I’m not sure where I stand on the geek spectrum. I own some anime, but I haven’t been to a con yet. I loved The Killing Joke, but I haven’t read The Dark Knight Returns. And I played the Mass Effect trilogy twice in three months, but I don’t own any t-shirts or action figures.
I’m light to some and heavy to others, but I am indeed a geek. And I love it. I love the art, I love the quirkiness, and I love the community. But you know what I love most? It’s not the stars or a certain medium or the hours of fun. It’s something simpler.
I have never seen a geek tabloid.
You know what tabloids are, right? Those trashy sensational articles about who has cellulite, who’s cheating on who, who’s gone bankrupt, who’s on cocaine. The stories don’t even have to be true. They just have to be attractive.
But who is to blame? The lowbrow writers? I don’t think so. We live in a consumer culture, newspapers especially. If nobody reads Garfield, the paper drops Garfield. If nobody reads a gossip column, they replace it with something else. Yet we have entire magazines (plural) full of tabloid stories at every grocery aisle. Why? Because people buy them.
Not so in geek culture.
I have never read the headline “Mark Hammil’s horrid beach body,” or “Anime Voice Actor Back in Rehab” or “Scarlet Johanson Cheats on Her Gigolo With Another Gigolo.” Even if those articles existed, you wouldn’t see them in geek culture. You’d see them on your gossipy neighbor’s kitchen table.
Now, some might say geek celebrities aren’t as much in the spotlight as mainstream celebrities, so they don’t attract yellow journalism. But Marvel has more money than God right now, so suck on that. Geeks totally pay attention to their idols. We’re obsessive by nature. We SHIP FICTIONAL CHARACTERS for pity sake (Tokka forever)! Don’t say geek celebrities are on a different scale.
The true reason is that geeks don’t care about that stuff.
This isn’t to say that geeks don’t criticize–we do, and we’re good at it. Heck, I’ve written plenty here on my own site (The Legend of Korra sucked), but there’s a difference between a geek critic and a tabloid journalist.
When a geek tears into something, it’s because they care.
Some have complained that the the animation for the Batman The Killing Joke movie adaptation looks cheap (source). But this is because they either care about the comic book the movie is based on, Batman himself, or animation in general. They care about something and they want to see it realized to its full potential.
Tabloids, on the other hand, don’t give a crap. When they write about Brad Pitt cheating on Jennifer Aniston, they don’t care about Jennifer Aniston. They’re not writing for the benefit of women everywhere. They’re writing because they want to tear someone down.
Mainstream journalism seems obsessed with tearing down heroes and celebrities. It doesn’t matter if they’re right or wrong to do so; they just want a scandal. They’re obsessed with sensation and dragging stars, athletes, and politicians through the mud. Because mainstream culture is obsessed with the same things.
They don’t like the idea of anybody being better than they are. “See? They’re human, just like you and me.”
Geeks dream of men who can fly and see through walls. We dream of time travelling in a blue police box. We dream of wardrobes that hide lions and witches. We believe in portal guns that let us walk through walls. We love when things are bigger than we are.
Geeks have found that perfect balance of sensationalism. We obsess over our actors, writers, and creators, but we don’t care about every aspect of their personal lives. We’re more into art than scandal.
It’s not that geek celebrities are beyond reproach, it’s not that fans are immoral and don’t care about cheating or corruption, it’s just that the fans don’t want to dwell on all the horror that humanity can conjure. We don’t sit around wondering what foul play Benedict Cumberbatch is up to. We wonder how well he’s going to portray Doctor Strange.
Tabloids exist to tear down. Geeks exist to build up. And even when we do tear something down, it’s so something better can replace it. We ridiculed Batman and Robin because we believed Batman Begins could exist.
That’s why I love geek culture. We may get angry, we may get mean, and we may say things we shouldn’t, but when you break it down, geek culture is about focusing on the good.
And that’s why you don’t see defamatory tabloids in our circles. Tabloids pride themselves on knowing everybody’s dirty secrets. We pride ourselves on how much we can love.