Monday, October 29, 2012

When geek goes hipster...


Oh the insidious perils of commercialism.

I suppose it was accurately titled as a “rant” rather than an “essay.”
Natania Barron, a contributing writer at Geeks Are Sexy, wrote a piece for last Friday that bemoaned the “mainstreaming” of geek culture.  The tripwire for this angst was apparently the “second breakfast” promotion at Denny’s that ties in with the release of The Hobbit.  To paraphrase Barron, we (meaning “Geek Nation”) are now a marketing demographic.  Yep, it’s all too commercial and mainstream now, just fodder for the mass market.

Emotionally, I do understand what she’s saying.  To a degree.  Fandom is no longer quite as “special” as it used to be.  We were once an underground with a language of our own, so to speak.  “We who are not as others.”  That has a certain charm and appeal.

It is limited, however.  Given the geek timeframe that Miss Barron provides for herself, she is evidently too young to remember the way things used to be.  A link provided by my good friend Joe speaks to those times.  There wasn’t always a comic book store around the corner.  In fact, liking comic books meant you were either immature or a freak.  Science fiction, D&D, computer games, action figures, liking any of those things used to get you ostracized at best and beaten up at worst.  Oh and the internet?  There was no home internet that would help you connect with like-minded people.  I remember having to hide my loves so I wouldn't be picked on any worse than I already was.  Today, I see my students here at the college wear superhero t-shirts all the time and at least a few of those students are “jocks.”  No one has to hide their geeky tastes.

Although for the author of the rant, this is evidently a bad thing.  It makes us a “marketing demographic.”  Guess what?  Them’s the breaks when living in a capitalistic society.  We’re all a marketing demographic.  If you have money, someone wants to sell you something and likely something that you don’t need.  That’s just how it is.  Upset with merchandising?  Granted we do tend to get inundated by it, but without the merchandising tie-ins, we never would have had Star Wars action figures or likely any of the ensuing toy lines thereafter.  Also, please not that within a few sentences, Barron condemns Denny’s “Second Breakfast” while saying the light-up goblets from Burger King were something she could “deal with” as they were “kitschy and thematic.”  So…selling goblets is ok, but Denny’s is no good.  Huh??

This rant rubbed me the wrong way in yet another regard.  There was a tone of exclusivity to it.  In fact, it smacked of “hipster” opinions.  She writes, “We can’t settle. It’s [geek fandom] more than knowing the right quotes and wearing the right clothes or eating the food they want us to eat. If that’s all it becomes, it’s nothing better than any trend or club.”

Pure excrement.  She might as well have said, “I like things that are obscure, you probably wouldn’t know them” or “I don’t eat Denny’s ‘Second Breakfast,’ it denigrates me artistically” or even “well, I’ve been a fan since 1997 and you just got here, so you don’t belong in my elite circle.”  This mentality made me think of music in the early 80s.  I lived in a rural area and I did not have MTV until late in 1985.  Given those facts, it was tough to find out about cool, lesser-known bands until their songs hit the radio.  By that point, however, anyone who liked them for their new hit was uncool and the band was a “sellout.”  That mentality never made any sense to me.  Plus, it ruined great bands like The Clash and Echo and the Bunnymen.

Ultimately, I say let people like what they want to like.  Who cares if they got to it through an ad or a mainstream source?  Why bemoan that your social subgroup is now "trendy" and filled with "sellouts, "poseurs," "fakers," and any other pejorative term that comes to mind in order to have a pissing contest?  Who cares if they are relatively new to the genre?  Far better it be that way than to be persecuted for your tastes.  And as I said, Natania Barron is too young of a girl to know what that is like.  That was not a sexist remark.  I have read the essays of many women who left me in awe of their intellect and their ability to express new perspectives on subjects, quite often doing it in a way that I could never hope to execute. 

Given the amount of thought and maturity (or lack thereof) in her piece, Natania is still a girl.


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