Tag Archives: geek

The Greatest Generation

I had the highest of hopes for the Greatest Generation podcast when the Maximum Fun network picked it up and brought it to my attention. I’m a huge fan of other Max Fun podcasts, so I felt like if they were backing and promoting a Star Trek podcast, it would probably be a good one. Unfortunately, three episodes in, I’m done. I don’t feel like I can continue listening, and I absolutely cannot recommend the Greatest Generation podcast to any Star Trek fan.

It should have been a huge red flag to me that the hosts are so embarrassed to be hosting the podcast that they spend a little time in each of the first three episodes contemplating using pseudonyms so nobody knows they’re involved in such a nerdy project. Their premise is “A Star Trek podcast by two guys who are a bit embarrassed to have a Star Trek podcast.” Maybe that should have tipped me off. But it’s a comedy podcast, and I guess I figured they were playing to their audience, many of whom probably had to (or still have to) hide their love of Star Trek in order to avoid being mocked and bullied. Most geeks understand the impulse to stay quiet about what they love, in case someone comes by to tear it to shreds. So I let that slide, and decided to give it a few more episodes to see how it evolved.

It didn’t.

I thought I was going to hear a podcast that would poke fun at the silly things in TNG (and goodness knows there’s a whole harvest of silly pickings in season one alone). There’s some of that, to be sure, but there are also far too many Picard-the-closet-pedophile jokes for my liking, and I often found myself wishing they’d hurry up and talk about something else so I could stop squirming in discomfort. I’m glad I stopped at episode three, because @lakeline on Twitter tells me the sexual assault jokes get worse, and they go into weird Cosby territory around episode 8.

To be honest, though, that part doesn’t even bother me as much as it probably should. Those jokes have been made before, and there is a fair amount of casual sexism inherent to the show itself. Maybe the hosts are saying all that stuff ironically. Maybe.

Because they certainly don’t seem sincere. And that lack of sincerity gives an air of mean-spiritedness to the fun they’re poking at the show I love. If it ended there, I’d just have stopped listening and walked away without writing this post. I’d have just accepted that this podcast wasn’t for me and moved on to other things. But it’s not just the show they make fun of. They make fun of the fans, too. And that hurts.

I’ve spent enough of my lifetime taking crap for loving science fiction and other nerdy things – I will not put up with a podcast that jokes about holding up nerdier nerds to use as human wedgie shields. The hosts are careful to tell you over and over that they’re not super nerds, you guys. Yeah, they’re doing this podcast thing (don’t worry, they’re embarrassed about it) but there are waaaay nerdier fans than them out there. You know, those dorks who dress up and immerse themselves in the fantasy, and who try to recreate Klingon recipes with Earthly foods.

Dorks like me.

I love TNG. I was only a kid back when it premiered, but I watched it every week, without fail, while it was on the air. It’s what I compare all other science fiction to. I idolized Captain Picard and I was in love with Wesley. I wanted a friendship like the one between Geordi and Data. I wanted to check out the holodeck and work in sickbay as Dr Crusher’s assistant. I came to this podcast hoping to hear people geeking out about one of my favorite things. I wanted to connect with other nerds who love this same thing. Instead I feel vaguely ashamed for loving Star Trek as much as I do.

Why are they punching down? Why create levels and classes of nerds so there’s always someone to look down on? I’m genuinely confused about the audience they’re trying to reach with the show. It seems like it should be people like me, but then why would they insult me? Maybe this podcast is only for the super cool TNG fans who only watch it ironically on Netflix.

I’m especially disappointed because the other shows I enjoy on the Maximum Podcast network are so inclusive. I listen to Judge John Hodgman where “people like what they like” is settled fake internet law, and One Bad Mother where everyone’s parenting journey is equally valid and we’re all doing a good job. I guess maybe I thought that other shows on the network would share that welcoming atmosphere.

I’m not saying the hosts of the show are bad people. And maybe the show does get better in the second season, just like TNG did. But I can’t invest the emotional energy to continue listening.




Nothing To Prove

I’m not sure I want to wear the Geek Girl label.

I don’t deny that I am both female and geeky, but there’s something vaguely condescending about the term “Geek Girl,” and it bothers me. I’m sure I’ve never heard anyone called a Geek Boy. Or a Geek Guy/Man/Dude/Bro/Gentleman, either. So why is there a special term for the females of the geek clan? Why does gender matter here?

We don’t speak of “lady doctors” or “authoresses” anymore. We’ve slowly transitioned to using neutral labels for people like “postal workers” and “flight attendants,” to reflect the fact that one’s genitalia are irrelevant to one’s career choice1. It’s not about “political correctness,” it’s about evolving away from a sexist society that thinks it’s adorable when a woman does physics and hilarious when a man goes into nursing.

I feel that the word “girl” makes it that much more convenient for jerks to marginalize female geeks2. It singles out female geeks as different. So when they come to the table with their games and their comics and their cosplay and their big beautiful brains, they’re challenged and accosted and harassed. They’re not really geeks. They’re just girl geeks, which means they can’t possibly be taking Batman as seriously as the rest of the gang.

These men are not to be taken lightly. BIFF! POW! BLORT!

The “Fake Geek Girl” phenomenon is real, in that there are plenty of folks who analyze the motives of female geeks, and try to cast out those who don’t measure up to some nebulous geek ideal. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid harassment, whether by happenstance or obliviousness to my surroundings, but I’ve heard stories from many friends about being dressed down in front of a group for daring to geek while female. Why do I only hear these stories from my female friends? Why isn’t there as much finger-pointing towards men who travel in geek circles, calling them fakes and poseurs? Why don’t you hear stories of guys at cons being challenged to prove their worth and their right to be there? There seem to be an alarming number of jerks out there who think that women can’t possibly like anything geeky except as a trick to infiltrate the geekosphere to seduce a sexy nerd-mate.

Dude. Tiaras? Totally geeky in the right context. And don’t you also love the implication that pretty girls aren’t really geeks?

I really hate that even though I’m an adult, people might judge me and challenge me to “prove” that I love Star Trek or Doctor Who or Jonathan Coulton. That’s completely unacceptable. I spent far too much of my childhood trying desperately to fit in with the popular kids, and I know that many of my current friends can relate. I spent years trying to like what they liked, because what I liked wasn’t cool enough to share with anyone. To be mocked as a child because I loved nerdy things too much, only to find myself, as an adult, accused of not loving these same things enough? I will say it again: unacceptable. We all went through a similar hell as geeky children – why perpetuate the discrimination as adults? None of us has anything to prove to one another, so just stop it. Live and let live and let people be excited without challenging them about what they say they love. You know more Star Wars trivia than me? Cool! Maybe I can learn from you.

geek

And you know what? If there are young women out there who are faking it, and only pretending to love things to get attention, so what? How does it hurt you? Let them try on different selves until they find the one that fits them. Hell, I tried on the Backstreet Boys in my teens to see if I could be like the cool girls I idolized. Maybe she’s trying on manga because she thinks you’re cool. Be flattered, and be kind. Thinking you’re a better geek than someone else because you loved something first, or you love more things, or different things, or you love them differently? That’s bullshit. And using that as your default approach to female geeks is even bullshittier.

I am absolutely delighted to have found acceptance as an adult in my geek tribe. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally felt like I could be entirely myself and still have wonderful friends. Nobody has the right to take that feeling away from me. I have nothing to prove.

And neither does anyone else.

 

1. Unless you’re a penis model. You’ll probably need a penis for that.

2. I’m not saying that everyone needs to stop using the term “Geek Girl.” I understand that some find it empowering, and that’s fine. I just feel uncomfortable using it to describe myself, because I know I’d never put up with being called a stewardess or a policewoman. I do believe the internet is making a feminist of me.

Man, I love this song!

Have you ever been enjoying a happy song, humming along and air-drumming to the beat, only to have a friend look at you wide-eyed and ask “don’t you know what this song is about?” And then you felt vaguely dirty because what you thought was a bright and catchy summer tune is actually about drug addiction or domestic abuse, and you hadn’t noticed?

That happens to me a lot. It’s not necessarily that I’m oblivious, it’s that I’m just not good with song lyrics. Everyone seems to sing too fast and mumbly for me to catch the words on the first try. It’s frustrating, because I feel like those around me don’t have that problem. My husband can hear a song twice and be able to sing along to the whole thing. I’m lucky if I’ve even got the chorus straight by that point. He’s much more musically inclined than me, so maybe that’s a part of it, but I’m starting to wonder if maybe my hearing is just terrible.

Many of my friends, especially the more creative and musically talented ones, will dig songs for their lyrical aspect. I can, too, if I can follow what’s going on. Some are easier than others. For example, I love Paul and Storm‘s funny songs, and Marian Call‘s lyrics can make me cry, because I find it very easy to understand what they’re singing. It’s hard to appreciate the songwriter’s efforts if I can’t make out the words. I wonder if that’s why I liked Bon Jovi and Madonna when I was growing up, instead of Nirvana and Pearl Jam like all the cool kids. I can sing along to “You Give Love a Bad Name,” but what the hell is going on with “Smells Like Teen Spirit?”*

If a song is pushes the right buttons in my brain, I don’t need to understand its deeper message in order to enjoy it. It doesn’t even have to have a deeper message. Bruno Mars sings such shallow lyrics as:

Yeah your sex takes me to paradise

And it shows, yeah, yeah, yeah

Cause you make me feel like,

I’ve been locked out of heaven

For too long, For too long

Yeah you make me feel like,

I’ve been locked out of heaven

For too long, for too long

Oh yeah yeah yeah yeah

Ooh!

Oh yeah yeah

Oh yeah yeah yeah yeah

Ooh!

But it’s a catchy little song and I can’t help enjoying it. Same goes for tons of other stuff. Sure, maybe the lyrics are idiotic, but it’s making me smile and tap on the steering wheel in traffic.

I’m trying to be less judgmental about what other people enjoy, because I think it’s equally valid to enjoy a song for its melody and lyrical complexity as for its bouncy sound and ability to stick in your brain all day. I have to believe that, or I have to hate myself for liking certain songs. And if I believe that, then I have to apply the same logic to a person’s love of books, or art, or TV shows. So you read 50 Shades of Gray and watch Two and a Half Men? That’s okay. Maybe they’re your Bruno Mars. And that’s totally cool.

Just don’t expect me to watch Two and a Half Men with you.

*Theory: I was a social outcast not because I was a nerd and matched my socks to my T-shirts, but because I have difficulty filtering out background noise to discern words. I like this theory.