There’s an article that’s been circulating for some time now with regards to the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone Park. The general idea is that with a natural predator returned to its environment, the remaining flora and fauna rebalanced itself. Deer populations settled, which allowed different plants to return, which allowed other animals to return, and so on. The Circle Of Life and all that: cue the Disney geeks belting out that first Zulu high note.
But the storied Circle doesn’t have to end with wolves and anthropomorphic lions. No. The Circle Of Life belongs in the world of humanity, as well. Never forget that Elton John and Tim Rice remind us that “It moves us all.”
I don’t know where Geek Culture became a mainstream movement. I get the nagging impression that the popularity of Judd Apatow’s films has something to do with it. Fantasy football and Call Of Duty are prime suspects. And of course, other pop culture geekery like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and every comic book movie since 2000’s X-Men have a weight to be placed on their delicately freckled shoulders as well.
But isn’t that a good thing? I’m not so sure anymore.
Tomorrow I will be 35 years old, so I remember a time in my life where being a geek led to no small amount of shame. Well, perhaps “shame” is too strong a word. Privacy might be better. All geeks required privacy. Privacy to read their comics, privacy to paint their toy soldiers, privacy to play D&D.
My friends and I would play Dungeons and Dragons in the basement under lock and key, and when one of our mothers knocked and demanded to know what we were doing, we would claim group masturbation because that was less shameful.
“Well, my son is growing into a man, so that will lead to changes, however uncomfortable they might be for me as a parent,” is a far more acceptable inner monologue for mom than, “Jesus Christ he’s never going to leave the house.”
I remember my first girlfriend and the look of disbelief she had when I explained to her that my favorite hobby was a game that you couldn’t technically win.
I remember attending my first convention, and seeing the parade of cosplay. A kid in the parking lot who had made a fully functional Gundam suit out of cardboard and epoxy. He fired missiles into a nearby Toyota Tundra and the crowd cheered with delight, their faces lit from the yellow glow of the fuel tank igniting. Faced with that level of open geekery my first instinct wasn’t dissimilar to the reaction many aging gay men from Mississippi must have had when they saw their first Pride parade.
“Cover yourself up!” my instincts told me to cry out. “For god’s sake: people can see you!”
Eventually I grew to appreciate this new level of acceptability for the mainstreamification of Geek Culture. My girlfriends might not always have shared my interests, but they thought it was charming and quirky that I could name the race of each and every alien in the cantina scene of Star Wars. Grown adults with children were posting on Facebook with delight that they were a Hufflepuff. The guy in the office wearing boat shoes and madras shorts spent his lunch break going into great detail about his Jon Snow theories.
For a moment in time, there was bliss. We had won.
But power corrupts.
In the past few years alone, Geek Culture has become a stain on the patchwork quilt of society. From the hashtag that shall not be named to the shameful cultural destruction of the once-noble trilby. When news outlets were gobsmacked by the supposedly “out of nowhere” arrival of the alt-right, gamer geeks shook their heads sadly, knowing all too well how long they’ve been around.
We have Rick & Morty fans harassing minimum wage workers for a limited edition Szechuan sauce: accusing them of hoarding this supposed ambrosia for themselves. A small army of fans demanding a condiment that none of them remembered or desired until a cartoon made a passing joke about it.
I told a close friend in grad school once that I was a fan of Bukowski. He expressed his distaste for the man while agreeing that it was true that one could appreciate and enjoy his work without being a toxic misogynist. The trouble was, he explained, that Chuck’s work gave too many less thoughtful guys an excuse to treat their girlfriends like shit.
We’re seeing that same sort of effect in social cultures that would claim to be intellectuals of any stripe. I feel the same way meeting another geek as I do meeting an atheist these days. I claim membership in both of those good time clubs, but my defenses are inevitably up. If I were to enter the home of an acquaintance whose book shelves were lined with Hitchens and Dawkins, I would react the same way as if the place was loaded with automatic weapons.
“So, uh… What do you plan on doing with all of this stuff?”
We have flown too close to the sun, and all we can do on our descent to the earth is argue about whether or not Dark Souls should have an easy mode.
So what is there to do?
The solution seems so obvious, but it only came to me when I was watching the videos and pictures of those crowds of Szechuan-loving Rick and Morty fans.
“Christ,” I thought, scrolling through the Twitter Machine. “Somebody oughta pants a couple of these kids.”
And then it occurred to me: where the fuck are all the jocks?
The legendary, high school movie nurtured, too stereotypical for their own good jocks?
Some might argue that, like Bigfoot and the Berenstein Bears, that they never truly existed. That Biff Tannen and Johnny Lawrence and Andrew Clark were fairy tales: scary stories told to young geeks to keep them in line. But the aging geek demographic: we know better. And while they might not have been as dumb or as patently aggressive as the moving pictures told us they were, they existed, and they were the reason you hid your binder full of Magic cards in your locker.
So I propose that we release the wolves back into Yellowstone Park.
We need to make Geekery geeky again. It needs to return to its roots of secret handshakes and painstakingly designed cryptograms. The deer have flourished for so long that they have begun to believe that they themselves are the wolves. There is such a thing as too much freedom, and we have seen the ugliness that it encourages. Deer write rape threats to women with any level of power. Deer obsess over how many people don’t appreciate their favorite game instead of just enjoying the fucking game. Deer use fallacy memes to stop a conversation in its tracks and show everyone involved just how smart they are.
Deer are terrible people.
We need the wolves to return, and maintain some semblance of balance. A few geeks will be messily devoured by the pack along the way, but that’s the whole point. Return the wolves, and let the geek be niche again. Trust me: we do not need another Avengers movie. You will not miss it as much as you think you do.
If you’re reading this, you can help. If you see a man with unfortunate taste in headwear arguing in a Starbucks about how his Firefly fanfic is the obvious choice for a jumping off point to season two and how if Joss Whedon would just return his emails he could begin the Kickstarter tomorrow? You put that gentleman in a headlock, take his stupid hat, and tell him he can’t have it back until he shouts “Picard sucks!” Lift his shirt, and engage in the ancient martial rite of pinkbelly. Stick his head in a toilet (a clean one—let’s not be cruel, here) and flush.
Do something, for god’s sake: you have a responsibility.
Now, I know what a lot of you former and current jocks might be wondering. You’re wondering if I’m asking you, a grown man, to swirly another grown man based solely on his hobbies and interests, however obnoxious?
“But Phil, I’m not the guy you knew before. I’m a 35 year old man with a family, a house, and successful career.”
That’s great. But that 35 year old over there in the Goku wig just threatened to kill someone’s entire family if he didn’t get a crate of Szechuan sauce.
“Is the sauce that good?”
I have no idea. He has no idea. This time last year he’d never even heard of it. But a cartoon told him he should love it. That guy needs balance. And maybe, just maybe: an Indian burn could provide some.