Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

Geek chic and the evolution of magic

Posted on | August 28, 2007 | No Comments

Virginia Postrel in this month’s issue of The Atlantic, writes about an old hobby horse of mine: the marginalizing of the geek. (link plus a little commentary).
You could spend months recounting all the examples of how smart people are portrayed as pathetic, amusing, sad, dangerous or mentally deranged. Everything from Ross in “Friends” to, as Postrel put it, Dr. Frankenstein, who realizes all too late what a monstrosity he’s created.
My fav example is the geek in “The Italian Job.” I’ve written and talked about it on the stump. Lyle (Seth Green) is the computer geek character who is so socially inept and dweebish it’s almost painful. Yet for all the sexy glamor of the other characters, the Italian job fails without his skills. It never gets off the ground. And to the audience’s knowledge, he is the only one we see who went to college. The others were young thugs of one level or another.
So there is no right answer here. Should there be a national call to arms for science and math “space race?” Maybe so. That’s what Peggy Aycinena was getting at when she was trying so valiantly to slap Jack Harding around last week.
It may just be that at the rate we’re evolving as a nation we won’t necessarily need a country of propeller heads. If the tools and methodologies improve as they should, the universe of users should expand out of the traditional areas of discipline. For example, given the distribution power of the internet, shouldn’t clever but non-technical people be able to design their own systems online to suit their needs and send them to a manufacturer? You can do with books and t-shirts today. Why a multipurpose mp3 player?
A hundred years ago, if you wanted to publish something you needed to be literate, to write it out long hand, hire a typographer to set the lead, hire someone to print it and bind it and distribute it for you. The power of the press, to recall the old line, belonged to those who owned the presses. Today all you need to publish is to know how to type. And you really don’t even half to be literate! (Hah. Little joke there to the educators in my family and my kids).
So things do change and the magic can evolve from the hands of the magicians into those of the masses. Then the only barrier is creativity. And we’ve shown over the years we’re a pretty damn creative nation.

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