Ok, maybe not “no niche”, but I couldn’t resist the chance to quote William Shatner.
If you hadn’t yet caught on, this post is being put up today as a tribute to the release of “Star Trek“, the motion picture (not be confused with “Star Trek: The Motion Picutre“). The Trek movie franchise has come along way since the slightly overweight and greying crew was dusted off back in 1980 for its big screen debut. Today, as the internet is a-buzz about the 11th installment of the series it makes for a particularly timely metaphor for the evolution of “Geek Culture”. But the most interesting part is, it’s not just the Klingons among us that are excited about this movie. It’s almost as if Star Trek is becoming cool?!?!? When I thought about this more, I realized it’s not that Star Trek is becoming cooler, it’s the the techy/geeky/sci-fi mentality that it represents is starting to permeate our culture – and I for one love it!
Once a social pariah, the Trekkie (or Trekker, but let’s not get into semantics) has long been an embodiment of Geek Culture. As recently as 10 years ago, Trekkies and Trekkies 2 took a humanistic but decidedly cynical approach to portraying the series’ most hardcore fans. But today, Star Trek is being released as one of the summer’s sure fire blockbusters. And the recipe for this success is an odd one, when you consider how “geeky” the whole thing supposedly is. The cast is a mix of virtually unknown actors. Though attractive and apparently accomplished, the big name Toby MacGuire’s and Will Smith’s we’re used to seeing in blockbuster films are notably absent. Instead, arguably the project’s biggest name is director, J.J. Abrams. Abrams is one of Hollywood’s coolest creatives, but the subject matter in his filmography makes him more easily compared to Isaac Asimov than to Michael Bay. Let’s face it, Abrams is a geek. His biggest hit show, Lost, is a show for Geeks. What I love about Lost is that in talking to mt friends who are fans, very few of them would identify themselves as “geeks” but will happily engage in passionate a 20 minute conversation about time travel (as it relates to the show, of course).
This was my first clue.
And while I could talk about Star Trek all day (especially TNG – am I right, people??), this is just an introduction to the many ways in which Geek Culture is becoming more and more mainstream. The founders of a tech startup (Twitter) have been featured on both the View and Oprah in the past few weeks, following a publicly reported battle between a celebrity and the world leader in news to attract every day people to the service. Alpha males sit around discussing the pros and cons of AV equipment – conversations that might’ve gotten them beat up in high school. Hundreds of millions of people in North American alone spend time each day on social networks to the point where “facebook” has become a verb. Email dominates our lives. Having the latest phone and the coolest apps downloaded has become a symbol of status in most social circles. The President of the US is, by all accounts, addicted to his Blackberry. My parents use Google to plan trips to look at leaves (you don’t know my parents but if you did, you’d realize this is historic)!
Clearly, “Geek Culture” has made huge in-roads since James Tiberius Kirk sucked in his gut and climbed back on the bridge of the Enterprise back in 1979. And I’m giving the credit to the internet. The internet was something that most people were forced into using at work if they didn’t find their way to it naturally. However after some initial resistance, pretty much everybody got to like it. And then to love it. As it evolved, slowly, we all started emailing more, sharing more info and even creating content with the advent of sites like Blogger, YouTube and even sites like Yelp – that allow anyone to be a publisher and anyone to share their passion with their friends, or the world. Soon, we couldn’t live without being connected and set out to get the smart phones to help us connect further. The next logical step was to connect our homes – wireless routers, monster cables for the home theatre, PVRs, and iPods for all. Sounds pretty geeky to me. Of course, all of this also lead us to take in more information and collaborate more than ever but most importantly, it made our lives easier. And isn’t that what Geek Culture is all about?
All that bitching online? All the meticulous detail? The appreciation for both science fact and science fiction? These are some of the tenets of the “Geek” movement, all of which have, at their core, an interest in making our lives better. Not coincidentally I’m sure, this is a key premise behind Star Trek – a future society, supported by incredible technology, setting out to explore the universe, increase knowledge, and improve life for everyone. So why should it be surprising that this appreciation for improvement is now hitting the mainstream? Shouldn’t the real surprise be that it didn’t happen sooner??
So whether or not you’re heading out to see Star Trek this weekend, or at all, take some time out to hug a Geek. If you’re comfortable enough with yourself to admit you’re one too, then just hug yourself (Hint: you probably are if you’ve read this far). In an age of hyper-connectivity the reality is, we’re all quickly, turning into Geeks, so the sooner we embrace that fact, the sooner we’ll all be headed to a better world. At warp speed, of course.