We are so familiar with geeks these days; we almost take them for granted. One wonders what it was like before there were geeks….
Before geeks? Yes, there simply had to be a time when there were none simply because everything that defines them today did not exist prior to the 1970s. Think about it: What did geeks do before Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars, and computers? Don’t say “comic books” because comics were not the domain of geeks back then – there were no comic book stores operated by pompous uber geeks back in the day.
Geeks also did not have “Star Trek”. Sure it was on TV in the 1960’s; but it didn’t become an object of geek obsession until much later.
You might argue that they’ve always had some technology to tinker with (i.e. Popular Mechanics and big-ass computers), but this is where the difference between a nerd and a geek comes in, and things get tricky...
|Can you spot the nerd in this picture?|
Nerds are simply intelligent, industrious individuals who lack some social skills. Geeks, according to the modern definition, are those with a high level of interest and enthusiasm for a certain subject, whether it be baseball or horror movies. “Nerd” has become much more pejorative than “geek” because it carries a negative connotation on your place in society; whereas, there is now “geek chic”.
Thus, since “geek” has become such an acceptable term, it naturally has been claimed by any all varieties of subjects: there’s fantasy football geeks, band geeks, warhammer geeks, retro geeks (hello!), anime geeks, TV geeks, etc, etc., and thus, rendering the term meaningless – just another way to say “enthusiast”.
So, when I say “geek”, I am referring to the conventional geek that existed prior to the current watered down term. And so I repeat my initial contention that geeks did not exist prior to the 1970’s, except in very rare occurrences, much like sasquatch sightings.
Here’s an incomplete list of things that have long defined geekdom. Let’s see which, if any, could have been the abode of early geeks…
Lord of the Rings
Believe it or not, LOTR was initially embraced by the hippie culture way before geeks got their sweaty little hands on it. Indeed, the most “ungeeky” individuals to have ever lived, The Hammer of the Gods – the mighty Led Zeppelin frequently invoked Tolkein into their music.
Video Games and Star Wars did not exist. Star Trek was not geekified until much later.
Every kid back in the day read comic books – at least every boy. Comics were as mainstream as The Lone Ranger. And for older readers (or young’uns on the sly) there were the EC comics and later the underground hippie comics (i.e. Roger Crumb). One could say the ultimate personification of the term “geek” is the comic book store owners and workers. Even these paragons of geekdom did not exist back then.
During the 1970s there was a short love affair with the 1950s and early 60s (a la Grease, American Graffiti, Happy Days, etc.). And there was an infatuation among some with the pioneer days and the early part of the 20th century via Liberty magazine and things like Little House on the Prairie; however, these came nowhere near approaching “geekishness”. No, it would be years later before blogs like this one put stuff like Charlie’s Angels and Tony Orlando up on a pedestal. Today’s world is swarming with retro geeks like myself – look no further than ebay as proof. You’d have to take out a second mortgage to afford a Magilla Gorilla lunchbox these days!
The blogosphere is literally glutted with horror geek blogs; but, prior to the late 1980s or early 90s, the genre was not the geeky niche it is today. Grindhouse horror was for the pot smoking or trench coat wearing crowd, and horror was fairly mainstream in its acceptance during the 1970s – not something to incite cult enthusiasts. However, Famous Monsters of Filmland definitely attracted its share of horror obsessed fans. The Ackerman rags may have given birth to a sort of proto-horror geek.
Science Fiction Novels
Aha! Herein may have lurked prehistoric geeks – the earliest ancestors of the modern day geek.
Have anything to add to this query? Raise your hand and wait till I call on you.
|Is this nerd being laughed at by the guy behind him? We can only speculate.|
Just kidding. Leave your thoughts on the topic in a comment - I'd love to hear it.