Names have been changed here, of course, including mine. And I use the word ‘hate’ metaphorically. I don’t hate anyone. It’s for the weak.
STAR WARS geeks.
We all know what the origin of the word “geek” is.
Well, if you’re a geek you know.
The word originally meant freak, as in sideshow freak.
Later the word came to mean a specific type of freak who performed outrageous and/or disgusting acts, such as biting the heads off of live chickens. Such acts were once a mainstay of traveling carnivals.
Often the geek was a hopeless alcoholic, likely homeless, from a town near where the carnival was stopping and performed in exchange for alcohol. Such people had little trouble doing these awful things since at that point in their lives they had not a shred of shame or dignity left.
Sci-fi author Harlan Ellison spent some time working in carnivals as a teenager. He once wrote an account of a night spent in a jail cell with a carnival geek who stank so badly of alcohol that it turned Ellison off of drinking for the rest of his life.
If you were a geek, you’d have already known that.
You’d also know that the term ”sci-fi” is despised in “speculative fiction” geek circles.
Later the term was used, generally as a pejorative(though later ‘taken back’ by those described as such and born as a point of pride), to describe any kind of social outsider. By the 1980s it was often used to describe those with a great deal of arcane knowledge in some discipline or another, be it computer programming or Turkish poetry.
Another common use of ‘geek’ is to describe those whose interest in a particular area of popular culture goes far beyond that of your average person. Most people like STAR WARS, but a true Jedi-head can tell you the lineage of the royal family of Naboo going back several generations. This is the definition of the term that is important for this article.
I have been and probably can be accurately described as being a geek, at least in some ways. However, I tend to skim over different pop culture realms rather than concentrating on on a few. Part of this is because I’m less concerned with “universes” for their own sake and more interested in stories, character, plotting, purpose and the sheer beauty of all forms of art. Also, I lack the patience or interest to memorize Superman’s Social Security number, which a decidedly geeky friend of mine has. I just don’t care that much.
Comic geeks. So I guess I’m more “geek lite” than “geek orthodox.”
Still, I embrace the term, simply because of its longstanding connotation that the bearer is not within the social mainstream.
To be certain, all so-called geeks – most, probably - are not social outcasts. They are defined by what they do, not by how people react to them.
As easily as I embrace the word to describe myself, I can’t ignore that there are some very serious things about my fellow geeks that annoy the stinky pate’ out of me; things that make me angry enough to chuck original Boba Fett action figures at a limited-edition BATMAN BEGINS lobby poster.
Let me take three choice examples in chronological order.
Exhibit 1 – Chat Room on the Edge of Absurdity.
I was fairly excited when I first stepped into an AOL science-fiction chat room some fifteen years ago. ‘Here,’ I thought, ‘is a place where I can have some fun with like-minded individuals.’ That feeling was to be short-lived.
Every time I tried to chat I was confronted with the same phenomenon. I would be tested by others on my knowledge of the topic and if I ‘failed’ the test, I was strongly encouraged (not in a nice way) to leave. Apparently there were a lot of people on AOL back then who didn’t know the difference between chatting and joining a cult.
I tried numerous times to find a chat room where actual “chat” was taking place rather than some secret society of dorkdom, but in vain, in vain.
The last straw for me in the sci-fi (yeah, I wrote it again, Starfleet, deal with it) rooms was when I actually managed to worm my way into the good graces of some in a particular room. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. And then I had to go and fuque things up by saying that I enjoyed the latest big-screen Star Trek film, when the series was in its “New Generation” phase. I don’t recall which one.
Good ol' Trekkies.
You’d have thought I’d stuck an M-80 in Spock’s tight Vulcan crack and set it off.
One Trekwad in particular took it upon himself to “correct” me. He ran out of juice long before I did and in typical geek fashion, turned toward personal attacks.
I ignored him for a while, but he was persistent and had a few yes-men telling him how cool he was every time he made some half-witted comment about my intelligence.
Pretty soon it dawned on me that such chat rooms were not about having a good conversation, but rather about orthodox opinion and conformity. Or, about who was the king of Geek Mountain.
Weirdly, all those folks were actually adults. Chronologically, anyway.
I left the room and haven’t done chat rooms since. I’m not certain that they exist anymore.
Exhibit 2: Slack Packers and the horizontally-challenged.
Let’s call him Clever Dan. Dan for short, like his penis.
I never actually saw his penis, thank Hitchcock.
I know that it’s small because (A) he had the kind of personality and attitude of someone trying to compensate for having a small penis and (B) he couldn’t stop talking about his smurf-dong and went on at length (pun intended) about it to anyone who would listen.
We worked together in the states and later worked together overseas. At first it seemed as though we had quite a bit in common. We both loved smokable herbs and Asian ladies. We loved to crack wise and sing at the drop of a hat. And we were both pop culture geeks. Or rather he was, and I happened to like some of the same things.
We were very close for a while. We both had a film and TV background, and for a while Dan and I were planning to start a media empire together. Then Dan got distracted by the needs of his short penis and it fell apart. That, however, is another story.
Dan often demonstrated the annoying prejudices of die-hard geeks everywhere. He kept telling the same lame joke about the MATRIX sequels and the STAR WARS prequels that was supposed to cleverly imply that none of each were worth seeing. I disagreed with this, which he refused to acknowledge. He was the first person who told me that he got angry when people said “sci-fi.”
Then something happened that really, really broke the dam of g-word tolerance for me.
On several occasions, the wiener-impaired fellow and I watched comedies together. Like a lot of comedy fans of the first decade of the 2000s, we were fond of that troupe of actors that Hollywood kept going back to time and time again; Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Jack Black and the Wilson brothers (Owen and Luke) with Steve Carell, David Koechner and Paul Rudd for support.
When I first noticed that this gang kept showing up in movies together all the time, I mentioned it to another, less insane geek friend who informed me that they were called the “slack pack.*” I later read on the internet that “Slack” or “slacker pack” was a term coined by Entertainment Weekly to describe them and that and the phrase “frat pack” was used later by USA Today as a reference to the movie OLD SCHOOL, one of the films in which a number of them appear. With the media the latter term seemed the most common, but “slacker pack” did show up occasionally.
I personally have always preferred “Slack” or “Slacker Pack” because I’ve never cared for fraternities or the people who join them.
It isn’t a big deal to me, just a preference. When I use the term, most movie fans understand who and what I’m talking about.
Mr. Teenie-weenie peenie, however, seemed to think that I was violating some unwritten code of behavior by using that phrase. To him, it was “Frat Pack” or nothing at all, as if USA Today were the prime authority of all American slang. Anyone who violated the code was an infidel who must be put in his place, but fast. This, he did.
We worked at a school in Shanghai together that bussed its employees to work every day. One morning, as often happened on the bus, a discussion among the foreign teachers started up and the conversation turned to comedy films.
Dan, the dude with the diminutive dong, made mention of the “frat pack,” and looking back on it now, he was probably primed and ready to respond to anything I said. He may have even practiced in front of a mirror. Me, I just wanted to have fun.
Dan: It’s a “Frat Pack” comedy. You know, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson…
Me (jovially): You mean “Slack Pack!”
Dan: You’re the only one who calls it that.
Me: Uh, no, actually I’m not the-
Dan (loud, angry): YOU’RE THE ONLY ONE WHO CALLS IT THAT!
Sports geeks. He actually quieted down the bus for a minute.
Keep in mind, I considered this guy to be my friend. Also, I figured that the bigger man was the one who didn’t escalate the situation, so I didn’t respond to this at the time.
We chatted about it much later, and his response began as the usual self-righteous geek crap, maintaining his right to be an asshole because of his supposed superior knowledge.
It took a while for me to carefully explain, in a way that could be understood by a man with a very small penis, that embarrassing me - to say nothing of himself - in front of our co-workers wasn’t such a good idea. I seem to remember wrangling an apology out of him, but I may be mistaken.
Did I mention that this guy has a small penis?
Exhibit 3: Snide remarks and Joss Jerks: A lesson in projection.
Joss Whedon, as you’d surely know if you’re a geek, is a writer and producer (and occasional director) who primarily works in television, mostly in the sci-fi (there I go again!) and horror genres.
I don’t care for Joss Whedon. I don’t especially dislike him but there’s nothing about his work that really set my balls on fire.
I’ve seen some episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and it’s okay. When it started I was far out of my teens and uninterested in revisiting those years, because I was still not completely recovered from them. Some days I still think I’m not.
I saw the film SERENITY, which came out of Whedon’s cancelled TV series Firefly. Most of the cast was not really feature-film ready, I think, but the movie itself was okay. However, I don’t get how the sadly ignorant media and dork-verse seems to think that this franchise was an unprecedented mixture of western and sci-fi (I’m incorrigible!). Have you folks seen any ‘speculative fiction’ series or film made in the last 35 years?! For Roddenberry’s sake, they’re all like that!
If you’re a Whedon dork of the first order and you’re now standing there, arms akimbo, shaking your head back and forth and clicking your tongue thinking, ‘He just another one of those people who didn’t give any of the shows a chance.’ Well, that isn’t true. There’s Dollhouse. I saw all of it, and I mean all of it. Around about episode 6 or 7 I started doing a lot of head-scratching, which did not stop until well into the second, 13-ep season. By this time I had fallen victim to self-induced male pattern baldness.
I seem to remember it having some redeeming characteristics. I just don’t remember what they are. I remember confusion and boredom and my determination to get all the way through the entire series. Mission accomplished; now I’ll never get that time back.
I have friends who are total Whedonistas.
They spend what appears to me to be a unnecessary amount of time listing favorite characters, episodes, seasons, and best lines in each season from each character. Buffy gets most of this attention but the other shows get their fair share.
I don’t judge my friends harshly for their Whedonian eccentricities.
I certainly don’t expect them to have the cast of PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID memorized or to know what real-life person each character in The Sun Also Rises is based upon. I give and take the odd ribbing about a favorite here and there, but that’s about it.
Now. Some background.
I had two teachers in college who really taught me something and made me stop wishing that I’d joined the French Foreign Legion instead. One was a professor whom for the sake of this article we’ll call Poundsworth.
Poundsworth was a brilliant, funny, and unpretentious man with a wide-ranging knowledge in everything I wanted to know about. He could find connections between Nietzsche, Proust and Bugs Bunny and speak at length on all three. Unlike a lot of my college instructors, he wasn’t a condescending jerk who hated teaching and had contempt for students. He had something to teach, was very good at it and seemed to enjoy it. He was also an easy person to chat with after class. A good bastard, all around.
I suppose you could call Professor Poundsworth a geek. He’s my kind of geek, however, in that he doesn’t limit himself to a specific genre or medium and doesn’t take anything too seriously. However, when he loves something he really, really loves it, be it the novels of Nathanial West or the television programming of Mr. Joss Whedon. Yes, Poundsworth is very much a Joss Whedon fan. In fact there’s a whole section of his website dedicated to Whedoniana and his extremely large number of Facebook friends include a disproportionate number of fellow Buffy-heads.
Poundsworth has never been shy about ribbing others about their tastes and he can take such ribbing as well. Since I consider the man an old friend I felt no qualms about making the following post on his Facebook wall after he posted something JW-related:
Carl: Sorry, PW, but Joss is waaaaaay overrated.
Pretty normal stuff. I didn’t require my old prof to respond, but I certainly didn’t expect this response, not from Poundsworth but from one of his Whedonista minions:
Self-Righteous Geek Bitch: So, Carl, when you visit someone's home, do you disparage their DVD collection and make snarky comments about their home decor? Just wondering.
Now, keep in mind that I obviously know Poundsworth and that my comment was not an attack but just a random quip of the sort any two friends might throw back and forth at each other during a conversation, virtual or otherwise.
SRGB, however, seemed to think that I had “broken the code,” or that my words were a rock tossed through a window of the house of geek by an unwelcome outsider. Neither was true.
She drew parallels that didn’t apply. I was not in someone’s home, I was expressing my opinion via social media to a friend who has on other occasions disparaged movies that I’ve expressed a liking for. It’s what friends do.
So in this twisted geek mind, disagreement is rude – even when the person complaining isn’t the one you were addressing.
I contend that since my friends and I, Poundsworth included, always take the piss out of each other and consider it camaraderie and the kind of exchange you can learn from, her ignorant comments, if anything, were what was truly out of line.
Here was my response.
Carl: Well, Self-Righteous Geek Bitch, when I chat with old friends they don't get offended if I disagree with them, nor do I when they do the same. It's all part of the lively give-and-take that comes with human interaction and it’s how we learn things. My old college professor understands that, though obviously some others don't.
Newton’s third law, “For every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction,” applies here in some ways. When pushed, people tend to push back with equal force. Or perhaps more so, which goes beyond Newton but he was retarded anyway.
Your geek, people, is a creature that by its nature is marginalized, though as stated before, not necessarily outcast. Like a dog used to being kicked, it can become either totally mean and vicious or totally frightened and skittish, or perhaps some combination of the two. In any case, winning its trust is not easy, even if you’re a dog from the same pound who went through the same treatment.
To judge people solely on how others react to them and thus exempt them from the normal rules of behavior is patronizing. No matter how immature one may act, a grownup shouldn’t be tit-fed. Geeks aren’t just intelligent human beings, more times than not they are smarter than average. They should be able to distinguish between friend and foe, and to realize that having a dissenting opinion shouldn’t put you on trial at the Hague.
The sad truth is that far too many geeks are snobs and assholes who get some miserable excuse for pleasure out of treating others with the contempt with which they have often been treated.
Tomato geeks. I just don’t see the fun in that.
To me, it seems to be a pretty awful way to walk through life.
So that’s why I hate geeks.
I just wish that I didn’t have to admit that I was one.
* This group isn’t the coherent whole that it once was and therefore the terms have gone out of vogue. There isn’t a consensus on a name for the younger group that followed, featuring Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segel, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Martin Starr and, once again, Paul Rudd. Maybe the “Pot Pack?”