4 reasons why geek elitism needs to die [2019 UPDATE]
[Updated on December 23, 2019] Contrary to appearances, being a “serious” geek entails a lot of hard work, financial investment, and dedication. I mean, do you have any idea how challenging it is to master the art of painting vinyl figures to look like your favorite characters?
Or how many issues you need to read just to keep up with the entire history of any comic book superhero (and how many bottles of Advil you’ll go through if you happened to pick a DC character, because seriously, what the hell is up with continuity over there)?
Or how many hours you’ll spend trying to understand exactly how they managed to stretch The Hobbit into a freaking trilogy (while STILL pointing out the things they got wrong)?
I guess that means it’s understandable when so-called “legit geeks” completely lose their shit when a fresh new recruit to the fandom comes along and proclaims their undying love for the franchise, quoting famous lines and proudly posting pictures of movie tickets/collectibles/trade paperbacks/printed shirts/whatever merchandise they could buy on their social media feeds.
It’s guaranteed: The moment some starry-eyed newcomer starts gushing about how excited they are about the new Star Wars movie, or how they can’t wait to watch the final episode of One-Punch Man, the air will be filled with nothing but the sound of a thousand geeks’ nostrils flaring up in anger as they roll up their sleeves, dust their shelves, and stretch their fingers, preparing to type at a rate of a hundred words per minute just to call this foul outsider out for what they truly are: an unholy beast threatening to encroach on their sacred Dungeons & Dragons-DM-ing, Doctor Who-cosplaying territory.
But that’s okay, right? We geeks have a right to feel exactly the way we do. After all, we’ve had to deal with a lifetime of oppression and harsh judgment ourselves, right? Who’s to say that it’s not high time that we returned the favor? Besides, we don’t give a crap about these people’s night clubbing activities or wild outdoor adventure stories – how dare they step into OUR turf, am I right? They should stop raving about comic books and Star Wars films, and just stick to watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians like we think they do (which says a lot about how we perceive their IQ). Right?
Actually, if you agreed with any of the statements in the preceding paragraph, you’re hovering dangerously close to falling prey to the Dark Side of the Fandom, young Padawan: Geek Elitism.
Don’t worry, though; it’s not too late to turn back and embrace the light. Here are four reasons why this whole “real geek-fake geek” mentality needs to get blown up like a Death Star – and you won’t need to get bludgeoned to death by jungle teddy bears just to learn them all.
1. Regardless of fandom, we all started at the bottom.
Hey, remember how, when you came out of your mother’s womb, you immediately did your best Gokai Change pose and sang a flawless rendition of Super Sentai Hero Getter? No?
Okay, how about that time when, on your first day of preschool, you punched out one of your classmates for mistakenly claiming that Juggernaut was a mutant? Still no dice?
All right, how about when you first learned to walk, and it was only because your father threatened to recite the 151 first-generation Pokemon in incorrect order if you didn’t get up and start putting one foot in front of the other?
If you said “yes” to any of the questions above, then you need a dose of Veritaserum shoved down your throat, post-haste.
Fact is, you didn’t come into this world as the well-versed geek you are today – and don’t even bother giving me that crap about being right there at the start when your beloved geek franchise was born, as if it were the responsibility of every fan to be present at the inception of a television show, film, or comic book series and immediately discern if it’s worth following.
I’m pretty sure everyone who wasn’t immediately a fan of your favorite franchise isn’t banned for life from becoming one. Maybe they were into other hobbies at the time. Maybe they only had the opportunity to learn about your favorite geek franchise fairly recently. Maybe they see that new film or comic book reboot not just as an invitation to join the bandwagon, but as a genuine opportunity to get to know the material and find out for themselves why people like you love it.
Or maybe they just felt they had better things to do then, and only had free time to pursue geeky interests now. What’s so wrong about that?
The next time you feel like giving a newbie crap for, well, being a newbie, take a moment to consider the fact that they’ve actually started on their journey towards gaining a deeper understanding of your precious fandom. Which is good, because…
2. A growing fanbase is A. Good. Thing.
Think: If people completely stopped reading comic books about Superman and buying Superman stuff, do you think DC would continue to make movies, publish books, or sell toys of the Man of Steel? If interest in Batman had died in the 1970s, would we have gotten the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan Bat-movies?
It’s simple, really. As a character, TV show, or book series grows in popularity, it attracts more fans, which means there are more people who are actually willing to throw money in the direction of the creators, which then gives them the motivation to keep going and enables them to produce fresh new installments of the franchise or property.
If Robert Downey Jr. didn’t resonate so well with fans in Iron Man, I highly doubt that the Marvel Cinematic Universe could have gotten far beyond “one-eyed Samuel L. Jackson staring creepily at Iron Man in his basement.” New Star Wars movies, merchandise based on A Song of Ice and Fire, an explosion of DC Comics-based television shows (that for some goddamned reason can’t even use two of the company’s most profitable characters, but whatever), more Doctor Who swag than you can shake a sonic screwdriver at… The list goes on and on. Anyone concerned with said property would be on board for that, right?
(Unless you’re Bill Watterson, of course, but that’s a different story.)
In short, a growing fanbase makes room for new ideas and keeps the franchise alive and healthy.
Unless you’re the kind of fan who hates the idea of having to compete with other fans and thinks that they have to be THE best fan ever, in which case it fills my heart with great joy to smack you upside the head with the basic truth that…
3. There will ALWAYS be a bigger geek than you (and age has little to do with it).
Something that every fan needs to understand is that there is no such thing as the “ultimate fan.”
Somewhere out there in the world exists a person who devoted more time than you to calculating how much destructive power Iron Man generates whenever he shoots repulsor blasts out of his gauntlets. Maybe he’s more resourceful, or more into the source material, or just really, really bored. Who knows?
Like I said earlier, there’s no minimum tenure or “first come, first served” requirement when it comes to fandom. Chris Casual can go walk into a comic book store and buy all the Civil War and Captain America trades because they love the movie version of Cap, and you have no right at all to stop them.
See, unless your sole ambition is to become the world’s foremost expert on the life of a totally fictional character, you should definitely find better ways to spend your time than obsessing over possible “competition” and cockblocking newbies. Stop thinking that the character or franchise revolves around you, or that you’re the only person who has the right to enjoy these things.
And now, for the last (and perhaps most painful) reason…
4. The source material will evolve, whether you like it or not.
The most common complaint I hear from “true fans” is that newer fans who got to know their pet characters through the movies/a cartoon/any other interpretation in media haven’t earned the right to call themselves fans, especially when they get even the slightest details wrong. Or when these new fans think that somehow, movie continuity trumps established canon. “It was actually Hank Pym who created Ultron, not Tony Stark, you filthy casual!” some of them say, proudly polishing their Ant-Man helmet replicas while muttering “Bet you don’t even know who Eric O’Grady is” and scoffing.
Well, guess what? Big. Fucking. Deal. In fact, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the sneaky guys at Marvel somehow end up finding a way to retcon Ultron’s origin to match the films.
Pick up a random Marvel comic these days, flip through the pages, and compare what’s in there to what everyone who saw The Avengers knows about the Marvel cinematic universe. Nick Fury is black and looks like Samuel L. Jackson? Check. Hawkeye is in an all-black, maskless costume? Check. Hulk’s an Avenger again? Check. No wings on Captain America’s helmet? Check. Agent Coulson’s running around and shooting things? Check. Tony Stark is now suddenly a hip and energetic quip machine instead of the more serious futurist he used to be a little over a decade ago? Check. The Guardians of the Galaxy are actually active AND popular in the comic books? Check, and Star-Lord even looks exactly like his movie counterpart, to boot.
My point is this: eventually, the source material would have evolved to such an extent where your in-depth knowledge of how the character was two or three decades ago would no longer mean jack shit. Look at Spider-Man, for example. He started out as a socially awkward nerd in 1962, got bitten by a radioactive spider, became a superhero when his uncle died due to his failure to act, worked as a part-time photographer, graduated, became a confident hearthrob in college, had two beautiful women pining over him, eventually lost the love of his life at the hands of his greatest enemy (who turned out to be his best friend’s father), fought his own clone, switched to wearing a black costume when he bonded with an alien symbiote (which would later on become one of his fiercest foes), ditched the suit and went back to the red and blues, got married, almost became a father, was made to believe he WAS the clone when his clone returned, retired and moved to Portland, came back when he realized he was the real deal, became a science teacher, discovered that his powers may have been mystical in origin, eventually joined the Avengers, gained organic webshooters around the time Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 came out, died and got better, became Iron Man’s protege, ditched Iron Man, got un-married thanks to a deal with the devil, became a scientist, got mind-swapped with his *other* greatest enemy (who pretended to be him for almost two years), returned, and built his own company. Nowadays, he’s a billionaire CEO who runs missions for SHIELD all over the world while trying to make it a better place. I barely recognize him anymore, and this is coming from a guy who was born during the time period described MIDWAY through this paragraph.
(Actually, typing out that last paragraph made me feel incredibly stupid. It’s a ridiculous soup of words that tried to condense over 50 years’ worth of history into 303 words.)
Anyway, I bet a lot of old-time Spider-Man fans (mostly teenagers at the time) were rattled by the distinct visual change in the book when Steve Ditko’s awkwardly charming people and out-of-this world angles gave way to John Romita Sr.’s pinup-worthy superhero poses and ridiculously beautiful, romance-novel-tier hunks and babes. Which further illustrates my point: A lot of changes happened during the entirety of Spider-Man’s existence, and going by the logic of many geek elitists, a guy like me – who has practically read nearly every Spider-Man comic book ever published until the mid-2010s – doesn’t have the right to call himself a fan, just because I wasn’t there when it started. Well, fuck me for not being born in 1962, right?
It’s the same with people who only got to know Spidey because of the movies. Who cares if they thought that Spidey’s webshooters were organic in the comics because of the movies? When the movies were at the peak of their popularity in 2004-2005, they were absolutely correct.
So let’s stop giving newer fans a hard time. “But I’m not pissed at all newcomers!” you say. “I only hate the ones who pretend to know more than they actually do!”
Well, let me ask you this: How does their so-called bandwagoning actually do *any* damage to you in any way? So WHAT if they get certain details wrong? Why don’t you just gently correct them without letting the whole thing devolve into a pissing contest?
If you’re so bothered by their supposed “ignorance,” then why not point them in the right direction?
Hand them a copy of The Dark Knight Returns or Killing Joke after they’re done worshipping Heath Ledger, or lend them a DVD of the Fourth Doctor’s run once they finally shut up about Tennant and Smith. I mean, come on.
For a bunch of folks who had to endure ridicule and persecution for decades, you’d think we geeks would be a more welcoming lot.
Oh, and one more thing. These days, geek elitism seems to have mutated from “You’re not a true fan, so stop liking what I like” to the arguably more toxic “You’re not a true fan because you don’t like what I like (or dislike what I dislike).”
I say live and let live. If Chris Casual thinks that the new Star Wars film is the worst thing they’ve ever seen, then that’s cool. If you think the new Star Wars film’s the best thing since sliced bread, then that’s cool, too. What isn’t cool is you calling the other person an idiot simply because they don’t share your opinion. This goes both ways–it applies whether you’re a fan or a critic.
Your beloved franchise will survive negative reviews, trust me. Your ego should, too.
Now, pardon me while I go back to worrying about not living long enough to see what Marvel’s going to do with Spider-Man 2099 when it’s ACTUALLY the year 2099. I’m sorry, but I think that’s an infinitely more worthwhile topic to ponder than this “I was here first and I’m a bigger geek than you” nonsense.