What Is A Geek? A Little Word For Lauren Laverne


The Guardian, Thursday 13th August. An interview with Lauren Laverne, presenter of ‘The Culture Show’, the BBC’s front-line magazine programme, focussing on the latest developments in the worlds of film, music, fashion and the performing arts. And a class comment that’s had me rolling in the proverbials all though my holiday weekend.

Lauren, it seems, has missed a significant social and cultural revelation.

Her quote runs thus: ‘Radio’s… for geeks and I’m a geek so it completely resonates with me and I’ve loved it from day one. But it’s run by people who haven’t left a studio in decades. Those kinds of boys just don’t know what to do with girls; it’s just a bit like [comic shop] Forbidden Planet. Would you want to go in there? It smells weird and sells funny stuff. That’s what radio studios are like. Ladies just walk past.’

Oh Lauren, Lauren. In 2003, Peter Jackson (you have heard of him?) directed ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’. In case you missed it, this was the first part of a fantasy trilogy written by one J R R Tolkien – and the films were really quite important. They consolidated the movement that began with Joss Whedon’s ‘Buffy’ on the Small Screen and the explosion of comic-book (yes, you’ve never read one but bear with me) superheroes across the Big One… and The New Age of Geek began.

I’m curious to know how the presenter of The Culture Show has missed this – and how Forbidden Planet has been a part of that movement.

In fairness, it must be said you’ve not lost out completely – you’re socially aware enough to know the word ‘Geek’ is cool. But ‘those kinds of boys’ to which you refer know exactly what to do with girls – they’re having a laugh with the large numbers of smart and streetwise ladies that hang out in (yes, in) FP. Perhaps if you took a look at that ‘weird stuff’, you might be able to talk to them? About – y’know – films and stuff? The very Culture you’re presenting a show about? If you’re ‘a girl in a man’s world’, then relating shouldn’t be that hard for you.

Just an idea.

Of course, if best-selling books and movie merchandise are just too freaky, then you’re absolutely welcome to loiter outside FP London and see who really does walk past…

But you’ll miss: –

Amanda Palmer
Mike Carey
Kim Stanley Robinson
Pat Mills
David Lloyd
Iain Banks
Howard Chaykin
Kevin Smith
and
Cory Doctorow

And that’s just the beginning.

I know you don’t know all these names, but you know enough. These are the people that have helped redefine the word ‘Geek’ to mean what it does today – that have stood on the crest of the wave of social evolution that you’ve apparently missed.

Forbidden Planet is at the top of Shaftesbury Avenue.

You won’t be needing the peg.

(Just for the record, this is my personal blog. What’s written here has not been endorsed by Forbidden Planet or the Titan Entertainment Group in any way. But on behalf of hot, smart, savvy and streetwise Geeks (of both genders) everywhere I kinda had to say something. Y’know?)

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Reclaim the Geek

Merriam-Webster defines ‘Geek’ in the following way: –

1: A carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake
2: A person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked
3 An enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity

In a long proud geek grrl career, I’ve not yet seen something’s head bitten off as proof of geek credibility – but I’ve seen almost everything else. From role-players and re-enactors to readers and writers, from techies and twitterers to the new cult of ‘geek chic’, the term has come to encompass a swath of archetypes. The geek really has inherited the earth; he (and she) should be stabbed by the stigma of the term no longer.

After EasterCon, I did wonder where the kids had gone; was concerned the geek community was spiralling slowly outwards to the galaxy’s edges. Yet at Salute, I found them – younger ones, mainly, playing tabletop games while Dad used the excuse to ogle military figures his missus would never let him buy. Intrigued by the ratio of ‘size of Dad’ to ‘need for DPM’, I was delighted to see that Geek 101 still fires the kids’ imaginations and has them passionate and jumping.

At the London Expo, I saw where they go next: they progress from war- and board-games to online shared gaming environments, to savvy and street-smart manga and anime. These are exciting words, worlds to recreate as they meet up. Their costumes may be terrifying (and their sword-play worse!) but that’s not the point – their fire and creativity is growing, and has an outlet. They revel.

Then comes the age of realisation: understanding that the game is over and it’s time to take your fantasies and grow up; to look forwards. At the Bristol Comic Con, I was touched to see one guy present his portfolio – and get offered the job he’d always dreamed of. His lessons counted and gave him a future.

Sadly, we can’t all be that lucky – but I have been, in my own way, and there are many people in my twitterstream who’ve taken an apprenticeship as fanboy or gamer and used the new webwork of social media to help spin it into a highly successful career. And with my new Mac sitting shiny-white on my desktop, I too am creaking open the doors of the contemporary Geek Clique.

In an interview with the Guardian in December 2003, entitled ‘We’re All Nerds Now’, Peter Jackson talked about the rise of Geek Chic. Blossoming then, it’s had five years to gain momentum and influence.

This is not about being a ‘weed’, ‘nerd’ or ‘bore’ – this is a life choice.

It’s time to reclaim the geek.