Once upon a time, not so long ago, anyone with a love of elvish lore, a passion for Star Trek or a giant comic book collection was an object of, if not derision, than some mild eye-rolling. But now, in a world where the last Lord of the Rings film could sweep the board at the Oscars and the Hobbit is a huge hit, where responsible adults go crazy at the sight of Benedict ‘Sherlock’ Cumberbatch (oh, the Cumberbatch) in the new Star Trek trailer, where superhero films fill cinemas all over the world AND get critical acclaim, where comics are winning prestigious mainstream literary awards, has being geeky – or at least loving stuff traditionally, and often patronisingly, considered geeky – become the mainstream? And if so, does that include women?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had a geeky side. I’m not generally a fan of Tolkien-style, epic-quest fantasy, full of orcs and elves, but ever since I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe I’ve had a thing for books where magicky, supernatural things happen (as a very small child, I couldn’t quite give up hope that my great aunt’s giant, old fashioned wardrobe might be the door to Narnia). And even though I was never hugely into superhero stuff, as a teenager, I discovered great alternative comics writers and artists like Neil Gaiman and the Hernandez Brothers. Which meant I was a regular visitor to the comics shop Forbidden Planet which, especially in those days, was, a bit, well, male-centric.
Recently the geek-centric sitcom The Big Bang Theory ran an annoying trailer for an episode in which the show’s female characters entered a comic shop – a place the trailer described, Star Trek style, as “where no woman has gone before”. Lots of comic fans, both male and female, were irritated by the assumption in the trailer that comics and indeed all things nerdy are a boys’ world. I found the trailer really annoying for that very reason – even though when I went to Forbidden Planet in the mid-90s to get a new issue of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, I was often the only girl in the shop.
But things have really changed since then. Shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by self-described geek Joss Whedon (who went on to direct last year’s hugely successful Avengers film), brought smart, funny, fantasy to a mainstream audience, and attracted many devoted female fans (including me. I actually own a set of Buffy Top Trumps cards, even though I generally have no interest in card games, which is about as geeky as it’s possible to get). Nearly half of all computer gamers are female now, and straightforward classic films such as The Lord of the Rings attracted a, frankly, scarily devoted female fanbase (just look at all that fanfic). Indeed, some writers here at Beaut.ie have recently found themselves, ahem, drawn to all things hobbity.
Buffy and the Hobbit don’t have much in common – not least because Buffy was consciously girl-friendly and the Hobbit is such a boy zone they had to shoehorn Galadriel into the recent film even though she’s not in the book in order to feature at least one woman – but what all objects of geek love have in common is the level of devotion they inspire. In a recent post on Hello Giggles inspired by the aforementioned trailer Rachel Berkey offered a stirring defence of all things geeky:
The thing I have in common with my fellow geeks is the fact that I can sit around a living room and totally freak out about how awesome something is.
That passion, whether you’re painting your face and wearing a hair piece like the guys do to portray your favorite Star Trek character, or arguing the physics of whether or not you picking up Thor who picked up his hammer means that you have picked up the hammer like the girls [in the Big Bang Theory] do, is what makes you a geek to me.
Show me your passion.
Show me your ridiculous love of something like a song or a novel or a television show or recipe, and I will grin at you and listen and walk away with a feeling that all is right in the world. It’s not about who loves something.
It’s about the fact that you love something so much you make a costume, learn to write in a fictional language, or make your life’s work talking about the inner workings of a space ship that doesn’t exist because we haven’t figured out a fuel that could create an explosion big enough to propel it into space.
It’s about the fact that you love something that much.
And that’s why, even though I roll my eyes at the full-on obsessives, I have a soft spot for die-hard geeks. In today’s cynical world, their genuine enthusiasm is pretty, well, cool. So what about you? Do you have geeky tendencies? And if so, are you proud to let your geek flag fly?