It’s not often I get asked a question like, “Are you a geek?” — but it’s happened, and I never know quite what to say. The instant answer should be yes! I like science fiction and fantasy. I’m into Star Trek and Doctor Who, and I spend a lot of my free time playing video games. I blog about that stuff. I have a job related to that stuff.
All of this is easy to say in writing, but there’s something strange about using those rather strict labels to describe myself out loud. My friends know what I’m into, but I don’t think they would instantly describe me as a “geek” or “nerd.” After all, there are so many other things I love besides sci-fi, fantasy, and video games.
Of course, a lot of people argue that a “geek” is someone who is enthusiastic about his or her interests, whatever they may be… but “geek” definitely has connotations of being into things like computers, comic books, Star Wars, zombies. If you really want to be part of geek culture, you’d better know something about Game of Thrones.
There’s nothing wrong with that definition of “geek,” and I love geek culture. But I love a lot of other things too. And it’s more important — not to mention far more interesting — to be a multifaceted person rather than just a good geek. The trick is to be comfortable in your own skin, which includes all of those sides of who you are… including the nerdy ones.
Nowadays, when I think about where I got my first ideas about being a geek or a nerd, I think about the TV show Gilmore Girls, of all things. I watched it when it was on the air from 2000 to 2007, which was perfect timing for me, being about two years younger than the character Rory. The show follows the lives of Rory Gilmore — 16 years old at the beginning of the show — and her mother Lorelai, who had Rory when she was only 16. It’s fun to watch the friendship between the two, and there are moments when bookish Rory is wiser than her wise-cracking mother. But their relationship is also extremely healthy, and Lorelai is the perfect, flawed woman to raise a daughter who is smart, funny, and independent.
Neither Lorelai nor Rory is a typical “geek” or “nerd.” This show aired before geek culture became a popular thing, anyway. But Lorelai is offbeat. Over the course of the show, you learn all kinds of details about what she’s into, from her coffee addiction to her love of the Bangles. She is incredibly intelligent — fast-talking with an offbeat sense of humor — but she’s not as book-smart as her daughter. More apt to make references to pop culture than an obscure novel, Lorelai is a unique breed of brainiac.
It’s her daughter Rory who is more worried about passing her finals than being pretty. She always carries a book with her, just in case — even to her school dance. She reads things like Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World… for pleasure. I always loved that she has healthy relationships in her life, with her mother, her best friend Lane, and often with a boyfriend… but in high school, she doesn’t quite fit in and frankly doesn‘t care. She has her headphones and her books and does her own thing. Sure, she sometimes has to fight to overcome the shyness that holds her back from participating, but overall she is okay with being different, quiet, and bookish. In those respects, I always related a lot to Rory.
What makes Rory an even more interesting character is that she’s not just a nerd with her nose in a book. She can make pop culture references as well as her mother does. She has excellent taste in music. She’s a film buff. She has some of her mother’s irreverent sense of humor. She’s unsentimental. It’s all of these things that make Rory a realistic, relatable character, and they’re why I never thought to call her a “nerd” until recently.
If we go by today’s definition of “geek” — related to geek culture as well as just being super into things — Lorelai and Rory may not quite fit. After all, Rory doesn’t want to watch Lord of the Rings over and over the way her boyfriend does. Lorelai teases diner owner Luke Danes for wearing a Star Trek shirt when he was younger. You do hear the occasional Wonder Woman or Superman reference from Lorelai, but sci-fi, fantasy, video games, superheroes, comic books — these are never the focus of the show, and they’re not a big part of any of the characters’ lives.
What we do have are characters who are eccentric. Luke is into baseball and wears a flannel shirt and baseball cap everyday. Lane is passionate about music and eventually becomes a drummer in a band. Rory’s boyfriend Jess reads as much as she does, and neighbor Babette is the town’s cat lady who also happens to be happily married. The town of Stars Hollow where the show takes place is full of misfits, and that’s exactly how they all like it.
Lorelai and Rory display inner confidence that has always inspired me. They don’t hide the things that make them different; they showcase them. Gilmore Girls is a show that successfully depicts two women who wear their intelligence and eccentricities with pride — and sometimes as armor when things get tough. They’re beautiful, but they care far more about their personalities even when going after guys. It’s not their looks that make them lovable, but their quirks.
I love a lot of things about Gilmore Girls, but my favorite thing is that it presents nerdiness and geekery without ever calling them that. I don’t mind the words “geek” or “nerd,” but as labels, they leave out so much of who we are. I’ve embraced my inner geek — that’s why I have my blog and why I’m writing this here today — but it represents just a few interests of many that I have.