The answer to the above question is an emphatic yes. However, I often encounter rather casual geek gatekeeping – sometimes without the person even realising they’re doing it – not just directed towards me, but also towards other geeks. It’s not always a gender-related issue, either, though I do feel like women have a harder time being accepted as geeks in their own right (as opposed to the girlfriend or wife of a geek), but gender is not what this post is about.
Let me explain what I mean. When someone mentions they like Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings/Hunger Games/[other movie based on book] usually the first question people ask is, ‘Have you read the books?’ When someone says they love Marvel/DC/[other comic-based movie/TV series], they get asked if they’ve read the comics. Sometimes these questions are well-meaning, but more often than not, the asker seems to be judging the other person. Sometimes these questions are phrased more aggressively: ‘You need to/should read the comics’, making the judgement even less subtle. Even if the answer is yes, sometimes the response is something like, ‘Oh, but did you read the books/comics before seeing the movie?’ Or worse, ‘Did you even know about [x] before there was a movie/TV series?”
While the person asking these questions may simply be interested or mean well, in my experience, this is not usually the case. The questions above carry with them the suggestion that simply liking a TV show/movie/comic/book/game/[other geek thing] is not enough: the liker has to ‘prove’ their worthiness according to whatever criteria the other person deems as ‘worthy’ or ‘valid’.
One of the issues with being a geek is that there are many kinds of geek. I consider myself a serious geek, but I often fail online geek quizzes because my particular brand of geek doesn’t match up with the quiz writer’s definition of geek. Heck, I recently failed a Star Wars quiz that included obscure questions about the the cast and crew (I aced the quiz on movie lines though). It’s something I’ve had to come to terms with myself, after casually teasing a friend for not knowing what the Millenium Falcon was. She’s more into Doctor Who, and that’s okay. We are both geeks, but our focus is different, and we manage to coexist happily.
My unique brand of geek is this:
- Star Wars. My head contains so much information about the films and their characters that I’ve only met one or two people in real life with anything near my level of knowledge. And yes, as my avatar suggests, I don’t hate Episode I as much as everyone else seems to. It may not have been great, but Queen Amidala left a strong impression on me as a teenage girl.
- Star Trek. My captain of choice is Kirk. Love the Original Series, and the new movies, and I even like the Enterprise series.
- Stargate. As a glasses-wearing nerd, Daniel Jackson is a character I’m still strongly attached to.
- Xena: Warrior Princess. I still consider this my favourite TV series of all time. I believe Xena and Gabrielle’s characters had a major impact on me growing up.
- Harry Potter. Love the books and films equally. Harry is a character very close to my heart. At one time, my sister and I communicated almost entirely in quotes from the films.
- Lord of the Rings. Both books and films. At one point I could quote the entire Council of Elrond scene from memory…
- Superhero movies. The recent surge of good superhero movies has been wonderful. I love the new Marvel movies, and (most of) the X-Men films as well. I’m not much of a DC fan, but I’ve seen all those movies too. I find the Marvel heroes are more relatable, except maybe Thor.
- Note that I said movies – I don’t read comic books. I have read a few comics here and there, but it’s not my preferred medium. Give me a normal book or a film or TV series any day.
- Disney. From Aladdin to Toy Story to Frozen to High School Musical, I have a soft spot for Disney movies, especially the musicals. My sister and I have a copy of Disney Trivial Pursuit that we can only play with each other because no one else stands a chance of competing with us.
- Whedon. Firefly and Buffy are both series that are very dear to me.
- Doctor Who. Tennant and Eccleston are my preferred Doctors.
- Video games. From The Sims to Knights of the Old Republic to Mass Effect to LEGO games, gaming is one of my passions. I particularly love games with strong story, usually roleplaying games but occasionally other genres. I also really enjoy simulation and strategy games like Sims, Sim City, Civilization and Tropico.
- I also consider myself a serious or hardcore gamer, even though others might not see me that way because of my gender or preference for the types of games mentioned above.
- Pathfinder. Tabletop roleplaying is something that interested me from the first time I heard about it, but I didn’t get to try it out until I was in my twenties. While I appreciate all the varied systems that are out there, Pathfinder is the one that really grabbed me.
- Board games. A more recent passion of mine. I used to enjoy games like Monopoly and Guess Who, but since discovering there’s a whole world of other board games out there, I haven’t looked back.
There are tons of other things that I love, but those are some of my very favourite geeky things. Though it can be hard for me to remember, I’ve slowly come to accept that it’s okay for someone to not love Star Wars as much as I do (even though I still struggle to understand why they wouldn’t!), and that someone doesn’t need to have read Lord of the Rings to appreciate the movies. The fact that I don’t like to read comic books is something that others have to accept about me. It doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of the films, and I’m quite happy with the film versions of the characters being my only version of the characters.
My point is, geekdom is not an exclusive club that has strict entry criteria. In fact, many geeks may have grown up as I did, as something of an outsider because I didn’t like sports or shoes or whatever. I went to an all-girls school and I liked Star Wars, and I was a nerd as well (okay I’m still a nerd). It was only when I was older and went to university that I was exposed to a wider range of people and finally found my ‘tribe’ – people who shared my interests instead of mocking them. So why would I judge someone else because their special brand of geek doesn’t match up with my internal definition of the term?
So, to answer my original question: Yes, I am geek enough. And so are you. It’s something we’ll both have to remember next time we want to say ‘But you should read/watch…”
Images: Header image glasses vector designed by Freepik, other images belong to Marvel and WB Games.