Today we have a lesson of Geek Anthropology to think deeply: are geeks just consumers? How does money define your geek status? How much of Geek culture is consumer culture? Many activities related to being a geek or belonging to a fandom are pretty expensive. Some fannish and geeky activities require having access to certain items, thus, they require a money flow. People who don’t have access to them might find themselves cut off from certain levels of geekiness. Let’s put an example. Let’s say I would like to cosplay Captain Hook and I want to recreate the outfit as it is seen in the movie. The one he is a total badass pirate. Even if I end up creating the costume myself, just the raw materials cost money. Let’s say that I am a disaster sewing. This might require me to ask someone else to do the job, hence paying for the services. Computer geeks need computers, comic geeks need comics, collectors need collecting. So, does this mean that to be a Geek, or to have a certain level of geekiness within Geekdom, you need to spend a certain minimum amount of money? It does look like so.
Not all geeks have the same access opportunities to the things they like. Sadly, fannish social currency is not only based on fannish knowledge, that is, the amount of knowledge you have on a fandom (or geek realm you belong to); it’s also based on how “geek” you appear to be according to all the geek stuff you own. When we take a look at fandoms, we realize that people who have more access to fannish items of that fandom seem to have a higher status within it. Of course, knowledge of the ins and outs of the fandom is also first for it to work. But only having knowledge of it limits your exposure in certain fannish arenas. While a person might have a digital fannish or geek status online, this can be a challenge in the analog world if they display few related goods to it. At it’s best, the person can argue that it’s a closeted geek or fan. At it’s worse, the person falls from grace losing his/her status.
Let’s put a simple example. If you like to read comics you know that comics can be very expensive, specially if you want to read many titles each month. Depending on your budget, you’ll be able to read more or less. Thus, you’ll know more or less on comics that month. Hence, you might have a higher or lower status depending on your access to the information that’s for sale (in this case: comics). Even if you can subscribe yourself and read comics online (Marvel Unlimited is an example), not everyone can afford it: you need a computer that is potent enough, a tablet or a smartphone to be able to read them. True, you can go to a library and read them, but they don’t always have all the numbers and certainly you cannot show any comics collections to your friends. (See where this is heading?)
We live in a society of consumption, and this makes us consumers. This means that we see cute stuff that we want to have all the time. As a geek, and as a fan who belongs to too many fandoms, this can be a nightmare. You see super cute fannish items out there, but you can’t just take in everything! Fannish consumers can spend large amounts of money on the things of the fandoms they love, or the Geekdoms they belong to. Even those who have a restricted budget do whatever to have certain items. But this brings into question how much of your geeky level is defined by the geek items you own.
Fannish social currency comes from knowledge of the fannish realm, but also on the fannish display of a certain fandom. Computer geeks not only own computers, but they also buy all types of other items that show off their status as computer geeks. Hence, the public image of what a geek is nowadays is also associated with the marketing that’s been made about the image of geeks! We went from clumsily dressed people with huge broken glasses fixed with tape, to cool guys dressed with geeky tees that have sci-fi gear at home!
The relationship between geekiness status and money is quite evident. We are the ones to decide if we want it to be like this. So what does define you as a geek? Your passion or the display of fannish social currency and marketing?
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