No True Geek: The Mythical Faken-Geek

Green Forest, Bogenfreund
Image by Bogenfreund, “Green Forest,” creative commons license.

“You can’t be a Trekkie if you’ve only watched TNG onward.”

“Oh, you like comics? Well, who was Superman’s nemesis in the third issue following Lex Luthor’s rise to prominence?”

“That’s not what Damon actually said in season four episode eight. Bejeebus, did you even watch the episode?”

Every so often in fandom, someone will card you.

Not your driver’s license — your Geek Cred Card. And if you get asked something or called out on not knowing a thing, sometimes it’ll leave you sweating bullets and questioning the state of your underoos.

And it rankles me.

Being a geek to me isn’t about what you love or how verbatim-y you can get when someone asks you to rattle something off. Being a geek is about loving a thing.

That’s it. I might take pride in being able to name just about any Buffy episode if you tell me a few snippets of the plot. It might thrill me to be able to tell you definitively that there are no demons in my apartment, car, or dog because I’ve memorized the long exorcism from season two of Supernatural. But I’m not going to ever tell you that you’re not as big a Buffy fan as I am or that you don’t love the Winchesters as much as I do if you can’t do those things.

Earlier this week, I read an article by a woman who was sharing her experience about cosplaying in a screen-accurate Star Trek uniform from The Original Series. Not only did she get concern-trolled like mad about the length of her skirt — to the point that she felt so uncomfortable by the large number of comments that she changed — but she’s had heaps of people come up and quiz her. Random trivia. Little snippets of fact from within the story of Star Trek and without.

I thought to myself, “Why does anyone think that’s necessary?”

In short, she’s been carded. And presented with the No True Geek logical fallacy. In case you’re unfamiliar, there’s a common logical fallacy known as the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. It’s saying, “Oh, no true Scotsman prefers vodka to scotch.” Or “No true Scotsman would agree with the conservative party in Westminster.” It’s a way to Other someone, to prove to oneself that they don’t belong in your club.

When it comes to geekdom, it happens a lot. When it’s friends bantering and discussing a mutual Loved Thing, that’s one thing. When it’s a stranger using tricksy, Gollum-worthy questions to embarrass and humiliate, that’s something else altogether.

It’s like saying the person who spends two hours a day playing Bejeweled Blitz and Simpsons Tapped out isn’t a real gamer because no true gamer would play those games. Ultimately, the No True Geek fallacy is harmful because it is a mindset that forces the masses of unique, snowflake-y humanoids inhabiting geekdom to constrain their loving of things to one limited ideal of what that ought to look like.

The same can go for fantasy or science fiction — recently female authors have been fighting the inane idea that true sci-fi would never have romance (inane because those making that argument clearly missed Han and Leia’s courtship along with Spock and Uhura and heaps of other stellar — get it?! Stellar? — romances written by males).

To Other someone: to boot them out of a club you feel you’ve staked your claim on with a crayon-scrawled sign.

Another example is that good-looking people can’t be geeks. The argument that no true geek is good-looking because good-looking people wouldn’t have experienced the ostracism and angst of adolescence getting bullied or picked on for their looks. I read that one in a couple different comments tonight.

I consider myself to be a good-looking person. No one’s run screaming from me in years. But just because I don’t make babies cry now doesn’t mean I didn’t spend my adolescence absolutely miserable. I had horrific cystic acne that started when I was eight. I had grossly misaligned teeth followed by three years of painful, shiny, obvious orthodontia. I blushed easily. I was ridiculed and made fun of constantly. I was not, by anyone’s standards, an attractive teen-thing.

Saying no true geek can be attractive is a logical fallacy. It’s another way of Othering someone.

And that’s not what geekery is about.

Geekery is about loving a thing. It’s about the gooey delightful feelings of effervescence when a show comes off hiatus. It’s making inappropriately high-pitched noises at the sight of someone’s Buffy lunchbox or silently giving someone a Live Long and Prosper when you see their Star Trek shirt. It’s discussing existential nihilism and misanthropy over Twitter. It’s the people who will sit in line overnight to get into Hall H at San Diego Comic Con this week. It’s the feel of that comic book in your hands or turning to the letters from fans at the back and feeling tears well up in your eyes at the number of people who are as thrilled to see an all-female X-Men cast as you are.

Geeks are the ones who should be opening our arms to let new people come love things with us. High-fiving random strangers for dressing their little girls in Green Lantern shirts — or grinning and leaving 2π in the tip line of a $20 check because you saw the server wearing a quadratic joke on a wristband.

If you’ve been the Other, you should know how it feels.

Instead making people prove their ways in, why not open the door for them?

Let’s love things together.

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17 thoughts on “No True Geek: The Mythical Faken-Geek

  1. I consider myself a geek and yet in some people’s opinion because I don’t like/know certain “things”, I don’t qualify. This is ridiculous! My geekiness is different from others and THAT’S OKAY. I LOVE Red Dwarf but am indifferent about Star Trek…does that mean I’m not a cool enough geek? Like seriously! So thank you for writing this post because it’s AWESOME!

    Huh…I just had a moment here. I realized I’m upset because people DON’T think I’m a geek. Whoa…my teenage self is all kinds of mixed up!

    1. That’s one of the things that this commenter brought up — now that geekdom has this veneer of cool, this person felt like that’s the only reason people want to be associated with it. I find that ridiculous. Geeky means loving a thing — and it’s GREAT that it’s becoming more accepted to be a geek. It doesn’t give us license to turn around and Other people who we feel don’t meet our standard.

  2. Shauna Granger

    Um, yes, to everything. I love when I meet a new HP nerd, or a new any kind of nerd that might be my ultimate source of joy. I don’t berate them for not knowing all the things, because they will. I went to a Neil Gaiman signing this month. I cannot express my love for that man acurately, but I will admit to not having read every single thing he’s written (I will, eventually). Standing in line, for four hours, with my fellow geeks we all chatted and admitted to not having read this or that title and no one rolled their eyes or shook their heads in disgust. Instead, whoever had read whatever beamed brightly and said, “Oh, you gotta read it. IT IS SO GOOD!” That is the appropriate response. Don’t quiz, don’t grill; share, discuss, enjoy. I know so many of us, especially the women, can give dozens of examples of being criticized, but I try not to hold on to those experiences. I try to set the better example and welcome the newborn nerds into our ranks.

  3. Every geek should read this! We really need to get rid of this culture of holding everyone to certain standards. We as geeks get picked on enough by the outside world, we should really know better than to judge others.
    Luckily, it isn’t that bad at Danish conventions, but I have heard horror stories about the international ones. I’m currently making an Alexstrasza costume(from World of Warcraft), and if anyone dares insinuate that I’m not a real gamer because I’m a fairly attractive woman, I will fireball their asses into next month.

      1. It would be my pleasure to give one of those guys a piece of my mind… 8 years of gaming World of Warcraft has given me great ammonition for dealing with idiots 😀

      2. If you ever feel like writing a post about your experiences, we’d love to have something like that over at my Searching for SuperWomen site. We’re always looking for great experiential essays about women in geekdom.

      3. I would be happy to(sorry I’m replying to an earlier post, not sure WordPress likes long comment conversations…)! Maybe when I finish the costume? It might be a little while yet, but it would make for a great topic and some great pictures to go with it.

      4. I think it could be a lot of fun and hopefully I will remember it! I’m trying to get the costume done in time for a convention on 30th August – 1st Septemper, and I might forget everything else when the time starts to run out and I will have to work on overload.
        Better put a reminder somewhere…

  4. This whole question of who’s a better geek and who’s not baffles me. Finding others who love the same things I do feels like Christmas morning! Being able to talk with others who love Buffy (!!!) & wanna fangirl over their newest tabletop game is all the win! And you know what, if they haven’t read the Buffy comics WHO CARES. Furthermore, if they prefer WoW to SmallWorld, I ain’t got no beef. It’s a big ole world out there with a lot of things to love and be excited about. I totally agree, a geek is someone who LOVES something with every fiber of their being and can’t help but express that love to the world. Whether we’re a nerd, geek, fangirl (or fanboy), Trekkie, or a Whovian, we are all apart of a larger community. I think we’ve all got a little geek inside us and agree we need to be more welcoming and less judgy.

  5. Pingback: What’s a Geek? Are there Fake Geeks? Do You Care? – Bill Parker's Personal Bloggy Thing

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