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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dude Geek vs. Lady Geek

I am a fangirl. Mostly of cult classics, 80s films, superheroes, obscure actors, one-hit-wonders, and bands popular in Australia. But I'm a fangirl about pretty much anything that catches my fancy.

Here's a struggle I've had my whole life, and maybe it is just a "me" thing, but I feel like it's something I'm seeing in the real world. All the stereotypical "dude" geeky things I like are socially acceptable, and all the stereotypical "lady" geeky things I like are frowned upon.

Even as a kid, I was treated cooler when I brought my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to school for show and tell than when I brought my Barbie.

And stuff I classify as "dude" doesn't mean that ladies can't or don't like it. It's just the sci-fi/fantasy stuff that seems to be more populated by male geeks than lady geeks.

You may ask yourself, what is lady geek stuff? Well, I didn't even realize that's what it was until a blogpost I read from Shane Nickerson eons ago in which he talked about going to see a movie the same night that Sex and the City 2 opened. The ladies at the movie were all dressed up as their favorite characters and drinking the drinks from the movie, and Shane Nickerson was somewhat annoyed and put off by it until he realized that they were no different than the Star Wars fans who dressed up as Boba Fett to see to see that movie or as people who dressed up as Dr. Frankenfurter to see Rocky Horror Picture Show.

It was at the moment when he realized that the Sex and the City fans were geeking out in the same fashion that he geeked out about Star Wars, which gave me the same epiphany. They were just lady geeks.

But what I don't understand - and I may be wrong - is that lady geeks are not looked at as the same way dude geeks are. Joss Whedon geeks are not treated the same way as Twilight geeks. (I'm sure there are crossover fans, but for the sake of this discussion, it's easier if it's more black and white.)

The argument for this is going to be it's the quality of the work. Firefly is a better quality of work than Twilight. To which I say - as a fan of both - that's that is debatable. And any geek can argue that the thing they're geekiest about is of a higher quality than the thing you're geekiest about (such as me arguing with Eric about Batman villians.)

I think if were to get a room of geeks together and have them make a food chain of what geeks would be on top and what would be on the bottom, there would be much arguing, but there would be almost a unanimous vote to put Twihards and Sex and the City fans on the bottom.

Why is this? Why is it so much more respectable to geek out over spaceships and a made up religion than vampires with undertones of a real religion? Is it because of the romance? Is romance inherently uncool?

Is that really it? Because The Lost Boys is cool, and that's a different modern take on vampires. But I think that's still a respectable thing to geek out about, even though there is some romance and two Corey's. But the romance isn't the main plot.

Is that what separates respect?

I'd really like to see people's thoughts on this, but please don't say stuff like "Because Twilight sucks" because that's not the point. Lots of people could argue Star Wars sucks, and then it would just became a debate about what's good and what's not good, and that's not what I'm talking about.

I am asking why is it cool and respectable to geek out over sci fi and JJ Abrams, but it's not cool to geek out over romance and Stephanie Meyer.

Or maybe it's all in my head, and it's not cool to geek out over anything.


  1. I think geeking out is always fun. Shows fans support for what they know. Not only that, but geeks are the new cool. Seriously, I think there are more geeks this days. And honestly "cool" people are geeky too. (i.e. kidding!)

    Anyway, getting back to the topic I think there might be a few reasons for this happening and it actually has to do with what I mentioned. See, geeks were once seen as guys with big glasses that really didn't know any better. And that stereotype is changing, there are still that kind of geeks (more like nerds) but there are other kinds of geeks too, more "common ones" if you will.

    Geeking out to spaceships and what not is looked as more real because it has been around for quite a while. Lady geeks are more of a new sensation so people are still getting the hang of it. I don't think it has anything to do with the romance, it just is kind of new to the society, therefore not so accepted.

    Apart from that, to me (and this is me personally) I see Star Wars and what not as a more "real" future than Twilight. Why? It is not because I don't think Vampires can't is just that the way we have all learned about Vampires, what we know about them before Twilight-era, teaches us that Vampires are scary creatures. Therefore, people see Twilight as a fantasy that can never be...

    That's my long take on it...I probably just was rambling a little bit there!

    Good post though :).

    JM Array

  2. I think it's the target audience. Yes, people from a wide variety of backgrounds and jazz can like certain stuff, but the primary target audiences are different. The "guy" geeky stuff already has a type of crowd and system going on. They welcome anyone to the fold and knuckle bump the new people and indoctrinate them into the ways of the latest Dr Who or whatever.

    But the target audiences for things like Twilight or romance have a different target culture. Twilight is marketed to teenage girls (primarily) and having been a teenage girl, I can tell you we're catty, judgmental, and tons of other stuff at that age range. Even romance, targeted at adult women, comes with a stigmata that those who do not understand it or like it can criticize. Who hasn't mocked a Fabio cover? It's socially acceptable and even expected to do it, so it's okay and it's normal.

    There are probably other reasons, but the different cultures comes to mind. Okay, that was far too thoughtful on my part for how sleeeeeeepy I am. <3

  3. I've never felt any less cool for any feeling I've ever done. In fact I always thought it made me cooler. Like when I would sing the songs from Aladdin on the playground in grade school, so I don't really get this.

  4. That was supposed to say geeking. Not feeling.

  5. I agree and you could say the same about sports fans. They're just sport geeks, most don't play the sport they follow or it has been years since, and they don't get looked down upon. They clearly take the cake when it comes to dressing up, decor and in a sense "worship" lol ;)

  6. I think some of it might have to do with target audiences. For example, Twilight is geared towards teenage girls. Teenage girls are notoriously finicky, and often times cannot be trusted to make appropriate life decisions. Where as movies like Star Wars deal with the idea of saving an entire universe/galaxy/etc. from evil, not having to decide between two super hot supernatural boys.

    Geeks will and have argued to the deathabout their obsession of choice. I will always wear my Harry Potter geekdom proudly (he's tattooed on my back), but my husband still makes fun of me for liking Twilight. Yet he wants to name one of our kids after a Battlestar Gallactica character. Maybe there is no clear cut answe. Maybe it's over of those Chicken and the Egg type situations.

    Some people just can't handle awesome.

  7. "Some people just can't handle awesome. " This might be the soundest reasoning for anything I've ever heard. I want to put that on my business cards and make it my new mantra.

  8. Perhaps even on the totem pole of Geeking, some things are still cooler than others.
    The Lost Boys will *always* be cooler than Twilight.
    Firefly will *always* be cooler than Twilight.
    Star Wars will *always* be cooler than Twilight.
    I don't see it as necessarily a gender thing, but boiling down to the quality of the books, scripts and actors.
    I liked Twilight too, and Sex And The City, but not nearly as much as I like all of the other movies/TV Series, which while testosterone-driven still featured some very strong female leads.
    While Stephanie Meyer's books were enjoyable, I felt they did women no great service - Bella spent most of the series as a needy maiden in distress, which grates after a while and doesn't inspire a re-read of the books. At least Princess Leah and the SATC gals were their own women :-)

  9. Have you ever seen this flow chart?

    I'm not sure who made it originally, and there are several versions of it (some that mention Twilight specifically).

    I think geek snobbery is somewhat like any other unfortunate divisive tendency among groups of people that feel looked down on; folks fighting over scraps, in other words, which might show up in this hierarchy as "anything JJ Abrams touches is gold...except when my little sister likes it too."

    Once upon a time, I thought I was super cool, and a large part of that was just refusing to invest in the creative endeavors of other people. Getting dressed up as a character you love is a major investment. Fanfic, waiting in line for hours to buy a book/movie ticket, memorizing intricate plot lines or thematic elements in a director's collection of works, dvd extras: all a major investment. If you want to quantify that investment, you might be looking for a justification of some kind (or vice versa); I'm thinking computer nerds and sci-fi nerds are big on science, and it could become easy to think of yourself and your interest as inherently more worthy (sciency?) than someone else's (romancy?) and therefore deserving of all the time and effort.

    But...mostly, I don't know. I've outlived the need to justify what I enjoy. At the risk of being kind inflammatory, I think it's a little status quo that dude things get a pass where lady things never do. Hierarchies aren't pretty, ever ever.

  10. I never thought about this before, but you are so right! I think it may be because Twilight and SATC has a more narrow "expected" audience. I say "expected" because I know men who enjoyed SATC, and my husband liked the first Twilight movie (though not the second).

    I, too, was a Barbie geek as a child. I wasn't to embarrassed about it until I realized I was the last of my friends to outgrow it.

    JM may be somewhat onto something in saying that "girl geeks" are a somewhat new phenomenon. It's not that there weren't girl geeks/nerds before; it's that they weren't as visible, I think. Male nerds/geeks were the ones most picked on in my school. The girls were a little bit, but not the way boys were. And of course, now that people have learned to appreciate the geek, I think they immediately accept the things that have always been geeky but may need to get used to the newer geeky things (such as Twilight and SATC).

  11. @Rebecca But why? I'm not saying I disagree with you, but why will everything always be cooler than Twilight?

    And in all fairness, Jamie Gertz is pretty Bella Swan in The Lost Boys.

    The reason I don't want to bring "quality" into the debate is because there is a legion of Twilight fans that would fight to death insisting that it's better than Star Wars, and there's a legion of Star Wars fans that will fight to the death saying the opposite.

    All I'm asking is why is one legion cooler than the legion.

  12. Hmm. I'm not sure sci-fi, superheroes and other male geeky stuff is all that "socially acceptable," to be honest.

    Sure, "The Big Bang Theory" has made geeky culturally trendy, but even if you define it by that show... how "socially acceptable" are Leonard, Howard, Sheldon and Raj? Outside of themselves and a very tiny group that barely tolerates them? Not much.

    And even at that, BBT romanticizes geekdom. A gal like Penny lusting after Leonard? Never happens IRL, as the 2004/2005-era NBC dating/reality show, Average Joe, proved...

    The way SF geeks and Whedon geeks, etc., find social acceptance is by banding together at conventions and bulletin boards and the like... But just TRY bringing up, say, the merits of Tom Baker's run on DOCTOR WHO versus David Tennat's run, in, say... a corporate social mixer or something... you'll be "shocked silenced" out of the room in no time.

    Ultimately, we're all geeks in one respect or another... but it's culturally accepted that we'll more or less "hide" what we "geek out" to in "polite company..."

    Yeah, THAT's healthy... ;) ...not...

  13. I think you guys might be on to something, though.

    Most of the stuff I'm referencing as "dude geek" is decades old, or if it isn't, it's built on the same principles of the things I've written as decades old. It's had time to indoctrinate itself into our pop culture.

    Lady geek stuff is a relatively new concept. In fact, Shane Nickerson was the first person I ever had of that referred to as actual "geekdom."

    Someone on my facebook said that Twilight is viewed as a "fad" and that's when it really sunk in for me what JM & Corrine were saying. In twenty years, if there's still Twihards, then it'll have built up enough geek cred to be the real deal.

    What do you guys think?

  14. This is a great question, one I was pondering when reading The Hunger Games which has both stereotypical male and female geeky qualities but seems to be dominated by female fans and topics of disucssion. More "Team Peeta" instead of "Who would win in a battle between District 13 vs the Capitol?"

    To answer your question Twilight it is partially because romance as the main course is not cool to guys. Romance as a sidedish in between robots killing other robots but not as the maincourse. That's like playing with Barbies. But mostly it's not cool because of the fans, men don't respect Twilight because all they see when they picture Twilight is the "omg squee!!!!!" "Team Edward Kristen and Robert 4 EVA!!!!!" ultra girly feminine nature that inherently makes the male fans see them as inferior. Now to be fair not all Twilight fans are like that but just like in real life it's the extremists that get all the attention.

    I guess male geeks and the stuff they love are seen as more intelligent with more deep stuff to chew on. (technology/mythology/magic)

    And this carries over to the fans.

    For example the stereotypical male fan is the guy who writes 10 paragraphs of analysis on unimportant technical aspects of Star Wars while the stereotypical female geek is seen as just as writing "OMG! Team Jacob!" or "Who do you think Carrie should marry Big or Aidan?" It's the GI Joe vs Barbie.

    Again, I know, I'm generalizing. I'm sure there are a lot of intelligent disucssions about Sex and the City or Twilight.

    I guess what I'm saying is it's mainly about gender roles.

    And I haven't read Twilight but from what I've seen peripherally it doesn't seem that deep I mean there's mainly the romance plus some slightly modified vampire mythology with the volutri stuff and that's it right? Maybe if Twilight had an awesome Darth Vader worthy villian (which any male greek can respect) it would have more nerd street cred.

  15. @JH That's another interesting point. When broken down, intelligence is cooler than emotion. Or at least that's the ideal behind being a geek, in terms of the original definition.

  16. I think the quality IS important, though I cannot comment on chick flicks(they just don't appeal to as broad of an audience). I WILL say that the writing quality of Stephanie Meyers is nowhere on caliber with, say, J.K. Rowling! (there, let's take the gender out of coolness factors).

  17. @Amanda....ahhh, Jamie Gertz - agreed, very weak and needy, very Bella Swan. Actually when I was thinking of strong women in that movie, the mother (Dianne Wiest) was the more dominant and interesting female character for me :-)
    I guess we'll have to wait and see if the Twihards have any staying power and re-assess degrees of coolness then. I couldn't pick up the books again, nor watch the films. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy them, but I've re-read JK Rowling's Harry Potters quite a few times by way of comparison. The story-telling and character development just seems to be of a higher calibre and, going by that measure, will ultimately probably have a much longer shelf life. But I guess we'll have to wait and see...
    Perhaps Twilight is seen as too mainstream now, and has 'jumped the shark' of cool?

  18. Yes, the quality is important but if you disregard quality for a moment and just think of these books and genres as concepts, it may simplify things. First of all, I think it's totally about men vs. women. It has to be because what appeals to one gender may appeal to the other gender for totally different reasons. I loved the remake/series of Battlestar Gallactica because of the emotion, the symbolism, the romance, dimensional characters, dialogue, etc. My husband loved it because of the storyline in general, the humor, battles, the effects, and these are across the board generalizations of what appeals to each gender historically and characteristically. It doesn't diminish the work as a whole. Those writers and producers knew how to combine it all to make it appeal to both rather than one or the other. In Star Wars, there is very little romance, but it is an intricately designed world with epic battles around every corner and no one can deny the appeal of that to men. Just as no one can deny the appeal of romance in the face of death to women which is that sexy/danger thing that the Twilight books have. I think most men simply think Harry Potter is for kids and more women were willing to read it to begin with either because they grew as readers or because they were moms and their kids wanted to read Harry Potter but couldn't because these were ginormous books that the kids could barely hold. Moms fell in love with the characters right along with their kids. Statistically, women are more likely to be readers also. I also think men are far less likely to go for monsters over aliens. Twilight has monsters. Harry Potter has monsters. Well, now I'm just rambling, but there's my two cents.

  19. I'm in Australia, and go so geektastic at Powderfinger you wouldn't believe it.

    Wife has pointed out to me, on more than one occasion, that men have to "hide" a lot more of their personality than women. Feelings, usually, as we're not "supposed" to cry at flowers or Huggies ads, but girls can do it and only get a sitcom-esque eyeroll.

    I reckon the Geek Battle that you're talking about can be traced to something genderiffic, and high levels of geekitude can be found in just about anything.

    Personally, I roll my eyes and make gagging noises every time I see anything "Twilight" related, yet on the weekends I play ice hockey and put on Ye Olde Worlde clothing and armour and bash people with swords. I absolutely dork out for any Marvel Comics movie and cried during Backdraft and The Notebook equally.

    I guess my point is: We're ALL geeks. And if we're not, then we simply haven't found anything to be passionate about, and probably need to find something productive to do with both our brain cells.

    Rock on girl, and please to be for sharing which Aussie bands you dig upon.

  20. Well I think that if Twilight is as famous as it is right now in 20 years, then yeah...I think it will become more of a norm to see Twilight-geeks. Definitely. But that is the thing though, I really doubt that Twilight can release a Blu-Ray (or the equivalent in 20 years) boxset in 20 years and sell as much as Star Wars will do when they release theirs. I just don't see it happening.

    Twilight to me seems more like a season fever more than anything else. But then again, I could be very wrong...

  21. Geeking out is a personal choice. Not everyone geeks about the same things. The rivalry isn't so much West Side Story Sharks vs Jets... it's more like, "I know nothing about your interest in this thing, therefore you have poor choice in geekery."

  22. Hee hee :) I'm not sure I have anything valuable to add to this very interesting conversation, I just want to say that I'm just getting excited by all the references to things that I personally geek out about :) JJ Abrams (aka LOST), Joss Whedon (aka Firefly), David Tennant and Dr. Who, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek (Ok, I'm not positive I saw a reference to that one already, but still...) wonderful stuff. I'm grinning just thinking about it. (I am definitely not a twihard, but the point of this conversation is that people geek out about different things, so if you are a twihard, more power to ya.) Anyway, I've enjoyed this immensely, as I always enjoy Amanda's posts :)

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  23. Um, hello? Sexism. :D

    (It needed to be said.)

    I once watched a Good Morning America segment about why it was cool to like geeks, and I was thrilled, until it became clear that what the psychologists meant was that it was common for 'hot' women to like MALE geeks. 'Hot' males, apparently, did not like female geeks. Before anyone objects, no, geek on geek love does not count.

    ABC immediately followed this piece with a segment on which jeans women should wear to make them look the most attractive.

    That was when I turned the TV off.

  24. Its interesting that you compared firefly with twilight. Twilight is a hugely successful franchise and firefly was short lived and had one movie. Firefly is fantastic and nerds, like me, tend to to flock to underground stuff. I have never seen or read Twilight because of the pop that surrounds it. Retro stuff like Star Wars and Indiana J. are a different story I guess. You have a cult following but when your movies are a hit, it will be a good experiment.;p

  25. I think it's a combination of things. The writing quality of Firefly is flat-out better than Twilight. Also, at least for most men, a good story with romance in it is great, but a story based mainly upon romance is not so much.

  26. When you’re talking about something being ‘cool’ you’re talking about gaining approval. And because cool is a projection of other people’s opinion, it reflect social values like, discipline, honour, justice, courage, intelligence. In other words, labelling something ‘cool’ unintentionally says more about the person who said it than what they are talking about.

    People say Star Wars is cool because it uses courage, cunning or perseverance to defeated the rebellion. Sex and the City is less cool because obsessing over shoes and cheating on your boyfriend aren’t universally coveted values. Likewise, GI Joe’s image is to save the world and Barbie’s image is to look fashionable . This also applies to love.

    Love is self-indulgent. It doesn’t save the world but rather only benefits the two people experiencing it. In some cases, love is what causes the hero to hesitate from doing the right thing. Stories that include both romance and adventure must have adventure as the driving force to be ‘cool’ because admiring something egocentric, as love is, can be socially unacceptable.

    Comedies are an exception. I think this is because it’s not the moral or hero that matters but about making the audience laugh…another desirable trait.

    Ok……now my brain hurts. Time to turn on the telly. Great question by the way.

  27. I was going to write that men maybe ARE scared of Romance (with a capital). But maybe they're not.
    Except for the geeks.

    In my role playing games (more Vampire-like than D&D) the female players are more apt to follow a romantic story line, but so are a couple of the male players. It's just that MOST (geeky) men tend to freeze up when a romance bit comes in (maybe snugly smiling and purring like a cat), and then open up again when there's something you can shoot or excorcise.

    WHY geeks seem to be scared / disinterested / bored I don't know. Maybe it's secretly a taboo area? A no no to admit that you might like romcoms? Or is it that romantic lit / fantasy is usually written from a more female daily perspective?

    I think it's a very good question.

  28. I was wondering, how's the difference in geek culture between Twilight and... Buffy? Maybe that's a fairer comparison than Firefly. It's also Whedon.

  29. I dunno, maybe it's a german thing (that's where I grew up), but I never wasn't a girly-girl. Of course I had Barbies when I was little, but as I grew older I became a Star Wars-Geek and hated Make up. And that was so not socially acceptable. Some even told me I actually was a boy and should get a surgery. Wtf? When girls in my class went crazy about make up and boygroups, it was absolutely okay, so it was for the boys to play Pokemon on their Nintendo. As for me, who didn't like obsessing over girly things (but I was still a girl, my first crush was Luke Skywalker, alright?), eveybody found it disturbing and even psychologically questionable. So girl-geek-stuff was okay for girls and boy-geek-stuff was okay for boys. When somebody like me came across and liked boy-stuff, it was the strangest and probably worst thing that could possibly happen to a girl. So for us, it was more like a gender thing and a dogma like "if you're a girl you have to like..." =/

  30. I think in some cases, it's more that the "guy" geekiness things are based on the characters while the "girl" geekiness things are based on the actor.

    The same way that someone who's never done cosplay might look at a person who spends seventy or so hours constructing a detailed recreation of a particular character's costume is the way the person who does cosplay might look at a girl who screams for her favorite book character - but only because of the person playing him.

  31. As others have mentioned, there is the possibility that Twilight is trendy, rather than classic, but I think it goes deeper than that. Studies have shown that while women are often interested in the same things men are, men are rarely interested in topics labeled as feminine, and romance tops that list.

    There is unfortunately an element of sexism here. It's the old saw: Men talk about important things (good vs. evil) while women 'chatter' about the insignificant (Love and cute boyz, omg!)

    On the bright side, these attitudes are changing quickly, and I suspect once the shock of female geekiness wears off, it will be just as accepted (or not) as that of the guys.

  32. As far as I'm concerned it's cool to geek out over whatever you want. I mean personally I would never go to a midnight release of one of the Twilight films, but it isn't supposed to appeal to grown men.

    I rock my nerd card hard when it comes to things like Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and the Minnesota Vikings. The relative cool factor of all those things is debatable.

  33. I don't think it's actually cool for anyone. I just think you and I hang out with a bunch of dude geeks who have convinced themselves that they are cool and Twilight is not. The lady geeks have also convinced themselves that Twilight is cool.

    All the normal people in the world are laughing at all of us. :P

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  35. I'll agree with the consensus that it's more of a gender issue than a geek versus sheik one. We do live in a world where I can sleep around and be considered a stud, while you'd be considered a strumpet. (I totally get a bonus for using that in a sentence.) I also think it's a "You don't know shit" kinda thing. Star Wars is the end all and be all for me. It defined my childhood and my adolescence. My dad thinks it's crap and he is therefore an idiot. I haven't seen, nor do I have any desire to watch Twilight. It just doesn't appeal to me, but that Taylor kid makes me think I need to work out. I do fully understand though, that these movies are probably some kids Lucas trilogy. Whether they're geeks or not. So you maybe ridiculed today, but trust me, these things get cooler with age.
    After all, I'm not just a Jedi. I'm also the kid who got his c3po stolen...

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  37. I think a lot of it has to do with behavior. You mentioned lady geeks as some of those girls dressing up for the Sex in the City movie. Those girls, or at least the ones I've come across, that go all out for movies like those go on thinking they are better than everyone. Dude geeks all share a common ground and in my experience are more humble and down to earth. The guys end up being more likable, the girls end up being "ditsy" or stuck up. Therefore it's okay for the guys to geek out.

    For me Twilight is my Romeo and Juliet, never cared for Shakespeare so Twilight is a new adaptation to geek out on. But it also has to do with gender. I don't have very many girl friends so my findings may be off, but the stuff I geek out to, Harry Potter, Star Trek, cheesy 80's movies, etc, is typically lame in the eyes of the girls. But the guys, a different story, they are usually stoked a girl is into that stuff. Ahh. So much to continue thinking about.

  38. You ask why it's not cool to geek out over romance and Stephanie Meyer, the answer is because it's just not. LOL

    There are closet geeks, yes I know it is hard to believe, but some of the same people that slam the Twihards are secretly fans. Even geeks stick to stereotypical roles, it is just the way society is. Men must be tough, strong, and masculine; and it carries over into their geekness.

    I know some bad a$$ dudes that are Charmed geeks, but they will never admit it outside of the sacred circle of trust; as far as anyone is concerned they geek over Star Wars and Blade. LOL

    You also have to separate the tv/movie geeks from the book/comic geeks as well. They are not the same and can start their own geek civil war. A good example of this is the True Blood geeks with Team Eric and Team Bill, (not just a Twihard thing) the HBO series is not the same as the books by Charlene Harris. Just because something is based on a book, doesn't mean squat, writers and producers can take great liberty with their adaptations.

    So, in my opinion, geekness follows the stereotypes of society. Geeks have always been the weird unpopular type, the last thing they want is to be the geek among the geeks. They will hide their secret geek in the closet and only bring it out amongst other geeks of the same kind.

  39. I haven't read all of the comments, but I'm going to disagree with the gender issue consensus. I think the problem is that lady geek stuff falls too much in the mainstream. One of the key elements in geekdom is the revenge of the nerd. Geeks want to be pitted against the cool kids. In large part, geek identity is forged in being excluded. Problem: the cool kids read TWILIGHT and watch SEX AND THE CITY, so we lose the exclusive nature of geek land if we include TWIfans in our club.

    Also, within any geek culture (within the STAR WARS geek culture, the LOTR geek culture, the super hero, graphic novel, gaming, or Joss Whedon geek culture) there is a hierarchy based on knowledge. You go to the release of the next TWILIGHT film, and there are girls wearing Jacob shirts, giddy and squealing when he appears shirtless on the screen. If you're lucky, you might hear two girls arguing with each other about who Bella should end up with. You go to the release of the new STAR TREK movie, on the other hand, and there's one guy trying to convince another that dilithium crystals were really only used to contain anti-matter in the 24th century ships... and he's explaining this all in a rare dialect of Klingon. There's a competency to be achieved in the well-respected areas of geekdom that don't exist in lady geek cultures... and when they do exist, the competency isn't difficult to achieve. All it takes is a preference for shirtless hotties or sparkly dead guys.

  40. Why do traditional lady jobs pay less? Why do traditional lady skills - knitting, sewing, get less respect than auto mechanics and woodworking?

    It goes much deeper than media. But, if you guys figure this one out, you may have found the key to all gender disparities.

  41. Does academic attention play a role? I can remember when the first scholarly articles about fan fiction and fan-geekery came out. All of a sudden lots of closet-geeks had a way to talk about Star Trek without looking like geeks: we were Scholars of a Cultural Phenomenon.

    Now the academic cycle is so fast that a book comes out about the fans of a given genre before I even know the genre has fans!

    However, these lady-geek topics don't benefit as much as the old-school geekery does from academic attention, because lots of the academics who pay attention to this sort of stuff are very suspicious of the texts' messages.

    I remember attending a Wiscon session by Karen Joy Fowler, back when she was having a big hit with 'The Jane Austen Book Club.' The audience was large, and it turned out that most of the people there were romance fans. This distressed Ms. Fowler quite a bit. 'Remember that the people who sell you this stuff do not have your best interests in mind,' she said.

    Now, it's very questionable whether the writers of Marvel comics have the male geeks' best interests in mind either, as was pointed out at other Wiscon sessions. But guys are allowed to descend into geekdom without any alarms being put up, while commenting on women's behavior is a cottage industry. Perhaps it isn't that women's geekery is less esteemed, as that people feel they have a right to comment on it when women do something, and that because women are doing it, it can be commented on through a feminist prism -- and romances do not look good through that prism.

  42. "Cool" is the ultimate in subjective, personal judgment--there is no objective standard. That's what makes it cool.

  43. Personally I think it is just about Twilight.
    harry potter geekdom doesn't seem to have the same "unacceptability" amongst the geek crowd.

    Before anyone gets hot under the collar, I'm not trolling. I actually enjoyed the films and the books weren't too bad, so you won't get any of that from me.

    I can completely understand why a whole geekgirl surge is happening, and I'm glad of it! (I was very lucky and married my own geek girl. When I was younger, they were rare).

    The thing is, if you take the vampires and the werewolves from Twilight, you actually have nothing that makes it geekish. It's a romance story. They aren't fighting to save the world, they aren't even really fighting evil. It's all about scores of characters fighting over the safety of one human girl. Theres nothing grand or epic in that.

    Look at the vast majority of geek "stuff". it's mostly - and I do emphasize "mostly" - epic. It's grand scale. Super heroes taking on super villains, the underdogs taking on the vast evil space empire, a bunch of heroes out to save the world from some huge monster. Innocent people get saved from the big bad.

    Twilight is the opposite. Lots of innocent people getting killed (The Vampire Army) just to get at one girl. It actually runs completely against "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few".

    Also, there are no male characters, bar the "bad guys" getting killed maybe, that are actually of any interest to guy geeks. The two main male characters don't stand out as particularly interesting or strong characters in a "hero" sense. Neither of them seems inclined to use their unusual super power on some kind of grand scale to help anyone other than Bella.

    I see them as no different to any other male characters in a romance story.

    So my answer is, why is twilight on the bottom of the geek pile? Because those people who have been geeks for years don't view it as geek enough.

    For me, Meyer only did one thing in her stories that I didn't like, that to me broke "The Law". The rest is actually a pretty cool paranormal story. It's nothign grand or epic or morally altering.

    Vampires don't *InsertSwearWord* sparkle.

  44. Ok so maybe I added a little tiny troll at the end. My bad :(

  45. I think the problem with this argument may be in picking Twilight. Vampires have always had a hardcore geek following (and if we're being honest, you can't have much of a vampire story without romance) but Meyers was not reaching to that audience.

    She was reaching for a new audience, and completely changing the mythos. If this had been a series about shape shifters and pale stalkers that just happened to be immortal, I don't believe you would have all the haters.

    However, as far as Sex in the City goes, yeah it's a guy/girl thing. Also, the ladies I know that do like that show/movie probably would not like us using the term "geeking out" for their stuff.

  46. I think at least some of it comes from the idea that if everyone loves it then it must be of crappy quality. Some people assume that things that explode with popularity have no lasting value.

    I disagree that it's mostly about gender however--how many of Twilight's biggest attackers are women?

    I think it goes back to the anti-mainstream thing, some people feel better about themselves if they can be the ones who are too cool for a fandom instead of being the geek. All it takes is a few people to feel that way and speak up before others join them, and in the end they are a really loud voice that says "it's not cool to like twilight."

  47. When I was in college my boyfriend and I had this argument all the time. I was an X-files and Twin Peaks fangirl and he was all about Star Wars and Star Trek. Half the reason we broke up is because he used to make me watch 8 hours of Star Trek on the weekends instead of going out.:)
    It's almost 20 years later and I still really love X-files and Twin Peaks-still have my collections of trading cards and signed photos and other geekery. Twilight is going to be like that for a lot of women and I think it will hold up.
    Why is the guy stuff more acceptable? I'm not sure, but I will say that no one ever broke up with me because I liked the X-files or was Team Edward. Maybe women are less interested in trying to get others to be obsessed with the things they like?

  48. I've read all the comments, and there were a lot of good thoughts on the subject. It's a very lively discussion that I quite enjoy.

    Twilight & SATC are popular in a very mainstream way. Geek is about rooting for the underground, cult classic. And that's a really valid point that I hadn't thought of before.

  49. Of course the irony is that discussing the difference between a geek and a fan probably makes us all geeks.

  50. "Firefly is a better quality of work than Twilight. To which I say - as a fan of both - that's that is debatable. "

    I've never had problem with Twilight fans, and I never quite understood why there was such vehement hate for the series. I've read the first book and about half of the second, and have also seen(not by choice, I have young girls) each of the Twilight movies.

    However, there is no debate about whether Firefly is of greater quality than Twilight, unless you define "quality" as meaning better CGI effects. I'm sorry, and I mean no disrespect to Stephenie Meyer, but Twilight and New Moon were not well written.

  51. Some times I think girls have a difficult time supporting feminine interests in each other.

    I know from a writing pov it is equally difficult to find a well written action sequence as it is a romantic sequence, but the romantic sequence will be seen as trite while a scene with kicking and guns seems somehow more cool. I think sometimes admitting that romance or sex is a valid point of entertainment is not something people are comfortable with. Maybe it is prudishness or maybe it is seen as weak or maybe people think romance is sacred ground that shouldn't be belittled (but headshots are fair game).

    Seriously it is a mystery to me.

    Josie Wade

  52. It's true that geek is about rooting for the underdog, but I don't think you could say that a monster franchise like Star Wars is anything but mainstream (even when the first movie came out in the 70s, it was a huge bockbuster). I think age plays a big part, particularly for the nostalgia factor. People still love a lot of this stuff because they loved it when they were young and impressionable (and every twenty years, these kids grow up and reboot all their nostalgic baggage for the next generation).

    When we're talking about what's seen as "cool," though, we're talking about accepting some kind of groupthink. It's so hard to pin down, because if you were in a room of 100 people and 97 of them were Twihards, if the three people who hated Twilight were the loudest and most assertive, everyone in there would think Twilight seemed "uncool."

    It's a huge generalization, of course, but I wonder if the perceived imbalance comes from the way our society raises boys to be the loud, obnoxious ones. For me, I know a lot of geeks of all stripes, and I'm always drawn more to the passion than to the subject matter. And for my money, the less cool your fandom is, the more awesome you are when yo let your freak flag fly.

  53. Hi Amanda, congratulations on your success. You're taking the publishing world by storm! All best wishes from a writer in snowy upstate New York.

  54. What a great post. i've never thought of it like that before. thanks for the perspective.

  55. Sci-fi, fantasy and the like follow a story and characters which are honed and finessed over time. Even with the more plot heavy and character-less fantasies there is fluidity and molding of the world that occurs. Twilight on the other hand, has a very fickle girl who lost her very brief rapport of being an "old soul" within the first few chapters. Bella's character, who is supposedly self-sacrificing, and wise beyond her years devolves into a hormonally challenged character who loses her independence, strength of self and essentially isolates herself for a vampire who is as fickle as herself (and being as he IS old he has no excuse for his flighiness). The story itself revolves around the romance, which is all well and good but instead of fighting the good fight, learning from mistakes and uncovering an inner strength, the characters give up nothing, sacrifice nothing and learn nothing. They essentially get their cake and eat it too, without any true effort on their part. Well, aside from the self-imposed angst, that had to drag them down. And the world/plot...well we never even find out why Eddie there can't read Bella's mind and why no vamp powers work on her do we? The former is the crux of the matter tho. Geekdom buzzes towards those that fight the good fight, even with dismal chances of survival. The underdog that faces adversary and achieves a greater understanding of self, world etc by breaking free of shackles. It is even a longing reflection of those who were held back, made fun of and teased, but with the obstacles comes the uncovering of greater insight and standing up to something that terrifies you not to mention the exhileration of finding your inner warrior. Twilight begins within a narrow focus and ends within a narrow focus.

  56. I have to admit that although I like twilight, I too geek discriminate. It used to be that if I saw a girl my age with a book in her lap I automatically felt that she was like me and we might share common interests, but now with the twilight fad, I have to find out what they are reading. If it is something twilight reminiscent I'm internally screaming Boo! I think for me it is all about the fad. Like after reading twilight, now a million girls favorite song is Clare de Lune and their favorite classic is Wuthering Heights. Those are the type that geek out and it's un-cool to real geeks. Because to me geeks aren't necessarily intellect above romance, they are just themselves.

  57. As an ex-high school English teacher, I once had a parent ask about a couple books kids could choose to read for their projects. She pointed to one and asked if there was romance.

    I replied that there was quite a bit of romance in that particular book.

    She then said that her boy only read books with action and violence in them.

    That pretty much sums it up for me.

  58. Zombie book, guy-geek style...

    1. Zombie infestation breaks out.
    2. Lots of people die.
    3. Hot girl "gets with" not-hot guy because he literally is "that last man on earth"
    4. Zombies attack, round 2... hot girl dies, and probably so does the guy, but he dies happy, more or less...

    Zombie book, girl-geek style...
    (See HOLLOWLAND...)

  59. J. Eliot Mason hit the proverbial nail when he referred to Star Wars and Indiana Jones as "retro." (BTW, thanks for making me feel old, man! LOL)

    It's as much an ageism thing as a sexist thing. Believe it or not, there was a time when the Star Wars geeks were looked on in contempt. In fact, I believe it was Harlan Ellison who referred to them as kids in pajamas back in the '70's.

    If Twilight's still around in 20-some years, it will have earned its geek stripes. Then the Twihards will be mocking whatever thing is the new kid on the geek block.

  60. Others said it but I'll repeat: men v. women. Guy things are cool. Gal things are uncool. If a guy can relate, then it's ok geek. If it's ladies only, uncool geek.

    Sad to say, but true. In life, not just geekdom.

  61. I think it's definitely a durabilty thing. Obviously things like Star Wars and Batman have been around for a while, and they have won the test of time. While things like Twilight and Sex in the City themselves could be viewed as fads, or worse, bandwagon fads.

    As a geek, I think its safe to say there's nothing worse for other geeks than the bandwagon fad. One of the points of geek culture is the counterculture aspect. It ceases to be counterculture when everyone and their grandmother--literally--starts cooing over the same thing. Which honestly, is why George Lucas caused Star Wars to lose some of its geek cred. All that overexposure...

  62. I wouldn't know because I always geek out over anime, and that's definitely not cool anywhere...

  63. I think women are expected to identify with male protagonists. After all, "male" is "neutral." Women can wear men's clothing, behave in "masculine" ways, and enter into male dominated work arenas in a way men cannot were the roles reversed.

    To be feminine is highly inflammatory to men and this creates a culture where all things girly are trivial, alienating, and a special interest to the privileged class.

  64. This is a great question and I like to add my two cents:

    I don’t think that “fangirls” are new (we are just higher in pitch) and maybe fewer in number; I’m not sure if that’s true or not anymore. But SciFi geeks have fake science to back them and a more intellectual component then Twilight (for the record I am a fan – I refuse to use the term twihard that just sounds bad :) or romance does. What great worldly insight comes from a great love story other than a HEA; I agree that emotion is seen as less cool than science. So maybe it’s the argument/ discussion factor that determines geek cool. The epic-ness of guy geek raises a nice point too. Saving the world does sound like a worthy cause to geek-over. Versus girl geek which is more self serving but this may stem from society’s pressure on gender and the author's attempt to counteract – to say you are worthy, aka the more important than the whole (especially if your target demographic are teenage girls with traditionally low self-esteem).

    I’m not sure Twilight will ever get the respect Star Wars does; Star Wars did break all kinds of techy things for its time and Lucas had one of the first blockbusters (from a cinematic history standpoint) – but I’ve jump the shark, sorry.

    And as some have mentioned sports fans are, totally a different kind of, the same fandom geek club.

    I think that this shift in society's view of the “geek” is a good thing. Wear your geek badge of honor, saying I care (at least about something). Society suffers from detachment all too often, especially in the virtual world we are living in. As society gets more and more virtual we interact, at a human level less and less, and cons are a great way to connect back in reality to the imaginary.

    Okay maybe that was more like 99 cents but there you go.

  65. I think its more about WHAT exactly you're 'geeking out' about than which gender it appeals to the most. Joss Whedon is the shit. Firefly, Buffy, Angel, etc. Great characters, strong stories, and well rounded development.

    Twilight on the other hand is HORRIBLE. The grammar is atrocious, the plot holes and inconsistencies barbaric (one minute her breakfast is a bowl of cereal the next it magically turns into waffles?!) not to mention the horrible morals and skewed ideals it teaches impressionable teens.

    Spike almost rapes Buffy but it's not romanticized like it is in Twilight. Spike knows its wrong, Buffy is NOT turned on by it, and if anything that makes her want even less to do with him. Twilight on the other hand glorifies the horrendous. Emotional abuse, misogyny, stalking, rape, child grooming, the list goes on. so when I personally see someone 'geeking out' over it I want to stick my head in a microwave.

    When it comes to Twilight and equally wretched bile I do NOT approve. Sure you can like it and gush about it, I won't judge you but it won't get you any brownie points from me either long as you're not going out into the world trying to achieve such warped ideals of 'romance' you're still okay in my book no matter what your guilty pleasures are =3

  66. (I hope I'm not posting this 3 times by mistake... I clicked Post Comment and nothing happened...)

    I think it's the way people see you - if you're a fan of Sex and the City they assume you're superficial (IMHO there's nothing wrong with liking makeup and clothes, as long as it doesn't define you.) If you're a fan of Firefly, they assume your thoughts are more deep and meaningful.

    My personal opinion: I try not to judge. I like Firefly better but that's just me. I'm like Kaylee :)

    My two cents on Twilight:

    It's fun to read (not my cup of tea - not really a fan of vampires and I only like books where I can relate to the characters.) It's not great but fun to read.

    Edward's an idiot though, no matter how sparkly and wonderful Ms. Meyer describes him as :)


  67. This is just my opinion......

    I feel that our society is still pretty sexist. That translates into most aspects of life. "Girly" things are looked down upon because our society values masculine qualities more. The words witch and wizard used to mean women and men who practiced magic. The words have evolved into slang now. Witch has a negative connotation, while being a "wizard" at something is a compliment.

    Of course, not everyone is that way. I know plenty of men who are open-minded and completely cool with girly stuff. I guess we just have to stand by our geekdom matter who is looking down on it. I, personally, love anything that the supremely talented Mr. Whedon has a hand in, and I also went all fangirl over Twilight (the first book, not the whole series).

  68. Okay, so now I learn geeking out is cool. I've been a Donny Osmond geek for most of my life. (Who??) I'm also a Rafa Nadal geek, an Aaron Rogers geek and a good story-lovin' romance writing geek. Works for me: )

  69. I have to agree with Amanda Hocking --- the hierarchy of "geekdom" is clearly gendered --- and will follow all of the pathologies of our culture. If there were a gay superhero, and the book were brilliantly written, and a bunch of kids geeked out on that --- no matter how good it was, no matter how good the subsequent Hollywood film, many would dismiss it as "gay."

    What would have happened if Harry Potter had been "Harriet Potter" ? Would it have been as successful? Sorry, probably not.

    It's true of all things pink --- and all forms of literature.


  70. I think it has to do with Star Trek and Star Wars being classics. Star Trek is now working on its third generation of fans. That much time gives a legitimate quality to the predictable plots and geek behavior. Star Wars is well into its second generation. Rocky Horror Picture Show, a true geek fest (love it!), is moving into its second generation.

    In time, I could see Twilight and Harry Potter welcoming future generations to argue in the street about which is better. So, in my opinion, it has more to do with the fact that women are just starting to embrace things with the same enthusiasm as our male geek counterparts than anything else. I can say though, in my family there are three generations (my mother 61, me 37, and my seven year old daughter) that get a little geeky over Harry Potter and Twilight.

  71. I'd like to back up "anonymous" who keeps mentioning sexism. . . this is really a big deal. Us crazy feminazi geeks think about it all the time. :)

    Here's a link to a video that talks about it--how male stories are valued above female stories--specifically in terms of True Grit. It's way, way worth the six minutes.

  72. I recently found your blog and began reading today. I'm not sure if this has been said already, that is a long line of comments.

    I also believe it comes down to quality. I am a huge Buffy fan (I also agree that Buffy VS Twilight is a better cage match) and am open about how I feel about Joss Whedon. I do, however, hide my affinity for Twilight.

    Simply, for me, it is because I see Joss Whedon as a real writer. Though I am entertained by the Twilight Saga, I feel it is complete fluff. I don't think it is worthy of as much praise as Buffy, Indiana Jones, Firefly, Dr. Horrible. Though all are cheesy in their own rights, the quality of writing is just inferior when it comes to Stephenie Meyer. She has a flair for entertaining, but not in a way that has substance.

    I do not find myself thinking about Twilight after reading it or watching the movie. Episodes of Buffy like Hush or The Body however, leave me thinking about things like death, communication, friendship, responsibility. Stephenie Meyer left me thinking about when they would finally just "do it" already.

    So I hide my liking of Stephenie Meyer, Sex and the City, Nora Roberts; while I celebrate my love for Joss Whedon, Stephen King, Indiana Jones, Star Wars and the like.

    Who wants to admit they like something that is terribly written? Not me. Who wants to side with someone who refuses to admit something is terribly written but still entertaining? Again, not me.

  73. If a show is too serious, then it can destroy the geek factor. For instance, I love True Blood, but it just doesn't have the geek factor like Buffy does. True Blood just seems too serious and I am not sure what makes a show or movie geeky, but I do know that totally serious characters kill it. Look at all the Star Trek and Star Wars episodes and you will see that they just do not take themselves so seriously. There is a bit of humor in almost every episode.

  74. People are opinionated about shit. People also remember the times where they were hurt or something bad happened longer than times that made them happy or feel good because they're traumatic.

    Also, let it be known that I am not a fan of "geek" or "nerd," as these terms seem to inadvertently promote some sort of mainstream/stereotypical ideal that suppresses individuality and makes people simply boring. The terms make me think about the type of person in high school who got all flustered and called people geeks or nerds, and this makes me think of a man in his 40s in a tie working an office job and spending all his spare time at a bar gawking at girls.

    Regardless, it honestly sounds as if you are fixating on the opinions of those who are on the male end of your proposed geekiness spectrum. Those who enjoy sci fi/fantasy whatever a lot aren't going to tend to be impressed with stuff like Twilight or Sex and the City. I'm also pretty opinionated about this, but to be fair I will give you the benefit of the doubt when talking quality. I do believe it is completely fair to note though--and as a disclaimer, I am no extensive reader of the romance genre--that it has tendency to have a plot whose purpose is to present characters than have characters whose purpose is to further a plot. Don't get me wrong; I love characterization and feel like a story feels empty without strong, relate-able characters, but a story is a story and the plot is what makes the story. If it's a boring, unimpressive story that had good characters, you will still remember it as a poor story. I had a very similar reading experience to this recently, and it's honestly reeaally disappointing. It makes you want so much more for those characters than what you're getting.

    Anyway, just my two cents (or more, kind of long winded) on the matter.

  75. I'm like way late on this but I hope you get to read it anyway.

    I'm not really sure if you were trying to say that things girls geek out about and things that boys geek out about are different but that's how I took it. So instead I want to mention Harry Potter. I'm a MAJOR Harry geek but I think the thing about the series is that boy or girl you could geek out. Personally I find the the reason the two modern geekdoms of Harry Potter and Twilight (I don't think Star Wars is an unfair comparison because Star Wars has the advantage of age. things tend to be cooler when they're cool for a long time). I think issues that harry Potter fans have with Twilight (neglecting the crossover like you mentioned before) is related to time again. Harry Potter was a building process its fans have been dedicated for years where as Twilight was much quicker, there was not as much time between the books and movies as was with Harry Potter. I think it has more to do with age and dedication through time than dudes vs ladies.

  76. Been away and missed this awesome discussion, but here are my thoughts: SATC and twilight geeks/fans are from all walks of life, but the characters are fairly mainstream "cool". This makes it seem like the fans are just wannabe cools/ try hards (thus the aptness of twihards). Yes I know that Han Solo is super cool but he is also a badass - he is the romantic hero of the story and most likely the least geeky character to dress up as. In identifying with a character we identifying some part of ourselves. To put yourself out there dressed up as some kind of "cool" sets you up for ridicule, especially if you clearly don't fit that role in your day life.
    You're ace Amanda.

  77. I didn't realize that Sex and the City had the Geek factor... Then again, i never was a fan. I tend to geek out on science fiction and have never met a single girl who parallels my interests... yet. (come to think of it, none of the guys in my circle actually reads, so no guys either) But I haven't restricted my interests to like only science fiction... I do like star wars but I don't worship it, I also like Gossip Girl... Though I love vampires, I don't try to BE one like the Twihards... (no offence to anyone)

    I'd like to give my opinion on star wars; not bad. Nice aliens.

    My opinion on twilight; 'Oh, why did I read these books?' But i saw the positive side when it inspired me to write this,

    What I think of sex and the city: nothing really. I never watched it. But the shoes are great.

  78. I am also a big fan of the Old legends. Who were awesome people....

  79. I also like evergreen stars.they are pretty good on the screen.

  80. Maybe that's because you don't think it's cool or you haven't found someone who thinks the way you do. The world is big. Even though majority don't think twilight is cool, you can be the minority who thinks it's cool. Why would you want others to agree? After all, we are living our own lives! :) Embrace yourself for who you are! Do whatever you feel right!