Geek Culture Has Become Pop Culture — And What That Really Means
by Tito W. James
A little over a decade ago, whenI was in high school, The Dark Knight came out and blew my little teenage brain. I also distinctly remember my English teacher scoffing, “aren’t you a little old to be watching Batman?”
Flash-forward to present day; I’m at a singles mixer and a young woman approaches me and asks, “If Killmonger had survived Black Panther do you think he would have fought Thanos in Infinity War?” Oh, how times have changed.
When I say the names, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Lawrence, or Chris Evans, are you imagining the actor or the SciFi character they’ve played? The majority of the young, fresh celebrity actors are famous because of their roles in a SciFi, Fantasy, or Superhero movies.
HBO and Netflix rake in viewers because of Game of Thrones, Westworld, Stranger Things, and The Witcher. Video games and anime have reached a such a level of popularity amongst young people that some can earn a living by cosplaying and producing fan-videos. Geek culture has unambiguously become pop-culture.
What does that mean for geeks and creators of that culture?
The positive side of this is that there’s less stigma against creators and fans. Loving a creative medium and being a fan will gain you friends instead of creating alienation. With crowd-funding platforms and social media, there are more opportunities for people to create content regardless of national origin or identity. Because of this, we’re seeing the potential for a vibrant future of creative stories told by diverse peoples.
However, there are some downsides to geek culture becoming dominant. Some those who were ostracized for loving geek culture feel a sense of possessive ownership over their fandom. Many people were bullied for being nerds, but that does not mean nerds are allowed to become bullies. The bigoted culture of online trolling and misogyny is often steeped in this “revenge of the nerds” syndrome. No one has a monopoly on imagination and we should work to encourage all people to enjoy art and not just the art we enjoyed growing up.
A second blight of geek culture becoming mainstream is that corporations aren’t really interested in creative works of art; they just care about catering to a renewable audience. Creativity and innovation are being stymied by and endless barrage of sequels and remakes. Science Fiction, Fantasy, Superheroes, Anime, and Horror movies are the new corporate currency.
Ultimately, what does this mean? Well, it will means something different to everyone. Personally I’m glad that I’m living in a time when creating comic book content is not only possible, but also encouraged. I’m overjoyed that I can make friends and meet romantic partners who are as passionate about anime as I am. In terms of the negative stuff; there will always be bullies and greedy corporations. However, it’s up to us, the new generation of creators and fans to dictate what the new counter-culture will be.