In sociology, anthropology, and cultural studies, a subculture is a group of people with a culture (whether distinct or hidden) which differentiates them from the larger culture to which they belong, for example, if a particular subculture is characterized by a systematic opposition to the dominant culture, it may be described as a counterculture. Geeks are a fantastic example of a subculture, because we have all of the earmarks of a full sized culture. Observe.
And on the third day of the week…
Geeks have our own religions and our own denominations. Do you doubt me? Our day of worship is Wednesday, “New Comic Book Day,” a day in which we travel to our local comic book store to hear the latest good word. If Star Trek is a religion—and fans definitely make it sound like one—then it is one with five denominations, Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise, each with their own followers. We also have the religion of fantasy (books and other media), with followers of the prophets J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Robert Jordan, G. R. R. Martin, Brandon Sanderson, etc. Fortunately, since there are so many religions in the subculture, geek religions are not exclusive. These gods are not jealous gods. A geek can subscribe to as many as he wants! We are quite tolerant that way.
While the larger American culture loves its football and baseball, and embraces foreign sports such as rugby and soccer, geeks prefer sports on a screen. I never believed that video gaming could work up a sweat until I recently played my very first console game, Assassin’s Creed II. Solo gaming isn’t the only geek sport, however. In fact, there is an entire world of competitive gaming that involves teams and even leagues. There are even documentaries, like King of Kong, and not-quite-TVshows about it, such as Felicia Day’s ever popular The Guild.
The guy on the left is actually jealous that Will is not holding him instead.
Geeks have our own set of celebrities too. Some of these, such as Nathan Fillion and Will Wheaton, are famous in real culture for the roles they have played on TV and in movies, but geeks love them for another reason—they are geeks themselves, and they are not afraid to show it. J. K. Rowling has become a celebrity outside of her status as an author by interacting with her fans and even cautiously validating fan fiction based on her work. Of course, my favorite geek celebrity, Joss Whedon, has nearly transcended celebrity status to become a god. I am not sure if this is simply because of his winning personality, or because he likes to emotionally traumatize his fans by destroying some of their most beloved characters on a whim.
I think that it pretty much goes without saying that geeks have their own movies. This seems to have bled into the surrounding population culture, however, because the last time I was in the theater to see a truly geeky movie, I could barely find a seat! Still, movies like The Hobbit et al or any comic book movie ever are filmed for and targeted at geeks first and foremost.
Perhaps the most amusing aspect of the geek subculture, however, is that we have our own brand of shitty television shows. In fact, we have TV shows that fit into every single television category. Think about it. We have paranormal soap operas, such as True Blood, and my own guilty pleasure, Supernatural. The story telling in these shows is atrocious, and viewers primarily watch for the pretty people in bizarre situations. There are geek sitcoms too, the short-lived Better Off Ted, and the long-running Big Bang Theory are classic examples of these (just without that annoying laugh track).
I like these guys, they’re just so… pretty.
Of course, TV execs have also given the geek subculture some shows that are flagrant pandering. The more annoying of these is Arrow. While I’ve only heard good reviews from friends about this show, I find the dialogue to be stilted and the acting to be wooden. Another TV show that has to be classified here is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I have high hopes for this show’s future—especially give that it is a Joss Whedon show (see above)—but for now, it just seems to be a show that expects viewers and ratings based on its theme, rather than its content.
Don’t get me wrong, geek subculture has excellent TV shows as well. In the 90’s there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in the late 2000’s there was Dollhouse, and right now there is Continuum, which continues to hold my interest. HBO gives us the exciting TV dramatization of GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and Netflix toys with the idea of returning our beloved Firefly (please, let Castle end soon!!). There is plenty to see on current weekly episodes and available to binge-watch on Netflix.
Perhaps the most amusing geek TV is a relative newcomer: the geek reality show. It makes me laugh to see shows such as King of the Nerds (now in season three), and Heroes of Cosplay on TV. Who knew that one day a geek would be given a confession box moment?
So the subculture has religion, with all its trappings, sports, and entertainment of all sorts. Geek culture is definitely a vibrant and fulfilling subculture with aspects to appeal to any geek. Are there any parallels to population culture that I’ve missed? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, or @thereforeigeek.