The Geek Demographic, or What to Call it?

Cinematical, a movie blog that I check up on every now and then just posted up an interesting article called The Geek Beat: Defining the Geek Genre. Actually, when I say interesting, I mean somewhat misguided. It provides an interesting starting point when it comes to this sort of genre, but the conclusions that she comes to are very misguided when she says things such as : “That’s why I restricted “geek films” to be movies based on (or accompanied by) graphic novels and comic books.”

Okay. Backing up for a moment, geek is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as the following:

/geek/

• noun informal, chiefly N. Amer. 1 an unfashionable or socially inept person. 2 an obsessive enthusiast.

When it comes to films or media in general, items that fall under the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Genres are generally lumped together. It’s not too hard to see why this happens – all three share the same notion of the fantastic, whether it takes place in the future, past, alternate worlds or even this world. In general, the definition of geek here refers to the human component. When it comes to a genre, it’s hard to really describe films as socially inept or obsessive. (Unless they’re a documentary or some really obscure, brilliant film that nobody watches, etc).

Rather, a sort of Geek demographic would seem to include the films that the ‘traditional’ image of a geek (sci-fi/fantasy/horror fan who lives at home, collects comics and has never been within five feet of the opposite sex1) tends to frequent. You can pretty much include any sort of film that has the science fiction, fantasy and horror elements. Star fighters, aliens, ghosts, wizards, magic, weird creatures, things like that all seem to be fairly common elements, and genre (for lack of a better word at the moment) fans tend to be attracted to these elements and stories that come along with them, generally because there are many things to be examined about them, but also because they tend to be somewhat escapist in nature. (Discussion of escapism is probably an entire discussion for later).

The problem that I have with the article here is that the author is limiting it to things with media tie-ins such as books and comic books. That falls incredibly short of where the interests of this sort of geek demographic fall. Comics and cartoons are certainly part of this demographic, but they are only a small part of this genre. Additionally, some science fiction films are well received by mainstream audiences. Star Wars has grossed billions of dollars, as has Star Trek, and these are arguably some of the more geeky franchises out there. Shows such as LOST, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly have likewise been well received critically, and in some cases by mainstream audiences that don’t generally go for the typical geeky genre.

In general, I had thought of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in terms of separate genres. Science Fiction had space ships and robots, Fantasy got the wizards and magic, and horror got the guys with the axes and blood. Obviously, that isn’t the case, and while often times there are a number of superficial differences between the genres, I’ve come to believe that these differences aren’t the best things to judge by – oftentimes, it is the type of story that really counts, and why fans of the various genres tend to be attracted to them as a whole. You will always have people who are interested more in SciFi than fantasy (I tend to go more towards SF than I do the other two.) but when it comes down to it, there are common elements.

The article cites a number of films such as Transformers: Rise of the Fallen, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Terminator, and seems to label them different, a geek or a nerd sort of genre. Lump them all together here, and more. I consider things ranging from Robot Chicken, Indiana Jones, Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, Sherlock Holmes, Life on Mars, Battlestar Galactica, and Chuck to be part of the same demographic. Not all of these have the elements that one might consider to be in a sci-fi, fantasy or horror genre, but they do tend to attract people who are fans of those genres – they all contain fantastic elements that has to do with a escapist or speculative story, and thus, you can’t really apply any of the SciFi/Fantasy/Horror genre titles to this sort of thing because not all of the content falls under those titles. I don’t necessarily want to label the overall genre as a ‘Geek’ genre because it’s not necessarily accurate, if you go straight by the definition. I’m a self described geek, but I tend to also be a geek when it comes to music, history, reading, etc. By labelling this sort of genre a GEEK genre, you’ll get some of the cultural connotations right, but would that mean that films that history buffs and music affectionatos would also be included? No, because when one thinks of a sort of Geek Genre, they think of the content that tends to be attractive to your traditional/typical geek/nerd/etc. Additonally, in and of itself, it’s not necessarily something that only appeals to geeks, but to those who like the fantastic.

This is the Fantastic Genre, something that covers the Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror genres, and what their fans tend to be attracted to.

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2 thoughts on “The Geek Demographic, or What to Call it?

  1. What a terribly misguided article. Not only does she fail to realize that the geeks have inherited the Earth some time ago (which is why defining geek as something outside the mainstream doesn’t work), by her own definition, G.I. Joe and Transformers should be considered geeky– comics and cartoons are technically, if not interchangeable, then related in terms of being two conclusions that come from sequential art.

    Mainstream media should stop trying to claim our shit now that it’s considered ‘cool’. Haha.

  2. I completely agree – not because geekdom is necessarily popular (I’d say it’s grown in popularity, but it’s still largely a sub-culture sort of thing), but because her argument makes no sense at all. Why only selectively pull out media based on it’s release type?

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