Why Geek Culture is a Culture

By 3:18 PM , , ,


Anime Expo a few years ago

 culture- 

    noun

: the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular group, place, or time

 : a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.

 : a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business). 

-Merriam-Webster


 : the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, manners, etc.

 : a particular form or stage of civilization, as that of a certain nation or period.

 : the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.

 : Anthropology; the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another. 

-Dictionary.com


This may or may not come as a surprise to most of the people who tend to read my blog, but there are people out there who do not consider "geek culture" to be a culture. There are those who see it as a fad, perhaps due to how mainstream it has become to be a "geek." I am neither an anthropologist nor a historian, but I want to propose that geek culture is in fact a culture, and should be considered one and treated as such within multiple contexts, including academia.

A culture, as defined by Merriam-Webster, refers to the beliefs, arts, customs, or way of thinking of a group of people (see the exact definition above). Dictionary.com has a similar definition, with the addition of the anthropological definition of a culture referring to the "ways of living...of human beings" (see exact definition above). What these definitions imply is that a culture does not have to refer to an ethnic group, or a sexual orientation group, or a gender group, but a group of like-minded individuals who have certain beliefs, certain lifestyles, and who may or may not pass this along to the next generation.

The definition of "geek" has changed over time. Currently, it is not something that most people will find offensive as a label. However, it wasn't so long ago that being called a geek was an insult. People would be teased, shoved around, or pushed into lockers for being considered "geeks." Being a geek was considered so bad back then, that it was synonymous with, or very close to, being a recluse, a "know-it-all," a weirdo, or even a pervert. Take a look at this game from the 1980's that perfectly depicts what it meant to be a "geek" at that point in time.

Geeks have faced oppression in past decades, as we have not always been accepted by other popular groups, by society as a whole, and sometimes within our own families. But we are a people with our own definitions of art. We have the power to influence the market. We organize conventions designed around celebrating our definition of the arts, which attract hundreds or thousands of attendees and stimulate local economy. We give back to the community. And we definitely pass on our lifestyle, values, and beliefs to the next generation. If the reboots, sequels, and prequels of our favorite movies is not enough evidence of that, look at this photo of this beautiful family DBZ cosplay (and more from this link):

Adellacosplay.com. Image source: fashionablygeeky.com
artist found at adella.deviantart.com

So yes, maybe it is hard to define what a geek is nowadays, but that should not exclude geeks as a group from being able to call our culture a culture. Throwing yourself into your passion without caring if it's acceptable by the "popular" group is considered as geeky as reading comic books and playing video games casually. And that's okay, because life changes, we all change, and so should the language that we use. I suppose that the core of the message that I want to send is that "geek culture" is not and should not be defined by those who would look down on geeks, those who do not partake in geek culture, who are not familiar with the history in relation to the term "geek," who have a limited and/or narrow definition of "culture," who do not identify as geeks, and who haven't really been exposed to "geek culture." And, no, watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory does not count.

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For more perspectives on the history of geek culture see these:








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