Go Back to Sleep, Geek Culture. False Alarm.

A few days ago, this article by Patton Oswalt was posted on Wired. In a nutshell, it’s about how everyone is something of a geek nowadays, and the whole idea of being a geek or a nerd has been cheapened because of it. That might be an oversimplification. Read it for yourself.

My first response is to angrily dismiss him as a crotchety old man yelling about how things were better in his day, and how the pages of a fresh Dungeon Master’s Guide were crisper and cleaner and had a better smell, back then. That would be a disservice, though. Oswalt’s a decent guy. I’m a fan of his work. And beside that, I don’t entirely disagree with him here. So, let me hash out some of my reactions.

I understand where he’s coming from. I’ve been straddling the line between “geek” and “nerd” all of my life. I’ve always been lonely and awkward, and I’ve always been devoted to things like Star Trek, the Ninja Turtles, superheroes, and video games — traditional geek fare. To see twee 12-year-old girls and “emo” 16-year-old boys gadding about in Hot Topic t-shirts featuring Michaelangelo or Mr. Spock, it feels cheap.

It’s become so easy, and it’s become so “in,” to get into these fandoms that were once considered “niche.” Now, it’s the people who still consider those things to be “niche” who are the squares. Being a geek is the cool thing now, and for people like Patton and I who grew up during times when being a geek was a dealbreaker for all occasions, it can feel like everyone’s enjoying something that they haven’t exactly earned.

…and, frankly, that’s a really shitty way to look at it. Why are people like Patton Oswalt not rejoicing that the way of the geek has triumphed? We are no longer outcasts; at least, not to the extent that we used to be. Is a 15-year-old girl who only just saw Star Wars last month not entitled to join the fandom? Is she any less of a fan because she spent hours on Wookieepedia researching characters, instead of spending weeks reading the novels?

It’s definitely true that Hollywood has cheapened geekdom. Comic-Con is no longer a shrine to nerdery, so much as a means of peddling goods to the nostalgia-hungry masses. But is that really a reason to be upset that geek interests are now more accessible? I, for one, am happy that I can easily slip into any fandom that catches my attention. The products are out there, the fan sites and wikis are out there, the communities are out there… We don’t have to be tiny fan clubs holed up in our basements anymore, and I think that’s a good thing.

Maybe Patton had his groups of like-minded friends to bond with, but I was one step beyond that — I had no one. I was completely alone in my geekdom. Now? I don’t have to be.

Patton is a modern-day stand-up comedian. Viewing the world through a cynical filter is kind of what those in his profession tend to do. I get that, and I don’t entirely disagree. But I think he is, for the most part, wrong this time. The world is more geek-friendly, and while that does come with negatives, the positives are huge. We wouldn’t have gotten Serenity, if Hollywood wasn’t paying too much attention to us.

So, yeah, it’s never been easier to be a poseur. It’s also never been easier to become a part of a family of like-minded geeks. The niches are a little bigger, but they’re still niches. And if Farmville can make certain types of people a little more sympathetic to my spending hours in Fallout 3, then I welcome this geek culture.

I don’t want my kids to be alone in their love for something. I don’t want them to be ostracized. I want them to be free to easily access it and enjoy it with others. And if I do my job as a parent, they’ll be able to sift through all of the shit.

Anyway, I could go on, but those are the thoughts that floated up closest to the surface. Patton, I feel you, brother, but I think it’s gonna be okay. The geeks will survive.

30/12/10 ◔ 12
09/06/10 ◔ 5

Do you like John Hodgman and Patton Oswalt?

Sure! We all do.

If you want to hear them go head-to-head in the Science Fiction Trivia Challenge on WFMU last night, then you can do so RIGHT HERE. If, however, this is not at all relevant to your interests, then GOOD DAY, SIR OR MADAM. GOOD DAY.

10/03/10 ◔ 22

Patton Oswalt is a character that parodies Tommy Wiseau in a video that parodies The Room. Find me a better sentence than that. Go ahead. Do it.

18/02/10 ◔ 4

(Apologies for the poor video quality. It was the only effective clip I could find.)

If you ever want to fall hopelessly in love with four strange people, watch The Comedians of Comedy (the documentary, not the ones that are strictly just live shows). I know I’m a little late to the party on this one, but that film is one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences I’ve ever had. These people are everything that comedians should be: Weird, dysfunctional, down-to-earth, and 100% entertaining, onstage and off.

It’s on Netflix Instant Streaming, so I suggest you instantly stream it. That is, if you like having a good time. Or if you like goofy-looking men and borderline-insane women. And let’s be completely honest, here: That’s pretty much my entire life.

05/02/10 ◔ 10

Patton Oswalt has a way with words.

29/01/10 ◔ 4


Patton Oswalt: Sky Baklava.

Not 100% theologically sound, but I do love both my Patton Oswalt and my Sky Cake.

31/08/09 ◔ 8