When the book was published in 2009 Proud to be a geek, the word geek had no place in the Spanish dictionary. Today, in May 2021, this term has already earned a place in said space, in which its three meanings are detailed: extravagant, weird or eccentric; quaint and quirky person; and person who practices an excessive and obsessive hobby.
The word geek —or geek— comes from English freak O freaky, which means ‘weird’. “The freak was the weird in the most pejorative sense. In the United States, it was widely used nerd Y geek with different connotations, but pointing to the marginal. In Spain, geek is initially coined with a negative connotation. However, with the expansion of the Internet, that word has been adopted in Latin America, and I think it better encompasses what nerd Y geek Anglo-Saxon, ”explains Andrés Paredes, longtime communicator, board game creator and geek.
The geek was a reason for separation and even mockery. As Andrés Paredes adds, there were many “closet geeks”, that is, people who pretended to be normal to avoid harassment, but that, in spaces of trust, he let loose with his hobbies. “Those of us who openly exposed our hobbies had to face everything from condescension to ridicule, but it was also the way to find people to share with,” he says.
In Praise of the Alternative
The Spanish Germán Martínez, in his book Proud to be a geek, points out that classic geeks, in American society, are defined as those people removed from popular tastes. “They began to read books that were not taught in class, in genres such as adventure, science fiction, fantasy, and comics. They went to the movies, even if they were alone; they created games that did not require physical effort, such as role-playing games; they were the best at using computers; and they played video games, “he writes.
And he adds that what united those American geeks was that They grew up in front of a television that offered them things they wanted to know more about. However, Martínez says, it was the appearance of a market for objects related to those interests that enriched the geek world. “If half of American teenagers were obsessed with baseballs signed by their idols, the geeks wanted the first issue of Superman or the suit of the stars of Star Trek”.
However, as the sociologist Cristina Martínez points out in her work “New social movements: the case of geek culture in Spain”, the most typical aspects of the behavior associated with geek groups are by no means new. In this essay, he details that the main prerequisite to the genesis of this social movement is the extension of access to culture in the literary and cinematographic fields, and that this happens in the middle of the 19th century, with the Industrial Revolution, when paper and books become economically affordable for all classes. To this is added that, at the beginning of the 20th century, the vast majority of the American population is literate, and forms a new market of readers that approaches genres such as fantasy and science fiction, pillars of the geek subculture.
“A) Yes, These magazines will, over time, advance the careers of great writers like Lovecraft, Howard, Ashton Smith and, later, other greats like Bradbury, Asimov or Dick ”, he adds.
But, Why was May 25 chosen as the geek celebration day? The Spanish geek community, promoter of this celebration today worldwide, did so because on that date, in 1977, it was released Star Wars, indisputable milestone within the geek universe. However, there is, within geekism, another reason to celebrate every May 25. This is Towel Day, established in 2001 to honor the writer Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And why a towel? Because a towel is the only thing an intergalactic hitchhiker needs to go around the galaxy, of course.
When the geek became mainstream
Alex Huerta-Mercado, researcher and teacher at the PUCP, sees in the groups considered geeks communities that have appropriated public space, either in parks such as Castilla or Campo de Marte, or in shopping centers that were “invaded” by consumer groups, such as Arenales or Galerías Brasil. “The Internet gave a new public space, the possibility of forming groups, of shouting ‘here we are, these are’, and even to gain a reputation for being challenging or aesthetically interesting ”, he says.
Fran Lasarte, designer and teacher, is recognized as a geek from the pre-internet era and recounts that she has gone from having schoolmates who made fun of her for reading The Lord of the rings to meet them and greet them in the queue for the premiere of The return of the King. For her, the Internet opened the door to the golden age of geekism. “I think that before understanding how big the world is, especially with web 2.0, we got into little boxes that were a bit limiting: I like this and not the other, such music and not the other. There were rivalries between currents that, in time, have been diluted. The current identity is fluid and allows you to be a fan of DC and Marvel at the same time, collecting My Little Pony and McFarlane figures on the same shelf in your house. There are still dark or rainbow-filled niches. The difference is that you used to conquer them mostly alone; now, you decide if you want to go on your own or join a community ”, he adds.
Carlos Wertheman, host of the El Langoy podcast, has explored all the possibilities that the Internet offers to feed geek souls. “Life before the Internet was a time of minority tastes and also minority spaces to enjoy them. That the Internet began to turn the geek into mainstream it was something that seemed natural to me. As a nerd, I embrace the Internet to feed myself, and there I meet other interested people, but also people who had not been interested before and who now looked exposed and interested. So, I begin to see that this private hunting ground was opened to the public. I experienced it with surprise and pleasure, because every geek looks for someone to talk to about the subject ”, he says.
Sol Univazo, also the host of El Langoy and a journalist by training, considers that Internet forums have changed the way people look at geekism. “They were spaces to find and form a community, without prejudice, and from the forums, they began to expand to physical spaces. For example, between 2005 and 2006, the Arenales Shopping Center became a meeting point for geeks and otakus. But we didn’t call ourselves that way. Rather, the media and others used those terms in a derogatory way (the rare ones, the ones that do not socialize) when they made reports about it, ”he says.
A business that changed everything
Now there are specific terms for the specific tastes of each geek. The video game player is gamer; who enjoys anime and manga is Otaku; Star Trek fans are trekkies, etc. In addition, in the last decade the geek has become mainstream with the appearance of series and movies of great budgets like the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). “Now what geek sells. Large corporations have realized that they can make a lot of money with people willing to spend money on their hobbies, “says Sol Univazo.
Carlos Wertheman subscribes and notes that as the years have passed, teenage geeks grew up, and these nerdy boys and girls started buying things that they couldn’t buy as children. “Before, what was geek was stigmatized because it was outside the economic dynamics, it decided not to be part of the majority discourse, now the perception has changed: we can no longer despise those who line the pockets of industries after Marvel movies or books from Tolkien, ”he says.
Alex Huerta-Mercado considers that we are dealing with consumer communities that have generated spaces of identity, alternative families and spaces where to share a type of consumption that is not understood and even criticized because, in his words, in our country there is a tendency to criticize spending towards what is considered trivial. “The groups considered geeks are united by the things that they are passionate about and, according to my perspective, they consume something that circulates a lot in modernity and is illusion. Illusion of lives of characters, idols, adventures and stories”, He points out.
We are geeks, let’s always be. And you, do you enjoy the era of geekism?