Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Marketing the Geek

Okay this is kinda cringeworthy.

[Of course, the fact both Mr. Wheaton and myself are having difficulty conveying our respectively similar but deceptively different messages, while marketing dweebs usurp the word 'geek' for their own twisted ends, their relative ease at conveying that usurpation upon an unsuspecting public lends credence to their inevitable success and our inevitable failure at preserving the true nature of geekiness. Why? Cuz Wheaton and myself are not marketing dweebs. We're geeks! We don't know how to properly convey our message, but marketing dweebs do. Irony, thou art a cruel mistress.]

I'm not saying Wil Wheaton is cringeworthy, or his words. I mean what he's talking about. I mean they are creeping me out, because they are claiming to be geeks and they wear a geek banner like wolves in sheep's clothing, but they're partying in the henhouse and we true geeks are powerless to stop them.

I guess I've kinda noticed this happening over the years and since I don't believe in active activism personally (I'm sure it works for you whoever you are it's just not my thing) I never wanted to do anything about it, but I take umbrage at the blatant misuse of words when done with malice or greed in mind. Even and especially if people 'mean well' they almost always mean well for themselves and their 'kind' and I don't take kindly to that at all. However, again I'm not into actively trying to stop people from being stupid so I usually try to let this kinda crap slide.

It's like Bill Maher when he called his old ABC tv series "Politically Incorrect." He did that on purpose, cuz he noticed a lot of jackoffs, assholes, and scumbags using the phrase "Politically Correct" as if it gave them the right to be jackoffs, assholes, and scumbags to anyone with whom they disagreed. And it didn't. And they did it anyway. And Bill Maher didn't respond by egging their houses or setting their carports on fire. He responded by making a tv series he called "Politically Incorrect" and then voicing off about issues that mattered to him and pissed off the "Politically Correct" people. Of course, they responded by getting him fired for saying that maybe flying planes into buildings isn't an act of cowardice. Still, I digress.

People take words and try to change their meaning to suit their own needs, and then they accuse people who use those words in other ways (like the way they were originally intended) of being wrong, because they're "taking it back" which is impossible by the way cuz it was never theirs in the first place so they can't take back anything but there ya go.

In this case I'm speaking of the word "geek" or to be more specific, the current trendy intention of furthering and perpetuating Geek Advancement as if it were saving baby seals or protecting the environment from soda cans and Styrofoam cups.

It didn't use to be a badge of honor. It was a word that meant you were a social outcast. It meant you were different. Special. Touched. It usually meant you were smarter than the person calling you a geek, but rarely in a way that indicated you felt that automatically gave you power over said stupid person calling you a geek. If the word "geek" were prefaced with the phrase "pencil neck" chances are the one name calling was about to stick the one being called a pencil neck geek into a nearby gym locker. One-sided violence would ensue. Being a geek was not a good thing.

Nonetheless, as I grew up I took a personal pride in being called a geek. I didn't belong among those who called me a geek, nor did I want to be among them. They were jackoffs and assholes and scumbags. Call me what you want, just leave me alone. Or beat the crap out of me and THEN leave me alone. I wanna get back to reading Encyclopedia Brown.

And believe me, I EARNED THAT. I deserve to be called a geek. It's my personal badge of honor. You don't go through elementary school with a six foot sissy bar on the back of your bicycle, a backpack with a "kick me" sign taped to it, and regularly bruised and beaten face and chest, and NOT get to walk into adulthood with the right to consider yourself a motherfucking geek.

That was then. This is now.

There was a time when the word "geek" meant a person regarded as foolish, inept, or clumsy. That was it! All the rest of what it means to be a geek was gravy. Essentially you had a red A on your blouse. You were a social outcast. You didn't belong. The details were unimportant. Geeks were not all alike. That's the point. They were different from anybody else. That didn't ever make them like each other. Some geeks were considered so smart as to be able to calculate and ponder theoretical physics equations in their head. Some geeks were known for biting the heads off live chickens or swallowing flaming swords. There's a varied wide spectrum of geeks and none of them belong under some commercially manufactured banner! There's pish posh marketing types out there who are trying to "take back the geek" and use the phrase to represent something that they think will unite others to their cause. They use the word geek like it's a rallying cry. Like it's a way to band like-minded souls together towards a common goal. They want to put "geek" on T-Shirts and lunchboxes and baseball caps and convince people that not only should they strive to be a geek, if they don't buy into the manufactured pop culture surrounding said geekdom, they won't be geekworthy. Screw that!

Wil Wheaton said:
It's like a slap in the face to be associated with these people who claim to be like me, and want to be part of our culture, but couldn't tell you the difference between Slackware and Debian, a d8 and a d10, or how to use vi or emacs. In other words, they haven't earned it, but they're wrapping themselves in our flag because their PR people told them to.
In some ways I agree with Mr. Wheaton, and in some ways I don't. Even here, Wheaton is defining the word geek for himself. I don't know the difference between Slackware and Debian. I know what Slackware is. I don't know what Debian is. Automatically, in Wheaton's eyes, that means I'm not a geek. I know when he says d8 and d10 he's talking about dice - and not the d6'ers used for Yahtzee. My D8 and D4 often gathered dust because I prefer gaming systems that focus on percentile dice (2d10) because you can make one table that can work for anything, thus freeing up the rules for actual roleplay (as opposed to ruleplay which I believe D&D 2nd ed devolved into w/later revisions). I don't know how to use a vi or an emac. So as far as Wheaton is concerned, I don't qualify. I'm not a geek in his eyes, when in reality I'm just not his kind of geek. I'm my kind of geek. I'm sure I could put together my own list of geeky things that I can do that he can't.

That's silly. That's absurd. That's my point.

There's no one kind of geek - nor should there be. There's no qualifying quantifier. The day there is, the word "geek" will cease to serve its purpose, and will start to have concrete and specific meaning that delineates its kind, thus defeating the purpose of its existence as a word for those who don't fit a mold - because it will have one. Not only do I disagree with Wheaton, I'm forced to take it a step further. Nothing personal Mr. Wheaton, but we geeks have no culture. Even after the commercial marketing jackoffs and assholes and scumbags brainwash us all into thinking we do, we don't. We never did. We never will. I wasn't aware being a geek meant I had to function under your flag, or that I exist under anyone's banner beyond my own lack of one. I live as a geek of one. I have no banner. Being a geek doesn't mean I get to go to geek meetings with other geeks and we have geek hoedowns and geek pot luck dinners. I don't have a geek membership card. I don't pay dues. I paid my dues already. I got the scars to prove it.

Those people trying to usurp the word for their own selfish and greedy ends; no they haven't earned it. Neither have I earned sitting with Mr. Wheaton and breaking bread with him over being a geek. That's not what being a geek is about. Being a geek has never been about banding together and joining forces against the established 'cool people.' That only happens in movies like Revenge of the Nerds. The people they got to play the geeks in those movies? They were Hollywood celebrities. Present company accepted, Mr. Wheaton: they weren't geeks.

Being a geek is a private thing. We don't (usually) compare notes. I'm not more of a geek than you because I know more about certain scifi movies. You're not more of a geek than me cuz you can program in C++ and I cannot. Being a geek is not relative and it's not absolute, and there's not any place somewhere where you can go to find your Geek Quotient. ...Okay there's not a REAL place to go find your Geek Quotient. BUT THAT'S JUST WHAT THESE BOZOS WANT TO DO TO THE WORD! They want to quanitize it and package it and pigeon-hole it and turn it into something trendy and cool and socially acceptable.

The whole idea behind being a geek is that one is NOT socially acceptable, and that's the way I like it! No I haven't read Lord of the Rings from cover to cover. There are some who believe one cannot call oneself a geek unless they have. I happen to find Tolkien pedantic, cumbersome, flagrantly captivated by trivial minutiae when he should be focusing on storytelling, and less interesting to read than the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Now, when I was a kid, I DID read entire volumes of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. I doubt many geeks today could boast that! That's entirely the point though; being a geek is not something that can be absolutely defined. Nor should it be, and anyone going around trying to do so should be shoved into a gym locker.

I don't want to hear Jeff Foxworthy going around saying, "if your license plate on your car says 13375p34 you might be a pencil-neck geek" cuz it's not like being a redneck or a greenback or a bluejay or a cheesehead or anything else. Being a member of The Geek Brigade means by definition you are among the non-joiners. IF you're trying to join something, that's being social, and essentially in that instant you stop being a geek. Instead, you become one of them. And you're welcome to it.

Throughout the history of mankind, nongeeks have been trying to prove to geeks that it's better to snicker amongst one another and point fingers at the ones not like them and laugh and say how much better they are then the nonjoiners. Guess what? You've always been wrong, and you will continue to be wrong. You may rob us of the word geek and put it on your blazers and cheerleading outfits. That won't change the fact that you're still cool, and we still suck.

You heard me!

Go on back to your carpools and your soccer practice and your three martini lunches! Some of us will play MMORPGs (and know what that means), some of us will code a program that takes data from Excel spreadsheets for conversion into Powerpoint presentations, some of us will dissect the sentence structure of Stephen Wright jokes in an endless and futile search to understand modern humor, some of us will blog, some of us will tweet, some of us will write in our online diary, some of us will surf the Web, some of us will tweet blog blip and surf all at the same time, some of us will determine the effectiveness of different store bought sweeteners and determine which is least likely to cause cancer in rats, some of us will make a scale replica of the Lincoln Memorial using popsicle sticks and crazy glue, some of us will read Ayn Rand again after having finished off some Zelazny, some of us will run off with the carnival barkers and the circus freaks, some of us will dream in binary, some of us will invent a new filing system for the last ten years of saved emails, some of us will torrent executables in violation of alleged copyright infringement because data is impervious to delineated restrictions placed upon it by lesser-evolved ape-descended lifeforms, and some of us will translate Shakespeare into its original Klingon. None of us will be like one another and none of us will be you.

No comments: