In this chapter of Geek Anthropology, we’re going to explore Geek Expressive Culture. How we interpret the world around us and how we share those views creates expressive culture. Said in other words, a worldview has established symbolic frameworks that highlights some experiences while downplaying others. A group might also share several worldviews, where one might be (or not), the dominant one.
Usually, expressive culture includes religion and the arts. But what about Geek Cultures? What can we find in Geekdom that can be defined as Expressive Culture?
Today is the World Anthropology Day, according to the American Anthropological Association (aka AAA). What better way to celebrate it than exploring the art of geek observation? Anthropologists observe what people do, why they do it, how they do it, and even when they do it. To explore a culture is to explore humanity. But can only anthropologists engage in the art of observation? Can we, as observed beings, also become the ones who observe?
Usually, the ones observing what’s going on are anthropologists. They watch, interact and take part into the object of study. But can we, as geeks, do the same? We have the idea that Anthropologists are either “Indiana Jones” or like dull academic creatures. However, we, geeks, can be anthropologists too.
Today I want to explore the art of embracing my Dark Side with villain archetypes. We have a tendency to love villains more than heroes. Although we think of ourselves wonderful people, some of us tend to root for the villains. Meanwhile, we talk all about positivity and try to be our best. However, we do have a dark side. How we manage it make us villains or heroes for the people around us.
In ancient times, people used mythology to explore their bright and dark sides. We can believe we’ve forgotten this stage in evolution, but we aren’t that different from our ancestors. The only difference is what archetypes we use. Instead of Hercules, we choose Superman. Our myths are found in pop culture, not in ancient books anymore.
So, when we are having a rough time, and we start thinking about a thousand ways to Hulk-smash someone, instead of thinking about unicorns, we would probably be thinking about Darth Vader and Loki. Let me explain.
Geek Anthropology is back! We’re going to explore the ins and outs of geek language. Humans rely on language as a means of communication. Most anthropologists tend to agree that language is a system of arbitrary vocal symbols that we use to encode our experiences of the world.
The study of language from a cultural point isn’t new. Anthropologists have been geeking about language since the beginning since language is easy to observe and study in detail. It seems that all began with Sir William Jones (1746-94), who studied Sanskrit in India. He found out that Sanskrit had several similarities to classical Greek, Latin, and other modern European languages. And this was amazing since it pointed to a common origin.
Today in Geek Anthropology we’ll take a look at the definition of Geek Culture. But before that, we need to take a look at what culture might be. In simple terms, culture refers to learned sets of ideas and behaviors that we acquire as members of a particular society. During the early 20th century anthropologists defined differences based on biology. However, this was dangerous since stereotypes, prejudices and racism would kick in. Fortunately, an anthropologist called Franz Boas (1858-1942) influenced fellow anthropologists to take a look at anthropology from a different angle: culture. They would gather information about social learning differences instead of biological racial differences.
Geek Anthropology is for every fan interested in taking a look beyond what fandom offers. We can define anthropology as the study of human nature, human society, and the human past. Thus, we can define geek anthropology as the study of geek life, geek cultures, and the geek past. We can do it taking a look at what geeks do on a daily basis. Fandom is a good way to do so. But, we can also take a look at their creations. This includes comics, books, shows, and movies. In essence: pop culture.
Anthropologists tend to have a holistic view of the field, trying to fit together every single aspect of human life. Geek Anthropology would do the same but with all things geek.
Welcome to another installment of lessons on Geek Anthropology. We’re going to talk about shippers this time. As you recall, the Shipper is a fan who is more interested in relationships of the characters she/he loves than the canon stories within the fandom. These fans can ship any combination. Characters might be from different fandoms, the same fandom, or they can ship themselves with the chosen favorite character. Some people might argue that shippers are less of a fan just because they might be focussing all their passion in the ships they like the most. However, shippers are as valid fans as any other fans. So, why do shippers tend to be seen as less than others? Why might a particular fandom roll the eyes when shippers start to swoon?
Lessons on Geek Anthropology gets real answering why Mothers are Superheroes. I know, parents, both mothers and fathers, are Superheroes. But why do mothers become more Superhero under their children’s eyes? If we take a look at Superhero origin stories, we’ll find out that these stories have something in common with new parents: their identities are forever transformed. I’m not saying that babies are like radioactive spiders that will bite you and give you superpowers, nor I’m stating that babies will make you fly. However, I’m arguing that parents, in particular, mothers, see their identities transformed forever when they greet with their arms open their first born.
Think about it: before giving birth to your first born, women usually define themselves with many words, but certainly mom or mother isn’t one of them. You might define yourself by your occupation, your hobbies, but certainly not with family words like daughter or sister. However, a new parent will certainly use words like Mom or Pop. Parenthood then, becomes the central characteristic overshadowing all other characteristics of the self. And that’s what happens to Superheroes!
Today our lessons on Geek Anthropology topic is all about what happens when Superhero fashion makes you feel super. It’s not the same walking around with a plain tee than rocking around a Spider-Gwen one. So, what happens when a fan cosplays or wears an outfit that resembles that of their loved Superhero? As you know, I’ve recently had a nervous breakdown. To have more energy and feel better, I’ve been rocking around everyday cosplay fashion items that are into my wardrobe: Captain Marvel’s sweater, Captain America Sweater, Spider-Gwen cardigan and tee, and tons of cool tees. Every time I feel down I tend to dress up into the items that resemble the most the uniforms that my favorite Superheroes wear. But why? What does the Superhero costume have that makes me feel stronger than I am? What does the Superhero costume give me that makes me keep on going despite the doctor assuring me that I should be hibernating? Does Superhero fashion give us Superpowers?
Lessons on Geek Anthropology gets strong: fandom is not celebrity following. Despite many stereotypes on fandom depicting it as celebrity following, reality is that only a minority of individuals might engage in such activity and not all of them might be even fans of the celebrities they follow. Celebrity followers are, for example, amateur photographers who hunt celebrities to capture pictures. Others might engage in hunting autographs as well. Many celebrity followers hunt for pictures from many celebrities, not only one; and some might even be ruthless, and thus, become stalkers. It seems that what they want to capture into their pictures is not the celebrity per se, but the fame they represent. Fans have been labeled as celebrity followers by media many times. However, only a few individuals engage in the activity, and many are not really interested in all the deed of a certain celebrity. And if they obsess over one, celebrity following might give space to stalking. Thus, it’s easy to see that celebrity following is not fandom.
Media shows celebrities as archetypes, perfect reflections of the human condition that we should aspire to. Many celebrities have a strong fanbase who support them for various reasons. One of them might be identification with the celebrity, but it doesn’t have to be the only one reason. Most fandoms are based in fans engaging in many activities, from creation of fanfic, attending to cons, or simply engaging in online conversations about their favorite characters and celebrities. However, celebrity following as well as simple gossiping on celebrities are not activities that make of the people who engage in practicing them, fans. For example, any news on celebrities on the TV that are commented by people just because they’re watching the news, does not make of them fans of those celebrities!