collect and curate the shit, people who are seriously obsessed).  There are some people who are vaguely religious and some people who do Bible study every week.  The latter aren’t usually called “Bible geeks” but I don’t think it would much of a stretch to call them that.

          If we redefine the word “Geek” to mean “Someone who is obsessed” then we’ve taken away the cultural associations of the term.

          I didn’t “redefine” the word, I’m using it the way that I’ve learned to use it from exposure to the English language.  Your milieu clearly uses it differently but that doesn’t mean I’m “redefining” it.

          You can read sci fi and fantasy without being a geek.  It’s a little harder to have “mathematics” as a hobby, mathematics requires serious study and if you’re willing to actually do that study you’re easily in “geek” territory.  And playing D&D at all requires a serious commitment of time.  I’ve never known a “casual” player of D&D.

          1. I didn’t mean to accuse YOU of redefining “geek”, I was referring to a general trend to redefine. I really like Wikipedia’s entry on “Geek”.


          2.  Yeah, they did a good job tying everything together.  Looks like they covered both your usage and mine.  Thanks for pointing it out.

        2. You should see the blog Smart Football. Then you’ll see what a football geek is. They exist. As do movie geeks (ever heard of Harry Knowles?)

    3. It does bother me a bit when I hear people say things like, “I’m a football geek” or “I’m a movie geek”. Having a hobby doesn’t make you a geek.

      I agree. Unless you’re biting the heads off of live chickens, you don’t deserve to call yourself a geek!

    4. Who cares? It’s semantics! It’s just a word. Also, you don’t know. That football geek might read Smart Football (an incredibly geeky football blog) and love it, that movie geek might go to midnight screenings and have a wall of DVD’s. And even if they don’t have that, it might be because they lack information, they lack guidance, or perhaps they lack access. Maybe they don’t live somewhere where they can enjoy midnight movies. No one is in a position to judge. You. Just. Don’t. Know.

  5. From Leigh Alexander’s response :

    “I know that “geekdom” was something a lot of us did in high school because we felt marginalized, we didn’t blend in, we needed safe havens. But dude, I’m not in high school anymore. I spend all my working days talking about how games and fantasy worlds can be something adults can still enjoy. I’m not concerned with the labeling and judgment that teenagers do.”

    Nailed it.

    So many “old-school” geeks, mostly men but also (as seen here) women are so insecure about their hobbies they protect it fiercely against all comers. That’s not new, and it’s not exclusive to geekdom either – I’m sure every musician here remembers the first time they went into a music shop and met the glacial scorn of the guy behind the counter. Doubly so for girls, I imagine.
    It’s always baffled me, really. It’s ok, guys. You’re cool, you know a lot of stuff, no one’s gonna give you a wedgie. Time to relax and let other people in, because you know what ? They’re gonna get in no matter what, and it’s a good thing.

    1.  This is true of any group.  Move somewhere and you’ll always be “the new person” cause you weren’t born there, even after decades.  Join any group and there is always that inner clique that will keep you at arms length.  You just can’t let it bother you.

      1. Clearly. But the thing is, it does bother some people, especially people who are prejudiced against to begin with (women, people of color, non-straight people, etc). And it doesn’t help these subcultures get any more inclusive, which is ironic since a lot of geek guys tend to complain about there being no girls that share their interests. So it deserves to be pointed out, ridiculed and stamped out whenever possible.

  6. It all basically comes down to one of the big questions of modern times: how do we know the difference between what people like, and what they SAY (or have convinced themselves) that they like? It’s the same question that the hipster debate ultimately comes down to,  with some of the tuneless dross whose appreciation has become fashionable. Or the arguments accusing protesters of being there as a fashion statement. While it is indeed impossible to know whether someone’s passion is genuine, it is also certainly the case that it often is not. People espouse all sorts of beliefs that they clearly don’t adhere to. How else can you explain people with Atari t-shirts who have never played one of the things?

    1. How else can you explain people with Atari t-shirts who have never played one of the things?

      It’s a nice design, what’s the problem?

    2. “People espouse all sorts of beliefs that they clearly don’t adhere to.”

      I am baffled by this kind of sentences. People who listen to music all day are somehow labelled as “posers” or “hipsters” because their listening-to-music-all-day is, what, less authentic than yours ? Because they have slightly less appalling tastes in clothing ? I mean, I find most hipsters irritating as hell, but that’s because they’re pretentious assholes, not because their passion is somehow “false”.

      “Authenticity” is way overrated, in my opinion. Judge people by how they behave and by what kind of art they make.

      Oh, and, from Merriam-Webster : 

      Espouse (es-pouse), verb : to take up and support as a cause

      Adhere (ad-here), verb : to give support or maintain loyalty.

      I fail to see the dichotomy here.

      1. Exactly. With the possible exception of politicians, who often express beliefs they don’t believe in order to get elected, what is the *point* of doing this? If a so-called “false geek” is faking their interest in 8-bit computers or whatever, what does that get them? Friends that bore them? Occam’s razor suggests that when person X says they are interested in geeky subject Y that that they are being sincere.

        1. Conformism with whatever “look” has randomly bubbled up in mainstream culture? Interest from potential partners who are interested? It’s hardly impossible to come up with reasons.

          That said, I do like SeattlePete’s comment earlier. At least some of them will be people who thinks it looks like an interesting culture to get into, and the “manufactured” look is a way to say “hey, I’m interested, include me” with the knowledge and resources they have at hand.

  7. Dude, it’s pretty easy to weed out the fakes from the reals.  Just ask ’em a few good questions, decide if you like the answers.

    1. Doesn’t really work on the hipsters though does it? Some of them know more about obscure norwegian black metal than any metal head. But do we honestly believe that when they’re alone and heartbroken at 2am that they’re listening to it in their time of need? Not for a moment.

      The only way we can know people’s opinions is by asking them.  But when we do that we find out there are a lot of people who think that Obama is a muslim, or they have been abducted by aliens. Or that the Velvet Underground were the most important band in musical history.  

      If I say that Pearl Harbour sucked because it had awful reviews and awful box office, there’s always some idiot who says “those measures are meaningless, i think it was good!” Well, if we have to ignore that stuff, how do we quantify anything? And what do I show to the guy who wants to see a classic WW2 movie? Throw my hands in the air and say “it’s all subjective”?

      1. How about you stop caring? Why does it matter to you so much if someone is fake or real? Why is that something you have to wade through? Just like what you like, let other people like what they like, and enjoy it.

      2. I fail to see the connection between crazed beliefs (Obama is a muslim terrorist etc.) and thinking The Velvet Underground is the most important band in history. The first is objective, the second is subjective. I mean, they are hugely influential and I think one could easily argue that their influence shaped the music that followed more than anything else, even The Beatles. It’s just an opinion, sure, but a valid one.

        And what do you show to the guy who wants to see a classic WW2 movie? This is your silliest argument. Watch Saving Private Ryan as a modern intro, then watch The Great Escape. Maybe From Here to Eternity. After those, there’s a near-endless stream of true classic WW2 films that you can watch before having to stoop to Pearl Harbor.

        Who do you listen to for this advice? I’ve never read a review or looked at the box-office figures for any of those films. I’m a film geek (among my other geekdoms). But you can choose where you look for advice about things (such as which WW2 films to watch), or just pick things at random until you develop your own sense of what’s good and what isn’t.

    2. Like in World War II movies where the heroes would ask the suspected German spy who won the World Series last year? (because *of* course a Real American would know baseball and no German spy could *possibly* have read up on American sports!)

    3. More to the point, why would anyone feel the need to do that? Let the fakers be fake. Whatever. Don’t we all have the right to set up our own level of how deep we will go? I l0ve me some Star Trek, seen every episode, know every little bit of random detail, but I don’t read the novels, I don’t speak Klingon, I don’t collect toys or trinkets. I’m sure someone out there would label me a Star Trek faker. I don’t give a shit, I know what I like. 

      When did we start caring about this? Who cares if someone really likes it or pretends to like it? If they’re pretending they’ll move on, if they really like it they’ll stick around and really like it. Either way it’s not your problem. It’s no one’s problem.

      1. I don’t speak Klingon

        How did you get through the registration process? Security!

      2. Yup. Just because you like something doesn’t mean you have to be a walking encyclopedia on it.

        Sometimes when I hear conversations between hardcore geeks(whether it’s gaming, movies, etc), I wonder if it’s a pastime they actually enjoy, or something they see as a competition to show who knows the most about it. Then it goes from a pastime to a massive pissing contest. 

  8. What these elitist geeks don’t understand is that gender doesn’t account for anything besides your anatomy. Which is pretty damn annoying, seeing as they too have been raised in an alternative culture to the male norm. Do they just assume that girls have an inability to perceive comics and video games?

      1. Well then she’s even more numbed on a psychological level.
        (Sorry, I was too angered by the existence of this stupid inequality.)

        1. I really don’t get the anger here. I don’t really agree with her – if someone wants to present themselves as nerdy then go for it. However, it’s a perfectly understandable reaction from her side: If you’ve invested deeply in some field (e.g. being a geek back when it made you a social outcast), having people suddenly adopting a light-version of the stereotypical look with no interest in the culture – and taking over the terminology – has got to gall a little.

          1. …to be honest, I got side tracked when writing that . I was more thinking about male geek prejudice against females geek, as opposed to geeks bashing lesser geeks. ;;;
            Both are equally dismissive though.

        2.  (oops, nesting limit.)

          Again, isn’t it equally possible to see this as a backlash against commercial/popculture looting of an existing subculture?

          1. It would be if the article wasn’t centered exclusively on *women*. If you want to talk about the pop culture looting of geek culture, I don’t see a reason why you would single out “fake geek girls”, rather than “fake geeks”.

          2. If you’re talking about things like whether or not you were an earlier Atari user, it was commercial to start with.

          3. @boingboing-bc05782622bc75384fc4730069494b17:disqus  There is a difference, though. Few guys are “fake geeks” in the sense being discussed because there’s nothing to gain. If you’re looking for acceptance in geek circles, then you’re a geek. If you’re doing it to get attention from girls, you’re doing it wrong and a true geek girl will reject a poser.

            I am not sure I really understand it, but “fake geek” girls feel they have something to gain by pretending to be geeky. I’m not sure what the attraction of getting attention from geeks is if you’re not also a geek, so maybe there’s more to it. The girls in question wouldn’t actually even converse with a true geek.

            The real problem is that they poison the credibility of true geek girls (and make no mistake, the majority of geek girls are true geeks), which is the whole point here. Geeks tend to question the geekiness of geek girls because true posers are out there in relatively significant numbers.

  9. I was just amused by the amount of name dropping (which boingboing was one of) that she does.   As if, the only way we would give her any credit is if she proved that she really was a geek.

    Do I sense someone who is afraid that she only has geek hobbies and thus lashes out at others who are “posers” to make herself feel better?

    1. Yep. Classic insecurity reaction, not exclusive to geeks – see my comment upthread about guitar-store clerks.

      1. I’ll just reply here, since we reached the nesting limit above:

        I do see a reason to single it out: Being a girl geek has traditionally been harder than a guy geek (misogynism within, and nonacceptance from other girls), so when a girl geek sees girls ignore that history, I’m hardly going to get on her case for downplaying the annoyance on the male side.

          1.  Is “this group of people are carelessly using me as a stereotype” automatically bad just because the group is made up of girls? That’s a weird approach.

  10. To me, the article speaks about concerns of geek culture itself being a commodity or a brand. I’m all for people consuming graphic novels or other forms of rich culture that were previously marginalized by larger society, but when that attitude itself becomes a product I think it gets diluted and misunderstood. When something gains acceptance by society I suppose it can’t be helped to an extent, but that doesn’t mean that someone can’t be upset by it.

    1. That’s what I got out of it as well, which is why I’m kind of surprised by the anger here. It’s far from the first time it’s happened, and I generally understand those annoyed by it … so why is this specific case so “paranoid and elitist”?

      1. Agreed. I went to read the article and was waiting for the part where she was being a jerk,and not only did I not find it, but then she offered encouragement:

        “Those that are deceitful about being a geek do it because deep down they want to feel that hunger to be so into something you can’t eat or sleep, but just haven’t found their thing yet. Don’t pretend to love something because you think it will get you attention. Don’t think that you can take a shortcut because there isn’t one. Dig deep, dig to the roots, dig until you know things that others you admire in the subject matter don’t know or can’t do. Then go ahead and proudly label yourself a geeky girl.”

        There’s an awful lot of sneering being leveled at what is a pretty common observation. I don’t remember any of this being aimed at Ira Glass when he made pretty much the same point in an episode of This American Life 6 or 7 years ago…

  11. Monkey brains worry a lot about monkey status.

    If there’s social currency to be had from identifying with a particular tribe, then the strength of that currency depends on two things.

    1) There can’t be too few. It’s one thing to be edgy and out of the mainstream; it’s another to be out in the cold. So you bulk up your tribe by lashing out at the unbelievers.

    2) There can’t be too many. If everybody’s a geek, then nobody’s a geek. So you thin the herd by identifying a few heretics and fellow-travelers, and falling on them with a righteous fury.

    Monkey brains are very, very, very good at making these calculations and figuring out how to stay in the middle of the best available pack of monkeys. This is why, if you’re a member of the relevant group, the worst possible thing you can be called is a heretic / comsymp / apostate / Blue Dog / RINO / race traitor / concern troll / closet case / appeaser / counterrevolutionary / poseur / weekend-Juggalo / etc. If you get tagged with that label, you don’t go to the bottom of the monkey hierarchy, you get tossed out of monkey society altogether, and you get eaten by a hyena (or whatever eats monkeys). 

    I’m not saying this columnist couldn’t possibly have controlled her outburst, but show me a subculture or movement or what have you that doesn’t suffer from this.

    1. After seeing her Venn diagram, I became worried that I might be a dweeb rather than a geek.

      I’m relatively certain now, though,  that I am, in fact, a weekend-Juggalo.

  12. Quick! On three, everyone dogpile on the person with the outlier position, because that’s the most inclusive thing we can think of to do. Ready? 1…2…

  13. I think some of it comes from people who legitimately suffered back when being geeky or nerdy was NOT cool now seeing these poseurs show up and co-opt something they are at their core so they can be “fashionable”.

    1. Yeah ? Well, tough kitty. I’m one of these people, and I still say that that kind of attitude is shitty. Moaning about how cooler it was when everyone thought we were weirdos shows a huge case of rose-tinted glasses. Geek culture becoming more inclusive is a good thing. And there’s always been geek posers – I was in loads of hacker boards back in the late nineties and everyone was the World’s Greatest R0xX0Rz. Being victimized, or having been victimized, is no excuse for being an asshole.

      1. I would like to turn that around and recall an article here a few months back, where it was generally considered totally unacceptable for a white young man to dress as a black rapper for a fancy dress party.

        Almost everyone seemed to agree in that case (and there were other examples, such as an American dressing as a geisha) that adopting the trappings of another culture as an affectation was an unforgivable insult.

        Strange to see that opinions have gone through a full 180 in the interim.

        1. Are you seriously comparing the treatment of black people and the treatment of geeks ? Because that’s really, really stupid. There’s a difference between a wedgie and a lynching.

          1. Try to put this into context rather than waving your straw man around.

            I remembered the geisha example because, so far as I know, they’ve never been the target of systematic hate-crimes; it didn’t seem like that thread was about respect for people whose ancestors were brutalised, but purely about co-opting a culture which is not yours.

            In this case not only are we talking about co-opting somebody else’s culture, we’re also talking about people who spent the formative years of their life suffering because of who they were.

            Why is it okay to trivialise that, remanufacture it, and turn it into a fashion label, then cry havok when it makes them upset?

            I think the personal attacks in response to her post show a tragic lack of empathy. 

        2. This is actually a very cogent point that I had not considered. Maybe the attitude should be that it is no one else’s business if I want to wear Fubu. Perhaps, in general, people should not try to lock up their cultural icons so that no one else can use them.

        3. Co-opt is a term used by mass media, competing for capital, to persuade customers from buying the other brand. Culture’s sole purpose is to be spread.
          As for the “suffering for who they were” bit just think of how much art/music/film/Culture geeks suffer these days. Hipster, unlike geek, is still a derogatory term because of the misunderstanding of co-opting.

    2. In my demographic, we like to congratulate our new members when they come out of the closet. Assuming that they haven’t sponsored any hostile legislation.

  14. Wow, again? K, this is directed at @tvtropesnews, because apparently Disqus doesn’t want me to directly reply: Yup, that’s what’s happening here. We’re totally casting out the author, as opposed to casting out the ideas and attitudes she expressed in this piece.

  15. Being a geek/nerd is a lifestyle choice (more of a calling/religion probably) – not a fashion style choice. 

    When someone emulates geek chic (glasses, Atari T-shirt) because they think it’s cool and not because they are myopic and played Atari games/consoles then it’s fake, it’s counterfeit, and leads to Nerd Rage for those that are the real deal. 

      1. Same reason vegans would be annoyed with people dressing in stereotypical “modern hippie”-clothes and saying they’re “vegan” without actually abstaining from meat (or being eco-friendly), I guess – it can be seen as an insulting parody.

        (I personally don’t care, I just think it’s really weird to not understand why some people are annoyed by it.)

        1. To me, people who care about this sort of thing care way too much about labels. If you’re truly passionate about something, you don’t do it so people will think you’re cool. You do it out of love and/or need. Why would it matter that people imitate your style or usurp your label ?

          1. It’s not really about “being cool”, though – it’s about a modicum of respect. If you’re treated as another look to be used and thrown away, that’s rather insulting. Sure, those passionate about the issue will keep at it through and after its mainstream utilization – but a bit of annoyance in the middle is understandable.

  16. This reminds me when Nirvana was ready to break out. A friend played the cd for me and told me this band is going to be the next big music act. I thought to myself: It sounds like the next big thing, slick, teen related lyrics, etc.

    I was not offended by their music. Then the press wrote that it is punk rock and now it is mainstream. It didn’t seem like punk rock to me, having been up to my neck in hardcore in the ’80s, but I figured the meanings of these labels are fluid and change. This was now punk rock, life is dynamic and folks seem to forget that (I know I am bending the terms between punk and grunge, I use it only for an example).

    I feel the negative reaction comes from this womans memories. She may have called herself a geek in 1983 and this marketing campaign (I am assuming) doesn’t look like what she remembers. A persons vision of what they did in the past is a sensitive topic.  When someone else comes along and uses the same labels to describe something that looks different it can shock or offend them. A term or idea they have used for a long period of time has now changed, in this case it is unsettling to the lady and she lashes out.

    My guess is that this is just a by product of our consumerist western culture. The people most interested in putting different labels on groups or sub groups seem to be the folks with a stake in commerce. It’s a bad habit but I seem to frequently ask: Who is set up to make this a source of revenue?

  17. As someone who is married to an obsessive deep-diver, those definitions ring true. My husband Sean Bonner is a coffee geek, an art geek, a meme geek, and a  punk-rock geek.

    Hmm, that feels a little bit soap-opera-ish.

  18. The more people get into technology, the more chance I have of getting some help every time I bork configuration files on my computer.  Sounds good.

  19. “It’s a weird, sad way for an adult to behave.”

    Yes, it is.  But not surprising.  Here’s what I think people who were never truly in geek/nerd culture as kids in the 70s, 80s, or 90s may be forgetting:  many geeks weren’t very popular, were often rejected, ridiculed, humiliated, and bullied in school growing up.  That shit leaves scars.  Scars that make you not act like a well adjusted adult.

    So when one of these lifelong geeks grows up and sees in these “fake” geek girls the mean girls who picked on her growing up… is her reaction to this really surprising in any way?

    I’m not saying she’s right… I’m just saying, I recognize the damage.

    If she is actually turning around and excluding people like she’s been excluded in her past… well that would be a classic case of the bullied becoming the bully.

    Maybe she’s afraid that once all the cool kids co-opt her culture, they’ll exclude her again.  Of course, being an exclusionary, gate-keeping jerk is the thing that will actually get you excluded.

    Good old neurosis.

    1.  This.

      I can identify. I can understand. I’ve personally chosen to take it in a different direction, though – I experience a certain level of non-guilty shadenfreude that I’ve got a more interesting job and life than the majority of the people who made my geeky teen/young-adult life pretty miserable. I think it’s kinda cool that something that I once, perhaps, perceived as a personal fault is now a source of a great deal of professional and economic power.

      But, I can see how someone who caught all sorts of crap for being nerdy and different would be aggravated when they see people co-opting with ease the affectations that they had personally suffered for.

  20. Posers are no threat to a subculture.  They aren’t going to stick with it anyway.   They may borrow from it for a little while.  But they’re not bringing anything negative to the table that’s going to be permanent .
    The most fashion opportunistic of the herd generally bring nothing into it at all but their money.  They’re tourists.  All they bring with them that has lasting power is a cash infusion .  Every poser that buys an Atari shirt, Atari makes a few cents  and might make a decent new game with it.  Every chick that buys a comic book to try and draw attention of the guys at the local geek store, puts a couple more bucks in the comic shop’s till, helping it stay afloat for the real die-hards,too.    If “geek” is cool, it makes it easier for real geek projects to get greenlit by big mainstream companies. 

    The “real” members of the group can see who’s hard-core, who’s a novice, who’s a part-timer, and who’s a poser really quickly anyway.  It doesn’t take but a few minutes of engaging with someone to tell where they are on the continuum.  Giving people the benefit of the doubt is great for everyone.  A few people might be attracted while it’s hip and discover that it’s actually a good fit for them.  A few will drift off with at least a little more understanding and positive view of the subculture. 

    Very few people were born and raised into a subculture.  Especially one as relatively new as modern “geek” culture.  Most authentic members can still remember who turned them on to this or that.  When you’ve become one of the ones with the authentic cred, it’s your duty to try and be that guy for the curious and the newly initiated.

  21. In all fairness, there are still plenty of Atari 2600 consoles out there. It is possible that some of those “posers” have legitimately played with them. One of the most gag-tacular gaming experiences I ever had as a younger lad involved hooking one up to a 52″ SDTV using an old RF switch. Pitfall looked fugly, but it was still fun as hell. The Odyssey 2 also made for some hilariously pixelated gaming.

  22. Why is this person writing about this now? Geek chic has been a thing for at least a decade. Sure, it seems like half of San Francisco has eye problems and all the people who got lasik seem to be looking at their old glasses with nostalgia.

    A lot of these geek wannabes actually do try to be geeks. If they find something they can be obsessed about, more power to them.

    1. Why is this person writing about this now? Geek chic has been a thing for at least a decade.

      “Man, I was writing about non-geeks appropriating geek culture back before it was COOL.”

      1. WTF are you talking about? I don’t write about geek chic and in what universe would it ever be cool to write about it?

        I just asked why she was writing about a phenomenon that has been happening for at least 10 years. Heck the process of emulating what is cool has been happening since man first dressed himself. Next thing you know she’ll be complaining that they made nerds cool in that new movie Revenge of the Nerds. (Though honestly the Big Bang Theory has kind of made Sheldon Cooper my hero).

  23. I just love that we live in a time when being a geek is considered desirable enough for people to even be having this argument.

    Eat your heart out, Rick Moranis.

  24. I feel like the quoted criticisms of the article–Presumably she feels threatened, like her “geeky” pastimes should remain secret forts that everyone needs to know the password to get into and Who are you to say that a stranger, someone you’re never likely to meet, is not genuinely interested in the thing they appear to be interested in? –kind of miss the point of what I think Tara Tiger Brown was saying. Note the twitter she quoted in the article, My 13 year old says ” a geeky girl is one that would rather stay home playing video games than go shopping.” Is playing video games for casual entertainment really particularly “geeky” these days, any more so than, say, watching action movies? I don’t think the article was attacking people for being poseurs and pretending to be obsessively interested in weird geeky stuff just for the sake of appearances, rather I think it was attacking people who claim the mantle of “geeks” just because they have a casual interest in something that’s not even all that geeky (and the “casual interest” may be more of the main disqualifier in her eyes than “not even all that geeky”, in her article she seemed to be treating the defining feature of geekiness as a really obsessive level of interest in some very specific subject).

    1. “it was attacking people who claim the mantle of “geeks” just because they have a casual interest in something that’s not even all that geeky”

      So what? This is the point! There’s nothing so wrong with girls like this that deserves them being described as “the muck.”

      1. Is that one phrase what you most object to? I think it’s just an expression, like if she said we need to “separate the wheat from the chaff” when it comes to geeks–in neither case is the point to insult the girls’ whole being by saying they are nothing but “muck” or “chaff”, it’s just a metaphorical way of saying she doesn’t like the broadening of the definition of “geek”, that she wants to separate those who would really qualify as geeks under the older, more narrow notion of “geek” from those who wouldn’t (so they are only being called “muck” with respect to the specific trait of geekery, not as human beings overall). Language affects how we think so I think it is sometimes worth objecting to the loosening of word-definitions, “geek” identified a particular type of behavior/personality and it’s not like there’s any new popular word on the horizon to replace it if “geek” becomes so watered down that virtually anyone would qualify.

        1. What weirds me out is how the embrace of “geek” as a positive label, its “taking back” by the geeks themselves as it were, has led to the phenomenon of “geek wannabes.”  Yeah, I’m a GenXer who grew up when geeks were generally beaten up on bad days, ostracized by the popular kids on good days, and completely ignored on the best days.  We played D&D or Castlevania and mapped every level of Pitfall! not because we necessarily wanted to spend our days sequestered in basements far from the fresh air, sunshine, and exercise of the athletic fields, but often because we had wearied of being chosen last for the teams, and of our skinny (or tubby) asses being ground into the turf by the jocks and otherwise more alpha-dominant guys.  Many of us wanted to be big and muscular and desirable, but couldn’t imagine expending the time and herculean effort (and buckets of Clearasil) to make that happen when it was easier and more fun and more intellectually stimulating to indulge in our geeky pursuits.  Don’t think for a moment that we wouldn’t have preferred to get laid, however, and a depressingly large percentage of us John Hirschfelders and Mitch Kramers would have traded places with the Woodersons and O’Bannions in a heartbeat, if only our physiques might have permitted it.

          Still, high school is the 8th circle of Hell for nearly everyone (and junior high is the 9th), and like Leigh Alexander, I’ve graduated and pretty successfully moved on.  I have no problem with the widespread acceptance of the iconography of geekdom, and I too feel that a “more the merrier” approach is most useful here.  I really don’t get why geekhood has become so hip and happenin’ that every geek’s authenticity and credentials need to be called into question by anyone, but I’m honestly glad that the geeks of today don’t seem to be trashcanned and swirlied so much anymore.

          I was one of the last on my block to get a 2600, but I had one and played the hell out of it.  About ten years ago, someone gave me an Atari t-shirt as a gag gift, and though I still have it buried in a drawer, I’ve never been tempted to wear it.  Maybe in large part because it says “OLD SCHOOL” on the front.  I don’t need to advertise that I might currently like or formerly played with a 2600.  It was a toy I used 30 years ago, and except for one or two rare occasions, I haven’t played a 2600 game since the mid-80s, nor have I wanted to.  For me it would be like wearing a t-shirt with a Lite Brite or a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine on it.  Yeah, I had those… about a million years ago.  So what?  So did everyone in my trailer park.  It wasn’t a cultural identifier (except maybe on a generational basis), and means nothing today.  I had fun with my 2600, then grew up and played more sophisticated games, and fell completely and irretrievably out of love with 8-bit technology.

          Still, I understand that other people (many of whom still a decade or more away from being conceived when 8-bit games gasped their last popular-culture breath) really love those things.  And who am I to tell them they’re poseurs or wannabes, just because they’re maybe a bit late to that party?  People can like whatever they want, AFAIC, and label themselves however they want.  The “authenticity” of other people’s interests and self-identifications matters not at all to me.

          I do wonder how the external trappings of geekdom, like the glasses and the plaid and the highwater pants, ever became remotely cool.  My only resentment stems from the fact that back in my day, those trappings were ironclad insurance against the loss of our thrice-damned, unwanted virginity, whereas today, wearing ugly glasses and dorky pants and defending the Star Wars prequels in public appear to be surefire panty-peelers.

          Well… relatively speaking.

          1. In response to your last paragraph on external trappings, these things being cool today is not just because of a shift in perception. To make these things cool, people have applied additional design skill to them (and subjectively, it’s not always successful). 

            If that wasn’t the case, then we would look at photos or film/video of geeky kids from the past (such as old photos of yourself) and think they looked cool… after all, we wore that cool plaid, high-waisted pants, and dorky glasses right? Nope, we still looked dorky… it’s all in the execution.

            And if there are girls who lose control of their panties from listening to someone talk about liking the Star Wars prequels… good lord, I hope I never meet such a woman.

          2. good lord, I hope I never meet such a woman.

            Yeah, I may have taken that metaphor just a shade too far.

          3. Anyway, my own geek credentials aren’t worth a damn.  I was ugly and my mother dressed me funny, to paraphrase the parlance of the time.  I avoided organized sports, read a lot of science fiction, read a lot of everything, actually.  I liked video games, but never got good at any of the arcade ones due to a lack of disposable quarters.  And when I got my Atari, I never got particularly good at any of those games either, except the ones whose learning curve plateaued particularly early, like Pitfall! and Asteroids.  I liked D&D in theory, but never actually got to play it until I was in my late 20s.  I did have the Star Wars movies on bootleg Beta tapes years before they were officially released, so I was at an advantage when it came to my line memorization, but I only saw each of the first 3 movies in a theater once until the Special Editions came out in ’97.  The guys I hung out with at lunchtime in high school were also geeks: Marcus and Lenny were into Castle Wolfenstein and Zelda and daily checking the synchronization of their Casio digital watches.  Jim was into building and racing his R/C cars.  Ken was an irritatingly passionate Weird Al devotee.  And Chris flew kites, with an eventual goal of being an aeronautics engineer.

            But it sucked being a geek then.  None of us were proud of our geekhood.  I know several of my near-contemporaries turned their young geekhood into wildly successful adult careers, and one has to wonder what today’s world would be like if Gates, Wozniak, Jobs, Zuckerberg, or even Spielberg had spent their youths successfully chasing girls instead of fiddling with their geeky obsessions as social outcasts.

            But in the 70s and 80s, geekery was a private living hell, and playing our games and building our robots was what got us through the day.  That’s why it’s so jarring to see it celebrated so much today, to the point where people can be mocked for not being geeky enough.

            What a weird old world.

  25. I think Mrs. Brown chose a poor title for her article.  I read the whole thing and, towards the end especially, she admonishes her readers to be passionate, (geeky) about something.  This is worthwhile to me.  Perhaps if she didn’t appear to be lashing out at “fake geek girls”, the article would seem less douchey.

    The reaction to her words is ironic because so many are throwing stones at Mrs. Brown for the same reasons the stone-throwers say she’s casting at “fake” geeks.  Shall we really beat her down because she dared to identify herself as a geek?  

    Sure, the article is a little fluffy, but it IS written for an audience of businessmen rather than computer/internet/sci-fi/fantasy/comics/etc..   But encouraging folks to be really into something instead of just pretending to isn’t such a distasteful thing.

  26. This reminds me a little of some of the hilarious threads I’ve read where SxE kids are arguing over who is and isn’t “edge” or the horrific crime of “breaking edge”. You’re not “edge” anymore… you’re not one of us, man. You never should have touched that beer.

  27. I think this whole thing speaks to how “geek,” “nerd,” /et al/ were successfully taken back, and now as the trappings of the former geek enter the mainstream (when geeks break out and become popular culture creators), the term is re-defined into meaninglessness. Sure, it may still have some sort of traditional denotation, but younger generations and neo-geeks (please don’t make that a thing) have adopted/adapted it to have a new connotation.

  28. It is so common for people to pretend to be a geek just because being a geek is currently in fashion. The author isn’t saying that new geeks are not welcome, she’s saying that non geek people stick on a pair of Ray-bans say they love star wars and suddenly they are counter culture. It’s about popular people pretending to be uncool, because it’s cool. But then they go home, blow their d-bag boyfriend and stick on some Bieber. Reminds me of this

  29. A number of people in my own social group came to geekery through suffering (bullied because they were quiet and finding their own fun). There’s an undercurrent of resent that the people they perceive as their tormentors have hitched themselves onto their culture without the struggle.

    As a friend of mine puts it, ‘I came back from the Temple of Elemental Evil and they spat on me.’

    I like to think of them as pioneers. Also, as it doesn’t actively harm me or you, I have no problem with someone calling themselves a geek. Just don’t force yourself to do it.

  30. I gave a handful of  +1’s on the way down the comment stream (semiotix and the monkey-mind was my favorite).  As usual, most of the valid and interesting points have been brought up before my 2 cents…

    Still…how can more gals that identify as ‘geek’ be a bad thing?  (Yes, the ‘new’ generation may not be as scarred by the slings and arrows of outrageous classmates; but when you begin to shun people that dress like you and act like you, it can be argued that you are not as cool as you think you are.)

    And neophytes should be nurtured and nourished like a fragile orchid: “put down that Punisher and pick up Stig’s Inferno instead!”  (insert modern variant here)

    I can sympathize with the territorial pissings involved; but the changing zeitgeist that allows  the youth of today to show allegiance to much of the otaku-world we know and love, is a good thing.  Yes, there will be poseurs and phonies: it was ever thus and ever will be.

    Before you attained mastery in cetacean insemination or opium production, what were you?

    A freaking wannabe.  But look at us now!  Pros. Experts. Respected and revered by our peers in all manner of geektacular activities…So why not give the new breed of geek gal a break; without being condescending or mean?

    Finally: fake glasses are a totally acceptable fashion choice.  Deal.

    1. Finally: fake glasses are a totally acceptable fashion choice. Deal.

      Of course they are.  So were parachute pants, mullets, loosely tying sweater sleeves around one’s neck, half-shirts, grilles, tramp stamps, bell-bottoms, really tall platform shoes, zoot suits, and plenty of other mockworthy trends.  Wear ’em all you want, and the classy among us will try to stifle our mirth.

  31. It’s amazing to see the reaction to this Forbes piece! I posted a response to the piece as well and have been excited by the positive people who want to support geeks of all types. :)

    1. You “came across” a “good response” on your own blog? Fascinating! Think what you might find in your pockets!

      1. Weird. I was actually meaning to link to another one and then realized it had already been linked to, so I updated my response. Hopefully it’s showing up correctly for you.

  32. I can understand how she feels. Growing up as a nerd in the late 70s/early 80s wasn’t easy. I was uncool. I wore awful glasses, had braces, was in the chess club, computer club, and played D&D; heck, I played D&D by telephone. I was bullied for being a nerd, at least until I had a growth spurt, started taking martial arts, and became an angry, violent punk. 

    So when I see someone co-opting nerdiness or geekiness because it’s cool now, it does rub me the wrong way. These “nerds” probably didn’t get the shit beaten out of them for having a homemade Han Solo trapper keeper. They probably don’t have actual physical and emotional scars from being a nerd.

    But then, I think about how fucking hard it is to be a teenager. If wearing a nerd or geek label helps someone get through the hell that is being a kid, have at it. But the pretend geeks/nerds on G4 and the like who wear Mario t-shirts because the wardrobe person gave it to them? They can go fuck themselves.

    Also, it feels a bit disingenuous for Boing Boing to criticize this article while celebrating this video.

    1. Also, it feels a bit disingenuous for Boing Boing to criticize this article while celebrating this video.

      What is this “Boing Boing” to which you refer? It’s a collective of bloggers who post what interests them. There’s no official positions on anything.

      1. Really? So, you’re an unofficial moderator? Also, this page lists official titles.

        I would expect a more clever riposte from a Roman deity.

  33. IMO, there’s a little bit of confusing cause and effect here. As a much younger person, I was an outsider, a basement dweller, RPGer- a nerd. And I never stopped trying to fit in with the popular kids, and always failed spectacularly.

    This may not be every geek’s, nerd’s or insert-label-here’s story. Many are enlightened enough to see that their unique self has unique value, and get comfortable with it. But I would have given anything in my teens to have skin that tanned, hair that wasn’t bright orange, and be able to talk to girls. I would have traded that 12th level neutral evil elf character that I had devoted several years building, and every prized miniature model I had ever painted with a toothpick. But every time I tried the door was slammed in my face. I was ridiculed, beaten up, and generally reminded that I was definitely not cool.

    What I’m getting at is, *some* kids will always want to fit in. I smile when recognizing that what I enjoyed when I was young has turned around, and now kids want to be more like me and my friends were. But I have grown up, and I’m not interested in working out childhood trauma on a new generation. I’m not about to subject others to the same thing just because they’re trying to fit in. Reminding someone that they aren’t REALLY a geek is just the same thing I went through, and it hurts. I don’t think anyone deserves to be treated that way.

  34. I guess I’m a slightly geeky girl, so I’m on the inclusionary side?

    I also know a lot about literature, and a lot about science fiction literature. I’ve watched a lot of genre television and am active in one fandom. I’ve played most post-2000 RPGs. I’ve played several MMOs, but am generally only of average raiding ability. I know nothing of anime but wouldn’t be opposed to it if someone gave me some good starting points. I’ve only read a handful of graphic novels, and they’re the ones you’d expect a woman to gravitate toward. I’m not really that interested in superheroes. I respect and support science, especially in political debates, but my academic training is in a non-science field.

    I’d like to think I’m welcome at geekish things, even if I don’t dress the part and am not interested in and/or knowledgable about all of it. If I’m not, I guess my counter to you would be that I like quite a few of the more accessible things that you do, and that there’s a decent chance I’d be interested in some of the less accessible things with a proper introduction. I’m quiet and sit in the back by nature, so it’s not like I’m bothering you by being there.

    1. Well, welcome to you, and don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t belong. You do.

      Also, Pat Rothfuss (whose Kingkiller Chronicles you’ve probably read already if you follow current SFF publications) has recently made a post about anime with a few good starting-points : Have fun !

    2. You’re completely different from the fake geeks in question. You would be welcomed by any geek.

  35. Sorry, but I will take a try-hard geek over a try-hard redneck or a try-hard jock any day of the week.

    This reminds me of when I used to be goth, new kids who had a genuine interest in being part of the community would show up and get called a poser or a fake by the established goths, then gradually they would become grudgingly accepted by the others until they became popular enough to label the next batch of newcomers as fake wannabes! It all made my head hurt, and to put it bluntly, was a big pile of BULLSHIT. 

    On the other hand, in defense of the Forbes article, I remember my arty hipster friends hassling me out for reading Game of Thrones some years back because it was fantasy. Now those same people can’t stop talking about how much they love the HBO series. Clearly they don’t know how the word “irony” works…

    1. Yeah…I’m always reminded of this experiment (can’t recall what it was called, and apparently my Google-fu is too weak to find it) where they took rats and put four of them in a cage. They ended up in a social structure with a leader, two followers and a scapegoat/slave. The interesting thing was that if you took four scapegoats and made them live together, the exact same structure appeared a few days after…

      This happens all the time, in all communities, and it really is a huge PITA.

  36. I couldn’t agree more with the comments about bringing an attitude of inclusion rather than scorn on new geeks. It’s also especially vital for women in this arena, since they’ve had such a small voice in the culture for decades (by the industry, not by fellow geeks).

    I’ve always thought it was bizarre that while the fellow geeky men I’ve met over the years have been intelligent, progressive, passionate, sensitive and kind, the industry itself has been pretty vicious to women. It’s like the content never caught up to the consumer.

    I think some of the frustration comes from seeing hope as the industry is listening to female voices and creative work, only to see objectification move from fantasy women in impractical armor to nerdy women becoming objectified themselves. It makes me cringe at first, because part of it is innocent excitement/nerd love on behalf of the geeky men, but yet again— we have people in the industry capitalizing on this with hired models posing as gamers at events, models hosting geeky shows, etc. making the geeky women watching this go “wtf?!”

    Part of the outrage is geek culture (for me at least) was also a refuge from the shallow alternatives I saw other girls indulge in that made me feel uncomfortable. I could play a VtM campaign and pick-off a cocky Tremere that ventured too near my abandoned underground subway lair (nosferatu) with my male friends, never having to muse about Christian Slater (yes I’m that old) or browse a Vogue.

    But that was then.

    We have more clout now, and younger women are seeing this as the same thing we did—a place they can be surrounded by awesome men AND women, with awesome art, music, comics, games, writing, etc. If they don’t know how to get involved at first other than looking nerd-cute and supporting “the look”? Who cares— they’re just starting and if they actually give a damn that shit will pass and they’ll look back on their earlier attention gaffs with facepalms as they grow up.

    Criticize the industry, embrace the newcomers.

  37. Way old article (so I doubt anyone will see this), but….

    This morning as I was getting ready for work, my eight-year old daughter looks up from the tub and tells me

    “You know, there is one language that you can’t be taught.”

    “Really?” I reply. “Which language is that?”

    “Geek. People who speak Geek do it naturally. It can’t be taught.”

    “Can you speak Geek?”

    “No, but I can understand it.”

    Honestly, I have no idea what she was talking about!

  38. I always thought that a “geek” is just someone who is not “cool” in which the classic form of being “cool” was not allowing anyone to know that you care about anything and thus being a “geek” meant that you allowed (purposely or not) others to know that you did care about something/had interests.

    I for one am completey thrilled that it is no longer cool to pretend you don’t care about anything and thus “geek” is no longer something to be ashamed of (although it never was…)

    The hilarious reversal of this is that now people that care about stuff (geeks) call “fake” to people they consider to be pretending to care about stuff (I guess “cool” people). But of course all along it is clear, to anyone who is not 13, that everyone cares about stuff and the pretending is only those pretending not to, in order to be “cool”.

    There have always been two threads in geekdom (of course there are more but…). One is those that are so geeked out by the things they geeks for, and they are open and free and spread that love everywhere. The other are the closed, geekier than you, turf defending geeks. The internet has most definetly aided the first group and even allowed (egads!) those that did not know they were geeks to more easily become geeks. The second group thinks this sucks.

    Boing Boing is clearly in the “joy of geek” first group, and that is exactly why I (and I suspect others) love it here. I’ve never felt the need to defend my geek status here. I feel welcome. And what more could you want?

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