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Fear of a Geek Planet: Without misfits where exactly would America be?

I find it funny that ‘Geek Chic’ exists, however I am not surprised. If you are my age and came of age in the 1980s you can mark when tattoos moved from the outsiders brand to being co-opted by the mainstream around ’95. No longer could you readily tell  legit seekers and trendy interlopers apart, and before you knew it, shirts with tattoos on them appeared.

Time to reset.

My peeps in generation X tend to be quite hard on the new hipster crowd. We despise their apparent pretense and their wanton biting off sh%$ we saw done better and with more style. I hear ya peoples, but the kids are trying and their uncoolness may save us. America is in a soul crisis. Cool has been co-opted by the popular kids and its their rules. In ‘Hip: The History’ a book by author John Leland , Brian Eno is quoted as saying:

 “Do you know what a nerd is? A nerd is a human being with not enough Africa in him or her. You know why music was the center of our lives for such a long time?  Because it was a way of allowing Africa in.”

Hmm, yeah B,  I hear ya, but that’s the strict thought of white, pocket-protector guy with glasses, its a lot more complicated then that now. No one chooses to be a nerd or geek. The culture was never set up for misfits. Yet without misfits where exactly would America be?

One summer back in high school, I was home alone and ‘Cooley High’ came on the Movie Loft (for you folks that didn’t grow up in New England, it was the cheapest film school). Michael Schultz’ “Cooley High” is still in my mind the best Black American Graffiti cinematic piece that deals with young America in the Motown era in the early 1960s. The fashions that would influence the early, Jamaican Rude boys were probably too unhip for the 1970s time period when the movie premiered, but they seem intensely appropriate for my then 1980s time-zone and fitting in this new-millennium crossroads we’re now in. Starring Laurence Hilton Jacobs and Glynn Turnman as Richard ‘Cochise’ Morris and Leroy ‘Preach’ Jackson, this film didn’t seem too much different from my experience in high school at that moment.  Cochise definitely symbolized the cool brothas that looked out for me back in the day but in ‘Preach’ I saw a lot of myself: a perpetually girl-crazy, poetry writer with dreams of making films.

Masking angst in humor, ‘Preach’ was the coolest, black geek ever on film at that moment. Seeing anything resembling your truest feelings on film as a young man is profound. Preach made wearing glasses cool. As high school drew to a close, I drifted away from caring what folks thought if me. My older friends leaving for college left me to fend for myself, but by senior year I was done. I had gone back to comics. Chis Clairmont’s run on the ‘X-men’ was winding down so I had to jump in and catch up. Storm had a mo-hawk and the ‘X-men’ (Marvel’s interpretation of the civil rights struggle) were no longer underground and were at war with the world and themselves. I discovered punk rock, hip hop was blooming and I no longer cared what anyone thought of my actions. I was free.

Years of high school abuse had made me defiant of labels, so the ’90s, once again, was where I bloomed. All the preparation of reading books of beat poets and hippy shaman and punk rock anti-musicians had led me to the last, cultural upheaval of the 20th century.

What you see now is the rebirth. Nerds and geeks are the necessary, uncool deliverers of the woven, anarchic messages of the past, tightly wrapped in SyFy Sexy superheroes on shows like ‘Lost Girl’ or rogue heroes in movies like ‘Kick ass.’  Mainstream’s point is to make money off of new ideas and mute them for the masses, but what if Geek is the new counterculture? Where is the main-stream? The internet is the new door to perception and it’s everywhere. The fact that bullying is so prevalent on Facebook and other sites is not a surprise. There has never been a better time to be a geek, but it has always been a dangerous game to be different in America.

As a child, racism became so vivid to me watching ‘Roots’ and stories about the Civil Rights era. One day out of frustration, I redid the posters in my room, placing all my favorite black and white artists on separate walls. I called my Dad in and asked his opinion. He asked “Why have you done this?” I told him no one gets along in real life so why I should I put them together here.

His reply was: “This is your room.You do as you please.”

As a geek, everything starts in your room, but you change the world one step at a time.

So stay strong, young ones. Our time is now.

About P.Downes

A Los Angeles-based Bajan, rude boy from Boston, P. Downes (Writer/Film & Independent Music Editor) is a card-carrying music and comic book geek with dreams of making movies. He's a published comic book writer, most notably "Killer Ape and Other City Stories," a collaboration with Greg Moutafis about a black, punk band who comes of age on the night of the LA Riots. Rumor has it that he types his articles in Spider-man Underoos for good luck.

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