Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Geeks and Pop Culture

I have a friend who apparently is a finalist in some kind of comic book superhero contest. If he wins, his character and plot will be featured in a series of comic books.

Other than attending the occasional movie based on a comic and visiting Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash (the New Jersey location), I know nothing about comics -- but I can usually tell when something is a big deal. I quickly decided that my friend's contest must be a pretty big deal if he's getting email congratulations from some really big names in the entertainment industry. So, at first, I thought that his accomplishment was the equivalent of being crowned king of the geeks.

But according to the A.V. Club, my impression was dead wrong: Comic books don't even rank on their list of the 20 geekiest pop-culture obsessions. (And neither do Star Wars and Monty Python, apparently.) Being an avowed Monty Python geek and occasional Star Wars fan, I am intrigued by this list and decided to parse it more carefully in order to determine just how geeky I am.

The results:

  1. Star Trek. I have seen a couple of the movies. I have seen a couple of the episodes of the original series and The Next Generation. I know who Captain Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and Captain Picard are. Other than that, nothing. Clearly this is not my thing.

  2. Renaissance faires. I've been known to go to them, and sometimes even take pictures. But I don't dress up: I make fun of people who dress up. I make fun of people who spell it "faire." I do, however, like to eat food on sticks.

  3. Fantasy Sports. Well, you got me there. I have been known to play fantasy sports. And win. But here's an important observation: I'm a girl. Doesn't that cancel out the geekiness of it? Well, that and the fact that I don't really care?

  4. Michael Jackson. I owned Thriller once upon a time, and I have one Jackson 5 CD. I am marginally disturbed by him in general, more so by his face, and even more so because of his increasingly erratic behavior. Not a fan.

  5. Wikipedia. Admittedly, this is a close call. I find Wikipedia intriguing. And for something that is public domain, it's surprisingly accurate, all things considered. But I draw the line at editing.

  6. Battlestar Galactica. I think the only thing I know about this show is that it is the source of the swear-substitute "frakking." Not my thing.

  7. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I may have been known to dance the Time Warp. I know when to throw the toast. And at one point, I did suggest to my best friend that we dress like Columbia and Magenta. But I haven't seen it in years. Honest.

  8. Joss Whedon. I have seen every episode of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly. I have the DVDs. I even have the movies and the soundtrack to the musical episode. I paid special attention when he directed The Office. So yeah, guilty as charged.

  9. Media-specific role-playing. I don't even know what this means. Next.

  10. Magic: The Gathering. Never played, and probably would laugh if someone asked.

  11. World of Warcraft. Same answer. But if someone offered me the chance to play Guitar Hero, that seems like it would be fun.

  12. The Simpsons. I have seen quite a number of episodes, and overall enjoy the show enough to try to catch it on Sunday evenings -- usually while doing laundry. At one point in time, I used to pay attention to the quips that Bart wrote on the chalkboard in the opening sequence, and even had a Bart Simpson t-shirt -- but that was almost 20 years ago. Sadly, despite my best intentions, I never even got around to seeing the movie this summer. Does this count as a half?

  13. Doctor Who. I can honestly say that I have never seen an episode. Where do they air it?

  14. Frank Zappa. I'm sure I've heard some of his music, but I don't own any of it. I know what his kids' names are, though.

  15. Game Show Tape Trading. People really do this? Why would you want to see a repeat of an old game show? Lame.

  16. Anime. I have a Tokidoki for LeSportsac bag with anime pirates on it that I occasionally use as a briefcase substitute. But that's about the extent of it.

  17. Cosplay. The last time I dressed like a cartoon character was back in the first grade, when I was Cinderella for Halloween. Although I have contemplated being the Corpse Bride some year. But Halloween is the exception, not the rule -- so I'm safe.

  18. Live action role playing. The closest I ever got to this was a week-long game of Axis and Allies back in high school. Not quite the same as Dungeons and Dragons, though.

  19. Second Life / MySpace / FaceBook. I have one of the three (MySpace). I am not one of those people who tricked out their profile page with all sorts of graphics and whatnot. The extent of my use of the silly thing is to sign in about once a week to change the song to fit my mood. And I only have people I know as my friends. And yes, I am aware that everyone says Facebook is better, but I don't care enough to try.

  20. Fanfic. I don't write fan fiction. I don't have the time or the inclination.

So, what does that total to? Fantasy sports and Joss Whedon, with a little bit of Renn Fest, MySpace, Simpsons, and Rocky Horror thrown in for good measure. Not overwhelmingly geeky, I suppose. To compete, I guess I'm going to have to get my own comic book.


tingb said...

Hmmm...it seems i'm less dorky than I thought. I'm surprised MJ is on the list. I always thought the fact that my family and I know all the steps to the "Thriller" dance was charmingly retro. Apparently not!

P.S. You totally get a dispensation for the fantasy sports.

dara said...

Tingb: I'm still trying to figure out the difference between "nerd" "dork" and "geek." I had a quiz posted at one point in time, but over time, the distinction has become less clear.

I never knew the Michael Jackson dances, but at one point in time could do Madonna's whole Lucky Star routine.

dara said...

Here's that quiz. According to them:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

DSL said...

So the only way to avoid the three is to be a dim-witted cheerleader? (Apologies to all the nerdy cheerleaders out there. I'm just using the term cheerleader to indicate someone who is part of the social structure rather than an outcast.) I'd probably be a nerd, only I'm not that smart.

Miss Scarlet said...

After seeing that list, I'm definitely not a dork. I do a few things on the list, but not to an extreme.

dara said...

DSL: I think it's a question of degree. It's okay to be interested in books and academia, or obsessed with computers and sci-fi, or be introverted -- but keep it in moderation.

Plus, I don't know about you, but I'd choose a bookish weirdo over a vapid airhead any day of the week.

Scarlet: Exactly. You can do any of these things and not be an overwhelming geek. It's when you do a bunch of them to excess that it gets, uh, weird.

Jason said...

I never realized being into Zappa was geeky. I've realized that being an obsessed fan of ANYTHING can make you a geek. A regular old fan will just take a mild interest while a geeky fan will know as much as there is to know, collect the collectables, chat about it with other geeky fans, etc. These days I guess I would have to consider myself a Howard Stern geek, much to the chagrin of my poor wife.

dara said...

Jason: I never thought of myself as particularly geeky until I bought the X-Files Barbies. Soon thereafter, I realized that it's a very fine small step from there to posting on the fan sites and showing up at Comic Con.