Thursday 31 July 2014

Turning in your Geek Card

By Marie Victoria Robertson

I hate the phrase “turning in your geek card” for the same reason I hate variations like “turning in your man card” and “turning in your woman card” (I was once told the latter because I couldn’t fake enthusiasm about pretty shoes.) These phrases imply that there’s a predetermined list of criteria you need to meet to deserve a label, or else you can’t legally call yourself a geek/man/woman/laser-shooting velociraptor. 

That’s complete bull, of course. A good friend of mine told me she didn’t feel like she was allowed to call herself a geek, because she only liked Archie comics and the only sci-fi movie she loved was District 9. And I told her the same thing I’d tell anyone who wasn’t sure if they were a geek or not: if you feel passionately enough about something to want to call yourself a geek, then you are one. Plain and simple. There is no checklist of criteria to meet, no committee ready to revoke your geek card if you don’t know who Optimus Prime is. 

But the truth is, the geek community can sometimes be pretty defensive about what it likes and doesn’t like, and there is the belief that some fandoms are universally known and universally beloved and it can cause a bit of a kerfuffle if you come out as a “hater”. 

I know. Trust me, I know. I’ve been called a “hater” and been asked to turn in my geek card. I try not to admit it when I don’t like something, and this is pretty hypocritical. So, this is confession time:

I really, really don’t like Firefly. 

Sorry Firefly: It's not you, it's me.

I’ve watched the series and the movie and I could go on about the issues I have with them, but the bottom line is that I don’t like Firefly at all, and for that I’ve been non-jokingly told to turn in my geek card. 

There’s more. Last year, I finally read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and felt a resounding “meh” about it. The reaction I usually get when I admit this is, “But how can you not like it?? You’re such a geek!”

The very thing that makes us geeks—an adoring devotion to our favourite things—is also our downfall. When you really, really love something, it’s hard not to take it personally when someone else dislikes it. And I get it, too. I’ve been on the other side. I once tried and tried so hard to get a friend of mine to enjoy Futurama and I couldn’t help but feel a little personally insulted and betrayed when she just didn’t like it. 

But the problem was mine, not hers. The issue was a difference in tastes, not an attack on my fandom, nor is my dislike of your fandom an attack on you. 

There are thousands of fandoms out there; no one is going to be familiar with them all. Heck, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about Dungeons and Dragons. Similarly, some of my closest geek friends have never even heard of Earth: Final Conflict. In the same vein, no one is going to love every fandom, and that’s okay

If someone is aghast because you don’t like Game of Thrones, kindly introduce them to your middle finger. If anyone ever requests that you hand in your geek card because you don’t like their thing, remind them that you love what you love, and that you don’t owe your time and fandom energy to anyone but yourself. 

Marie Victoria Robertson is a published speculative fiction writer and playwright, as well as the board president of Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative ( When all the other girls wanted to marry Johnny Depp, she wanted to run away with Worf on the Enterprise. She enjoys giant robots, time-travel paradoxes, and forcing her son to watch Futurama.

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