High school was a tough time for your typical geek. Between weekend long D&D marathons, hacking military and business computers, and being mercilessly beaten and humiliated by more popular, athletic kids, it’s a wonder they managed to find the time to go to class. Granted, only one of the above things ever actually happened to any of them, but geeks like to pretend that they were horribly victimized while in their adolescence by those of their peers with the foresight to get some exercise once in awhile.
Luckily for the geek, there’s a quick and easy way to displace all the pent up anger and humiliation that pretending to be someone else’s whipping boy: pick on someone else! As we’ve already seen, lording your geek superiority over another geek can be useful in establishing your place in the pecking order amongst other geeks, but that lacks the usefulness of an engaging us/them dynamic. Picking on the mundanes would be the natural first choice of a geek, but doing that would give the lie to their self-professed “underdog outsider” status. For the geeks there’s a group ready-made for them to despise, and that’s gays and lesbians.
It may seem surprising that geeks would gravitate towards a knee-jerk antipathy to gays and gay rights, but it’s worth remembering that American culture, as a whole, still has not become comfortable with the idea of homosexuality, and the middle-class, white, right-libertarian tendencies of the geek are well documented. There is no realistic other option for a group for them to feel superior to. Race-based antipathy is socially frowned on and would only draw attention to the overwhelming white-ness of geeks, and it’s hard to feel like an outsider when you’re essentially The Man. Gender-based antagonism only reduces the likelihood of a geek finding a woman desperate enough to have sex with him, as despite the frequent geek complaint to the contrary, chicks really don’t dig jerks.
It may also seem surprising that geeks would gravitate towards homophobia because so much anti-gay sentiment is rooted in Judeo-Christian ideology, and your typical geek is trying very hard to distance himself as much from that system of religion as possible. But in that strange, cross-over world of American politics, where people who vote Republican because Jesus loves little babies become convinced that Jesus hates climatologists who discuss global warming as well, geeks gravitate strongly towards the right-wing Libertarian ideologies of Ron Paul and Ayn Rand. They believe that technology is the answer to all problems, and that no government regulation or taxation or copyright legislation should be allowed to stand in the way of that technological utopia. And as that crowd includes a more than representative example of “natural law” thinkers and those who fear that, for example, legalizing gay marriage will create a strain on the health care industry because of the millions of straight people who will enter into fake gay marriage for insurance benefits, a good amount of only tangentially based in reality anti-gay thought creeps into the geek’s world-view.The actual form that the geek’s homophobia takes can be quite varied, however. The most frequent form is the fetishization of lesbianism. To the geek, lesbians are only “real” to the extent that they are able to titillate the geek, a fact that the producers of syndicated fantasy shows such as Star Trek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are happy to exploit for an annual goose to the ratings. But almost as common is the dread of the male body that many geeks exhibit. From worrying over the suggestion of male genitalia in comic books to shifting uncomfortably in their seats anytime a male actor is unclothed in a film, the geek’s initial reaction is to loudly proclaim “Gaaaaayyyyy!” lest anyone briefly suspect that he himself is turned on by what he’s seeing. Occasionally film-makers will even go that extra step and include the snigger inducing gay joke themselves, thus saving their audience the trouble.
This sniggering response to anything that could even be remotely seen as gay is what gave rise to the unrelenting hilarity of the nonstop “Brokebat Mountain” jokes that arose on the internet after the casting of Heath Ledger as the Joker was announced before filming for The Dark Knight began. That it took the death of Ledger for geeks to realize that the jokes weren’t funny is a testament to the lengths they’re willing to go to for the sakes of maintaining their disapproval of both gays and humor. (It’s also not a little ironic that now his depiction of the Joker is considered “iconic” by fans and became the number one geek costume of last Halloween.)
Should the question of actual anti-gay discrimination come up, the geek will be the first to adopt a “blame the victim” attitude. After all, a woman who identifies as a lesbian in her gamer profile is clearly asking for it, as sexuality should have no place in video gaming. Just ask “LadiesMan69” or “LuvsTitties.” Clearly, gays and lesbians are asking to be discriminated against. If they weren’t, why would they ever let anyone know about their failure to live up to the manly, heterosexual ideal of the geek?
A group of people more hated than themselves? Small wonder geeks LOVE Homophobia!