“Geek” is Not a Bad Word Anymore: A Rant

Following the wake of the Miss USA competition, the internet has been ablaze with controversy and negativity about what really makes someone a geek.

The above sentence is not one I thought I would ever type. Beauty Pageant and "what makes someone a geek" kind of do not compute, but it's a pretty accurate representation of the age we are living in, when it's NOT shameful to say that you're a geek for something. And do you know what? I think that's awesome. I think it's fantastic that we can finally embrace and celebrate this subculture we are a part of without worrying about swirlies in the school bathroom or having the "cool kids" make fun of us. We have come a long way, and we're slowly pushing our way into mainstream pop culture, silently indoctrinating new people into our masses without them realizing how "uncool" this would have been ten years ago.

But there are people who want to keep "geek" as some sort of exclusive little club, where we all measure our hypothetical length and girth against one another and shove our glasses up our nose with a downturned glare. There are people who suffered through the hardships of loving the things that we do and they don't want people just jumping on the bandwagon because suddenly it's socially acceptable. And do you know what? I GET that. I understand what it's like to have the kids who used to pick on us in High School suddenly showing up at our comic shops or D&D nights. But this sort of attitude has to change.

I can't say all of this started with the Miss USA competition, because I have seen this negativity and hostility growing slowly and surely for the last couple of years. A few weeks ago on Twitter I unleashed an epic rant because Twitter was ablaze with the sentiment that hot girls only PRETEND to be geeks for attention. But the ignorant and absurd responses that have been coming from the "Beauty Pageant Incident" finally set me off to the point that I needed to climb up onto my soapbox and preach.


The "Beauty Pageant Incident" has to do with recent Miss USA winner Alyssa Campanella. She is a gorgeous crimson-locked woman who looks like she could have stepped off of the page of an Adam Hughes illustration. In an interview with her she professed to be a geek – a HISTORY geek. In another interview, she gushed over her love for Star Wars; a sentiment that even prompted Bonnie Burton of the Star Wars blog to do a special write up about how cool it was.

And it is cool. Alyssa Campanella did not make these "admissions" like they were some sort of secret. She did not do it twirling her hair and giggling like a ditz, "pandering" to the male audience. She said these things because they are important to her, just like comic books are important to us and Star Wars is important to Bonnie Burton.

Unfortunately, her statements were greeted with a surprising amount of hostility. I watched in disbelief as Twitter exploded with negativity towards this woman, and my jaw dropped further as I witnessed a debate happening on fellow comic book lady Jill Pantozzi's (has Boobs Reads Comics) Facebook page, right below an article SHE had written on Miss Campanella expressing the same amount of perplexion as I am currently experiencing. Many people made claims that she was just using the word "geek" because it was "cool," "for attention." The underlying consensus seemed to be this: Hot people can't be geeks.

This is RIDICULOUS. This is a problem that has been growing and growing and frankly it gets my blood boiling. What does it matter how long someone has or has not been a geek? What does it matter what they look like, how they dress, what they're geeky about? A geek is someone who is passionate about something. Geeks come in all shapes and sizes, all social status and levels of attractiveness. This sort of bigotry absolutely shocks me. It is incredibly juvenile and harkens back to the days I spent in High School constantly being picked on by the "cool kids." Except now GEEKS think they are the "cool kids", and the "normal" people, the "pretty" people, the "posers"… they are the ones taking the fall.

I did not become a fan of comic books, anime, and video games because I was insecure and ugly. I didn't do it for the special exclusive club I thought I would get to join. I did it because I LOVED these things, and the amazing subculture and community I discovered therein came afterwards. I'm certain that this new generation of geeks enters into it the same way – not for attention or many of the other wild claims – but because they LOVE the thing they are geeky about. So why are we barring our gates to new "members?" Don't we want geek to be chic, for it to be cool, for us to be socially acceptable? Don't we WANT to share the things we love with the world, share our cool new toys with more people, meet more individuals with common interests? What's so damn appealing about being an outcast?

I know it's uncomfortable. I know it feels like we took all of the bad stuff for years and now people are suddenly able to ride the wave and not realize the grief we took for the things we love. But just because we took crap because of our passions does not make us any better than anyone else. We need to step outside of our own little head spaces and take a look at how absurd we are being. Welcome people into the fold. A club, a group, a community – it needs all sorts of different people to function healthily and to keep things interesting. This entitlement is not going to help our little subculture grow – it only going to make people start thinking we are uncool again.


Molly McIsaac likes unicorns, comic books (duh), and dressing up like superheroes. You can follow her 140 characters or less rants on twitter.


  1. I’m gorgeous, and I’m a geek.

  2. Can we at least agree. Olivia Munn is totally full of crap about her geekiness right? Yeah? Yeah. 

  3. I think it’s a “pride in persecution” kind of thing, Molly. If somebody has been made fun of their whole life for liking Star Wars, then they seem to think that nobody can or should be able to enjoy Star Wars without the same amount of hardship. And if it’s a lifelong love of comics that they’ve been mocked for, then a newcomer to comics hasn’t “put the time in” on the suffering circuit to earn their respect. It’s ridiculous, but for some people “geek” = “awkward social pain” and therefore, if it doesn’t equal that for everyone, then it isn’t “real.”

  4. Josh is a history geek. He is also too pretty to be one.

  5. It’s ironic how geeks, who are typecasted as being shut out of groups because of their interests (and even sometimes the way they dress), are in turn doing the same thing to attractive people.

  6. Alyssa is very attractive, but I can kind of see her as being an outcast/geek kid in her younger days. She probably had pokemon cards.

  7. I think this is an interesting counter-point argument. http://www.badassdigest.com/2011/06/22/the-devins-advocate-the-death-of-geek I don’t agree one way or the other, but I think it’s something worth adding to the discussion. 

  8. And, as worried as we geeks get over the things we love going away because they aren’t popular enough to be profitable, we should all be eagerly throwing the doors open to any and all comers, if for no other reason than we want this stuff to keep being made for us!  

  9. I started reading comic books seriously @ the age of 31 and have not experienced any backlash and I happen to be extremly handsome, like a lot.  :p

  10. i’m not gonna lie…she is hot.

  11. @Jurassicalien  I agree about Olivia Munn. From what I’ve seen of her she seems to be faking the things she claims to be a geek of. However she was hired because her employers want someone hot who could read the scripts, and she must being doing that job well since so many people like her.

    Also, this whole who’s a geek and who’s not thing is absurb. There are sport geeks, movie geeks, music geeks, etc. People like what they like and it shouldn’t matter how one looks.

  12. Here’s the thing for me, all while I was growing up I felt I was different to other kids. Eventually I craved being different, I needed to be different. If everybody walked left, I wanted to walk right kind of thing. Video Games and comic books set me apart from every body else, and I want to remain different. I was here first so everybody else needs to go away. I don’t want to be responsible for making geeks cool. That’s just my humble opinion.

  13. I’m glad for this medium being exclusive. The couple hundred thousand that read comics regularly is too much in my opinion! We should wittle down to a couple thousand. Screw these other, hotter people. And screw the movies! No one else should experience comics or any geek medium/series! 😉

  14. @AmirCat  Once you get to a certain age, you stop giving a shit what people think. Also, the people who were so caught up in making other people’s lives hell in school generally don’t give a shit anymore either. They “grow up,” get responsibilities, and don’t care. Sure, there are an insecure few who will never outgrow their need to put others down to make themselves feel better, but by adulthood we’ve figured out their game and it no longer works. Most of them peaked in high school anyway, which is kind of sad in the long run.

    We all wind up old and wrinkled. Some of us will become fat. Some will lose their hair. Why not enjoy what you want along the way?

    And man, she IS hot.

  15. Hear hear! I always find “hot girls can’t be geeks” argument offensive on grander sexist level as well as a personal level (Because you’re either telling me I’m faking it, which is ludicrous, or I’m an ugo, also ludicrous.)

  16. It’s really pretty sad that you even had to say this.

  17. Yes! I agree completely. Why we “geeks” can’t all be happy about pop culture shifting in our favour enrages and bamboozles me.

  18. “This entitlement is not going to help our little subculture grow – it only going to make people start thinking we are uncool again.”

    Molly, you’re under the assumption that we were cool at some point. As stated by other writers on this website, I’m not so sure about that.

    I get where you’re coming from, people should have a right to enjoy what they want. Personally, having so many people pose as geeks (mainly actors and such trying to see a movie or tv show they’re in), I can’t help but feel a bit burnt by these “posers”. As you said, we’ve taken a lot of abuse by the “cool kids” over the years for simply enjoying something that they don’t. And now that said people are expressing an interest it’s all good and we’re buds? Doesn’t happen like that. I’m not saying the treatment Miss Campenella is recieving is right, but I can totally see where people are coming from.

  19. @Wes but who are you to assume they’re posers? We only get snippets of celebrities lives, is it not wholly possible they’re not lying to our faces? Or at the very least that their geekery is genuine, but their publicist is exploiting it?

  20. i don’t see why one has to self identify as a “geek” or anything else. Why can’t you just be a person with a hobby and interests? Who cares? When these sorts of things bother you it might indicate that your life is being dictated by your interests more than the other way around. Total middle school problem. 


  22. 2 things –

    1 – i was really never teased in grade/high school for reading comics.  this may have something to due with the fact that i had a bad reputation as the girl who would kick your ass for looking at her sideways (which was only partially deserved), but i think it’s more that no one cared or really thought it was that dorky.  if anything, i got more balking from the comic book community because i was a girl into comics.  positive balking, but balking still.

    2 – i understand being defensive over something that you love fiercely when it becomes suddenly “cool” and other people jump on and get overenthusiastic about it in a way that seems disingenuous.  a personal example of this is when i was speaking with some people after the movie sin city came out and one guy was like “yeah i just picked up the most recent issue, it’s still really great.”  for all i know this dumbass could have thought that trades were issues?  and thought that by picking up the last trade he’d gotten the latest issue?  i don’t know.  a few people in the group taunted him and set him straight, i didn’t need to.  either way, it’s still no reason to be less than welcoming about a shared passion, especially if someone is new to it and could use the guidance.  what irritates me about this is that it seems that it’s a really sexist debate.  why is it that hot women can’t be into comics but hot guys can be? 

    that said, i think booth babes are fucking stupid (the idea of booth babes and the utilization of, not the women themselves being paid to model and feign interest) and i was pretty miffed when modest mouse started putting out super pop albums and everyone and their sister fell in love with them, so i can’t really talk.  i’m biased.

    i can probably still kick your ass, though.  the general you.

  23. Ok ResurrectionFlan needs an award. Stat. A great article and it seems some people replying missed the point and they echo voices I have heard many times. Some people are sayin ‘yeah just cos they are some posers doesnt mean all hot people are posers’ (or equivilants of that ilk). But the point is that, as others have pointed out, we are not (as much as we may dream of being) mind-readers. We do not know who is the poser. Better to assume everyone professing geekery is a geek and if they slip up then we give them more comics not out of arrogance and smugness but to help them really get into them as we are. I dont see why we have to have a hostile stance or even and innocent til proven guilty type of stance. How about lets assume the best and if people fall short help them onto the comic bandwagon. Cos damn its an endless wagon and its our job to not only get the people on it but to build the wagon bigger. We need to let it be something others want to join in. If your best buddy said you’re lame for not liking comics but he’d never read one you’d be tempted to take him up on that. Doesn’t mean he is a bad guy just misinformed. And in the reverse if he says they are awesome but doesnt really read them why not help his interested (feigned or not). Same with folks we don’t know but we assume we can judge just because they are in the public eye

  24. Excellent article, Molly. I’ve seen the “hot girls can’t be geeks” argument before, and it always struck me as baffling. If you’re a dude and a pretty girl expresses interest in your comic book collection/Star Wars knowledge/D&D campaign, isn’t that awesome? I know I love it when I meet an attractive guy and he is as crazy about that stuff as I am. Yeah, I got teased (a lot) when I was younger. Still do, in fact. But one of my favorite things about being a geek is that I get to geek out and share my enthusiasm with others.

  25. I can see both sides of the argument. With the word Geek being an easy catch all that has become popular, it’s very easy for it to just be thrown around. Now, I don’t know anything about this (HOT!) girl, and she may very well be a geek. But the fact is that for a large portion of the so called geek community, getting into comics, anime and sci-fi was a result of being awkward not the other way around. For some, the stories in comics (X-Men is a great example) directly spoke to their outcast status. So I can see why they would take offense to the idea of the word being just thrown around now. It means something else to them. And it’s not specific to Geeks. Punk rock had a similar thing happen. It happens whenever a subculture is taken in by the mainstream.

  26. You see the same phenomena in sports fans, particularly franchises that have historically sucked or had a string of bad years and suddenly get some success (win the Stanley Cup, the division, a Super Bowl, etc.). Dues paying is definitely an element, as is the feeling that long time fans act as gatekeepers.

  27. @itsbecca  I admit it’s possible. But does that make it ok to “come out” just to hawk a movie or show? Is it ok to do so b/c other celebrities do it?  It is ok to go along with said publicist’s plan to exploit your interest to form some connection with people just so they’ll buy your product? I don’t think so. Your interest can be genuine, but used in manner like that, all you’re doing is fulfilling the poser stereotype.

  28. I think the main thing here is that the meaning of the term “geek” has changed. People throw it around all the time, and usually don’t mean they are nerdy or super-into something. That’s what happens as time goes by. New generations adapt and change the meaning of words. The average person today who refers to themselves as a geek about something, isn’t anywhere near as passionate or crazy about whatever it is they’re referring to. “Oh, I’m a total geek. I read books and everything.” This is a different generation of kids, people. They’re speaking their own language. Just the other day I overheard some high school kids say, “this is so legit” without an ounce of irony.

    I’m sure when this hot bikini chick called herself a geek, she was mainly just saying that she likes to read and isn’t above silly old movies. Don’t forget the thing about those beauty pageants. There’s an entire round where the ultra pretty, super skinny, perfect body girls try to differentiate themselves from the rest of the herd of other perfect looking girls. I wouldn’t be surprised at all that she picked history and Star Wars as interests to list because she vaguely liked them and felt that it would reflect well upon her for the pageant. It’s not like those things aren’t entirely shallow and phoney, right? 😉

    For Molly, I’ll echo what some have already said. You are totally right to want to be a geek or what have you. And there’s no reason hot girls can’t be nerds, dorks, geeks, etc. That’s totally cool, and should def be the case. Love what you love. Screw everyone else. Just realize that there are a lot of disingenuous Olivia Munn types out there capitalizing off pretending to be interested in these geeky, nerdy things. And unfair or not, their mere presence alone creates this, “prove it to me” attitude that a lot of fans of these “geeky” things have.

  29. @j206  Exactly! Thank you!

  30. @JosephDanielsTCR7  So you say Olivia Munn is “faking the things she claims to be a geek of.” Yet in your second paragraph you mention “who’s a geek and who’s not thing is absurd.” Isn’t that a little hypocritical?

    People can geek out and be a geek about many topics, look at the Stat geeks for baseball.  They can quote stats just like most of us can quote story lines.

    People need to relax and stop being tribal in a flattened world.

    Great article Molly!

  31. I’m always been out and about in my geek/nerdiness. It’s never been something I felt I needed to hide or that I was maligned for. Hell, once in a religion class in highschool there was a heated debate over whether Silver Surfer was god or not between me and the teacher. Just last night I was reading Legion Lost while my students took a test and a got a few comments from the students about “being cool.” So… I’ve never understood the “We must live in the dark and suffer!” aspect of it.

    I’m inclined to believe she is a geek. It seems too… non-chalantly delivered to be anything else. Also, she has a good grasp on Evolution, so that works in her favor. Also, she’s from NJ and we have a bevy of intelligent, attractive people here. So there you go.

    I will say, though, there is a bit in the back of my mind that’s aware of how pageants work and that this could be coaching to get around the kerfluffle of Ms. California last year (re: Gay Marriage) and the other contestant who went on a non-sensical tear about maps that had nothing to do with the question.

  32. AMEN, Molly.

    Rather than continuing to argue about this, I’m going to go enjoy some perfect beach weather by reading comics and playing sports in my bikini.

  33. The sense of entitlement/ownership is ugly in any form of fandom. Music. Comics. Movies. Sports… Why can’t people just “like” Star Wars ect. to varying degrees without “owning” it more than the next guy/gal? How can it possibly affect anyone’s life in the least if Miss USA identifies herself as a geek?

  34. Best Buy is trying to trademark Geek for their Geek Squad

  35. But just because we took crap because of our passions does not make us any better than anyone else.

    I think that’s a simplification of one of the issues you’re talking about here. And make no mistake, there’s lots of issues surrounding this conversation (and I recognize my male privilege in taking part in it, but I can speak to the culture of exclusion.)

    To begin with, all bullying is harmful. All harassment is harmful. It can’t just be summed up as “taking crap.” Knocking someone for liking Star Wars or D&D can be a gateway to more verbal or physical violence. And it doesn’t stop at high-school graduation. Death or suicide can’t be the only litmus tests to determine an “acceptable” level of intolerance.

    Campanella’s expression of her geeky interests is cool, yes. But she also got to tell her story because of her participation in an industry that emphasizes an exclusionary standard of “beauty.” Chances are we wouldn’t even know who she is right now if she were a plus-size woman, a transgendered person identifying as female, or a lesbian/bisexual woman who did not fit the body standard events like Miss USA endorse. That is privilege.

    Furthermore, when celebrities – male and female alike* – declare their geek cred, it’s presented as a way to make them exotic to certain advertising demographics. That’s the nature of their industries, even if their fandom is sincere.** I’m not saying they can’t be active members of the community. But saying “I like [x show]” is only the beginning of the process.

    It’s also important to differentiate between celebrity declarations of geekyness and the street-level harassment non-famous women of any body type have been subjected to at conventions, or as part of MMOs. Celebrities have all sorts of doors open to them. The rest of us, not so much. Privilege is part of the discussion, even if you’re the beneficiary of it.

    <I>What does it matter how long someone has or has not been a geek?</I>
    This matters tremendously in any community. To borrow an example from earlier in the thread, if I walked into a punk show and instantly declared myself part of the community simply because I like a few Sex Pistols songs, I’d get the side-eye, and rightfully so. There’s experiences longtime members of the community have shared that I have not, and to just declare those null and void because “I want to be included” amounts to well-meaning cultural appropriation. If I supported local artists and events, and made an effort to learn about the history of my town’s scene and be an ally to the people who were there before me, then I could begin to make the case for inclusion. And there’s nothing wrong with being an ally, either; fandom isn’t a zero-sum game. Campanella is an example of somebody who could be a good ally to our fandom, if she chooses to be.

    * It is definitely sexist to put the burden of proof on female celebrities. There’s no reason to suggest that male celebs aren’t scripted to make themselves appear “relatable” to the geek marketplace.

    ** The comics and gaming industries are not immune to creating this kind of culture, for a variety of reasons, like specifically targeting the male demographic; or furthering a narrative where only “booth babes” (pardon the term) are featured in their con presentations. Business interests haven’t just been saying that “hot girls” can’t be geeky; they’ve been telling them that geeky girls have to be “hot” to even be seen or heard.

  36. NERDS!!!

  37. That was sarcastic, BTW.

  38. @Grandturk  – lol!!! I wish there was some type of virtual locker I could stuff all these NERDS in!!!!!

  39. Let me postmark this by saying that I was joking too.

  40. I’m all for the increase in the geek population, but the one thing that I tend to find, with people my age at least, is that most are just going around wearing a t-shirt of a comic character or somthing of the sort, because it’s cool. If they one day decided to start reading their book (like I did a few years ago), sweet! But to pose, rather tickles my nipples. I’m not really a fan of that.

  41. @LucasEwalt  I believe that you nailed it right on the head.  ‘Pride in persecution’ is a great term to apply.  It is preposterous that there needs to be some kind of ‘dues’ to be paid.

    I do not understand the oppostion to this.  What difference does it make why someone bought a t-shirt, or says that something is cool.  All that matters is that more people are ‘getting into the pool.’

    It is just such a narrow view to think otherwise.  Look people, our pond is drying up, and we need new fish in here DESPERATELY!  Stop being a part of the problem!  If a celebrity says that comics are cool, go with it!  Michael Jordan is in Hanes commercials, do we question ‘whether or not he actually wears them?’  NO.  It is beneficial to have this type of relationship, we should help foster it and not be against it.

  42. I’m hot(so I’ve been told) and I’m a geek, been into comix my whole life and actually gained cool points with other kids in high school for being proud of it, it didn’t hurt I was a good artist and already cool with everybody for the most part before they knew that but my longtime friends have always known this and I’ve recently converted a couple of my good friends into collectors and now they’re obsessed. Having confidence in yourself and whatever you do will always generate better energy about it in return. The general consensus is that hot people can’t be geeks or read comix, is silly but definitely seems to be the way mainstream media sees it, they’ll learn someday. “Geek” in comix is to me like saying I’m a geek because I’m geeked about the medium. Fanby,geek,nerd…whatever……its just cool to be who you are and proud of it. Here’s a quote from Milla Jovavich (longtime favorite of mine) after being asked about the attention from fans at comicons and such because she does the Resident Evil movies,she said: “I love that I’m a dream girl for geeks. Nerdy guys are always the cool ones in the end.” That quote was from 2009. 

  43. I think part of the backlash is because of the dilution of term.  It’s much like the word “Engineer”.  Engineer used to have some pretty firm technical backing, and because of the training and effort that it took, the word had some clout.  Now people refer to themselves as engineers with the most ranging of skills.  People who put their identity into the years of technical training get upset.
    I get annoyed by the mainstream popularity of geek for a number of reasons, but mostly because it’s being used by Madison Avenue to market and push product.  It used to be geek was a moniker that people would apply to you in the pejorative, and you would proudly accept as a method to stand up for yourself.   Now people self ascribe it to themselves as geeks, to brag or flaunt.   I think the objection is not that the person is hot or such, but more the fact that they just dilute the term by self ascribing it, turning it into a meaningless word.  
    Personally, I think it sucks, because now, when somebody says their a geek, it’s meaningless.  I’m a fashion geek, I’m a sex geek, I’m a dog geek…..the word which had so much identity for so many people who were victimized is now meaningless.  

    Also, let’s not believe that this acceptance of the word geek means that there are no more swirlies or bullying….we know for a fact that it still happens, its just now they don’t use the word geek to persecute people who are different, these self called geeks beat up the unusual peers and call them losers or dorks.


  44. @Wes I guess I still don’t see the problem, we must be different people. I’ve always been way waaaaaaay into music and had to kind of erradicate the word poser from my vocabularly, lest I go insane. Once I started seeing my favorite bands getting popular as a good thing (“They don’t have to hold day jobs anymore, now they can tour and record all the time”) I became a much happier person. Now my first reaction to someone saying they like something I like isn’t suspicion it’s glee. And if it turns out they don’t know as much as they originally puported than my next move is generally to gush to them and have them learn.

    Some people might be born with certain anti-social traits, but no one is *born* a geek. Everyone had to pick up their first comic, watch their first episode of star trek, play their first videogame, write their first fanfic… whatever… everyone had their firsts SOMETIME. Are we really going to go out of our way to play the power card that we got their first, so they’re not worthy?  Lame I say, LAME!

  45. I was into comics, sci-fi, etc all through my teenage years and never felt persecuted or unpopular. Most of my friends weren’t all that into comics, but we shared other interests. “Geeks” are nothing if not a diverse group, and while I get that persecution some geeks feel from being treated cruelly at that age, I don’t think it should be projected onto everyone with “geeky” interests.
    Comics are great. Everyone should read them. They shouldn’t be an exclusive club. And if more people – “insiders” and newbies alike – are starting to realize that, I’m all for it.

  46. @jakeaidan and @pyynk.  I agree 100%.  I also don’t think a lot of geeks are able to put their finger on exactly what is bothering them about the this new found attention so their frustration manifests itself into rants against pagaent contestants.  

    What I think is bothering the geek community is that our ranks have been infiltrated by fair weather fans.  These new fair weather “geeks” do not read comic books (they watch the movies) or read the novels (the watch the HBO show) and they won’t be here when being a geek is no longer chic.  

    I’m sorry, but you’re not a geek because you like the Iron Man movie.  So do most Americans.  

    I recently had a conversation with someone who identified himself as a geek.  After I told him that I read comic books, he began to share his love of comics with me.  As I listened, he confessed that he nver actually read a comic but “always appreciated them” and “really found the characters interesting.”  He then preceded to tell me why X-Men First Class was going to suck.  I have absolutely no problem with someone becoming a geek in these geek-friendly times (or identifying themselves as a geek) but a real, true-blue nerd is hard to find amongst a sea of ferds (Jonathan Ross’s term for fake nerds).  Talking to a ferd is on par with being lied to.  It makes me cry on the inside. 

    And in the interest of full disclosure, I was never made fun of for my geekiness and I’ve spent many an hour trying to convert my friends and colleagues into geeks.  Real geeks.  Not chic geeks.  Not ferds.  There’s a world of difference. 

    Comics Being Popular = Good
    New Nerds = Good 
    Ferds = Bad 

  47. This is a great article, Ms. McIssac. Thanks for sharing. 


    I love the diversity of the geek communities. From my own observations, it’s strange though that people who are generally very different yet share a common interest are very suspicious of others. I’ll take communal openness and inclusion any day over exclusivity.

    That said, ABoyNamedArt, who posted above, has some great points about privilege (who gets to be a geek anyway?), bullying, sexism, and geek credibility. A little gate-keeping is important, and the discrimination is very upsetting. There are definitely larger implications at work here. Atop all those issues, I hate the hostility and unnecessary jockeying between geeks and geeks towards outsiders, dabblers, and newbies. Why are some geeks so mean?


    Also, celebrities do pander—like Olivia Munn—to their audiences. I honestly don’t find that troubling. What’s troubling to me is when geeks get enflamed about a celebrity’s so-called nerdery. Frankly, why care? Will a celebrity’s false claim make a difference, really?

    It’s great that people are proud to be geeks, even if they don’t quite meet the slippery definition of a true geek—whatever that is. If more declarations of “I’m a geek” lead others to buy and read comics, I hope more people start being loud and proud about their geekiness. 

    @GregSmallwood: The “ferd” idea is really useful, and I try to convert friends fencing on geek interests too. It’s worked a few times, so there’s some hope.

  48. Kids are going to still be bullied in school whether it’s acceptable to be a geek or not.

    HOWEVER, it is making it easier for my son who is in middle school, he has more groups that he can be accepted in in school or in the real world because of the opportunities to “geek out”. He has a place he can go where he’s celebrated or accepted for being a geek. He’s really stoked to go to San Diego Comic Con…where he and I can totally get excited for our favorite stuff and learn about new stuff. I’m okay with it being more mainstream, because then he has a chance to explore all there is to the geek arts.

  49. I’ve been Goth for the last the last 16 to seventeen years. Which has a near one hundred percent overlap with the ‘traditional’ geek community in terms of its members and their interests.  I’ve known, a few from dating and many more from long term friendships, meeting at Geeky activies, etc numerous women from said subculture(s). Tabletop role-playing, comic/manga reading, convention going, anime loving, renfair/SCA, artists of every style imaginable, Star Trek watching, the list goes on and one. And most are into all or almost all of the ‘basic options’ I just listed. 

    And of that number; there are at most five ladies I can think of who someone might term less than “goddamn smoking hot!!!!”. Either because they’re heavier (most due to past pregnancy) than ‘the norm’; or because their appearance is not one that is considered conventionally attractive. I personaly find them damn attractive; but must include such details for the sake of objective consideration on the topic. I’ll grant my pool of examples might be considered to narrow for accurate extrapaltion to the larger word. But from where I’m sitting; the whole ‘hot girls can’t be geeks’ idea is just plain ridiculous

  50. I think the exclusion factor is just a side effect of what people are really trying to do: Expose lying.

    Olivia Munn is the most obvious example, but being geeky is getting to be so popular that actors, musicians, and everyone else who depends in part on popularity for a paycheck are going to come close to the bugzapper whether they need to be there or not. This happens all the time; a healthy chunk of people are always looking for the next bandwagon to jump on.

    I don’t have a problem with more geeks. I want everyone to be geeks. I want there to be so many geeks that I can talk about how editorially jumbled that one Thor story where Jane Foster failed the test to be a god felt without everyone else in the diner smirking at me. But at the same time I don’t like liars. If people are going to say they’re geeks great, but don’t do it for your star to rise a little higher. We need geeks, not Hollywood politicians.

  51. @TA  Thanks for the kind words. I would, however, suggest this re, Olivia Munn: she’s not listed as a writer for AOTS on imdb, and only two out of the 12 credited writers for the show are women. So it’s quite possible her “pandering” material was in fact scripted according to a preconception of what the target audience – white males – finds acceptable re: female geeks.

  52. @Resurrection Flan, for the mother-funking win.

  53. Also… were you guys seriously made fun of for being fans of stuff? I thought that was just something that happened in bad after school specials. I know I never was. Nothing was cooler than video games and comic books in Junior High, and in High School there’s a support network for EVERYthing, groups of people to gravitate towards who love what you love no matter what that is. And in college… well, who gives a crap in college?

    I don’t know. Maybe it happened and I just didn’t care/notice. Besides, at the end of the day… everyone’s a geek. Star Wars geeks, comics geeks, sports geeks, “Gleeks”… we all have our unhealthy (and thereby completely healthy) little obsessions and fandoms.

  54. @itsbecca  Thank you for the responses that you’ve given me so far. I will admit that maybe I am too jaded and am stereotyping. I’d like to post here what I posted on nerdybird.com. I hope it explains my thoughts and views a bit better.

    I see where you’re coming from. I’m not saying that a “hot and/or famous” person can’t be into “geeky” things. If an actor signed on for a comic movie and became a fan during the project, that’s awesome! I’m glad that our little community has grown a little bit. I’m not being sarcastic here, I’m being genuine.

     Maybe I’m too jaded a person, but I feel kind of burned by Hollywood for “playing the geek card” so often these days. Obviously, you can tell when one of these people are being disingenuous. But it’s happened so freaking often that I <i>personally</i> can’t help but be suspicious of anyone who says it now. And I think a lot of others feel the same way. I’m NOT saying that it’s right, because it isn’t. I know this. All I’m trying to do here is explain the POV of someone who might have said kneejerk reaction. I admit that I’m not being fair to this woman or to other “hot, famous” people, but I’m TRYING, I’m trying real hard. It’s hard to fight that kneejerk reaction that I’ve built up. Do you see where I’m coming from?

  55. I subscribe to the definition of geek that Molly uses: “A geek is someone who is passionate about something.” Of course, this diminishes the “specialness” of the label, because almost every human being is passionate about something, and therefore a geek by definition. But I hate labels, anyway, so I have no problem helping to make them irrelevant.

    I think those of us who were called geeks or nerds or dweebs or dorks back in school are trying too hard to reclaim those words and make them positive, and also trying too hard to create a sense of exclusivity around the words. Do you remember why you were called one of those things, and who called you those things? Most often, I’m willing to bet, you were called a geek by the members of the elite, the high-end cliques of your school or community, who were trying to keep you out of their special club. And what do we do now, now that we’ve got the power and the exclusivity: we strive to keep the people who look like those people who made fun of us out of our clubhouse.

    I wish that we, as human beings, could just be a little less judgmental of others, a little less harsh towards people and subcultures we don’t understand. I know it’s something I’m struggling with, but I keep struggling, because I think that’s the right thing to do. 

  56. Great article.  The world has changed since 1985 when I got into comics. I mean finding a t shirt with your favorite character on it was like finding the Holy grail. Now you can find them at any store. We live in a world where Green Lantern, The Watchmen, Thor and Cap have real movies that were well done and popular. The world has changed and being a “geek” is not frowned upon or even viewed the same anymore.

  57. Can I still hate Beer-geeks?  Please?

  58. @Wes That’s fair. You’re definitely better than some. And I do understand the point of view of getting annoyed when people sort of distort something we hold dear for commercial purposes. I just default to a “benefit of the doubt” sort of thing, but I can see how it might be harder for those a little less sunshine and puppies than myself.

  59. The punk rock comparison is PERFECT. Actual fans of old school punk rock cringe when they see what today’s kids refer to as “punk”. It’s terrible, really. A bunch of bland super poppy power pop emo songs that have nothing in the slightest to do with what punk rock used to be. It’s the exact same thing with how “geek” is losing it’s meaning and morphing into a new bland misnomer. The word is changing. True old school geeks, just like true old school punks, are going to have to learn to deal with it. Doesn’t mean they can’t roll their eyes, though. 😉

  60. I’m glad someone else mentioned the Punk Rock comparison..I grew up on punk rock and have always been an outcast, and ridiculed both for my geekiness and my affection for punk asthetic…then when Green Day made it popular for the jock crowd, I was aghast. All these people who were making fun of me where now “faking it” because it was “cool”. I couldn’t help but make immediate comparisons when reading Molly’s article.

    HOWEVER: The difference here is that for me there was a punk rock ideology that went along with it, and people were faking and co-opting that idealogy for the sake of fashion, or trendiness. I don’t believe that there is an ideology at stake here (in the geek department). It’s just a medium for telling compelling stories and if people are finally discovering that’s what comics ARE, than awesome. When people come into the comic shop who have never been in one before, or don’t quite “get” comics, that’s exactly how I explain it to them. “You watch TV, right? Movies? Why…because you like stories, right? That’s all comics are, another way to enjoy interesting stories, and chances are if you like a specific type of story, there’s a comic for you”

    On another note though: @Grandturk: what’s a BEER-GEEK?

  61. Patton Oswalt (he of sheik-geek status) has a great article in a recent issue of WIRED where he writes about the victory of the geeks. We’ve essentially won the culture war, and have infiltrated others facets of everyday and mainstream life.

    The kids I teach think it’s okay to “freak out with your geek out!” Several are well-versed in comicdom; and I have a large group of students who are scary-smart in their knowledge of, and appreciation for, manga/anime.

    The last thing any of us should be is bitter for the victory we have achieved and for those on our fringes who want “in.” There’s a reason “we’re geek and we’re proud.” We’re just smarter than everyone else.

    Snarky, I know, but we should really relish our time as the “establishment.”