Is "Geek" the New Sexy? But for How Long?

The cuteness that is Adam Scott

Only in the movies (or in my dreams) could an aspiring sci-fi writer look anything like the absolutely adorable Adam Scott from Parks and Recreation.

In Our Idiot Brother, which I went to see this past weekend, Scott plays Jeremy, the neighbor and best friend of lead character Paul Rudd’s sister Elizabeth Banks. Although in this movie Jeremy describes himself as a “hard” science-fiction writer (think Arthur C. Clarke rather than Ray Bradbury, although YMMV on the accepted definitions of hard vs. soft science fiction), the actor in fact physically resembles no sci-fi writer I can think of.

Arthur C. Clarke
Ray Bradbury

Not that there was/is anything wrong with the aforementioned gentlemen, but seriously, neither would ever have been considered movie star material even in their younger days.  I can only surmise that the relative hotness of the casting for the writer role in Our Idiot Brother is supposed to be seen as good news for geeks and nerds everywhere.

But has sci-fi, even hard science sci-fi, officially broken into the mainstream consciousness as a totally accepted, cool concept? Or does the non sci-fi-loving population still regard it as just a laughable niche interest for losers? When I was growing up, being a nerd and basing one’s life around intellectual pursuits was clearly seen as inferior to all other lifestyles and pastimes, so I find it hard to believe that this long-established prejudice has really changed that much in the intervening years.

Personally, I have never fit the media’s idea of the stereotypical nerdy sci-fi fan, as I work in the dynamic field of commercial advertising and not a comic book shop, have never once lived in my parents’ basement, and am (shock, horror!) of the female persuasion. Since I’ve been reading, viewing and sharing my observations about sci-fi for years but have never made much headway into influencing even my best friends’ opinions about the genre, its writers, or its fans, it seems hilarious to me that the interests I have been derided for having all of my life should suddenly morph into desirable, “hip” qualities onscreen.

Of course, this IS the movies. And when have movies ever represented reality? But “geek” is suddenly being considered sexy even on network television these days, if you take into consideration the popularity of shows like “Big Bang Theory” and “Chuck.” Not that this trend is a bad thing, but I have to wonder at its potential longevity. Despite the proliferation of websites showering us with tips on How To Look Like A Sexy Nerd and suggesting the best sites to buy geeky gifts (I heart you, ThinkGeek!), I must wonder if the general population really accepts geeks and nerds, or even sees us as normal.

Will Gen Next continue to embrace geekiness? Is there such a thing as a hot nerd, or is nerd popularity just another short-lived fad, with the eventual nasty backlash lurking just around the corner?

5 thoughts on “Is "Geek" the New Sexy? But for How Long?

  • In regards to your last question: I think it’s here to stay. Geek-dom has been slowing creeping up and being accepted in mainstream media for decades now. Trekkies and Trekkers were laughed at for years, however the most general mainstream of audiences fell in love with Abrams’ STAR TREK.

    And I don’t even mean sci-fi specifically, but genre based productions in general. Some of the biggest and best TV shows on these days are all genre based. FRINGE, TRUE BLOOD, WALKING DEAD, GAME OF THRONES, etc. Let’s not even get into comics.

    Even in movies, geek-centric storylines are starting to be featured, not derogatarily or through eyes of a nerdy younger brother of the lead… but full fledged films done intelligently.

    I think we’re approaching a new era where geekdom won’t rule, but will be seen as equal. Here hoping…

    • Thank you for your comments! I most definitely agree that geek-centric storylines are starting to be featured on both mainstream TV and on film, which I see as a very good thing!

      But I can’t shaken this feeling that these scifi and fantasy genre-based shows are still seen by both networks and advertisers as a small temporary niche market, one that they may be very willing to capitalize on just now, but one that will be replaced by the “next big thing” as soon as it comes along. I am just hoping that their appeal lasts long enough to infiltrate the mainstream market on a more permanent basis.

  • I personally believe that Geek culture is infusing so heartily due to acceptance in ways not previously possible. Throughout earlier decades, it was taboo for many fans to be open (women especially) and I see, even now, the changes in society as it grows to accept the Geek. Sites like HerUniverse are make it acceptable for females to wear Star Wars gear (and others now, too) whereas, previously, a chick had to wear a tshirt made for a guy. Also, the proliferation of MMORPGs (World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Final Fantasy XI, et cetera) has turned millions of gamers into gaming geeks via association…and it’s not uncool anymore! I remember playing with guys on WoW who, though still very typical of the picture of the American male in the love of football/hunting/et cetera, absolutely loved the game. In a sense, these games have become the gateway drug of Geek culture, if you will. (For example, take a person who has never consider themselves a geek before and get them addicted to WoW…then, suddenly, they understand/enjoy shows like The Guild which leads to a newfound love in Felicia Day’s amazingness, which leads to an interest in other things she’s been in…then it’s Dr. Horrible and, before you know it, you’re quoting Firefly and watching The Legend of Neil and playing a video game you made fun of the kid down the street for playing- id est The Legend of Zelda…and the change is complete!) Okay, sorry, ranting, but I have to hope that the Geek culture continues to be shown intelligently and in a beautiful light.

    • As a woman and a lifelong scifi nerd it’s always been difficult for me to accept that Geekdom was seen as an exclusively male domain, not only by the general public, but even by a large portion of the male geek population itself. I suppose this hearkens back to that old (incorrect) stereotype that boys are supposed to be good at math and shop and girls are only supposed to be good at cooking. My own lackluster showing in Home Ec (now going by the more politically-correct name of Family and Consumer Sciences) did nothing to convince me that this double standard was in any way fact. 🙂

      These days it is certainly more acceptable than ever before that women can call themselves nerds without shame, even though I more often see articles about how to be a sexy nerdette rather than how to rub shoulders in fandom on an equal basis with the boys. I think it may take a generation or two more for girls to see themselves as secure, proud nerds without having to apologize to someone somewhere for it. Just in the same way that it takes several generations of women to be accepted as doctors and scientists and CEOs, it will take time and plenty of good role models out there breaking that geek glass ceiling to have a positive effect on the future.


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