Most have surely heard the phrase, "Geek Chic." With movies like The Avengers topping the box office and high concept sci-fi or fantasy epics ruling the New York Times bestseller lists like Twilight or Harry Potter, it has become cool to be a geek and to like geeky things such as comic books, science fiction/fantasy, and video games. My question is simply: Why is geek now chic? Or to phrase it differently: How did being a geek become cool?
What inspired this post were the countless statements that actor Andrew Garfield has made as to why he so desperately wanted to play the part of Spider-Man in the upcoming film, The Amazing Spider-Man. He reportedly took the part uber-seriously because he grew up with the character and has a respect and affinity for it beyond that of a Saturday morning cartoon. There seems to still be an impression among older filmgoers that superhero movies or sci-fi epics like Star Wars are kids' fare, and yet there are those of us in our twenties, thirties, or even forties, like Andrew Garfield, who disagree. Why? Because to us geek is cool and not childish.
There seems to have been a line, possibly being drawn around the mid-70s with the maturation of comic books, the creation of video games, and the arrival of the Hollywood blockbuster with stuff like Jaws, Star Wars, and Superman: The Movie, that forever altered pop culture and what generations expect from their entertainment. People who did not grow up with video games or serious comic books infused with deep philosophical ideas while telling a high concept story, cannot understand why those of us who did feel that these things are not childish, but are ways of expression. Andrew Garfield grew up in this generation, which is why to him playing Spider-Man is not a paycheck, but is a serious acting gig, because he sees the character as three-dimensional.
While I have not seen The Amazing Spider-Man yet, I can say that I love Garfield's approach. I, myself often feel torn between the pretentious film snobs who feel that making a Hollywood adventure movie is not respectable. To me, it is respectable. The film culture I grew up in was the blockbuster culture, to me I see these movies differently than the older generations. Similarly for the current state of comic books or video games. Video games have just become another way to consume stories, like television, books, or film, it is no longer geeky, but is currently the most profitable entertainment industry, more so than film. It is mainstream, and the only reason older generations do not understand this is because they have never played video games and do not understand their storytelling potential. This is why I think geek is now chic.