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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Scott Kull: The new Director of Athletics
Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

Geek is chic

Each+deck+in+the+Magic%3A+The+Gathering+has+its+own+theme.+Players+can+build+and+create+their+own+decks+according+to+each+player%E2%80%99s+unique+type+of+strategy.
Each deck in the Magic: The Gathering has its own theme. Players can build and create their own decks according to each player’s unique type of strategy.

A LOOK AT GEEK CULTURE ON WOFFORD’S CAMPUS—

People express their passions in different ways: logoed t-shirts, posters, stickers, car flags. For English professor Dr. Natalie Grinnell, however, expressing her love of Star Trek required a more permanent form of expression.

“After I successfully defended my dissertation, my friends took me out for Mexican food and after a bit of tequila (not a lot, maybe two drinks), they took me to a tattoo parlor, where I had the Star Trek symbol tattooed on my right calf,” says Grinnell. Grinnell’s self-proclaimed geeky love for science-fiction expands beyond the Star Trek tattoo.

“I know what ‘canonical’ means in reference to Star Trek. I own a Vulcan dictionary and three sonic screwdrivers. I suppose it’s geeky because for most of my life science-fiction fans have been characterized as intelligent, obsessed with trivia and socially inept. I am certainly at least two of those three,” says Grinnell.

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Grinnell is not alone in her passion for interests outside the mainstream. According to physics professor Steven Zides, a new trend has arrived where geeky interests are becoming more popular. “It used to be what you would call ‘mainstream interests:’ sports, fashion, things that a lot of people were interested in, whereas geeky things used to be the tiny group of misunderstood people. But now geek is chic; everyone is trying to be geeky. Nerdy is still not cool, but geeky is cool,” says Zides. “Anything can be geeky. Anything that you have a passion for that a minority of people have a passion for is geeky.”

Sophomore Laura Thurston found her passion in “The Lord of the Rings” (LOTR) trilogy, a geeky interest she has had since she was in third grade. “I would definitely call my love of LOTR geeky. It’s something that I take very seriously and put a lot of time into enjoying,” she says.

LOTR is an epic fantasy trilogy that is one of the bestselling books of all time with 150 million sales as of 2007. Thurston sees the trilogy as a rich text that provides more than just some reading to pass the time.

“I think LOTR has everything. It has friendship, love, philosophy, action, beauty and imagination. So much of J.R.R Tolkien’s passion went into his work that you almost feel like you know him when you read it. The stories to me are entertainment, comfort and a lesson all at once,” says Thurston.

Her geeky love for LOTR has even impacted her life.

“One of the reasons that I initially went into theatre as a first option for a career instead of a hobby was actually LOTR. After seeing the extensive behind the scenes footage, I learned about all of the little things that go into making those kinds of films. The ensemble had such a journey. And seeing what the experience can be like, when you are so utterly devoted to your work that it changed you made me want to build a life doing that,” says Thurston.

While stereotypes exist about geeks, not everyone fits under that umbrella definition. Senior Harrison Rowe admits that his love for Magic: The Gathering, a strategic card game with fantasy themes, may not match with his image. “There are people that surprise you. Like, I drag race, grew up racing dirt bikes and four wheelers, I work on cars, I show horses, I’m in a fraternity, I do weightlifting competitions…no one expects me to do this,” says Rowe in regards to Magic. Rowe says he had never played before coming to Wofford. “My older brother in my fraternity introduced me to it when I came in as a freshman,” says Rowe.

For Rowe, Magic is a game that generates creativity. While some people, according to Rowe, have scoffed at the game they deem geeky, he believes the game has much to offer. “If you actually show them the game, if they have any appreciation for anything that inspires the mind, they will enjoy the game.”

Junior Gabby Brizel, whose own geeky interests range from comic books to Korean pop culture, also says she surprises people with her passions.

“A lot of people don’t really understand the things that I geek out about. Most people are confused when I tell them that I really like Korean pop culture because they don’t really know what that means and they’ve never really experienced it. I’ve never been ridiculed though, mostly because I’m positive that some people geek out about much stranger things,” says Brizel.

The fact that Brizel does not fit the image of what most people expect from someone who likes these obscure interests can be a hassle for the comic book lover.

“I normally laugh it off but sometimes people can be kind of rude. I love the folks who run Tangled Web because they are all so nice and welcoming, but I’ve been to other comic book shops where I’ve received dirty looks and stares because I don’t fit the stereotype of people who shop there. I’ve had friends who refuse to enter comic book shops with me and wait outside until I’m done,” says Brizel.

Dr. Christine Dinkins, associate professor and chair of philosophy, says that geek stereotypes and gender stereotypes can blur together as well.

“Geek culture is often unfriendly to girls and women. So-called ‘Girl Gamers’ are not taken seriously. At comic book conventions some people assume I’m just there to keep my husband company. I did once have a houseguest who assumed I had children (I don’t) because I had toy robots on display, but they didn’t mean any insult by it. They were just surprised I guess,” says Dinkins.

History professor Dr. Tracy Revels claims her biggest geek interest is Sherlock Holmes, a mystery series originally written by Sir Arthur Doyle that has expanded beyond the canon, allowing pastiche novels—books following the plot of Holmes but written by other authors—to also step on the scene. Revels has two bookshelves filled with canon and pastiche novels—two of which she wrote herself—is a member of a Sherlock Holmes scion society, and in 2009 she received a national award from the Beacon Society for her Sherlock Holmes humanities class for introducing younger people to the series. Revels says that through her interest in Sherlock Holmes, she has been able to meet a variety of people and that fans across the world can feel connected through this mutual interest.

“You can go to places in Africa and join a Sherlock Holmes society. You can go to Tokyo and join a Sherlock Holmes society. It’s like you speak a secret language. You go up to somebody and say, ‘the game’s afoot,’ and if they’re a Sherlock Holmes person, they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about,” says Revels.

Revels believes there is nothing to be ashamed about for having a geeky passion. “True geekiness is hardcore loving something. It’s reading the novels backwards and forwards. It’s being able to recite every single line of Star Wars dialogue,” she says. “When I make a reference in class, most of the class will sort of just look at me, but there are always two or three kids that just light up, and come to life. I want to make those connections.”

Geeky interests have not always been so widely accepted. Bullying still occurs today toward these self-proclaimed geeks, but Grinnell says she does not listen to the haters. “I have to admit that it didn’t work very well on me,” says Grinnell about being bullied. “I was having too much fun lost in my books to notice what other people were saying.”

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