Glasses do not make geeks as bobble hats don’t make international skiers – my definition

I usually turn down popping on TV and radio to voice my opinion on the news. I had my days of too many talking heads, so I try to reserve my gobby opinions for my stand up or Infinite Monkey Cage. This afternoon I was asked if I would make a cameo appearance on Radio 5 Live to impart what I thought about “geek” being a word, or maybe it was the word, of the year. I decided I actually had an opinion on this and remembered that I needed to plug a couple of the lower selling shows of this week’s run of 9 Lessons.

I went on and talked fast, firing out thoughts like buckshot from the gun of Elmer Fudd. I only need one question from a radio host and then I attempt for the few minutes I am allowed on air, to hold the show hostage to my thoughts. Taken over by a surge of words, I ran out of time before I plugged anything whatsoever. The id or whatever it may be that kicks in in such immediate situation, has always been a very bad salesman. 

My favourite part was being described as “a technology expert”, anyone who has seen me hurl the inanimate across a room while creating new swearwords will understand this is far from the truth, and not even a believable fiction. 

My love of exploitation flicks and stories of fairground excesses means the first image I see when I hear “geek” is a fairground worker descended into such a state of moonshine and boiled boot polish alcoholism that he is now a slavering, blood eyed wreck who bites the heads off chickens in return for further grog and a corner of straw in the corner of the elephant wagon. 

Both geek and nerd feel very American, the words that took over from “spod” or “Brains”. They are the imported frat culture from all those 80s movies that attempted to replicate the success of National Lampoon’s Animal House by increasing the breast count and slobbery, but lacking the invention and likeability of the protagonists. The US equivalent of the UK’s On the Buses movies from the decade before. 

Now geek is worn as a badge of honour, but I am not sure that it is by those who would actually be painted in the corner of geeks. Geek chic? surely a true geek would not care about chic? Isn’t being a geek not bothering about following trends and “contemporary lifestyle choices”, instead immersing yourself in your fascinations, unconcerned by the requirement of those who scrutinise and judge you? 

Fashion spreads are less fearful of placing spectacles on their models, though this does seem to confuse myopia with “being a geek”.  Some declare they are a bit of geek because they wear glasses, as if wearing a bobble hat makes you a skier. 

The media is happy to pretend it likes “geeks”, but only at surface level. The beautiful people can wear knitwear ironically and big heavy glasses on occasions, but the content does not reflect the increasing evidence that many of masses might like proper shows on science, maybe even philosophy, and programming that doesn’t just skim the surface with a wink. I won’t bang on about the appallingly misjudged BBC Doctor Who aftershow, I exploded here some weeks ago.

The media likes trends, but it fears commitment. Bang Goes the Theory and Only Connect are not enough…or maybe they are, for the geeks will embrace new technology and make the things they want themselves (means of production, masses etc). 

“Geeky” doesn’t need to be knowing, just another piece of fancy dress to be manipulated by magazine covers and designers. It reminds me of the Pulp “fans” who shoved over a chemical toilet with occupant within, or Kurt Cobain, finding himself singing to the very people who once bullied people such as him.

“He’s the one who likes all our pretty songs and he likes to sing along”

I was originally going to be introduced as “self-confessed geek”. I told them that would be fine, though I wasn’t and would explain why. Others may call the shows I put on “nerdy” or “geeky”, that can be their shorthand, it doesn’t really bother me or please me, it just is. 

Geek is not a word that needed to be “reclaimed”, unless the sideshow, moonshined chicken beheaders want it back. 

What they may say is geek, I just think it ploughing your own furrow of fascination, of maybe sometimes seeming odd in polite company, of not being afraid to be passionate about numbers or free jazz or cryptozoology or many worlds theory, and maybe you do bang on about weird films for too long and quote things drunkenly, well why not, it’s all finite, you might as well. 

I am off on tour with a brand new show for 2014 – Norwich, Nottingham, Sheffield, Bristol and loads more, also back on tour with Josie Long and Grace Petrie and doing some Skeptics in the Pub visits. All details HERE

Happiness Through Science DVD with Brian Cox commentary HERE

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4 Responses to Glasses do not make geeks as bobble hats don’t make international skiers – my definition

  1. Tony Peldey says:

    and don’t forget the very British word ‘Boffin’.

    A word that in the minds of many relegated anyone with any scientific or technical prowess in Britain to the ranks of comedy buffoonery.

  2. Suzanne says:

    I understand Geek chic different from you, Robin. It’s not about Geeks trying hard to be chic but when being a Geek actually makes you chic.

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