We Are Geeks, and We Get to Decide What That Means

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Image courtesy NASA
Image courtesy NASA

My revelation began a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Like any good parent, Episode IV came first, followed by Empire and Jedi. They were received well enough, as were the prequels that followed, but I soon realized that my boys were way more in love with the Star Wars universe than the movies themselves. We played all the Lego Star Wars video games, first on the GameCube, then on the Wii. They dressed up as Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper for Halloween, and those costumes were worn again and again throughout numerous epic light saber battles spanning the entire house. Burger King toys were collected, Star Wars Encyclopedias purchased, Jar Jar mocked, and Darth Maul sketched on school folders. All the while, the DVDs sat collecting dust on the shelf.

Ok, I could accept that. If we’re going to be honest, there are a lot of things not to like about Star Wars; Lucas can’t write dialogue to save his life, and Ewoks were nothing but a ridiculous toy marketing scheme. That’s not even beginning to address the 1,001 things wrong with the prequels. Besides, Star Wars isn’t the be-all and end-all of sci-fi. It was time to try another franchise, boldly going where we hadn’t gone before.

At the risk of forfeiting my geek card, I have to confess: I was never really a fan of the original Star Trek. I watched a few of the old episodes, and I did enjoy some of the movies, but to this ’80s kid, The Next Generation will always be my Star Trek. From the first episode, I was hooked. Omnipotent aliens, androids, a nerdy kid I could relate to, holodecks! And, possibly the most important, a man playing captain whose acting chops not only made Shatner look like a bit player in a community theater, but who also effectively carried the rest of the cast (John de Lancie excluded, of course) for most of the entire first season. I laughed along with Geordi at Data’s misunderstandings of human nature, I sat, steel grip on the remote, as Picard insisted there were four lights, I cried with Troi at Tasha’s funeral, and I spent a month contemplating the emotional implications of living an entire lifetime, falling in love, having a family, growing old, and finally watching your planet die only to find it was all a dream lasting 25 minutes. Which, as it turns out, was about how long the show that shaped my own childhood managed to keep the interest of my kids.

So, it was not with a little trepidation that I fired up Firefly on Netflix. This was it, the last of the “Big 3.” I had tried not to oversell it, but I knew they could sense my enthusiasm. This was a big deal to the old man. They were game to give it a chance. They made it through two episodes.

It was time to admit it; my kids simply didn’t like the three most stereotypically geeky space epics ever made.

One of the defining characteristics of a geek parent is our obsessive nature, our desire to become completely engrossed in our interests. We are passionate about what we like, but we too often mistake that passion for truth. Having read or watched or listened to so much about a subject, it’s beyond our comprehension that someone else might not like that subject. In fact, I’d be willing to bet some of you have struggled to continue this far into this article because you’re dying to jump straight to the comments and tell me why Kirk and TOS is vastly superior to Picard and TNG. The problem with this mentality is that we have created and continue to perpetuate a herd mentality that there are certain absolutes when it comes to geek culture, and any variance from those absolutes excludes a person from being able to use the “geek” label. I refuse to accept that.

If my science-loving, comic-obsessed, superhero fan doesn’t get to call himself a geek because he doesn’t like Star Trek, or if my tinkering teenager with a closet full of electronic components and invention sketches can’t call himself a geek because he doesn’t read Asimov or Heinlein — if the moniker now means nothing more than “I like whatever pop culture says I should like,” then it should be abandoned by those of us who have worn our geekiness as a badge of pride for years.

But I’m not ready to give up on it yet. It’s up to those of us whom our friends and family recognize as the very apex of geekiness to be sure that being a geek continues to mean what it has always meant: inclusiveness to those who don’t fit in elsewhere, acceptance of interests and activities that fall both outside of and within the mainstream, and constant exploration and experimentation. Stop telling people who like the LoTR that they aren’t true geeks until they read the Silmarillion. Stop making fun of self-proclaimed “Marvel geeks” who have seen every Marvel movie ever made and are beginning to explore the comics just because they don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the back story of every minor character in the Marvel Universe.

Just like the crowd of metal heads at the end of the movie Airheads, we need to demonstrate our solidarity to those like my kids who worry that they are somehow less geeky because they don’t fit the stereotypical definition, that failing to fit the mold created by popular media doesn’t make them any less geeky, that regardless of their likes, or their dislikes, so long as they are passionate about what they love, they’re #stillageek.

Get the Official GeekDad Books!