I hate it when people try to take the piss. I hate it when they try to hide it under a veneer of “hey, I’m just like you!” bullshit. I have difficulties taking it, and therefore here goes this article/rant.
For the last few years we have seen, and quite a few of people applauded, comedy series that feature geek people. Big-Bang Theory, Community, The IT Crowd, The Guild, A Town Called Eureka…
Suddenly people are claiming that we geeks are “taking our place and being more accepted” because we’re getting more exposure on TV and the internet.
Bullshit. We are being laughed at!
Most of those series put geeks into stereotypes and then compare those stereotypes to “non-geek normal” people to exploit what make them “funny”.
With the exception possibly of Community (the series I am less familiar with), the rest blatantly and openly ridicule the role of the geek.
Let’s take a look at the average geek characters of the series. Let’s start with the young ones. They are all mega smart but socially awkward. Most of them have problems interacting with women, they are clumsy, have a poor sense of etiquette, have even poorer social skills. Geek women are portrayed as awkward and emotionally incompetent or dethatched and every single one of them has an “unique” approach to fashion.
The adults are more responsible, less socially awkward, they dress more like the average Joe does and they behave normally. Like you and me, that is. But they’re not in geeky jobs. If they are they’ll still have some awkward traits like poor social skills, a “unique” sense of fashion, or something in those lines.
Of course not every series is the same and not every character within each series is the same, but there are common points here and there. Let’s take a more detailed look to some of them. This are just the ones I am a bit more familiar with. It is not a comprehensive list, but just a list to illustrate my point.
The Big-Bang Theory
This is one of the biggest culprits. i don’t know if I should feel sorry or angry at this comedy/parody/mockery. The geeks are not just geeks, they are hyper-geeks. They have very obvious and impossible to avoid OCDs, PHDs and incredible jobs as scientists. And they don’t know how to behave in front of the attractive neighbour. They either have such low self esteem they don’t think they’re worthy so no bother interacting, see the woman as a trophy to hunt, become so awkward that they always mess it up or, simply, can’t even talk to her.
Exactly how pathetic is that view, comedic or not, of what geeks are like?
Yes, it’s comedy and yes, I can laugh at many things, but there is no balance and the series plays a lot with the “Aww… you poor thing who can’t get a girlfriend” attitude. What I don’t like is that series is allowing people who are not geeks to laugh AT me, not WITH me. And make no mistake, there are plenty of people out there who laughs at you.
Where to start? Another comedy that takes the piss, blatantly, of an exaggerated view of what a guild of MMO players is like. But it’s not just that it mocks the players because they play, it mocks the players because they are geeks. They have dysfunctional lives and even have difficulties relating when not playing the game.
I am sure there are plenty of MMO players like that, but the majority of MMO players I know are seriously normal people who don’t behave anywhere near what you see in that series.
What annoys me the most about this series is that is produced by someone who openly and loudly claims to be part of the geek-society. And this is how you want the rest of the world to see the geeks you so much claim to love?
Seriously. If being a geek is such a cool thing, why not showing it? Why not writing the scripts so we are not nut-cases who need counselling or leave toddlers to fend for themselves near the microwave? Why not showing them just are you are in real life? Funny, clever, lovely, charming and a bit annoying. What is wrong with that? Because I really like it!
Oh, wait! because that probably won’t create the sense of ridicule that people need in order to laugh at us so they can feel better about themselves at our expense.
A Town Called Eureka
This one has a balance. Young geek, awkward geek. Older geek, responsible and mature geek.
Seriously. Did Fargo have to be THAT stupid? Did the chef have to be the fat bloke? Did the guy who run the place (don’t ask me for many names… not good with names) have to be the evil-up-his-own-arse genius? Did the sheriff with less-than-average-intelligence have to be the hero? Did the strong woman who can make a meal of said sheriff have to be the sidekick?
For a series with some very good plots and storylines, it sure has some of the shittiest character clichés ever.
And the funny bit?
We love it!
The geekosphere has taken on those series and we (and I use the term “we” VERY loosely here) wear t-shirts, use the series slogans, take on nicknames, buy the DVDs and idolatrize the actors and actresses.
Can’t we see we are being used and abused by a bunch of people who are there to make money?
They have found a niche that can be exploited for laughs and they don’t give a shit about us. They give a shit about getting the next production contract for the next series. And if they have to laugh at us for that, then so be it.
Of course not everything is bad and horrible and even I have to admit that some good has come out of it. We have gained more exposure in some circles and some people have felt empowered to “come out”, so to speak, and be themselves in the face of adversity. Plenty of people have identified traits with those of the characters and realised they’re not alone. The community has become more self-aware. And that is good.
In fact is very good.
But it’s time to stop now. It is time to start giving the world a more positive spin on geekdom. For starters expand outside science and gaming. There are sports geeks, make-up geeks, biology geeks, cookery geeks, car geeks…
Secondly, please be balanced in the portrayal of our idiosyncratic personalities. We are all like that, geeks and non-geeks. Why does the world have to be able to laugh at us more than at anyone else? Why laugh at anyone at all?