What to do when your particular geeky interest is hijacked by pop culture

I know what you’re doing. You picked up this geek guide out of sheer horror, reeling at the latest encroachment on your world by capitalism and obnoxious “journalists” making
absurd generalizations about the shit you like. First it was The Big Bang Theory, now this!

Illustration by Elizabeth Thompson.

I know what you’re doing.

You picked up this geek guide out of sheer horror, reeling at the latest encroachment on your world by capitalism and obnoxious “journalists” making
absurd generalizations about the shit you like. First it was The Big Bang Theory, now this!

Stop it. Breathe. It’s going to be OK. We seasoned geeks can often feel like we are being invaded by the very people who used to taunt us for going to Star Trek conventions and bringing comic books to school.

There are ways to cope.

1. Realize it was never yours to begin with.

Think about it: Whatever slice of geek culture you are into is essentially a product built and designed by a company trying to make money—either a giant corporation trying to sell you a DVD box set or a freelance comic artist trying to pay his medical bills.

You didn’t find your favorite TV show hiding in the bushes; it was specifically designed to entice you into investing something into it to ensure that you became a return customer. There are supposed to be people other than you who know about Doctor Who. That’s kind of why they make the show.

This doesn’t mean you are an idiot for liking geeky things, or that you are some pawn in a giant capitalistic scheme to take over the world. And it’s true that, more often than not, these things we love start solely as a labor of love by their creators. But if you know about it then it’s probably past that stage.

And it’s not just a money thing. It’s dumb, but we all like knowing about some little thing before everyone else does. It makes us feel good. But don’t you think that the emotions and ideas that Battlestar Galactica stirred within you are emotions and ideas that other people feel too? Why is that a bad thing?

And, sure, there comes a point when something gets stretched so wide that it turns into a self-replicating, dollar-sucking machine void of the content that originally drew you to it. Just look at Star Wars.

But you’ve got three choices here. You could be a willing participant and blindly buy every useless trinket on ThinkGeek.com and help perpetuate the system. You could go all ascetic in hopes of solving the problems of modern capitalism and work toward a future liberated geek universe. Or you could just watch and read what you want to watch and read, and not worry about what everyone else is doing. But who wants to do that?

2. Find something else.

When you loudly complain to everyone that “Oh, well, you know, I—heh—stopped watching The Walking Dead after the first episode, because clearly Frank Darabont has never even read an issue of the comic,” you’re not opening the world’s eyes to your vastly superior vat of nerd knowledge. You’re not upholding some unwritten geek code. You’re just being an asshole.

But maybe that’s what you want—I think a lot of people do this because it feels crappy when The Thing they like becomes bigger than themselves. You started reading The Walking Dead issue by issue in 2003, and now that it’s the biggest TV show in the world your only option is to lash out to try and take back just a little part of it for yourself.

Find another TV show to watch. Or log into the Netflix account you share with your brother in Arizona and start any one of the 8,000 sci-fi shows you’ve had in your queue for two months. It’s not that hard. DVD box sets are cheap on half.com. Who knows, maybe the next show you’ll give up when everyone else hears about it is just around the corner!

3. Become a gateway-drug dealer.

Despite everything I’ve just said, I empathize. Fully. It’s a pain in the ass hearing about Doctor Who from people who used to make fun of you for reading comic books and watching The Twilight Zone. But you know what? Maybe they grew up and realized that it’s OK to like geeky things. Maybe they realized that they didn’t have to make fun of you for liking what you liked and that they were being stupid back in the day.

Geeks everywhere created this isolated little community of geekdom precisely to get away from all the other crap that bummed them out—and now that everyone wants in, geeks are acting exactly like the jocks and bullies they were trying to get away from in the first place.

If you’re annoyed that that Rachel girl who sits next to you wears her “It’s Bigger on the Inside” TARDIS T-shirt despite not knowing who Christopher Eccleston is, then tell her! You have the opportunity to be a helping hand and let these New Geeks find out about all the cool shit you’ve known about for years.

If The Avengers has one of your friends asking you about comic books, show them Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run and tell them to avoid Frank Miller. How great would it be to mold all of your friends into mini-geek images of yourself?

Here’s the thing: You used to be that New Geek. You were 12 years old and ran into a comics store to buy some Batman books, and the guy behind the counter told you which run to get and which to avoid. You spent countless hours on the Internet scouring blogs with awful lists like “The Top 10 Scariest Horror Movies with Dead Children Murdering Their Parents in Japan in the 1990s!” and you actually found some great movies.

This is an exciting period in these people’s lives. It’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to be an ambassador or an asshole.