Kids in patterned sweaters, overweight men with neck beards and pasty girls with frizzy hair all come to mind when you hear the word ‘geek’.
Or at least, they used to. Sci-fi and fantasy movies, comic books, video games and other parts of popular culture traditionally labelled ‘geeky’ now appeal to far more than just the stereotype, says the owner of New Zealand’s biggest geek culture event.
Armageddon Expo owner and organiser Bill Geradts says any stigma still surrounding geek culture is a carryover from decades ago.
“Twenty years ago the nerds were nerds,” he says.
“You really had to work to get your geek fix, but now you don’t.”
He says comic book films – and box office hits – Spiderman, Batman and The Avengers are all evidence geek culture is more mainstream now.
Adelaide-based jeweller and comic book collector Andrew Ioannou says the stigma surrounding geek culture has “severely decreased”.
“There’s a stereotype. I wouldn’t say there’s a stigma anymore.”
Ioannou, the owner of Guild Jewellery, launched his DC Comics range of jewellery in February 2011 after a lengthy process of getting permission from Warner Brothers. The range features recognisable symbols from DC comic books.
While many of his customers are comic book enthusiasts, it is not just die-hard fans who are interested in buying Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman jewellery.
“Because they’re such iconic characters, and they’ve been around for so long, people just relate with them.”
He says he was never teased for his love of comic books.
“I have been a fan of comic books pretty much my entire life. I love the stories, the artwork.”
Ioannou says most people into geek culture are not like the characters on the television show The Big Bang Theory (TBBT).
“They take it to the absolute extreme,” he says.
Geradts says there is still some stigma attached to some forms of geeky popular culture.
“And there are some people, quite frankly, who legtimise that.”
But 99.9 per cent of the people who attend Armageddon don’t fit the “über geek” stereotype like TBBT characters do, says Geradts.
Aucklanders aren’t just attending annual events in celebration of all things geek. The Auckland Sci-Fi group has more than 250 members, and holds regular events including quizzes and screenings of TV shows and movies.
The group’s Meetup.com page says it offers outings where people can “hang out and argue with other super rad sci-fi fans about all kinds of nerdy stuff that other people just don’t understand”.
Gamers can attend BarCraft in Auckland, an event where video game fans gather at a bar to watch live matches of the game StarCraft II. New Zealand’s first started in Auckland in March, and the events, held roughly every two months, usually attract around 200 people.
Geradts says Armageddon has gotten bigger each year, and he is expecting 40-50 thousand people to attend the Auckland event at the ASB Showgrounds this Labour weekend.
“What we try to do is create a show that’s a combination of awesomeness,” he says.
Some people come for a specific guest or because of a specific interest, he says, but with so much on offer, there is something for everyone – geek or not.