Students confess: Geek is Chic
Switch on the television and they are everywhere. Walk into the library and suddenly you are afloat in a sea of check shirts, thick-framed glasses and over the knee socks. The nerds are finally here and Geek is Chic.
Five years ago I would rather have run naked through the corridors of Portland than admit that at age six I wrote a letter to the BBC complaining about their decision to replace Battlestar Galactica with snooker. But now? Quirky is cool, and it seems like everyone is coming out. Did you know Vin Diesel has been playing Dungeons and Dragons for over 20 years? He even has a tattoo of his player name. Seriously.
It’s been coming for some time, the ‘rise of the nerds’. And it’s not just the spread of technology and a fascination with gadgets. There has been a significant growth of geek pop culture movements, including superhero movies, TV shows, graphic novels and, particularly, the rise of ComicCon. CBS’ hit show “The Big Bang Theory” is even credited with increasing the number of students choosing to study Physics at A-Level by 17%.
Ed Garrie of Forbidden Planet, the Nottingham branch of the UK’s largest comics and merchandise stockist, says he has noticed “an upward trend in sales” and says that certain elements of geek culture have become less niche. “Comic books are also becoming more acceptable,” says Garrie. “Currently, the male to female ratio falls at about 60:40.”
The staff at Page 45, a Nottingham store dedicated to comic books, believes that their female customers actually outnumber the men. Store owner Jonathan Rigby recently appeared on Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe to discuss how his store has survived in the recession. He admits proudly that 2012 was their best year ever.
But why is geek apparently the new black? Some view the success of software entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as paving the way to the techno future. The AV Club currently offers its own ‘Gateway to Geekery’ guides for those who want to keep up to date with the genre.
It would seem that geekdom is having the time of its life. There have been multiple reboots of what Ed calls the ‘Big Four’ (Spiderman, Batman, Star Wars and Doctor Who), but also The Avengers, Dredd and even The Hobbit. He is surprised at the longevity of the trends, although it seems the films still command pop culture more than comic books. Regardless, nerds are enjoying a big budget revival like never before.
In fact, according to BBC science correspondent Pallab Ghosh, the term ‘geek’ is no longer an insult. “The stereotype image of the physicist as socially inept individuals with bad haircuts and no dress sense has made way for ‘geek chic’ epitomised by Professor Brian Cox and his hugely popular Wonders of the Solar System and Universe series”, says Ghosh.
On campus, students now wear their Topshop-bought ‘GEEK’ and ‘DORK’ t-shirts with pride. But perhaps the best example of the evolution of geek is the rebirth of ‘Q’ in the latest James Bond film Skyfall. Where once we saw a socially inept middle-aged man, Ben Whishaw played a slick twenty-something who embodies intellectual cool. “Expecting an exploding pen? We don’t really go in for that any more.” The modern geek is far more suave.
With superhero movies breaking box office records, a rise in graphic novel and manga sales and the latest line of nerd chic clothes hitting Britain’s biggest high street retailer, the new geek seems unstoppable. And if these facts alone can’t persuade you that geek is cool, remember: a slacker student from Chicago called Barack Obama once spent his days collecting Spiderman comics.