The New Geek

I work for a certain clothing retailer and every time a girl comes to the counter with the “geek” tshirt she’s about to purchase, I grimace and imagine burning it. I imagine burning all of them in a wonderful bonfire, as I remember my school days and being verbally torn to shreds for wearing a Harry Potter tshirt on non-uniform day. What audacity I had to show a love for something that wasn’t cool or mainstream at the time.

Ok, so maybe I’m just bitter. I have seen praise for this trend all over the internet. How wonderful that people can feel free to be themselves now, without judgement for seeing The Fellowship of the Ring at the cinema four times or liking the Napoleonic war drama Sharpe (I might be speaking about myself).

It isn’t that simple though. Despite all the mistakes in my life, I look back on my teenage years and I can at least be glad I was myself, despite what people thought of my taste in films, music and books. My friends and I didn’t consider ourselves to be geeks. We were just enjoying Star Wars and the Nintendo 64 as we saw fit. It never would have occurred to us to be anything different.

Now that the meaning of the word geek has changed, it doesn’t mean there is no bullying in school any more. It doesn’t mean there aren’t outcasts or losers any more. They’re still there. What has happened is that the word “geek” has been claimed for attractive and popular people. The real geeks have had the only thing that was still theirs taken away from them.

I’m not saying that pretty, slim girls and the school football team can’t possibly be interested in comics and gaming and Wes Anderson films. Of course they can and if you like these things, the more the merrier. But now there is yet another level of exclusion and the losers become further marginalised.

Zooey Deschanel has become the poster girl for the doe-eyed geek girl. She is as dorky and awkward as can be in every film she stars in, as well as her TV show New Girl. Except that she’s gorgeous so they stick thick glasses on her so people aren’t confused- she really is a nerd, viewers! She listens to the Smiths and sings in public for no reason! How quirky!

I remember watching 500 days of Summer for the first time and hearing the line: “Weight- average” in reference to Zooey Deschanel. I am not bashing slim girls. The naturally skinny get as much trouble as the chubby but to say that Zooey Deschanel is an average weight is insane. She is 121lbs. Is this what young women should be striving for, just to be considered geeks?

I wish I had a solution to all of this, but I don’t. I suppose what I’m trying to say is: Be yourself. If you don’t like “nerdy” stuff, don’t do it or watch it or play it or read it. My friend Euan once struck up a conversation with a guy at a party because he was wearing a Guns ‘n’ Roses t shirt. Turns out, the guy didn’t actually own a single album of theirs. Real fans will find you out and you’ll look like a tit.

As for the geek t shirts, feel free to wear them. As long as you have the time to tell everyone you meet that you’re wearing it ironically. A real geek wouldn’t be seen dead in it.

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