On Geek Chic and the Fallacy of Pop Burgers

I’ve never had much use for labels, which is to say that I generally disapprove of them, and, as with most things that I generally disapprove of, I probably use them just as much as anyone else, but in my defense,  I’m lazy and I find labels a convenient way to criticize so long as I feel that the label covers at least half or better of the list of grievances I would have otherwise had to detail, and, inasmuch as I have a tendency to be long-winded, they help mollify that to a certain extent, although likely never so much that I would ever be considered succinct or even, I suppose, fashionably clever, since it seems that by contemporary standards, it’s not enough to be clever on any terms, but to do so in short bursts, which has consistently proven to be persistently beyond my grasp. So in the interests of being succinct (sic), I’ll just say that I consider labels the same as bicycles; I don’t particularly like them, but they have their uses (my grievances with bicycles will have to wait for another day).

I don’t specifically remember being called a “geek” when I was a kid, but much like being kicked in the balls, I can’t really recall specific incidents, but I know it happened. I was never certain what the particular criteria were, but I’m assuming that having an undisguised penchant for sci-fi/fantasy and being essentially the only person in my school (faculty included) that knew how to do anything with a fucking computer aside from turning it on (though in all fairness, these were the haughty days of command prompts and floppy disks) had something to do with it, but no one ever really bothered to elucidate on the term.

So far as my preference in entertainment goes, in general, I’m sure almost every genre has at least one narrowly-defined window of crossover appeal sufficient to make it acceptable to enjoy without the risk of being labeled correspondingly (assuming here that the corresponding label for science-fiction is “geek”), but once you’ve stepped outside of that window, the popular culture immunity proviso becomes forfeit. Back in the winsome days of my youth, the window for sci-fi was largely defined by Star Wars, which meant that I could openly enjoy and, to a limited extent, discuss Star Wars with the average person, but veering off into Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica territory would most likely earn me a glazed stare not unlike the one I assume my wife gets when she asks me which pair of shoes go with her shirt (which she bemusedly insists on calling a “blouse”). While most of my friends were at home watching 90210 (the original shitty version, not the updated shitty version), I was watching TNG or The X-Files and unapologetically fucking up the adolescent equivalent of water-cooler conversation. And thus by those criteria, I suppose a geek was christened.

Despite this, I’ve never really considered myself a geek, neither in my formative years, in which the term was clearly a pejorative, nor since, when it’s been co-opted as a fashion statement and marketing buzzword. I really didn’t feel that I was actually geeky enough when I was a kid to deserve being labeled as such. I didn’t wear plastic Vulcan ears or wizard robes or speak elvish or anything like that (not that I judged anyone who did…maybe the elvish thing, but that’s a discussion for another time), but I did have superhero-themed bank checks in college, so I suppose it might have just been a matter of degrees. But nonetheless, as a former slander, I thought it a bit unfair, and as the contemporary “fashion du jour”, I’ve politely declined the honorific (although I suppose I’ve rightfully earned it), mostly because the bandwagon currently seems a bit too crowded with the kind of assholes who go to a Comic-Con to see a fucking Twilight panel discussion (to wit, once I saw my wife’s E! “news” program covering Comic-Con, I decided I was quite done with the whole thing), and possibly because it’s seems that it’s my lot in life to be forever arbitrarily opposed to fashion.

This is not to say that the current “geek chic” trend is without its merits. At the very least, it means less Batman & Robin (a distinction I like to believe earned Joel Schumacher a special place in hell) and more Dark Knight, cinematic versions of The Avengers and Lord of the Rings that don’t look as if they were made with the budget of a high-school production of Our Town (although I’ll admit that I have a certain nostalgic soft spot for the shitty, low-budget 90’s Marvel movies and shitty 80’s fantasy movies) and the broader acceptance of science fiction and fantasy themes in television programs that don’t air at midnight or on Saturday afternoons. Unfortunately, the proliferation of this trend gives rise to the same pitfalls as anything that’s been granted the exalted status of a “thing”. Any popular (with or without merit) example of the genre will be endlessly cloned, recycled and regurgitated until we inevitably choke on the resulting crapulence, which is why I have to suffer through endless incarnations of vampires that prance around, doing everything except acting like fucking vampires, angsty (and yet still plucky) teens delivering humanity from assorted dystopian futures, and a presumably 10-hour version of The Hobbit (which so far consists of a two-hour dwarven musical and about an hour or so of walking in fucking circles).

Of course, the reality is that the mainstream doorway to “geeky” entertainment was never really thrown wide open, so much as the (aforementioned) window was just opened a bit further to let in (mainly) first-tier comic book characters, high-profile fantasy books, and anything associated with fucking vampires, but the essential crossover rules still remain intact, which is why you’ll never see a Babylon 5 (which, to be honest, I never really cared for, but still respected) revival on CBS and yet every asshole with HBO is suddenly a fucking expert on the continent of Westeros (so long as you don’t confuse them by mentioning anything that happens after A Clash of Kings).

This also means that some existing “sacred cows” of the genre that traditionally fall somewhat outside of the window of fashionable acceptability are going to be effectively slaughtered and fed to us as “Pop Burgers”, which is why Captain Kirk now resembles one of the assholes you see buying Patron shots for his “dudebros” at some shithole in the Meat-Packing District on Friday night. (Incidentally, this is also why I chose the Pop Burger analogy, which is the name of a pretentious shithole in the Meat-Packing District, which has the unprecedented distinction of being a bar that also serves hamburgers, which are actually sliders, but which they steadfastly insist on calling “Pop Burgers”, even though they are, in fact, sliders, and they goddamned well know it.)

For the record, in the previous paragraph, I was just going to use my go-to ecumenical “hipster” label in describing the “new” Kirk’s presumed inspiration and forgo the protracted description, but I decided to take the high road, instead. Not unlike “geek”, I’m not entirely certain what a hipster really is, but like any good label, I generally use it as a catch-all to describe any archetype that willfully participates in any kind of behavior that I find particularly obnoxious when I don’t feel like simply calling them an asshole (although I’ve been known to do both).

Ordinarily, at this point, I would be wont to segue into a more detailed analysis of the new Star Trek, but that’ll actually merit a separate discussion in its own right, so I’ll hold back on that for now.  Therefore, having reached a fork in my narrative path, I’ll pause for a moment and re-direct my momentum down a slightly different, but related, path in my next discussion in order to exorcise the last of my remaining bile on the subject (for the time-being). Stay tuned.

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