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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ultimate Geek Fu

Many, many years ago, back in the mid 1980s, I went to a local comedy show with my wife and a group of her friends. The show featured three comedians, none of whom any of us had ever heard of. The most unknown guy came on and was pretty funny. It helped that he had less time on stage than anyone else, allowing him to stick with his best material.

The middling unknown guy had a completely different style from the first guy and was struggling to make a connection with the audience. He was trying really hard but wasn't getting much feedback from the audience. At some point, he called out something to the audience, looking for some response. When none came, I took pity on him.

"Yeah!" I called out.

Of course, that brought me to his attention. Finally having some with whom he could interact, the comedian singled me out with the standard question comedians ask members of the audience.

"You sir," he called. "What do you do for a living?"

I paused, thinking the guy really needed a "typical" response such as salesman or lawyer or something he could use as a jumping off point to make fun of me.

I said, "I write comic books."

There was a long pause as the guy just stared at me. So did most of the audience. Then the guy threw up his arms and said, "Great, I pick the one guy in the audience with a better job than me!"

That got him the laughs he hadn't been getting. For the rest of the show, when things got slow, he came back to me, using every cliché associated with comic book and science fiction fandom, trying to draw laughs from my unexpected response to his question. I didn't mind because the look I got when I told him I wrote comic books was worth the price of admission and his attempts to make fun of me. If it hadn't been for that stunned look, I probably wouldn't have taken it quite so well.

The story isn't a perfect intro to today's geek fu topic, but it's good enough. The topic is the way science fiction and comic book fans are portrayed in the media. As an example, finding an article about comic books in a mainstream media publication was a mixed blessing. Comic book fans liked seeing outside interest in comic books but hated the way headline writers always wrote something like "Biff! Pow! Local Duo Publishes Comic Book!" Science fiction fans always hated that the photos and the quotes from a convention were always from the guy who spent the entire convention dressed as a Klingon or wearing Spock ears, ignoring the fans who would give thoughtful quotes and whose photo would not frighten the mothers of young fans.

We here at Geek Fu Central are interested in positive, or at least gently appreciative, portrayals of fandom. To keep this from wandering all over the place, we're going to limit ourselves to movies. Offhand, Bruce and I could only think of two movies in which science fiction fans were portrayed appreciatively.

I added a model of the spaceship from one of those movies to my desk at work just last week; the N.S.E.A. Protector. For those who don't recall, that's the ship from the best, most-loving science fiction spoof ever made -- Galaxy Quest. The fans were obviously modeled after Star Trek fans, but the movie treated them kindly. The people who ridiculed the fans were shown as obnoxious. The fans, while sometimes overly zealous, were shown in a positive light. Watching the movie, the fans reminded me of actual fans I'd met while appearing as a guest at conventions. They were excited to be at the convention, excited to be meeting people associated with something they loved, and generally likable.

The other movie, one which Bruce has just recently seen, is Paul, which I reviewed back in March. The movie opens at the San Diego Comic Con, where the fans are shown in a positive light. This is probably because the movie was written by and stars two certified geeks; Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. These two guys met when one of them overheard the other one doing a stand-up comedy routine all about Star Wars. Their geek cred is solid and, while they don't mind making fun of geeks, you know they're poking fun at themselves and us. In other words, it's actually funny.

Can you think of some other movies which treat our kind as gently as these two movies? And, what the heck, let's toss it open to TV, too.

Let the arguments begin!
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