Just about everyone remotely geeky in my life is today in deep mourning for the loss of Lis Sladen. While I’m sad for them, and sad for the fact that the fanworld has lost an icon, I’m not having the same reaction, because I’ve never gotten into Doctor Who, and thus never saw anything she did. I can, of course, appreciate how important she was to so many people, but it’s a part of the geekgeist that I’m just not conversant with, so I just have to express my condolences as I would for a co-worker who lost a relative I’d never met. Which feels kinda weird.
This is hardly the first time I’ve found myself on the outside of something like this, though. I don’t usually feel like I’ve missed out when something big happens in the muggle pop culture world (whatever Snooki did this week doesn’t even hit my radar, aside from what my work stuff forces me to know about) but when it comes to major memes and shared experiences among my culture of choice, it does feel a little odd to not be in on what’s happening for virtually everyone else I know.
Case in point: Portal. Never played the original, though I probably will someday, and yet most of my friends are wetting themselves over the sequel’s release. Same is true for a lot of books. I was a big reader when I was a kid, and am familiar with the plots of most of the major works, but the ratio of titles I’ve read to titles I haven’t is actually sort of embarrassing. Hell, I hadn’t even read the Narnia books until a few years ago, and only read LOTR when Fellowship was about to come out.
I spose there are some geek purists who would think of me as some sort of poseur (whaddya mean you’ve never read any Avengers?) but, honestly, when it starts getting like that, I start wondering if we’re really just hipsters who quote Monty Python instead of lyrics from obscure bands.
Not, of course, that I haven’t been guilty of this myself from time to time. I do consider it a badge of honor that I saw Star Wars at a drive-in the weekend it released, and when I meet someone who can quote Repo Man, I often propose marriage on the spot. I’ve also been known to participate in a flamewar or two when someone (unfoundedly) disses one of my favorite things or characters.
Still, I’d hope that we’re better than this in general. We geeks often pride ourselves on how tolerant and inclusive we can be (even if we’re kinda not, especially on race issues) and yet we get weird when one of our own diverges from the well-trod paths of the geeks who have gone before. Not a Joss fan? Why, what’s wrong with you? (Nothing; I just happen to think he’s a faux-feminist jackhole.)
Our advantage over hipsters and muggles is that we unabashedly love the things we love, and we don’t care who knows it. When something speaks to us, we dive into it headfirst, and often don’t come up for air for weeks (or longer.) We’re not so busy trying to be cooler-than-thou that we feel we need to downplay our enthusiasm for the things and people we love (and, FWIW, this is why relationships between geeks are SO MUCH BETTER. Whoa.)
Unfortunately, that enthusiasm can occasionally start treading into religious territory. And, as with people who are great big fanthings for their deity of choice, we can get fussy when we meet a non-believer, and start proselytizing in some often-annoying ways. Yeah, I get that you’re a big Farscape fan. Watched a few eps and it just didn’t work for me. Sorry. Wanna put away the crucifix, please?
Just as the endless Star Wars v. Star Trek thing is preposterous (especially considering that BSG trumps them both–so there) so is any insinuation that a given person isn’t “really” a geek because he or she isn’t totally into whatever thing it is that you love. We are legion, but we are also different flavors. This is a good thing, yeah? Yeah. :)
At any rate, RIP, Sarah Jane. I didn’t know you, but I know a lot of great people who did, and I’m sorry for their loss.