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February 04 2008

Joss makes the Onion's list of "20 pop-cultural obsessions even geekier than Monty Python". "Map out one [Venn diagram] with traditional geeky obsessions (vampires, spaceships, superheroes) in one portion, a desire to see strong female characters in a second portion, and a gift for wittily unforced and infinitely quotable dialogue in the third portion, and you'll find Joss Whedon's work in the overlap".

Nice little write up of why Joss inspires obsession, and Whedonesque gets name-checked!

Surprisingly non-snarky list, considering. I love the fact that the clip they chose was his "strong female characters" speech. And Buffy and Firefly role-playing games get mentioned in the next item.

[ edited by C. A. Bridges on 2008-02-04 15:16 ]
Hmm, I reckon a few of those are only geeky if you pursue them to an obsessive degree. And what isn't in that case ?

May be a cultural difference but fantasy sports leagues ? Michael Jackson ? The Simpsons ? Not really that geeky unless you're a geek about them - in which case why not put motorbikes or aeroplanes or just about anything else on the list ? Once interest X becomes an obsession then you're "an X geek" practically by definition but that doesn't make X geeky IMO.
Geez, among my gaming group we've got at least half those items covered. That's a pretty funny article, and not as insulting as it could have been.
They left off re-enactors, Morris dancing and the Society for Creative Anachronism.
I don't understand Michael Jackson being within 10 miles of this list. But it is as a whole a very strange definition of "nerd."

Ren Faire is #2, barboo. Or do you consider SCA to be a different category?
I'd never heard that speech before. Goosebumps.

As a Zappa fan, I applaud The Onion's inclusion of my fellow Zappaddicts (it's funny because it's true!)

And not to threadjack or anything, but the linked article on the 18 most ridiculous prog rock album covers is spot on (I'm proud/embarrassed to say I own or have owned 11).

[ edited by Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner on 2008-02-04 18:18 ]
Saje, possibly some of these "geeky" interests have been are named because the writer believes that these are areas where there are an unusual number of obsessed people? Possibly due to a limited life experience/protected environment and resultant lack of exposure to lots of folks obsessed with all kinds of stuff? Like train schedules, diner food, itty bitty miniature doll house furniture...and other things too numerous to mention?

[ edited by toast on 2008-02-04 18:18 ]
I think the saying is that if Rennies think you're too weird, there's always SCA :)
Fantasy sports is a "geeky" activity. It's D&D for the sports crowd as people spend hours a day on it, making trades, signing players, waiving players, trash talking (which is what most people do when they work on their teams) and checking stats every other minute. The scene in "Knocked Up" is an accurate description of what people in fantasy sports are like. I know of people who are in three or four fantasy sports leagues for one sport. It's really an obsession.
Quoth Sunfire:
Ren Faire is #2, barboo. Or do you consider SCA to be a different category?

I work in the cast of a Renaissance Festival, and in my experience, SCA is a totally different bag of chips than being seriously into faires. There is obvious overlap between the two, but what tends to draw people in droves to a ren fest (acceptance, community, entertainment, bagpipe and bodhran music), over and over and over again, does not seem to be the same thing that compels other people to, for example, sew themselves a court gown. By hand. Using carefully reproduced patterns of the effigy corset, and only period materials. That's more of an SCA thing. They also have their own royal courts, and about 20 of their own kingdoms.
Sports seem to have some sort of immunity to the obsession=geek rule. Maybe it's a numbers thing.

Anyway, I wasn't aware that Monty Python was a geeky thing. I mean, who doesn't have a dozen quotes from The Holy Grail memorized?
I think Fantasy Congress out geeks Fantasy sports by a couple of miles.
Did you see the clip in the Dr. Who segment? I was rolling laughing. I bet she liked being called "Mistress."

Oh, I'm in the SCA, and it is a very different creature than Ren. Fairs. Both are fun, but appeal to different interests. Especially if the culture or time period is outside the europian ren. period. The SCA covers about a thousand year time period of the known world, rather than the narrow focus of the Fairs. Which makes your geekdom even more specific, with cultural groups within groups.

[ edited by mikamom on 2008-02-04 19:37 ]
I think the saying is that if Rennies think you're too weird, there's always SCA :)


(snortgiggle) yeah and if you can't cut it with the SCA folk, there's always Amtgard.
Wow, I just ate up a couple hours of my life reading all those comments and watching the videos. There's some pretty hysterical comments in there, although I'm pretty miffed at the digs at Joss. Oh, and Brownshirts? What?

Really creepified by the Jackson fanatics. I read somewhere that they think Michael is literally an Angel from God. OK...

Is it true that Trekkies go to Ren Faires to pretend they're surveying an alien planet? That's awesome! I'd love to see that.
I guess Tolkien is mainstream now. And I don't understand most of the distinctions here.

*hands in nerd badge*
Uh, what's SCA?
Raggedy Edge (Shiny name, btw) I've yet to attend a Ren Faire (Even though there's a huge one every year in Bristol.) but really would love to. Props for mentioning bagpipes & bodhrans. I even know what you're talking about. :-) (Helps that I'm Irish on me da's side.)

Got a question for you & mikamom: What if you create jousting armor for model horses? I just finished a complete set of armor - chanfron, crinet, peytral, crupper & saddle - for one of my Breyers, and prior to that I made a simple barding & half-chanfron for another. Now if I can just get my hands on a Faramir in Gondorian armor to alter a bit so he rides...

Which...brings up a totally different geekdom - model horse collectors. Especially those of us who show our models. Yes, you read correctly - we live show plastic model horses. Which entails not only giving them a name but also assigning a breed, sometimes showing them in performance classes (English Pleasure, like where my custom Tony Head & Otto will be shown next month, Stock Work, etc), which requires properly fitting tack for whatever discipline you're showing. Some of us repaint the models from the factory color to a color/pattern of our own choosing. Some of us resculpt, which could be as simple as rebuilding a broken ear tip or reattaching a broken leg, to something more involved like lowering the head or moving legs. Or, if you're like me & a true geek - making a Pegasus (or two), unicorn (Or three), hippogriff and hippocampus.

Double geek points: I've got a custom bucking mustang I'll be working on named Ain't No Angel (Nicknamed Oz), one of my ponies is named Highland Faerie & nicknamed Willow, and a friend has a couple customs nicknamed Buffy & Spike.
The Society for Creative Anarchism. It was a card in Steve Jackson Games' Illuminati card game (Not NWO, the original one), and some people decided the acronym was so cool, they decided to parody it by making a Society for Creative Anachronism, dedicated not to Anarchism per se, but to dressing up in period costumes and armor and beating each other up with replica padded weapons.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_for_Creative_Anachronism and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illuminati_%28game%29 disagree with my chronology, however.
Sunfire,
I guess enough other people have answered the question about Ren Faires and SCA. My take is that Ren Faires are usually performance events put on for a paying public, which hire performers who may be into the whole vibe, or who may just be performers with a paying gig. SCA is more of a membership/participant thing.

tehabwa, the Society for Creative Anachronism (or SCA) is an organization of people who like to play Middle Ages (I don't mean that snarkily, I think it encapsulates the movement - in the same way that fanfic writers get to "play" with Whedon characters). It started in California (of course), and exists throughout the U.S. and Europe, I don't know so much of the rest of the world. They are divided into Kingdoms, and they have royalty and tournaments, and various other kinds of events. People who want to participate adopt a medieval persona, complete with occupation and costume. For instance someone who enjoyed cooking might adopt the persona of a cook and then they cook for the feasts, using descriptions of medieval cookery. (I've never been a member but I attended a couple of feasts which is why that example comes to mind). I've known of people who actually make their livelihood off their SCA persona, creating jewelry or costumes for other members.

Some people can get very deeply into it and their whole lives revolve around the SCA. (Entirely unlike those of us completely sane folk whose lives revolve around their Buffy the Vampire Slayer dvd collections!) I'm amused by the "weirder than" comments though. When I was, yes, a Morris dancer, I used to say that the SCA existed to make Morris dancers seem normal (for the record to those on the other side of the pond, I think Morris dancing in the U.S. is not looked on as quite as twee as it is in the U.K. Mostly it's not looked on at all, because most people in the U.S. don't have a clue as to what it is).
I've never really cared too much about whether something is judged as geeky or not. As others have pointed out, anything can be geeky if pursued to an obsessive degree, it just seems that activities vary in how society perceives them, so for example posting on a Joss Whedon site may be judged as geeky whereas obsessively following sports to the same extent might not be when it's just as obsessive.

I think in general the lines seem to be blurring slightly as we progress (however slowly) towards a more tolerant society. I think that things like computer games, sci-fi and fantasy are becoming less cult activities as more people are willing to embrace them.
Thanks barboo. I kind of get it, I mean I understand the definitions, but I meant it seems like a real cultural distinction that people into one or the other understand in a way I just can't. If that makes sense.
... possibly some of these "geeky" interests have been are named because the writer believes that these are areas where there are an unusual number of obsessed people?

Yeah you may have something there toast and I do suspect it's a culture/experience thing too (over here for instance, Monty Python isn't so much "geeky" as "comedy", they'll regularly come up in mainstream public votes for "Best Sketch" etc. - though people that can sit and run through entire skits would still be seen as pretty geeky I think, again because of the obsessive component).

I think the edges between "cult fan" and "geek" are blurring too - 'Rocky Horror' for instance strikes me as much more cult than geeky (as does Buffy for that matter). I also think there's maybe an element of geek bandwagonism, now that there's a certain cachet - or at least less of a stigma - attached (which is fine, i've nothing against folk jumping on, the more the merrier ;).

Fantasy sports is a "geeky" activity ... It's really an obsession.

If you're obsessive about it, is kind of my point crazygolfa. Most of the people where I work are in a fantasy football league - the kind with feet that is ;) - and they check it on Monday morning, rib each other about their various "performances" and then that's them done for the week (most/all premier league football is played on a Saturday or Sunday in the UK). I think this is maybe more typical than the 'Knocked Up' style uber-fan ;).
I'm amused by the "weirder than" comments though.


To clarify that, some of my closest friends are Rennies and I worked behind the scenes in the cash office (where there's air conditioning and free food, I'm not stupid ;) and helped catch (play cool music here) staff that were pocketing money.

Also, I think a lot of the "weirder than" is of the knowing and jokey variety here. A little wink and a nudge between groups that are all considered weird by many folks.
I've got 11 out of 20 covered by myself. Glad to have my geeky credentials revalidated.
That's how I was taking it, Zeitgeist. I figure to the general public it doesn't get much weirder than dancing on the street wearing bells.
Don't forget waving big sticks, that's an essential element from what I gather ;-).
Saje,

For American Football, the obsession isn't that much during the season. There is only one game a week for a team and there is so much a person can do. It's the amount of research that people have during the pre-season that's obsessive. I know of several people buy three or four fantasy sports guides from all the major sporting magazines just to prepare their draft. It's during the draft where you see all the people gathered together, spending five to six hours compiling their team. Fantasy baseball is a whole different story as there is a game every single day, so you have to be obsessive to do really well.

I'm a sports geek, but I don't play fantasy football because I feel like it takes away from the enjoyment of the game. I can't fathom rooting for a player who is going against my team, or rooting against my team's defense because my fantasy team's opponent has my favorite team's defense.

The thing is what is the exact definition of "geeky"? I say a geek is someone who has a passion for a certain topic, and it doesn't have to be a normal "geek" topic. Or is "geeky" something more pigeonholed? It all depends on what people perceive. It's all a matter of perspective.
Oh, crap, they're taking the word geek away from us, too? !^@%$ Now they'll have to make up a ew word to make fun of us and then they'll just take that, too!
I always think "geek" implies an interest outside the cultural norm. Obsession does not by default imply geekiness--imbalance maybe. American Football does not qualify because once a critical mass of people become involved it becomes "popular" and "geek" definitely conveys a sense of marginalism and outsider status. 90 million people watching the Super Bowl disqualifies it I think.
True, but what happens to something that is/was considered geeky that becomes mainstream. Star Wars is considered mainstream now, so does that mean that fans of the series are not considered "geeks"? Or does that mean popular mainstream fandoms considered geeky?

To be in the business of full-disclosure I am sports reporter, so my opinion my be colored by what I for a living. I feel that a person can be a geek about sports. Is there a difference between a person who can quote "Serenity" line-for-line and a person who can name all the winners, losers, scores and MVP of every Super Bowl of the top of their heads? (BTW, I think I can do both.) They both have to passion for what they love to be able to do that. Is their interest in sports outside the cultural norm of what is expected of a sports fan? Can someone be a geek about politics? What about history or science? And are there hummus geeks?
The difference is that a person who is a geek about sports is considered manly and allowed to make fun of someone who is a geek about sci-fi ;) Yes, a sarcastic answer because I really want to deconstruct this for hours and have not the time. Its really just that the language and the interests considered mainstream are both in flux. Its okay to be a geek now that everyone needs to be friendly with a geek to keep their computers and phones and things running. Star Wars may have achieved a critical mass and wide mainstream exposure, but most in the mainstream think its normal to love it only for camp value :)

People refer to themselves as xxxxxxx-geeks to get in on the cool-ness of being geeky these days. Five years ago they would've been insulted if you'd called them a xxxxxxx-geek. But these days they demand to be called a xxxxxxx-geek. So spins the world. Hummus geeks unite!
crazygolfa, someone may think you're odd when you mention sports facts in casual conversation. But I think it is a little more odd by most people's standards to mention fun biology facts. "Hey, did you know scallops have eyes? Isn't that awesome?!" (It is.)

(note: Not a good idea when someone is eating scallops.)

So yeah, I think zeitgeist has it. People who are really into something will always prompt some odd looks, but some areas of interest are already more mainstream, and it's just the level of devotion that is considered weird. Other interests come off as more weird because they're less mainstream, no matter your level of devotion.

I don't think my obsession with biology will ever become mainstream. But my love of Tolkien did, and I'm still not used to people mentioning Legolas in casual conversation.
I call my dad a history geek, but I don't really think of him as a "geek" per se. The language is definitely in flux. Didn't geekdom have only to do with computers 15 years ago? I didn't even know I was a geek until my brother called me one when he saw how obsessed I became with Buffy. It was then that I understood what a geek was, and learned to embrace it in myself. People who think it's "too weird" are shallow and judgmental.

I've also become a hummus geek of late. Mediteranean Hummus from Trader Joe's is the best. It has pine nuts in it. Mmmm.
Yes! to Joss and BSG, big yucky "eewwwww" to Michael Jackson and hummus.
More of a "Thai basil shrimp with Jasmine rice" geek, myself. ;-)

And I have to agree that it's hard to classify any form of sports obsession as geeky, sports is just too universally mainstream.
The language is definitely in flux. Didn't geekdom have only to do with computers 15 years ago?

Well, 'geeks' originally worked in circuses biting the heads off chickens so the meaning has definitely changed ;) - but yeah, the original modern meaning was associated with computers.

(for some reason BTW, possibly because of the image, maybe because of the view that "maths is hard and geeky" I see physics as much geekier than biology)

I feel that a person can be a geek about sports.

I agree crazygolfa but the difference IMO is a) mainstream acceptance and b) the subject itself. A person can be a geek about anything but I think only certain subjects are inherently geeky by themselves (and that's partly to do with marginalisation as mentioned above - there's generally a social price to be paid for interest in geeky subjects even if you're not obsessive about them. With sports it's often the reverse situation where if you're not into e.g. football then you're seen as a bit weird - as a bloke anyway, it's probably reversed back for women). My issue with the article is that a lot of the things on there aren't inherently any geekier than e.g. motorbikes (or baseball or cricket or whatever) unless your interest becomes obsessive.

And IMO 'Star Wars' was never geeky in the strict sense BTW, it was one of the first blockbusters (after 'Jaws') and so was too mainstream even from the beginning. However, I know people that have seen 'A New Hope' in its entirety over 200 times (and specific scenes even more often), can quote it verbatim, have spent over £1000 on reproduction lightsabres etc. and I would definitely say they've taken 'Star Wars' fandom to very geeky lengths.

(and no offence to houmous fans, I count myself among that proud number ;), but I don't think it has enough depth to be geeky about - there has to be a critical mass of trivia/facts associated with an interest to get geeky about it IMO, enough detailed, even arcane, knowledge to repay an obsessive interest)
Well, 'geeks' originally worked in circuses biting the heads off chickens so the meaning has definitely changed ;) - but yeah, the original modern meaning was associated with computers.
Saje | February 05, 11:38 CET


Too much information!!! As a vegetarian and a card carrying member of the Humane Society Of The United States as well as someone who shares my home with three Amazon parrots and a cat, I will never again be able to think of myself as a geek.
Please tell me this is just an Urban Myth. Even if you have to lie to me ;-)
OK, it's only a myth ;-).

(spoilers of Shey's appetite follow ...)


You guys are probably right about what is a geek.

I mean when sprout off sports facts during a conversation, most people look impressed that I know these facts, even from non-sports fans. However, if I start mentioning my geekdom, the same people give me the "what a geek" look, with the possible exception of Lost. It is now part of the mainstream IMO, but I think that show appeared in 2000 instead of 2004, fans of the show would get the "what a geek" look.
Too right, crazygolfa. The network always pushed the Lost writers to play down anything Sci-fi or supernatural in the show. Welcome aboard, btw :)

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