Geeks have a wonderful history of passion, and the world generally regards their enthusiasm as a virtue. After all, what other subculture spends countless hours in celebration of a beloved character, or countless dollars on costumes and other memorabilia! How many sports fans dress up as their favorite athlete? And how many music aficionados will pay hundreds of dollars to attend conventions just to hear a few bars of a new song?
The sword of geek enthusiasm, however, can cut both ways. For as much fun the love and excitement of a particular property can provide, geeky devotion can mutate into more sinister and awful behavior. The subculture also has a history of harassment, insults, threats, jumping to conclusions and general hysteria that don’t reflect well on a group that made pacifistic Jediism into a real religion. The days of the internet have allowed geeky angst to spiral out of control, becoming malignant and vile behavior, with perpetrators hiding behind the anonymity of the web to protect their collective asses. Just how bad does it get? Throw on your nun’s habit, get out a bell, and prepare for a walk of penance! Have a look at our 15 Moments of Pure Geek Shame!
15. Death Threats
Geeks have the fire of passion in their souls. They love what they love, and make it a vital part of life. Still, passion is one thing, but violence is another. While the world may view geeks as an innocuous, passive and generally antisocial group, the reality is far different. Geeks, especially in the internet days, have a grotesque history of violence, or at least threatening it.
When did this fiery rage begin? It dates at least from the production of Star Trek II in the early 1980s. With Paramount studios still reeling from the cost of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and with Leonard Nimoy vowing to never work on Trek again, the studio decided to move ahead with a sort of series finale which would have killed off the popular character Spock. Gene Roddenberry, furious at the idea, leaked the plot point to the media, which resulted in horrific backlash. The studio began receiving death threats, warning that if Spock died, people at Paramount would die too! The same thing would happen again years later with the death of Kirk in Star Trek: Generations.
The shameful tradition has continued into the present day. Film critics who published negative reviews to The Dark Knight Rises also got death threats from rabid Batman fans (Bats would not approve). Though nobody has yet died as a result of a plot point or reaction to a movie (that we know of), even posturing in such away brings shame to the subculture.
14. Stabbing Over A Seat At Comic-Con
Ah, Comic-Con! Festival of love, just like a geeky Woodstock! Or so it used to be…
In 2010, heat and overcrowding took their toll on convention goers. Long lines had become the norm, especially for Hall H, the major venue where studios would show off their most prized coming attractions. That year, Marvel had announced a first look at the long-anticipated Avengers movie, which would feature a team up of every character from their movie universe. Even better, the entire cast would appear on stage to answer questions and discuss their experience making the film.
Naturally, geeks were stoked, but given that Hall H only seats 6,500 people, and that some 300,000 people attend Comic-Con on a given day, disaster loomed. Just before the cast took to the stage, a rivalry broke out between two fans, with one accusing the other of stealing his seat. Things got violent, as one fan stabbed the other in the eye with a pen. Programming in Hall H screeched to a halt as security broke up the fight and police arrived to arrest the assailant.
13. Casting Hysteria
Oh lord. While not quite as horrifying or embarrassing as death threats or violence for a look at a movie trailer, the geeky culture has a nasty history of overacting to casting announcements. It happened when Michael Keaton won the role of Batman. It happened when Christopher Nolan cast Heath Ledger as the Joker. It happened again with Batman, this time when Ben Affleck took the role. Similar rumblings groaned at casting the MCU: fans grumbled that Chris Evans was miscast as Captain America, especially since he’d already played the Human Torch
The crazy part? All these actors are now lauded for their performances! Fans now lament that Keaton only appeared in two Bat-movies. Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar, and became the definitive on-screen Joker. Fans may have divided over Batman v Superman, though Ben Affleck’s turn as the Caped Crusader won almost universal praise. Chris Evans just starred in his third Captain America movie, which became a big hit with audiences.
In short, geeks have a tendency to jump the gun. Maybe instead of ranting, lighting the torches and sharpening the pitchforks, they’d do well to wait and actually see a movie before attacking the casting. After all, most of the time, they look a bit silly later.
12. Month long protests that Revenge of the Sith won’t show at Grauman’s Chinese
Star Wars fans are a special breed of geek. They’ve turned their love of tales of a galaxy far, far away into a lifestyle, even a religion. Star Wars mania returned last year with the release of The Force Awakens, though for some real ridiculous shenanigans, casual observers should look ten years earlier.
2005 saw the release of Revenge of the Sith, and despite the mixed – even furious – reaction to the other Star Wars prequels, fans lined up to see the film more than a month in advance. The shameful part? They lined up at the wrong theatre.
Fans at the time wouldn’t admit as much. In fact, the snaking campout by the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood claimed they’d set up their shanty town in protest. Every other Star Wars film had shown on that legendary screen, though schedule conflicts forced Revenge of the Sith to book into the Arclight Cinerama Dome down the street. Stubborn fans—many of whom protested in costume—finally relented not long before the film opening, and led a protest march down Hollywood boulevard to the Arclight. At a time when the wars in Afganistan and Iraq had become disastrous, personal freedoms curtailed under the PATRIOT act, and gas prices skyrocketed, they probably could have better directed their rage.
11. Constant purchase of every Star Wars rerelease on home media
And speaking of Star Wars, die-hard fans have another weird habit. Series creator George Lucas, and subsequent megalithic owner Disney, have a penchant for constant rereleases. Lucas rereleased the Star Wars trilogy almost constantly from the 1990s on, and much to the ire of fans, did so with some subtle – or not so subtle – changes to the films. The “Special Editions” became the standard beginning in the late 90s, and this trend continued when the Original Trilogy hit DVD, and later, Blu-Ray.
And fans ate it up the whole time! Every time a new release would hit shelves – even if it didn’t have any substantive differences or features from previous releases – fans rushed out to buy it again. And again! Conspiracy theorists have postulated that the constant release of the revised editions is actually a huge ploy to create demand for cleaned-up copies of the unaltered Original Trilogy on Blu-Ray. That release has yet to materialize, to the point that fans have actually taken on their own restorations, most notably the so-called “Despecialized Editions,” which now circulate on torrent sites. For the record, the shame here doesn’t fall on the amateur restoration team, it falls on the suckers who keep buying something they already have and don’t even like!
10. Four Awful Transformers movies and counting
Grown men who still weep watching their Blu-Ray copies of the animated Transformers: The Movie once had something exciting to look forward to. Paramount announced a big-budget, live action Transformers film, one which would even feature the return of the original Optiumus Prime, Peter Cullen. Then, a strike against: explosion master Michael Bay signed on to direct. The first Transformers film, which focused more on the insipid human characters, notably Shia LeBouf’s Sam, had a decided lack of Transformer characterization, though it still won some positive notice. The second, however, soured even the most die hard fans, enough so that the first film has undergone reappraisal as undercooked dreck.
Five movies later (Transformers: The Last Knight is still in production), here we are. The Transformers series offers little more than noise, explosions, bad CGI effects and dumb, dumb writing. Still, someone is paying to see this crap! Transformers films tend to do better business overseas rather than domestically. That said, some Transformers fans on US soil have some ‘splaining to do. Given the premise, and the awesome backstory from the comics and TV series, how could the movies get so much wrong? More to the point, how could fans of the original series have so little shame as to sit through the live action messes?
9. Virtual Pets
Geeks love a good fad. How many folks have you spotted on the street playing Pokemon Go? Before smartphones changed everything, though, geeks had another love affair with a digital device. The virtual pet started as a fad in the late 1990s. Players would buy a small device, which featured everything from a puppy to Godzilla, and raise a pet from birth. Players would also have to feed their virtual pet, play with it, put it to sleep, and clean up its excrement, which gave people all the responsibility of a real pet, but without any of the snuggles… or the smell. Virtual pets came mostly from two companies, Tiger Electronics and Tamagotchi. The former would later release the Furby, an animatronic plush toy that would also behave like a real pet. Naturally, then, virtual pets became the bane of many a teacher’s existence. Animal rights groups also protested the popularity of virtual pets, claiming that they misrepresented the responsibilities of owning a pet, and took attention away from real animals in need!
Given the cost of some virtual pets, and the speed with which the fad rose and fell, geek culture should feel a bit embarrassed about the popularity of virtual pets. Granted, Cabbage Patch Kids are still probably an even more ridiculous fad, but still…
8. Protesting the erasure of Alien 3 + Alien Resurrection
Geeks have long lamented a somewhat inexplicable choice on the part of Fox Studios. After the enormous success of Aliens, the studio decided to kill off all of the surviving characters but for Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley! Weaver had wanted her character to die, and the studio decided to end the series as a trilogy, as popular sci-fi sagas of the time did. Though Alien Resurrection would see Ripley live again, fans never quite got over the nihilism of Alien 3.
Now Fox and director Neil Blomkamp have announced the preferred sequel, which will pick up where Aliens left off and tell the story as fans wished, with beloved characters Newt, Bishop and Hicks all surviving. So what does the geek-o-sphere do? It erupts in obnoxious rage over an offensive movie getting erased. Granted, Alien3 has undergone a reappraisal in recent years, in particular after the longer “Assembly Cut” hit DVD. Whether or not the “Assembly Cut” improves the film is beside the point; it still kills off Newt, Hicks and Bishop, and it’s still a depressing, morbid nightmare. What that would be anyone’s idea of a good time is another question entirely.
Fans should remember that the original third and fourth outings for the Alien series will remain in circulation, even if they’re no longer considered “canon.” The forthcoming Alien 5 will provide the series with new possibilities to continue and explore. Any fan who wouldn’t want that needs their head examined!
7. Body shaming
The stereotypical image of geeks does not include rippling muscles or slender figures. How ironic, then that geek culture just loves to body image shame!
Poor Jennifer Lawrence, siren of several beloved geek franchises, had to endure fat shaming from almost the moment she arrived on the pop culture scene. Her turn as Mystique in X-Men: First Class earned her strong notices, though vile geeks tended to focus on her body shape, calling her too fat for the role. It happened again a year later with The Hunger Games, when fans denounced her – an athletic young woman playing an athletic young woman – for being too robust for the part. Former Prison Break star Wentworth Miller got raked over the coals earlier this year for gaining weight in semi-retirement. Cosplayer Sasha, the “Tardis Princess” endured gruesome Facebook attacks after posting a picture of herself dressed as a Tardis; trolls attacked her for being too big to fit the costume.
All of these instances might speak to a larger issue with pop culture and its expectations for men and women to look a certain way in order to qualify as “sexy” or “attractive.” For geek culture, though – one that is supposed to spurn the prejudices of the culture at large and welcome misfits and outcasts – such attacks are total hypocrisy.
Ye gods, cue the shame nun! Gamergate could occupy a whole article itself, or even provide enough fodder for a major motion picture. One of the most bizarre and reprehensible events in geek culture history, the scandal began in 2014 with an internet campaign against several prominent women within the video game industry. The movement that would come to be known as Gamergate centered on Zoe Quinn, beginning with her former boyfriend publishing their correspondence. The attacks quickly escalated to include threats of death and rape, veiled behind claims like “it’s about ethics in games journalism.” Defenders of Quinn found themselves under attack as well, with personal information leaked to the media. Researchers uncovered evidence of coordinated attacks on sites like Reddit and 4chan, as well as the use of dummy social media accounts to help spread the defamation.
Gamergate highlights the misogamy, sexism and bizarrely homoerotic subculture of male video gamers. It further illustrates how the internet – largely an anonymous echo chamber – can be used by a minority to inflect distress and harassment on a given target. Unlike virtual pets or protesting outside a theatre not showing Star Wars, Gamergate lacks the silly quality that makes other infractions easier to dismiss. In fact, it might be the most shameful moment in the history of all geekdom.
5. Sexism and the Ghostbutsters
Speaking of embarrassingly bad sexism in all things geeky…
The remarkable backlash against the idea of making an all-female team in the Ghostbusters reboot shocked Hollywood, and with good reason. Just what the Hell were people mad about?
The idea of a female Ghostbusting team didn’t begin with the reboot, either, which makes the sudden outcry all the more perplexing. Dan Akroyd had discussed adding several female members to the team as early as the 1990s when floating ideas for Ghostbusters 3. He reiterated those again when a third sequel seemed close to happening in the mid-2000s. The untimely death of Harold Ramis quashed any talk of a sequel, and the announcement of a female led reboot came shortly thereafter.
Then the nuttery started. Sexist trolls stalked the internet, leaving nasty anonymous comments about how Hollywood had destroyed a beloved property. Star Kristen Wiig expressed her shock at the attacks, which centered almost entirely on having a cast of women. Ghostbusters finally opened to mixed-to-positive reception in July 2016, and the strong box office haul suggests the if critics weren’t won over by the film, they were, at least, a noisy – and shameful – minority.
4. Racism in genre pictures
And speaking of Ghostbusters…
While the release of the movie seemed to quiet the shameful sexism that plagued the film while in production, a new spectre reared its head following the film’s release: racism. Star Leslie Jones found herself the target of continued sexist comments and racist slurs, which later forced her to leave Twitter (more on that in a moment).
Jones’ abuse wasn’t the first instance of disgusting racism in modern genre pictures. The Hunger Games met with racist ire over the casting of Lenny Kravitz and Amanda Sternberg as characters some readers had assumed white. Author Suzanne Collins spoke out against the racists, pointing out that the novel had described both Kravitz and Sternberg’s characters as dark skinned in the novel.
Racism also plagued productions of the Fantastic Four reboot and The Force Awakens for casting the actors Michael B. Jordan and John Boyega in leading roles. According to director Josh Trank, though white in the comics, the racial change to Jordan’s character reflected the director’s own upbringing in a mixed race family. Even more inexplicable, racists attacked The Force Awakens for featuring a black stormtrooper as an attempt at political correctness… even though Star Wars canon established that the original troopers were all men of color!
The racist trolls deriding the fine work of men and women of color hide behind the anonymity of the internet to conceal their shame. Their comments remind us all that though technology has made incredible advances in recent years, human thought has not.
3. Spoiler hysteria
Going to the movies has become an ever-more expensive outing. Besides the outrageous price of popcorn and other snacks, the price of tickets has continued to climb, in large part thanks to studios needlessly releasing movies in 3-D. It’s only understandable then that people would want a movie experience to be a great one, and not want any part of the movie spoiled in advance. The internet has allowed greater communication, and more opportunities for plot points to leak. It also has created a forum for geeks to rage, sometimes over nothing.
Consider: fans continue to insist on “spoiler-free” discussion on internet forums, even to the point of absurdity. A film series like Lord of the Rings shouldn’t even have spoilers, since the books had enjoyed popularity for almost half a century. Titanic fans insisted that, despite being the most well known sinking in history, viewers not give away what happens to the titular ship. Spoiler patrols have even gotten so fanatical that any discussion of cast members can incite a text tirade over ruining a film! No, I don’t mean hidden cast or surprise cameos either. As a personal attestation, I once got banned from a forum for saying Andy Serkis had a supporting role in The Force Awakens two days before the movie opened!
That kind of hysteria, the application of the term “spoiler” to anything and everything to do with a movie rather than plot points, ruins the fun of looking forward to or speculating about a film. Furthermore, rejection of even common sense observations portrays the geek subculture like a idiotic ostrich with its head in the sand.
2. The Marvel/DC Rivalry
One of the most inexplicable—and oldest—phenomena in geek culture, fans of superhero comics have long engaged in a civil war, testing whether that culture, or any culture so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. For comics fans, said division has fallen into one of two camps: the DC camp, or the Marvel camp.
Now granted, a large portion of fandom has no problem celebrating DC and Marvel heroes. Someone who reads Batman can also enjoy X-Men, for example. The two labels do have subtle differences however, which do show through in their characters. The DC heroes were created by different writers at different times in history, and designed, for the most part, to exist in separate universes. Most of the Marvel characters were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby throughout the 1960s, and intended to all occupy the same world. For the most part, in a modern context, the DC and Marvel universes operate in similar manners, with similar—or even identical—characters. For proof examine the parallels between characters like Ms. Marvel & Supergirl, Quicksilver & the Flash, Blue Beetle & Iron Man… the list goes on and on.
How ridiculous then, that fans continue to argue over the superiority of one label over the other! Comics are comics, and arguing over the nuanced flavor of one over the other wastes time and energy, somewhat akin to arguing over the same brand of ice cream bought from two different stores. Can’t we all just get along?
1. Twitter Trolling
“What good ever came from Twitter?” – Courtney Love
Oh, shame of shames! The internet trolls strike again, and this time with grotesque and vile harassment. Twitter rose to popularity as a method of spewing snark and lifestyle updates in 140 characters or less. For all its practical use at disseminating news, Twitter also gets highjacked by trolls who use it as a method of the aforementioned racist or sexist attack. Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones quit Twitter after receiving a barrage of racist and sexist tweets over her performance. Prometheus writer Damon Lidndelof did the same when Alien fans attacked him for straying too far from the original movie. Ditto geek darling Joss Whedon, who quit the social networking site following attacks from angry Marvel fans who didn’t like his take on Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. As Ms. Love, herself the target of attacks for criticizing Jessica Simpson on Twitter would no doubt point out, users exploit the anonymity of Twitter to harass others without reprisal. Geeks use it to spew racism, sexism, homophobia and body image shame, when the only people deserving shame are the trolls themselves. It’s a disgrace to the community, and a massive embarrassment to humanity as a whole.
Did we miss any moments of shame? Let us know in the comments!