I read an article yesterday about how geeks are becoming the next cool thing and that as a group, we are no longer teased and harassed. This is definitely not the first time that I’ve read this and it seems like comments or articles referring to the Rise of the Geek have become more common in the past year. But is it true?
I began to figure out that I was a geek in the 6th grade. But I so badly wanted to hang out with the popular girls, that I denied that I liked Star Wars and trashed anything remotely geeky. It got to the point that when our English teacher gave us an abridged version of The Hobbit to read in class, I secretly took it home and finished it because I did not want anyone to see me reading it on my own free will.
Sixth grade was also when The Phantom Menace came out. I wanted to see it, but you know, it wasn’t cool, so I didn’t. I was too busy hanging out with my super-cool-but-terribly-superficial friends. My mother did not like the people I was hanging out with and told me one day that she didn’t think Jackie’s parents were “responsible” and that Jackie (not real name) was not the nicest person either. I revealed what my mother said to a different friend, trusting them to keep it a secret, and of course – they didn’t. They went and told Jackie and the rest of the popular girls.
My world came crashing down. None of the girls would talk to me and I was miserable. When summer vacation started, I reluctantly agreed to go to TPM with my father and brothers, and I fell in love with Star Wars all over again. In a way, TPM forced me to take a hard, long look at myself and who I wanted to be. This is why Phantom has always held a special place in my heart, as much as people like to rag on the movie. I loved Qui-Gon and saw that in order to be a better person, I had to have qualities that did not match up with the group of girls I had been hanging out with. That summer I kept a “Jedi Journal”, where I tracked all of my actions to see how I lined up with in regards to becoming a Jedi . It seems laughable now because I diligently watched my every move, but it really put me on the right road to honesty, kindness, respect, and fairness. It also put me on the road to being a real, bona fide geek…as in, I was about to be teased pretty hard for another 4-5 years.
It was a testing time. When I returned to school that fall, everything I bought was TPM supplies: binders, folders, pencils, etc. One of the popular, and very attractive, boys sat next to me in math class and whispered, “Hey Nerd, what’s with the Star Wars stuff? Are you trying to turn into a boy even more than you already are?” When moments like this happened, I just thought about Queen Amidala and how strong she always was in the face of danger, never betraying any emotion. Any hope of reconciling with Jackie and her friends was gone. They avoided me like the plague and my fashion style slowly deteriorated as I became more focused on hanging out with friends who were smart and valued for their personality. I became obsessed with fantasy and sci-fi literature, consuming large novels in a week or two.
In 8th grade, we were asked to write a story and some would be chosen to read it aloud in our English class. I had been working hard on my novel about a fairy that leaves her village to go on a quest, ends up destroying all evil forces, and becomes the strong female heroine who saves her village at the end of the novel (of course). I kept my head down and prayed that Mr. Arnold would not pick me to read. Our wills and fates do so contrary run, that our devices still are overthrown (Shakespeare if anyone is wondering how I became so eloquent). I read through my first chapter so fast, head down, no stylistic pacing…but I could still hear the twitters going on behind me. Mr. Arnold praised my imagination and writing, but I just wanted to die. When I left class, a boy behind me shouted, “Hey, Kiri, are you going to flit and flutter down the hall now? I like your story about the Twinkle Toes!”
As I’ve grown older, I’ve also grown more elegantly into my geekiness. As the cruel years of middle school passed and slowly transitioned into high school, I became more and more proud of my geekiness. And with my pride, outsiders were more accepting because they saw that they could not bring me down. Or, honestly, people stopped caring as much and didn’t judge you based on whether or not you liked one movie or genre more than another.
I do not think that geeks are now cool. And a bit of me thinks that some geeks may not want to be “cool”. I’m not saying bullying is acceptable, but a lot of us have gone through so much teasing, ridiculing, and bullying that I think a few of us now look back and say, “Hey, I survived that and I still love Star Wars/Dungeons and Dragons/World of Warcraft, etc. I’m proud to be a geek.”
Just because there have been large movements in the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games series, which in turn brought it to the mainstream, does not mean that being a geek is now cool. There are still children who will be mercilessly teased and ridiculed for wearing Star Wars paraphernalia, and no matter how many people in the world stand up for them, do you really think other children will now think they’re cool (see: Katie)? They might back off, but I don’t know if they will say, “Ok, you’re cool now, come hang out with us.”
What I believe the articles mean is that it is a lot cooler to be a geek as an adult now, or even young adult/late teen. As I reached the end of high school, people definitely thought it was cool how much I knew about Star Wars – I was every boy’s dream, or so I had been told. I think it will be a long time before a child will be cool when they profess their love for Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and anything else that falls in the geek spectrum.
Being a geek as a child helped me build up so much self-confidence and when children are bullied for taking pride in their geekiness, I hope that someone stands up for them, but also hope that they grow up still proud of what they love.