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Talk Nerdy to Me: A Superhero Guide to Geek Culture

| Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TalkNerdy_WEBEMILY DANAHER | The Observer
Aristotle once posed this question to his followers: “What defines a geek?” I suppose the joke’s on me because if you were any sort of certified geek, you would know that I just made that up to get your attention. Aristotle had much borader questions to address, not to mention the fact that the word “geek” didn’t enter mainstream vocabulary until fairly recently. It wasn’t a term invented by Dr. Seuss as was the case for “nerd,” but let’s consider this faux-Aristotelian inquiry so that we all may be a little bit geekier.

Looking at the connotations of “geek” throughout history, the urban use of the term defines it as one who is eccentric or non-mainstream. It implies a person who is an expert or enthusiast obsessed with a specific hobby, though this use often has negative connotations. I have read analyses comparing “geek” to “nerd,” but I think before I venture further into this territory, we should ask ourselves, “Am I a geek in a specific sense?” I’ll just leave this cute little cliché right here: “Let your freak flag fly.”

Now, let’s get geeky.

The word has become a popular synonym associated with people dedicated to cultural phenomena such as Pokemon, Star Trek and Dungeons and Dragons. For the record, my vague perception of “geek culture” is rather shallow considering I am a geek myself in certain aspects. If you challenged me to a duel of Harry Potter or Disney trivia, then you would understand.

At lunch the other day, I mentioned “Iron Man 3” would be in theaters soon. My group of friends instantly started fangirling over “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” I had nothing to contribute to the discussion other than, “Loki’s hotter.” At that, I was briefed on the Cap and every intricacy that traces X-Men “mutant” twins to … Falcon or something. Essentially, it doesn’t matter what superhero story you strip apart layer by layer. Somehow, they all fit together like conveniently placed puzzle pieces, blowing your mind the same way movies lather plot with explosives.

My baptism into this world has been incomplete, meaning I have watched only sequels and remakes (except for the original Batman with Adam West and Burt Ward). All I know about the Incredible Hulk is that there’s an awesome roller-coaster in the Island of Adventure at Universal Studios that is big and green. My eleven-year-old cousin can do an adorable husky Batman impression, though I still don’t get why the character talks like that. Other than “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “The Avengers,” “Thor: The Dark World” and more recently, “The Winter Soldier,” I have little to no comprehension of character backstories in comic books or in pop culture.

Here’s the dish from one of my cohorts on where to begin if you are just starting to study superheroes other than “The Incredibles.” Caitlyn Jordan has been my “geek” master from Pokemon to Star Wars to Spider-Man. In addition to knowing somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody working with Marvel, she is pursuing a career in film and cited the “Dark Knight” himself, Chris Nolan, as one of her directing inspirations. 

On Marvel vs. DC Comics

“I think Marvel is better, but it really depends on what mood I’m in. Marvel has more of a nationalism aspect. Captain America beats up the Nazis, and everyone is happy, except for the Nazis, of course. Marvel characters have a lot more spunk. Spider Man is known for his witty comebacks and puns after beating up a nasty villain. I guess Marvel is somewhat more relatable. DC, on the other hand, mostly focuses on dark aspects. Batman faces a city with poverty, destruction and corruption everyday. He doesn’t have time to come up with jokes. He’s just way too depressed about his dead parents.”

Favorite Superhero

“Captain America. He’s such a clean-kid sweetheart. He’s such a good role model too. However, you have to remember he was created for war propaganda, so that’s a bit of a downer.”

Spider-Man: Toby Maguire or Andy Garfield

“Andrew Garfield forever, hands down. He brought back what Spider-Man stands for: fun and wit. Andy shows that Peter Parker was a typical high school student that was shy and nerdy. However, the movie doesn’t go overkill for this. Toby’s movie constantly reminded the audience how much of a ‘loser’ Spider-Man is and how emotional he could be. Blah. Who needs that? I want action and laughs! Not the famous Toby crying face.”

On the “Geek” Connotation

“Don’t judge a book by its cover. People who like comics or superhero movies aren’t strange or odd. It’s the equivalent of liking ‘America’s Next Top Model’ or baseball. Comics are just another way to be entertained. I’m not quite sure why comics are even considered geek-like. There shouldn’t be a label, honestly. It’s fun to really get into something and find others who love it just as much. That’s geek culture, connecting with others through certain franchises.”


As I continue this process of integration into geek culture, I welcome all requests to expand my knowledge in this field. My friends will thank you (so will I). Now, please excuse me as I start watching “Tarzan.”

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