The Problem with Geek Elitism (And Why I Can’t Sleep Well at Night)
We’re reposting this essay on Geek Elitism by our dear friend Cat on her personal tumblr account. It just struck us that we’re both on the receiving and the giving end of this topic.
This particular concern has been bothering me for days when I should be turning to other things and focusing my energies on something else. But it’s sort of have been a long time coming, and while I try my best to be forgiving, gracious, and generally un-bothered, this time, the matter has gone ahead to break my heart since it involves people dear to me like family.
The title says it all. In a world where politics and hierarchies are as normal as the sun rising everyday, it’s very VERY unsettling that such would penetrate a space which should otherwise be a safe haven, especially when judgment for being a geek alone has been rampant years ago. “These people are adults, what the heck are they doing, attending those convention things, running around in costumes, collecting toys and books and comics, doing kidstuff, they should be more responsible with their lives, etc etc” as though having such hobbies (because they are hobbies like coin collecting or traveling), no matter how quirky, have their own stigma.
All of a sudden (or maybe in a slow boil), we have “Geek Levels,” from being “fake” to being “zOMG THIS FANDOM IS MY LIFE, FITE ME.” All of a sudden everyone who’s encountered the uncalled-for Hierarchy System of Geekery found themselves quick to defend their level of geekiness, asking for forgiveness for not being geeky enough, or wondering how other geeks gauge their own level: if it’s Sh*t Tier or Mid Tier or Elder God Tier. Some might be already pretty sure they’re geeks or immersed enough in the culture, but in a bat of an eye, there are doubts, there are feelings of inadequacy, with perhaps nagging thoughts of, Maybe I wasn’t part of the last geek shindig because I was Sh*t Tier. Maybe THEY’RE part of the latest geek shindig because they’re Elder God Tier. Thoughts which should be non-issues in the first place begin to haunt and infest the least suspecting of hearts and minds.
Media is so accessible these days: from Netflix series episodes to a dozen craft companies manufacturing T-shirts and other merchandise to express one’s fandom. It’s so EASY to BANDWAGON. And I must put it out there: SO WHAT if there are bandwagoners? In this era of instant gratification and over-stimulation, one can drop something as soon as it’s picked up, depending on a certain bandwagon’s impression on them. Some jump into it for attention, yes. Some jump into it for validation, but there are also those to jump into bandwagons to HAVE FUN. There is no one set and solid reason, and one can say that the best takeaway of having jumped the bandwagon in the first place is that the fandom made a strong impression enough for them to STAY even if the hype has long gone. Sometimes aficionados are born from simply getting into a bandwagon out of the reasons I mentioned above or more. That’s why my hipster mind (LOL) sometimes cringes when franchises such as Harry Potter, etc. are now called “part of POPULAR culture.” It’s no longer a niche or a pastime/lifestyle of the losers and the weird. It’s become something acceptable (and mainstream!) in spite of everything.
We all have personal reasons to despise fakers or deceivers or injustices. But that’s besides the point. Being a geek is an idiosyncrasy as it is: your family and other social circles may or have had condemned you for being “geek.” So it’s only the saddest thing when geeks pick at other geeks for various reasons, when at the end of the day, all we want from the very beginning is acceptance, a place of no judgment.
Geeks are also human, and human weakness is a given. But hey, geekiness is a wisdom in itself, but that somehow doesn’t make us more or lesser than “normal people.” We are simply different, and whether it’s a good or bad thing, is entirely up to us.
When you find yourself having the urge to prove to another geek on how geeky you really are: DON’T. YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO in the first place. We don’t shove our geekiness to people’s faces. GEEKING OUT ISN’T A CONTEST (with the exception of being in Geek Fight or Trivia Night but eh humor me here). IT SHOULDN’T BE. Good geeks, bad geeks, terrible geeks, fake geeks, famewhore geeks—replace “geeks” with “humans” and know first and foremost what we are since Day 0 of our lives on earth.
Now, if there are those who use “geek status” for nefarious reasons—that’s another story. But how we deal with them is only as good as how we conduct ourselves, lest we emerge as the villains instead.
More than a decade ago, the geek community was about having a SAFE HAVEN from the persecution of “non-geeks.” Geeks are geeks are geeks, whether you’ve read three volumes or ten volumes, or fifty. If in your heart you know you are a geek, don’t let anyone say otherwise. Note to self as well, since I have never felt so doubtful and cornered in my life about something so valuable to me—the geekiness and the geek community; and it breaks my heart that a haven which has gotten me though growing pains and college bullying is now becoming a place of festering ill-will. I HOPE GEEK ELITISM WILL END. Because whatever “level of geek” a person is, that may be their level of comfort, a level that may have saved their lives, a level which presently brings them happiness. It may not be a high level (but let’s please do away with levels), but it’s a level significant to them, so who are we to hound on that?
I want my safe haven back. That is all. This message is for everyone, to and for all my geek friends, all my sweet weirdos, all my strange darlings.
Again, credits to Cat who wrote this around last week. I can definitely feel all the emotions on this one. My take away from this, no more geek elitism please. Everybody now has equal access to stuff that fuels the fandom. Like, if you’ve missed out on the other 8 Doctors from Doctor Who then you can always look for those episodes online or buy the DVD. Not like before when getting around things like that is not only costly but also hard.