Thursday, 11 February 2010

Wherefore the geek?

One thing that has always intrigued me is how, and why, certain aspects of popular culture attract geekery - that obsessive fandom which triumphs in spotting the continuity error and e-mailing the makers to point it out; in intensely detailed, lengthy fights with other similarly obsessed fans on dedicated internet fora; and in conventions where attendees dress up as characters. Now don't get me wrong here. I perfectly understand how people can get obsessed about stuff. I myself have any number of quiet manias for things like Mapp and Lucia, the Home Front, Enid Blyton books, etc. The difference is that I am a singular, very eccentric old bag in the body of a twenty-seven-year-old. I don't know anybody else who has any particular interest in any of those things.
By contrast, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Terry Pratchett's Discworld series...these attract obsessives in droves. And that's what gets me. Why? What is it about these things that draws geekery so inexorably, like an army of geeks marching towards their destiny, reciting lists of continuity errors, clad in Captain Kirk uniforms? I've never worked it out. It's not the fact of their obsession that intrigues me so; it's the sheer numbers of the obsessed. What is it that draws them? And why don't the rest of us see it?
Maybe I should just relax and let them get on with it. After all, lots of people are interested in stuff, the appeal of which completely eludes me. Football, for example. Or for that matter, any sport. But I can at least understand choosing a side and being partisan to it, and maybe even the excitement of competition, of the game. Even if I don't understand coming to Actual Physical blows with other human beings over it. That part all seems a bit weird. Or X-Factor. A bunch of caterwauling, jostling egos in sequins, doing sub-karaoke covers of songs which were never much good in the first place. Yes, I can let it go. It's OK for people to have different interests from me. Really. It's fine.
But one thing pursues me, giving me no peace: Why?!
It's a question that will never be resolved.

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