The Geek Hierarchy: We All Have Our Thing

Instantly, Holly was sorry she said anything.

Twilight?” Chris was sputtering at her. “Oh, tell me you’re not reading that crap. What are you, thirteen years old?”

Among our friends, Chris is not renowned for his diplomacy. Chris is the guy who, if a group of us are whispering because we can’t tell if the woman at the party is pregnant or just fat, will first react to our whispers by bellowing, “What are you guys whispering about? That lady over there?” — he will be pointing as he says this — and settle the matter by just going over and asking her which it is. To Chris, who has grown impervious to your puny slaps over the years, handling it any other way would be an absurd waste of time. Chris spends a lot of time asking me, genuinely bewildered, why someone we know is mad at him. He is the kind of person who will occasionally declare to you that at least he tells it like it is, and that at least you always know where you stand with him, which are the things that a-holes say. If you say these things, you may be right, but go ahead and wander over to the mirror for a good long look anyway. Your coworkers will be glad you did.

Holly and I had Chris over for dinner on Saturday, because people with one year olds are essentially under house arrest and also because it had been a while since we had been insulted in our own home. It was a perfectly splendid evening (all evenings that include Holly’s chili are inherently splendid; it’s sort of a law of the universe) until 9:00 or so when Holly announced that she was leaving us menfolk to go upstairs to bed. She tires quicker than a laptop battery, and besides, she said, “I cannot wait to finish reading my book!” That was when Chris asked which book, and then he had to tell it like it is and let Holly know where she stood.

Holly had literally not heard of Stephanie Meyer’s Sweet Vampire High books two weeks ago, but in the ten days since her coworker had first shown up raving about them and loaned her the first one she had already managed to both voraciously whip through the first three volumes faster than Hop on Pop and somehow acquire serious Twilight shame. Everyone at work was reading them and breathlessly talking about them, and the various volumes had sold something like six million copies (compare those numbers to any comic you’ve bought in the last ten years) but in a world where Rock of Love exists someone somewhere had managed to make my wife feel bad about reading. I have literally had gay roommates come out to me with less trepidation than my wife has when she admits to reading this series. She was loving it, but she didn’t want to love it. Then Chris stabbed the scab.

Clearly, I had to defend milady’s honor.

“So,” Chris had said after Holly went upstairs red-cheeked, “Twilight, eh?” Had he been close enough, he would have poked me in the ribs the way grownups do the first time you have a crush on a girl.

“So,” I replied, “how was the D&D game you hosted last night? That regular game that you host every week? Of Dungeons and Dragons?”

His face fell as if I had pulled down his pants in front of the cheerleaders.

“I really must attend one of these weeks. Now, last night, were you the master of the dungeon? Or were you in the dungeon, playing as your chaotic neutral paladin elf cleric thief paladin? Did you get to cast any magic spells to fight the goblins? Or how does that work? Ooh, I hope you got some experience points.”

As I asked these questions, I may or may not have wiggled my fingers at him like a sorcerer.

Wounded, Chris picked apart my jabs, explaining the twenty D&D nuances my sarcasm had gotten wrong (apparently clerics can’t be chaotic neutrals, or something? I don’t know; I wasn’t listening) but he had lost the high ground. The point had been made. Whatever else happened, nobody at my house would be taking Twilight abuse from Chris for some time.

Later, when Chris went home and I went upstairs to kiss my wife goodnight and tell her what had happened, she asked drowsily, “Is it really stupid that I’m reading these silly books?”

“Listen,” I said to her in the dark, “I would love to tease you about Twilight. I would love to tease Chris some more — which is why I will — about D & F’ing D. But here’s the thing: shortly after I mock you and the Dragonslayer over there, I am going to go downstairs and open an Uncanny X-Men comic, which is the exact same reading material I was buying when I was eleven years old. In a few days, I will then get all serious and self-important about X-Men and try to write about it online like I’m the Harold Bloom of Wolverine. Who the f*** am I to make fun of anybody about anything? Who are any of us? Vaya con dios. Like what you like. Don’t worry about it. We all have our Thing.”

Holly thought about this for a moment, leaned in for a quick kiss, and fell into a contented sleep.



Years ago, during the go-go dotcom era, my favorite now-defunct site Brunching Shuttlecocks published one of my favorite things in the history of the web, the Geek Hierarchy. I think about this chart often as I traverse the nerdosphere, because I see a lot of people being mocked by the mockable. I always have a grim twinge of delight when I see the indie book people scoffing at the superhero book people. Bad news, professor: you may look down your nose at that guy who loved Secret Invasion because all you read are Vertigo books, but to my dad both of you are basically the same person. You might as well be friends.

We all have our Thing. We all have our lines in the sand on that same small beach, those hairs that we split. There are subcultures within the subcultures. Sure, I was sadder about the end of Deep Space Nine than I was when some of my actual friends graduated college and moved away… but it’s not like I dress as a Klingon or anything. Sure, there was a time when I spent more on Star Wars figures than I did on drinks for pretty ladies… but it’s not like I bought variants. Those guys are a bunch of weirdos.

I’m particularly vulnerable when it comes to properties that started out as toy lines when I was a kid. I pay attention to Spider-Man like it’s the war, but when I hear about people my age who are “fans” of the Transformers or He-Man I look at them like they are naked-in-the-crosswalk insane.

What’s the difference, to anyone besides me? Like I didn’t love G.I. Joe for years.

Let us face the facts: we occupy something of a niche. I know a lot of people who say, “Oh, there’s no such thing for me as a ‘guilty pleasure.’ I’m unabashed about my enthusiasm.” That is great, but I would like to see one of those people pull out a copy of Dan Slott’s She-Hulk on a bus, or in front of their in-laws. “Absolutely, yes ma’am. I am super proud to be reading something with this cover in a public place. What’s that? Never speak to your daughter again?” More likely, your girlfriend’s mom would ask you to simply explain what a She-Hulk is, and then it’d be ten minutes of Jeff Goldblum noises out of you. Of course, if you asked her about her soap opera, she would do the exact same thing.

So remember this holiday season to be charitable to all the cosplayers and otaku and Civil War reenacters, my brothers and sisters. It’s not what you love, but how you love it. What’s perfectly rational to you is another man’s doggie sweater. Each of us is someone else’s loony.

Especially you CGC people.


Jim Mroczkowski sometimes changes the names to protect the innocent. He doesn’t have to watch his tongue nearly as carefully at Twitter or



  1. *slow clap* I chuckled out loud at several points, and awfully true, to boot, sir. Well said and much oblidged.

  2. You like what you like…no apologizing for it.  I am the last one to judge people about liking something, unless it is music and then everyone who doesn’t like what I like is fair game.

  3. Well stated. It’s funny, I think this is something we all generally figure out sometime after high school. "Hey, I can come out of the closet, admit to my [stated geeky preference] and the world DOESN’T end!" But… sometime after that it goes to our head and we start to not just revel in our own geekery but to deride others. This article is a great check for that.

    And I had never seen the Geek Hierarchy chart before. That’s awesome! Wonder where "Chart-making" geeks fall on that spectrum?

  4. Bravo.  I love "The Geek Hierarchy," and I particularly love the number of people I’ve encountered who think that furries (or X-Men fans, or erotic fanfic writers) are the butt of the joke. 

    Now I’m a person who, if you told me I had to read a "Twilight" book or I’d lose a finger, I would thoughtfully ask, "Which finger?" and ponder how often I really use that particular digit anyway.  But. . .that’s because it’s not a genre I’m into, not because I think the TPB of "X-Men: The Twelve" that I paid actual money for a couple months ago because I wanted to read the storyline where Cyclops swapped bodies with Polaris is a superior literary achievement. 

    Also, you know, if teenage boys can drive the box office 50 weeks out of a given year, I don’t think it’s ridiculous to let teenage girls have a couple.

  5. Ouch Jim, ease up on the guy!

    Sounds like you really went on an all out offensive against this guy Chris. Even pulling out the sorcerer hand motions," I may or may not have wiggled my fingers at him like a sorceror" is hilarious though.

    While I think Chris was a bit overzealous, proclaiming to your guests that at 9 p.m. you are going to bed and reading Twilight is just asking for it.

    P.S.: I can’t believe you are putting Twilight on the same level as comics man! American tradition vs vampire books aimed at teenage girls?That’s just cold =P

  6. Great article, all very true.  And you’re dead on about "the things that a-holes say."  Ha.

  7. Well said! Everyone on this planet is completely and totally bat-shit insane to some extent. Today on the bus I saw a guy try to hide his acne covered face, only to be totally overshadowed seconds later, by a man with his pant leg rolled up to expose his really nasty prosthetic leg.

    Being embarassed about any of the many stupid things we all do would simply add to the existing insanity. Thank you for the reminder.

  8. I think this is what endears me to unabashed "geeks", no matter what their particular genre of geekdom, is that despite the stereotypes of awkwardness and shyness, they actually have to have some sort of confidence in those interests to persue them.  Not to mention their excitement.  No one gets more animated than a geek who knows they have a captive audience.  I don’t think there will ever be a day when I don’t light up like a freakin’ Christmas tree whenever I catch someone reading a comic in public.

    Yeah.  Alright. Maybe I have giggled while watching videos of LARPers on You Tube.  But I’ve also shared a mighty turkey leg with an ex as we watched jousting with wideeyes at a Ren Fair.  I could probably muster a half convincing explanation of the difference between those two events, but who am I kidding really?

  9. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: Jimski is postively masterful at graphics placemnt. Excellent article. Greeks can indeed be a canabalisitic lot.

     As for the Twilight books, I read them all in an unsucessful attempt to win a date with a student librarian. They are good books, (I had my issues with the young lady comparisons of the books to Jane Austen, but that is neither here nor there). Anything that inspiries people to read gets a round of appluase from me

    All us geeks need to do ia learn how to love and forget how to hate.

  10. What a nerd!

  11. great article!  True on many levels, but that still won’t stop my from hating on Twilight.  I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself!

  12. While I do agree that geeks hating on other geeks is a sad thing, I’ll admit that I have made fun of LARPers

  13. @drake  I don’t think the point is that you shouldn’t say negative things about "Twilight" if you think it’s bad.  It’s more ‘don’t ridicule people who like Twilight, or at least not until you’re sure that your own tastes and hobbies could stand up to universal scrutiny.’  But maybe that’s just me.

  14. Personally, I make fun of every one of my friends. And I fully expect them to harass me right back. What else are they good for? The key that Jim danced around a bit, but never really hammered home, is that there is a line. I’m sure that his friend hears about the abusurdities of D&D fandom all the time, but it’s one thing to poke fun (which is one of the truest joys in the world) and another thing to make people feel like crap for enjoying what they enjoy.

     But I don’t think we should abandon the idea of a geek hierarchy and just live in peace and harmony. Quite the opposite, actually. Just like the real heart of any comic book geek’s love of comics is the ridiculous argument like "How would Batman beat Superman if he was 74 years old and had two trick knees," nerds all around the world can entertain thesmselves debating whether Spider-Man Fan Fic is really nerdier than collecting every variant Millenium Falcon model ever made.  

  15. @ohcaroline-to clarify, I meant hating on people that like ‘Twilight’, not the actual book itself.  I haven’t read it, don’t plan on it either.  And I don’t critize a book if I have not read it.  With the exception of Harry Potter of course, because I hatey boy wizards.

    P.S. I make fun of my friend for playing WOW and owning every single one of Disney’s animated classic movies.  There is never a right justification for a 20-something to own ‘The Aristocats’

  16. @drakedangerz  

    . . .


  17. Thanks Jim for finally making me feel bad for making fun of my girlfriend’s obsession with twilight even though she tries reading my comics.  At least I read the first one (wasn’t that bad, it just reminded me way too much of Buffy season 2) and am limping through the second one…which defines treading water.  I guess I don’thate the books, just some of the fangirls.  Its the same reason I stopped reading manga.  If you act like the characters are real or talk about dating them, you’ve taken it way too far.  


    From now on, I will do my best not to make fun of them.  

     @drake.  That movie is art!  Pure ART!!!

  18. Damn you guys for making me feel bad about hating that movie!  Damn you all to geek hell!

  19. I’m with kndoubleu on that – I enjoy ripping interests and cliques that (IMO) are funny/stupid and I’m just as open to ridicule with my own stupid hobbies.

    My overarching paradigm for these sorts of things is, "What makes my opinion so bloody important anyway?" and Secondly, "Even so, I’m still allowed to have one." Point 2 is valid so long as I remember Point 1. It’s all in good fun, anyway.

  20. This reminds me of the boards.  I recently joined, thinking I could enjoy some lively video game discussions with the people on the board, but all they do is call each other names (which would melt your face if repeated) and rag on each other.  It’s funny because they spend so much time doing that stuff that its rare to read anything intelligent there.  It boggles my mind because we’re all there to geek out about games, yet some think they’re cooler than others.

    Well played Jimski.

  21. Twilight’s an odd phenomenon in that I know it’s intensely popular but until Jimski mentioned his wife, I couldn’t mention a single entity that liked those books.

    It’s important to remember that if someone mocks you for your comics, 9 times out of ten they were raving about how The Dark Knight was the best film they’d seen in years four months ago. 

  22. @ Neb – I thought about joining the 1up boards too, but I heard enough posts read on GFW/Lan Party to stay outta that.

  23. @Tork.  After Dark Knight came out I actually had a decent amount of poeple at my school asking me for comic suggestions.  I think I’m buying the first volume of Hellboy as a christmas gift for one of them.  They all wanted a piece of Watchmen after they saw the trailer. That made me happier than a pig in shit.

  24. Another fantastic article, Mr. Ski.  I have lived this arugment many, many times.  I’ve had friends tease me about comics, while we all sat at a packed bar watching pro wrestling.  I’ve been at a friend’s home and gotten harrassed for stopping on Superfriends, while he sat at his computer and played WOW.  My personal favorite was the time an internet repair man mocked me for my toy collection.  He was there for a good 2 hours and it went on non-stop.  As he was getting ready to leave, his cell phone rang.  Much to his absolute horror(and my delight) the Star Trek communicator noise echoed my halls.  He turned an odd shade of pink, put his head down and left.  And I’ve laughed about it since.

  25. This is one of the best articles I’ve ever seen.

  26. I didn’t even feel like reading this article anymore after the second paragraph.

  27. I knew I was better than that guy in high school that read Piers Anthony!  Thank you!

  28. Great article, and I am so printing out the Geek Hierachy and posting it at work!

  29. Something occurred to me today as I was looking over the geek hierarchy: you have to be somewhat of a geek in the first place to know what a furry *is*.

    (I discovered this rather embarrassingly in a conversation with my Normal sister.  Anyway). 

  30. Great job Jim-Ski!  You threatened and then you produced a great article.  Are furries that common?  

    Another question… why do some of these things go together and some do not?  Cosplay and Civil War re-enactors – same thing, right?  Dress up in outlandish costume and pretend to be someone else, BUT, also sort of not the same at all. 

    In a culture where individuality is so celebrated, everyone seeks out something to make themselves different, even if that ‘individuality’ is actually a consensus, but just from a much smaller group. 

  31. @ohcaroline-I disagree.  My wife found out what furries are by watching an episode of CSI a few years ago.  Not that my wife is no geek, but she found out through a show that is generally not considered ‘geeky.’  I think its permeated our society enough to know that some people love to dress up as animals and pet each other.

  32. @drake. . .I’d say that’s fairly new, though; the hierarchy has been around for a while.

  33. I can see Conor being a furry

  34. Brilliant article, I applaud you Sir! There was a time I tried to hide my geekyness (is that even a word?…) in some sort of attempt to be "cool" but some time ago I decided it was too much hassle. I have my geeky pleasures and I intend to talk about them, deal with it! Mock me and I will mock you right back 😀

     And personally I love the Twilight books >.>

  35. I find geeks to be the most genuine of people, persisting and maintaining in their tastes and preferences that span over trends and fads.

  36. I’d say there are some superheroes who technically qualify as furries.  I mean — hello, Selina Kyle.

  37. "ten minutes of Jeff Goldblum noises"…

    Just. Brilliant. 🙂

  38. Honestly, all of this is moot.

    No one is lower on the geek scale than those <a href=>"Otherkin"</a> people. 🙂



  39. This really reminds me of NYCC, sitting with Conor outside a DC panel, waiting to snag an interview, generally exhausted. This whole horde of Avatar fans in costumes were all huddled around a laptop watching a video.  They were a big presence throughout that weekend, and they were having the time of their lives.  While we had no idea what they were up to or what they were laughing at, we were both really jealous of how enthusiastic they were for their fandom.  

  40. I am guilty of hatin stuff, like cosplay, manga, and twilight. although I wouldn’t have the balls to say it to someones face

  41. @Paul   Great point.  I met some of the anime fans at NYCC, and they were just having a blast. 

  42. Yes. It is horrifying – all those geeks with flash t-shirts and green lantern t-shirts gathering around and putting masks on their faces and chanting the x-men 90s cartoon intro while burning manga figurines.

    Scott McCloud is probably writing a Reinventing Furries as we speak.

  43. I hate Twilight (badly written and reinforcing gender roles much?), and a good portion of the fans, but then I still watch Xena and will get into fistfights wtih people over Angel vs. Spike (I’m a Spike supporter).  I love being a geek, and wont apologize for it, or any of my opinions. Being a geek means very having to say you’re sorry for making fun of how gay Smallville is. It also means you can’t get all crabby-faced when someone’s all "Oh yeah well Xena’s lame and baddly written too!"

    We all have our things. 😀

  44. You can always laugh at the guys watching a same format show without the publicity or the intellectual setting of medieval times. There’s a tv show about a white woman with blond hair walking around Africa with a loin cloth and breast cloth and she saves animals or something like that. It might sound like Tarzan but it’s more like some blond scientist went crazy and is roaming Africa in a fake loin cloth and her friends are going with it.

  45. Upon behalf of my four daughters who absolutely LOVE the Twilight series, I say thank you, sir!

  46. my girlfriend is a pixie…yeah, you heard…she dresses up and goes to festivals and entertains children…she is steeped in faerie (i have to spell it like that) lore, and insists that ‘humans’ call her BUBBLES…

    but try to explain how Superman gets his powers or why Batman doesn’t just kill The Joker to her, and she laughs and gives me that ‘bless’ look…it’s a bloody good job i love her…

  47. ok, I may lose some points off my geek card but the FRAK (trying hard to regain some geek points with geek swearing, if thats how frak is spelt, ummm may be Frack…i duno) are furries?

  48. furries are people who get a sexual kick from dressing up as animals…Channel 4 did a programme about it ages ago…it was funny and disturbing and funny…and furry…