Geekdom

I’m going to take some time before school starts to lay out a few basic propositions that will inform my writing on this blog. The first proposition I want to go over is the importance of geekdom.

Millennials — those of us born between 1980 and 2000 — are just as capable of being serious academics as the generations which preceded us. The major distinction is that millennials really like to do their theory with a dash of pop culture. As a graduate student, if I can’t relate my theological studies to my personal pantheon (think Star Trek, Terry Pratchett/Discworld, and the Whedonverse), it seems like a wasted day in the academy. I feel particularly lucky because, in recent years, geekdom has gone mainstream. I would casually place the emergence of popular geekdom in 2007/2008, with the premier of The Big Bang Theory and the first Iron Man movie.

As with atheism, making geekdom safe for women, gender-variant and/or gender non-conforming people is a major arena of social change. Just this week, Anita Sarkeesian was driven from her home by death threats. Making geekdom safe for people of color is equally critical. The first examples that come to mind are both involving blockbusters: When Idris Elba was cast as Heimdall in Thor, white supremacists freaked out. The “real” Heimdall, they claimed, would have been white — as if the Marvel universe isn’t stretching Norse mythology already. (This is also an atheist issue in that there is no “real” Heimdall and therefore accurate portrayal is a moot point.) These same people further freaked out upon the release of The Hunger Games, claiming that the character Rue shouldn’t have been “made Black” for the sake of “political correctness” — regardless of the fact that Rue is described in the book as having brown skin.

Documenting incidents such as these is an endless project and not very rewarding, so I’m not going to do it. I’m just introducing the idea of geekdom as a feminist issue and a social change issue.

Geekdom is also an atheist issue, although the reasons are perhaps not as overt. It’s the little things, like how we are valued in sci-fi; Captain Picard is revealed to be an atheist in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Who Watches the Watchers” while the high-profile television atheists are sociopaths (Alan Shore from Boston Legal, Dr. Cox from Scrubs, BBC’s reimagining of Sherlock Holmes).

Geekdom can be a culturally appropriate vehicle for atheist voices, from Joss Whedon’s The Avengers (in which Captain America, who personally knows two gods, continues to insist that there is only one god) to Terry Pratchett’s defense of existential atheism through the mouth of Granny Weatherwax in Lords and Ladies.  Perhaps the Force is divine, but there is no god in Star Wars. Perhaps J.R.R. Tolkien was Catholic, but Samwise Gamgee is not.

Geekdom is my culture. I’m not letting the theists claim it as their own just because C.S. Lewis was a Christian apologist.

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