“I Am Such a Geek!”

Are people still using the rhetorical device “[X] is such a [geek/nerd/dork]?” Yes, they are. WHY ARE THEY DOING THAT? God damn it! They should really stop.

A NYTBR review of Rob Sheffield’s new book shows why no one should ever say this again. Let’s look at the first paragraph and see what’s going on.

Rob Sheffield is a geek.

The opening line is meant to be a doozy. Rob Sheffield, the rock & roll journalist, is a geek! OMG CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? Well, you probably can. He’s part of a whole tradition of rock & roll “geekdom” that includes Chuck Klosterman and every scene in the movie Almost Famous.

Most rock critics are, but Sheffield, a columnist for Rolling Stone, takes it to a whole new level.

Whoa. Whoa. After dropping the bomb that Rob Sheffield is a geek, the writer downplays her own scoop… then re-up-plays it all over again. It’s a double reversal! I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. I don’t think she does, either.

In “Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut,” he lays bare the tortured soul of a music geek coming of age in New England in the 1980s.

Suddenly we learn exactly what kind of geek Rob Sheffield is supposed to be. He’s a A) young, B) New England, C) music, D) geek E) in the 1980s.

Were you starting to identify with Rob Sheffield, as the writer hoped you would? Were you thinking, “I sometimes feel like a geek, too. Perhaps this geek and I have something in common?” Well, now you don’t have anything in common with him. Unless you, too, happen to be a young New England music geek in the 1980s. Which you probably aren’t. So the writer’s whole gambit of asking you to identify with a fellow geek isn’t working, is it?

And make no mistake about it, his soul is tortured.

Um… padding the word count because you know this is a shallow rhetorical device?

Blame liberal doses of Catholicism, Morrissey, and John Hughes. Sheffield is Duckie without the fashion sense, or the girl.

The last two sentences severely narrow the playing field. If you caught all of these cultural references—and not only caught them, but find them both A) amusing, and B) worthy of a serious critique—then you are welcome to enjoy the rest of this discussion. If not, then fuck off. Or you can sit on the sidelines while the REAL geeks talk about what REALLY matters—namely, Pretty in Pink.

A stench of hypocrisy hangs around the phrase “I am such a [geek/nerd/dork].” It pretends to say: “Pity me, because no one appreciates the things I love!” But it really says: “Admire me, because I care more about [X] than you do!”

Worse, it’s a hollow phrase. No one is a geek in the same way that anyone else is a geek. One geek may be a young New England music geek in the 1980s, while another geek is a middle-aged Pakistani fashion geek with a pet snake. There’s no common bond. Anyone, if you describe them carefully enough, becomes a unique person with a seemingly bizarre set of interests—a geek. At the end of the Rob Sheffield review, the writer says, about geeks, that “we are all this way at some level.” If each of us is equally uniquely geeky—just like each of us is a unique snowflake—then it’s meaningless to boast about being a geek!



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