Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Geek Chic

"He dresses like Buddy Holly." "I guess that's cool." "Yeah, but I think he does it unintentionally." The Venture Bros.

My favorite geeky-girly website Heartless Doll has a list of 10 "Geeky" things that aren't geeky, so quit acting like they're geeky. The list includes glasses, thrift stores, computers, NPR, and ninjas. From the article:

"Can we pinpoint the moment at which dorkiness became the new coolness? Nowadays, it seems like anyone with a pair of glasses and a couple of vinyl records can call themselves geeky--often, in fact almost always, with pride. And those of us who have been actively and persistently mocked throughout our youth and beyond for being genuinely deemed uncool by the Cool Kids, well, we don't take kindly to this whole "dork is the new black" or whateverthefuck."

I remember reading something to this effect in the book "American Nerd: The story of my people," by Benjamin Nugent, and also on the website Stuff White People Like. All I have to do to see the phenomenon of geek chic in action is look around me on the subway: the sweater vests, the knitting, the horn rimmed glasses and skinny jeans. New York runneth over with hipsters proclaiming their nerdome. It's currently hip to be square, and frankly, I don't like it anymore than my lady friends over at Heartless Doll.

See, I was never cool. Well, maybe for about an hour in the early nineties, when I dressed up as Catwoman to go to the grocery store--that was pretty badass. Other than that, not so much. I had to wait until I hit college before the things that made me an outcast in grade school became socially acceptable, and even that shift required some major changes in my wardrobe and behavior. Drinking helped. So did makeup and a pushup bra. But in many ways, I'll always be faking it, because no matter how interested I seem when I'm talking to you about politics, music, or the history of the Lower East Side, some part of me is always thinking about the Enterprise. (That and rhyming couplets.)

At first, I was happy when nerds went mainstream, because that meant more of what I like. More spaceships, 'splosions, vampires, ninjas, and Japanese stuff. "District 9" and "Avatar" are both up for Best Picture Oscars this year. The new "Star Trek" rocked pretty hard, and "Venture Bros." is on its fourth season. But it's a mixed blessing, because while nerd culture is considered cool, being an actual nerd isn't. Ever hear of cyberbullying? The cool kids took computers and turned them against us. Our sweet, precious computers, in the hands of the enemy. *sniff* The hierarchy didn't change, but the nerd identity was appropriated by the ruling class, leaving us with less than we started with. I call bullshit on that!

All things considered, this is a minor irritation in my life. Fashions change, geek chic will be replaced by the next big thing, and hopefully we true nerds can be left in peace with our robots. However, since February is Black History Month, I'm going to lay some heavy on you and give you something to think about. How many white kids do you know who dress and talk like MTV rappers? My people back in Hawaii, how many Jawaiian and contemporary hiphop radio stations are there? Mainstream culture appropriated the black identity and sold it to us as cool, but ask any actual African American and they will tell you that it is still not cool to be black in America. Or look at it this way: does anyone think that the success of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" made it any safer or more acceptable for two gay men to walk down the street holding hands?

I'm sure fellow nerd and all-around awesome dude RiskingHemlock will have something much more profound to say on this subject, so I'll kick it over to him. RH, what do you have to say about geek chic? Do you feel cool yet?

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