Someone recently told my other half that they couldn’t work me out. They haven’t met me, but they knew a few things about me. “He’s a personal trainer, he likes Star Trek, he plays basketball, he goes to conventions, he likes rap music, he collects transformers.” This isn’t the first time I’ve confused someone with my seemingly incompatible interests. I’ll never forget, about ten years ago, the look on a bemused member of HMV’s staff’s face as I handed over a rap album, R and B album and a star trek box set for them to scan. “I’ve never seen that combination before” they said. I did laugh.
Years ago, when I was dating, one of the things I’d have to try to work out was at what point I would tell the person I was dating that I was a Star Trek fan. I joke about this now, but at the time I considered it an important part of my life that I would want someone to know about me, but if I was trying to impress someone, it probably wouldn’t be the first thing I would have wanted to tell them about me! At the time, I didn’t know that many people who shared my love of Sci-Fi, and those that did were all guys. Things have changed now, I know I’m not defined by any one of my interests, that each of them make up a unique aspect of my personality, and I’m proud that all of them are a part of me.
It seems that we live in an age where geek culture is more popular than ever, and more accepted than ever, yet there are still stereotypes associated with the accompanying interests in people’s minds. So am I a geek, are you a geek, and more importantly does it matter? Do we even know what a geek really is? Collins online dictionary defines a geek as: a person who is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about a specific subject. Out of the 17 synonyms for geek, only two of them were particularly flattering, those two being whiz, and genius-pretty good ones! The urban dictionary provides a somewhat interesting definition of the word geek: The people you pick on as a kid and wind up working for as an adult-this essentially portrays the geeks as being the real winners in life! None of these definitions mention Star Trek, Star Wars, Transformers, Sci-fi or attending conventions, which is interesting as it’s the interests or habits that create the stereotypical views of who we are. Amusingly though, one of the synonyms was “gamer”. If we go by the first definition in the Collins Online Dictionary, anyone who has an interest in pretty much anything could be considered a geek.
It’s interesting that no one has ever been confused by my love of basketball and enjoyment of Will Ferrell movies. Yet when it comes to sci-fi, people see these interests as incompatible. If people watched Star Trek closely, they’d see quite a few episodes where Enterprise crew engage in sports and physical exercise (Commander Riker fought his father in a game of Ambu-Jitsu, Picard and Guinan compete against each other in fencing, and Worf enjoys a bit of calisthenics on the holodeck to name a few Next Generation scenarios). Anyone who themselves engages in physical exercise is doing so to better themselves in some way, which is a major theme in Star Trek, so on closer inspection my interests don’t seem so far apart now.
The bottom line is that Sci-fi, Transformers, or anything else that you would consider a part of geek culture, should be accessible to everyone. You shouldn’t feel that you can’t enjoy these things, or speak out about these things, because other people may not understand your enjoyment of them, or because they don’t match some of your other interests. Similarly, it works the other way too, variety is the spice of life and you should feel free to explore other activities that wouldn’t normally be associated with these things. One thing that I have noticed, is that the more I speak about my enjoyment of attending conventions and collecting Transformers, more people have taken an interest and started to ask questions about these things. People are genuinely surprised when they realise how cool my transformers display looks-alongside my home exercise equipment! I’ve met some truly great people, been inspired and made lifelong friends from attending events through exploring my love of Sci-fi and Transformers. Whoever you are, and whatever else you like doing, keep exploring your geek culture interests and sharing them with your geek and non-geek communities. Share great articles and pictures of you enjoying your geek community hobbies on social media, let everyone see how cool all of this stuff really is, and we can redefine the geek for the modern age.