A few months ago, I picked up a copy of 2600. (Yes, an actual physical copy. Ironic, right?) I got it at Book People, if I recall correctly, and if you're ever in the Austin area looking for a cool bookstore, Book People is the place you want to be, I think. I could digress for paragraphs about why it is a cool place, but I think I will get to my point instead.
Anyway, it was a pretty neat issue, especially the article about hacking Bluetooth. There was another article, though, wherein the author just talked about how he was picked on in high school, and how now that he was a hacker, he was going to get back at all the people that had wronged him. And you know what? That article creeped me the hell out. Partly because the guy sounded like a total psychopath, but mostly because it crystallized my general unease with how easily geek culture has absorbed the Disneyfied high school narrative of geeks getting picked on. Hold up, that deserves some explanation.
An Aside on my Longstanding Objections to the Generic Disney Channel High School
Have you ever noticed how far divorced the Disney channel is from reality, when it comes to high school? I don't just mean the liberties that they've had to take to fit various shows into a TV format; I mean the fact that what they portray as high school is completely and tragically divorced from reality. I'm mostly referring to the concept of well-defined and insular cliques, and the social structure that implies - the rest of how they portray high school is equally messed-up, but tangential to my actual point. They've created this parallel universe that's sort of like high school, and they apply it so consistently to all their shows that I actually wonder sometimes if there's another country where school actually is like that, and all their writers just happen to be from that country. Then I realize that it's much more likely that all their writers grew up watching movies like Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds, and thought they were hilarious, and are unconsciously trying to emulate a parody. BUT WHATEVER.
So back on topic:
What is it with geeks and this particular kind of martyrdom?
Another example: various slashdot comments which have creeped me out in the same way. (Entirely too lazy to find links.) You will, with alarming frequency, find comments on "geeky" news sites where people assert that geeks are driven toward technology because they're picked on and unpopular with their peers. There are also plenty of creepy misogynistic comments about women only wanting "bad boys", at the expense of geeks, who are the "nice guys"; another narrative that falls more in line with the Disneyfied high school than any real one. I don't know where all this is coming from, but it worries me.
Another example: The second episode of the third season of Leverage, a show that I otherwise admire entirely too much. The plot: the team has to con a software executive, and the only way to get inside his head is through high school, because he's totally obsessed with high school! Because he was picked on in high school, and now fantasizes about showing off to everybody how successful he is now! Because he's a Geek!
(The worst part is, it was otherwise a good episode, but I couldn't enjoy it because of my all-consuming rage at the blatant stereotyping going on >_>)
So, stereotypes I can understand. They happen all the time, and it's not exactly mysterious why they happen. What I can't understand, though, is why geek culture has adopted this particular stereotype.
Attention, geeks everywhere! The "high school martyr" trope is a bad thing, and kind of creepy when you pair it with "but I'll show them all!" later on! It might even be worse than the "geeks = autism" trope, so let's stop perpetuating it, k?