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Friday, January 13, 2012

We Are ALL Geeks!

For those of you who don't know I work in the exit shop of a theme park ride that sells those photos they take of you at key moments of the ride. A couple of weeks ago, I had a customer buying a photo who informed me that she was only buying it because of her shirt. I glanced down and saw that you could clearly see "Carolina" across the front of the shirt. My own thought was "you have the shirt, why especially do you need this picture of the shirt?, but hey, if you're happy..." We finished the transaction, I handed her her photo, and as she turned to leave she said "Go Gamecocks!" and departed. Now I'm not a sports fan in the slightest, but I do know that the Gamecocks are a collegiate football team in South Carolina, still I thought this was an odd way to end a brief conversation with someone you've never met before. Obviously this is a person who invests a great deal of her enthusiasm into her sports team, but I wondered what her reaction would be to a group of fans at a sci-fi convention dressed as Klingons or Imperial Stormtroopers. Would she stare in baffled amazement? Would she sneer with superiority and label them "geeks"? I wonder does, she realize that she is also, in fact, a geek? I'm sure she doesn't label herself as such, she's a "sports fan", but what is a sports fan, but someone who geeks on sports? I actually get a glimpse at what it looks like when these two aspects of fandom intermingle almost every year at Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia when the convention and a big bowl game both fall on Labor Day weekend. It's an odd sight, but somehow they co-exist in the same space for a few hours. There is even a little overlap. The truth is we all geek on something. I can't say I have ever witnessed a guy in a Jedi robe say "May the Force be with you" to a waitress who's just taken his order, but I have seen comic fans engage in behavior that is just as awkward to witness in public, as that of the Gamecocks lady.
I was in another position once where I volunteered to work a table at a convention for a pair of local museums who each had science-fiction themed exhibits. Some of the museum personnel were new to the con experience and were behaving as if they'd been deposited in the middle of a leper colony. I found myself in the position of having to defend fandom in general, which I'll admit was challenging at times, particularly with the guy in the poorly constructed costume who carried a picture of the character he dressed as to hand out so you could see what he was really going for. I tried to point out that they weren't just "being weird", they were exhibiting their individuality, their creativity and their skills. Yet for all my efforts these two girls still left that day still feeling they were somehow superior to all of the "geeks" they had witnessed, despite the fact that one of them became really excited when she got a picture of the back of Billy Dee Williams' head, or that another was at extreme sport competitions with boyfriend every other weekend. (Celebrity geek. Extreme sports geek.)
I'm not trying to claim that we pop-culture geeks are necessarily better than any other kind of geek, although I could do without those situations at parties where other guys think the only way to initiate a conversation with other males is to mention the latest athletic competition. It just amazes me that the different groups are unable to recognize their similarities. I mean which is geekier? The shirtless beer-gutted guy painted head-to-toe in his team colors, or the guy in the Superman costume with a decidedly un-Supermanish physique? Tough call; let's put them in a room and let them debate. I'm sure it would be more entertaining than any of the current Republican debates.

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