Saturday, May 4, 2013

Pop Culture Identity Theft

All the syndicated radio talk show hosts in the country are trying to convince us to buy identity theft protection.  So are our banks, our credit cards, our mortgage companies, and even some of our favorite TV shows.  I'm now ashamed to say that I have traditionally rejected these entreaties to protect myself.  I always figured that being me was not only nothing to brag about, but has in may ways been a serious detriment to my past, present, and future.  I therefore couldn't understand why anyone would attempt to steal an identity like mine, what possible good it would do them to have it, and if they did for some reason find themselves in possession of it, would probably pay me money to take it back..

After all, I was a geek long before it was popular to be one.  I not only owned a number of pocket protectors (cartridge pens leaked and ruined white school shirts), and wore them rather proudly.  I owned a 24" slide ruler in a fake leather case, and was rather proficient in its use.  I began reading sci-fi soon after learning how to read, beginning with the Tom Swift adventures, before moving on to Jules Vern and eventually graduating to the classics of Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein; along with the fantasy of Tolkien, Robert E Howard's Conan, Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars, and Fritz Leiber's Fafhd and the Gray Mouser (with a overlarge and perhaps unhealthy dose of comic books filling the spots in between).  I enjoyed school and loved learning, especially history, math, and science.  I fulfilled every requirement for the position of geek in fact except for glasses with tape on them, and this only because it took me until my twenties to wreck my vision through reading too much in darkened rooms with the book crammed within three inches of my nose.

As you might expect, this didn't make me the most popular guy in my social strata during my youth.  I was often only reluctantly picked for sports, had only a limited number of friends, and wasted far too much of that youth with the TV or a good book to bury myself in.  I watched every episode of "Twilight Zone", "Outer Limits", and "Star Trek"; and was easily caught up in every cheesy sci-fi 'B' movies.  As I grew up (I refuse to use the term 'matured' as I'm still waiting for that), this led to the obvious awkwardness in social situations.  Speaking to members of the opposite sex was proof of ineptness and a source of lingering terror (actually, it still is).  Dating was what be termed an infrequent occurrence (you know, like rain in the desert) and it's likely that I was saved considerable failure and embarrassment in this area by attending a Catholic all-boys school for most of my high school career. 

Unlike many others, I failed to grow out of my 'geekhood'.  I've owned as many computers in my life as I have cars.  In my late fifties, I'm still playing video games (when I'm not caught up in weekend of cheesy movie festivals on the ScyFy channel).  I spend much of my spare time (such as it is) researching and writing on a computer, when I'm not reading other literary efforts online and off.  As for the state of my social life, let's just say that two marriages allowed me to be a small part of the lives of two pretty good women and continue to allow me to be part of three great kids and five grand-kids.  Other than that, I have trouble even making Facebook friends and the concept of dating is one that should largely be considered an intellectual pursuit.

I'm sure many you are asking yourself why I'm admitting to so much that's at the very least embarrassing and borders on humiliating.  (The rest of you are getting ready to click on to the next blog you follow or see if there's something on TV.)  I'm enduring this personal torture however, so that you can clearly understand that my life is not one that anyone in their right mind would choose to covet.  And yet ...

Now suddenly "The Big Bang Theory", a show fulls geeks, is one of the most popular situation-comedies on TV (and here I thought that laughing at geeks was restricted to schools).  Sci-fi movies like "Oblivion" are the rage, and the latest incarnation of Star Trek is getting ready to release its much-anticipate sequel "Into Darkness".  Science fiction has its own channel on cable these days with the 'ScyFy' channel (though I'm still trying to figure out where wresting fits into it).  Fantasy has likewise taken its rightful place with the beginning of a successful portrayal of "The Hobbit" coming after the hugely successful "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.  And need we even have to mention the unparalleled successes of Marvel and DC's characters whose movies have just come out ("Iron Man 3") or are much anticipated (Superman's "Man of Steel").  But it's not just the mainstream media.

Facebook is full this weekend of "May the Fourth Be With You" images from "Star Wars" (as well as "Revenge of the Fifth" or Sixth if they want to leave Cinco de Mayo in), and the Toledo Mudhens (wow, there's a geek name if ever there was one) are wearing 'Chewbacca' jerseys for their game today.  Disney has recently purchased the entire 'Star Wars' franchise from George Lucas with a promised release of new movies, video games, and collectable crap coming out every year.  People are even out there buying the 'red-shirts' from 'Star Trek', in tribute to their rather twisted meaning (these were usually the security guys who never had first and last names and seldom lasted half way through an entire episode).  Something has turned the world upside down and inside-out, and it's become popular to be a geek whether you actually are or not.

I'm sorry people but this just isn't fair.  I've had to spend in excess of a half a century attempting to deal with, if not hide my geekhood as best I can from the rest of society.  To no one's shock, those attempts have been largely unsuccessful.  That being said, I'm finding it far too painful, time-consuming, and largely unsuccessful for me to now calmly surrender this once pariah status identity to the whims of popular culture.  Do you have any idea what's going to happen to the cost of replacement copies for my worn out John Carter books?  Do you comprehend what kind of inflation is happening to the 'Star Trek' Enterprise collectibles market?  Don't you realize that I'm now going to have to buy a Chewbacca Cubs jersey when I'm sure it will come out next year?  Enough already!

You captains of the football team and ex-cheerleaders need to keep your grubby hands off of the geek identity that's been my private burden for so many years!  Isn't it enough that you were able to establish superior social status in my youth without now attempting to rip the only thing left to me in a lost-in-book, front-of-the-class, pocket protector distinctiveness.  Having murdered me in the past by pointedly remarking on my awkwardness and terminal shyness among my fellows, must you likewise now rob me of my ability to commit social suicide every time I now attempt some form of reinstatement to your existing social order?  Having submitted to your whims in paisley, tie-die, and bell bottoms in my youth; must I also now surrender my technological hideaways and fantasy and sci-fi sanctuaries.

Dammit, that's it!  I'm calling Lifelock tomorrow.  I don't know if they can actually protect from all this rampant Pop Culture Identity Theft, but it's at least worth a try.  Now where did I leave that slide ruler case?

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