Conformity

joss_whedonAsk a geek to tell you what he thinks of the average non-geek, and ten-to-one the word “sheep” will be used at some point. Geeks consider their unwillingness to follow the herd their most important defining characteristic, and harbor great disdain for the mindless norms who will happily take anything that is shoved at them uncritically.

As expected, this is not quite the case.

Take any rant about mall punks shopping at Hot Topic and listening to Linkin Park, substitute ThinkGeek and Jonathan Coulton, and you’re still right on target. Geek culture is unrelentingly monolithic, and it does not tolerate dissent well.

Go on any geek message board and declare that you don’t care for Firefly or The Dark Knight and you’ll instantly be deemed a troll. “Troll” used to denote a person who said things on message boards that were designed only to get a rise out of people, but now means a person who simply says something that is contrary to the groupthink. It’s assumed that, naturally, you do like those things and are just being contrary, either for attention or just to be “cool.”

For all their free-thinking, open-mindedness, anarchic nature, and hatred of organized religion, there are many saints and untouchables in the geek pantheon, beings and things that you fail to appreciate at your own risk.

Musically, you’ll be expected as a geek to declare that Radiohead is the greatest band of the 20th, 21st, and for that matter any other century. Failing that you have to at least acknowledge They Might Be Giants as “teh awesome”. If you don’t appreciate either of these bands then obviously you like Britney Spears or N’Sync.

Every movie that comes out would be better if it were directed by Terry Gilliam or Tim Burton, and should always star Johnny Depp or Bruce Campbell. None of these four gentlemen have ever made any bad movies in their lives.

When discussing comics, proper homage must always be made to Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and Maus (which, as you know, won the Pulitzer Prize.)

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett do not write books so much as coagulate pure imagination into a form visible to us mere mortals.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus is revered to an extent that it merits an entry of its own.

And perhaps the geek Yahweh at the moment, he who is never to be maligned, who is the beneficent creator, who is perfect in his works and deeds, is Joss Whedon. Geeks would rather you insult their dear mothers than say anything mildly hurtful about Joss Whedon, a man who’s created two fairly successful cult TV shows, one failed TV show, and had a hand in a few marginal movies. He’s also tried his hand at some comic books, so he’s got an advantage slightly over Chris Carter, one of the former geek messiahs.

It is insufficient to merely like any of these things, they must be thought of completely uncritically. Everything Joss Whedon or Radiohead or Tim Burton or Neil Gaiman touches is a thing of rapturous beauty that exemplifies utter perfection. If for some reason any creation of theirs fails in the marketplace, it’s because it was too good for the mindless sheeple, or because it was sabotaged by studio execs or editors who simply didn’t understand its depth. In addition, it is naturally assumed that you adore all these things because honestly, who wouldn’t?

In addition to creators and objects that are beyond criticism, there are also many fundamental beliefs among geeks that are only ever questioned by trolls looking to gain attention. Among them:

* The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the Star Wars movies because it’s dark.

* Kirk was a better captain than Picard because he punched more people.

* If Batman and Superman fight, even though Superman can lift mountains, Batman will always win because he is smarter and cooler.

But it isn’t just the standard items of worship that prove the desire for conformity among geeks. The largest proof is, frankly, any assemblage of geeks, in which one can see first hand the absolutely dogmatic methods by which they all express their individuality in the same way. Go to any fan convention and you’ll have your pick of long-haired geeks in black “offensive” t-shirts wearing trenchcoats and combat boots. Visit any geek-related Internet forum and note how people who don’t follow the party line are treated.

Since they don’t mind a rigidly fanatic society so long as it’s their fandom that’s unquestioned, geeks LOVE conformity.

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11 Responses

  1. Go to any fan convention and you’ll have your pick of long-haired geeks in black “offensive” t-shirts wearing trenchcoats and combat boots.

    This is not completely correct. Some will be dressed as Stormtroopers.

  2. Well, yeah, but they’ll be doing so IRONICALLY! Or, at least, in an ironic fashion, so as to properly express…I don’t know, something about conformity or going against the rabble or some such.

  3. Funny how the word sheeple is mainly bleated from the safety of the paddock, isn’t it?

  4. Ah… if an appreciation of Neil Gaiman’s work makes one a geek, then it seems to me that a sufficient cure would be for any so-made geek to watch Mirrormask.

    For Pratchett, Burton, Radiohead et al, they also surely have some Magnum Odium which can be used as a proper… purgative.

    And Max – it must be like Mel Brooks’ definition of comedy. *We* make incisive observations, *they* make hypocritical generalizations. And note that I say this without the slightest tinge of irony!

    No, no, you were too smart for me. It was ironic after all. But good fun, what?

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  8. Well said. Great article. But I would liek to point out that because there are less Geeks that the other groups, we still technicaly are “Individuals” on the grand scale of society. We just conform as a group (if that makes sense).

    And Empire Strikes Back was the best Star Wars movie.

  9. Is it just me, or does this entire rant smell of strawman?

  10. I think the smell is just Cybertrash not knowing what a strawman is.

  11. I find it’s the general rule of online discourse that no one gets the benefit of the doubt except your favorite celebrity.

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