Written by: Sal Crivelli, Special to CC2K
Although I haven’t written much for CC2K in quite awhile, my pop-oriented mind has been awash with stimuli and experiences that, if transcribed, might threaten to fill the Internet itself. I wish to speak on the subject of my ilk, my brethren; a people who not only contribute to, but frequent this and many other sites such as these. I’m talking, of course, about geeks and Geek Culture.
There was a time when I lived in a small community surrounded by people whose sole priorities were keeping Democrats from getting elected, and frequenting sporting events. While I don’t begrudge either action (I try to be as apolitical online as possible), it certainly left me with few like-minded individuals to discuss my passions: comics, movies, and cartoons. My encouraging parents (who, like many in our community, frequently participated in those prior time-honored traditions) not only fueled my addiction by taking me to the local comic book shop, but allowed me to roam the hallowed halls of the local Bradlee’s action figure section, unabated.
When I returned (usually with a coveted member or antagonist of either the X-Men, Ninja Turtles, or Ghostbusters), my mom would present me with clothing which had colorful comic book characters emblazoned on them. I remember the feeling of excitement and pride, wearing these clothes at school the following day. Nobody (and this is worth reiteration– nobody) owned or wore clothing with superheroes or cartoon characters on them. I went to a Pre-K to 8th Grade school. One building, ten years. In the decade at my school, not a single person besides me wore clothes with comic book characters on them.
So you can imagine my surprise, after I entered high school, when I saw people (and even–gaah– girls) wearing similarly-themed articles of clothing. Some even trumped me, going so far as to sew patches onto their backpacks. And I made sure to compliment each person I came in contact with, in the nicest and most concise way possible, on their wardrobe choice. I found, through easily identifiable markings, kindred spirits.
In today’s world, I’m a fully-realized geek. I accept that. I try to maintain– I exercise, read (not just comics… but yes, lots of comics), and keep up with actual news (and while it does suck that they’re canceling Daredevil, we all know it’ll be back to basics far sooner than the Gulf Region). But there’s no denying the Empire Strikes Back poster in my living room. Or the classic comic book covers, framed in my bedroom. I also have a sketchbook. From artists. At conventions. I spent the majority of my childhood looking for peers with whom I could commiserate. Not just simple observations like how bogus it is that Ben Reilly is the real Peter Parker, but commentaries on the Industry itself. Intricate dialogs about the nature of the Force, and whether the Jedi from the Old Republic even used lightsabers. Now, in my adulthood, I found a small subset of people I can stand to talk to about similar topics, like how sick to death I am of Jedi, or how print-to-digital comics distribution can be achieved.
The clothing situation, however, is entirely different. While it’s still rare in my circle of the world to find people representing Geek Culture, it’s certainly more prevalent than it was when I was a kid. And I feel that tinge of excitement when I see someone wearing a Spider-Man tee, or a Mooby’s hoodie. I want to encourage them, and feel a connection to a culture that we’re both a part of, despite the fact that neither of us know the other from Greedo.
“Nice shirt!” I’ll exclaim. Not too loud, so as to draw attention to ourselves. And in just the right frequency so he or she understands I’m not being derisive. But you know the consistent reaction I get? If any?
To be clear: that’s not a confused, off-guard, “thanks.” That’s a, “Um… why are you talking to me? I know it’s a cool shirt– it’s why I bought it,” tone. Happens to me everywhere. Eateries. Hikes. The last one happened to me at a Renaissance Fare, for Christ’s sake. Guy was wearing a Penny Arcade ‘Paint the Line 2’ shirt, and he actually laughed at me for my trouble. Like I invited the popular kid to play with my Ninja Turtles after lunch in fifth grade.
It’s a baffling observation, but a prevailing one. The first two times, I thought to myself: What an asshole. That faded after the fourth or fifth instance. By the time I reached the Renn Fare, I was practically satisfying a sociological curiosity. Could it be that, all over this country of ours, people were having identical situations to mine? I’d say that’s probable! That all these disaffected youths grew into disaffected adults, bringing not just their youth-born interests, but their societal resentment, as well? Could I just be a total sap, and the culture I perceive that I belong to is peopled with self-loathing douchebags? Maybe these people liked being the only nerd in an eighty-mile radius. Lord knows I didn’t, but who can say?
Maybe the sub-culture just got too big, and we’re feeling a little crowded. Whatever the case, I do carry a certain affinity for a time when being a geek was like knowing a secret handshake.