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Is Geekdom Really Going Extinct?

“I’m not a nerd. I used to be one, back 30 years ago when nerd meant something.” – Patton Oswalt

A question for my fellow geeks: Could you have ever imagined today’s pop culture environment? Especially while some of us were subjected to taunts, name-calling, or physical bullying over the weird stuff we liked? Because we were into horror movies, or science fiction, or video games … we were the different ones who had to be called out for being different. We couldn’t fly under the radar enough. But as much as “normal” kids made our lives miserable, we liked feeling like insiders. We were otakus, with our specific but passionate fascinations.

But now, there is a place for all of us, all because of the Internet. The geek stuff we held so dear that some thought we had to be ashamed of is part of the mainstream now because – to our horror – it’s become trendy. If something has a Facebook fan page, how underground can it be? It’s as if it doesn’t even belong to us anymore.

Oswalt says in Wired:

Boba Fett’s helmet emblazoned on sleeveless T-shirts worn by gym douches hefting dumbbells. The Glee kids performing the songs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And Toad the Wet Sprocket, a band that took its name from a Monty Python riff, joining the permanent soundtrack of a night out at Bennigan’s. Our below-the-topsoil passions have been rudely dug up and displayed in the noonday sun …

The topsoil has been scraped away, forever, in 2010. In fact, it’s been dug up, thrown into the air, and allowed to rain down and coat everyone in a thin gray-brown mist called the Internet.

Oswalt goes even further to say that anyone and everyone can consider themselves an otaku about something: Lost, The Wire, even reality shows. Reality shows! The lowest form of entertainment, formed by the least amount of thought or effort, and people get as fervent about them as they did over the mythology of Middle Earth. He’s right to bemoan this development. It means that being a fan — even an ardent fan — means less than it used to. Using his example of Rocky Horror, a demented, insane musical about transsexual monster-creators, was limited to midnight shows seen by only the most committed of people. As I was going to search for one abomination that I’d thought existed — a Rocky Horror reality show (to find a cast for an MTV-produced remake 0- seriously, how many things are wrong with that?) — nearly all the results that came up were related to Glee, one of today’s most mainstream phenomenons. Rocky Horror no longer belongs to the night – it’s in primetime now. With Two and a Half Men.

But here’s the other side of the coin: Would we trade mainstream acceptance of geek/nerd culture for the exclusivity we once had? Not as more confident (and jaded) adults, but as developing kids, teens, and young adults? Would there even be a geek culture if we were never geeks who were subjected to daily “character-building exercises” like being pushed into lockers, called “Poindexter,” and treated like outcasts? The answer is no. If life went so swimmingly for everyone, there would be no new stories by people fantasizing about a different, awesome world or getting up on stage in front of a group of strangers, telling them about this obtuse moron who doesn’t understand a world beyond his own nose. As mainstream as things will become, we are still the only ones who get it.

Geeks will never have to worry about the mainstream taking us over. We would never trade being interesting and unique for being boring like everyone else. And now all those boring people want our stuff, which wasn’t cool enough for them before, and that’s really annoying. But you know what? They will probably never totally understand why it’s so cool and always was. If Oswalt is pissed about the availability of everything, I suppose that makes sense. The challenge and satisfaction of the hunt are diminished when you can probably just find something on eBay. But that “gym douche” in the Boba Fett shirt might have no idea that he could be wearing a Jodo Kast shirt, amirite?

Point being, we’ll always be the true otakus. The Internet can’t take that away from us. Shaking our heads at the less enlightened will just have to continue.

(photo via lonelyReviewer)

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