Are you happy in your own skin? Are you completely comfortable showing the world who you are? I am. My name is Craig W. Chenery and I am a geek. There, I said it. Wedgies and screams of “nerd!” be damned. Now, had this been twenty years ago, I may have been less willing to be so public about it. I wasn’t any less of a geek back then, I just happen to have become far more comfortable in my own skin and less concerned about what people think about me. I am actually quite proud of my geekdom. I find it extremely liberating and I can be passionate about something and focus on positive things I enjoy. I love Star Wars, zombies, superheroes, robots, fantasy and monsters. I’m counting down the days until Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens and I will be there at midnight to see the first showing. I watch The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones and mourn the loss of popular characters at the water cooler the day after they have been unceremoniously killed off on-screen.
For the first time in my life, I can honestly say I like who I am. No, scratch that. I love the person I’ve become. My geekdom makes me who I am and it has defined me as a person. It makes me interesting and it has given me an almost limitless archive of topics to talk about. I am walking, talking encyclopedia of pop culture knowledge and trivia and a day seldom passes by where this trove of knowledge is not called upon. If I ever find myself without anything to say, pop culture is a great way to break the silence.
I’m not alone in my confession. Being a geek has never been so widely accepted. Chances are you know one or are indeed one yourself. It’s okay, you can admit it. Over the past decade, something wonderful has happened to pop culture and its fans. It has suddenly become cool to be yourself. It’s okay to be a fan of a film franchise, books series or T.V. show and show it to the world. It’s no longer considered childish to wear a Star Wars T-shirt in your 40’s. The social stigma of being a geek has all but vanished. If you need further proof, you only have to take a look at the number of conventions and comicons occurring across the world. In the U.S alone, there are five events with attendance of over 75,000 people. The largest of those, San Diego Comic Con, has capped at 130,000 people. 130,000 people all gathered under one roof to share their love of pop culture. New York, Salt Lake, Chicago and Phoenix are quickly catching up. If those numbers don’t impress you, 60,000 Star Wars fans recently gathered in Anaheim for the Star Wars Celebration event. 60,000 fans all comfortable sharing their love of Star Wars and not caring who noticed.
So what changed? After all, pop culture has been around for decades. Why is it now no longer considered disposable and mindless entertainment? In the 1970’s and 80’s, pop culture and in particular, how it was presented to the public, changed significantly. We didn’t just get movies, we got franchises. Star Wars wasn’t just a film, it was an entire universe of toys and accessories where children could role play and create stories far outside the established universe that George Lucas created. Television shows also had their own toy lines and accompanying movies. It wasn’t just limited to boys, this sweeping change affected everyone. Sure, we had Star Wars, Transformers, He-Man and GI Joe, but girls had My Little Pony, Care Bears, Rainbow Brite and Cabbage Patch Kids. Pop Culture followed us from the movie theater or television into our homes. We weren’t just given toys, we were presented the most amazing gift of all, imagination. We could create our own scenes that picked up where our respective television shows or movies ended. We were no longer shackled to the ideas filmmakers presented to us. We were encouraged to go out into the world and imagine our own stories. Luke Skywalker wasn’t just a farm boy from Tatooine or a pilot in the Rebellion, he was now a bodyguard to Teddy Ruxpin and fought off the giant Puppy of Doom on the remote planet of Livingroomfloorus. He had his lightsaber duel with Darth Vader two years before The Empire Strikes Back was even released. Han Solo could lift cars over his head and Chewbacca moved at the speed of light.
The imagination we were gifted as children has followed us into adulthood as we now create our own movies, books and television shows. Pop culture franchises are making billions of dollars in the worldwide box office and millions of fans tune in weekly to watch stories of zombies, superheroes and ancient warring kingdoms.
Since becoming a published author, I have immersed myself in my geekdom even further. I have also joined the 501 st Legion international Star Wars costuming club and taken my fandom to the next level. I create screen accurate costumes and visit children’s hospitals. I have become Phoenix Comicon’s ‘go to’ person for zombie panels and have been invited to present for the past fiveyears. I am now able to share my love and enthusiasm with a wide audience. My geekdom has been very good to me.
Am I comfortable in my own skin? Does Darth Vader carry a lightsaber? Are you? If not, poke your head outside, it’s a very different world out there and you may be surprised at how well you fit in.