March 03, 2009

The Geek Canon - intro

Taking an idea I related at Wonderduck's site and running with it here.

The concept of a canon is that there is a body of work which the educated should be familiar with, if for no other reason than to facilitate talking with other educated people. The existence of a canon lets me use certain metaphors without fear that I'm throwing my audience for a loop, assuming my audience has also had a classical education. If I say "Is this a dagger I see before me?", people should know I'm quoting Shakespeare, and have some idea of what I'm getting at.

Admitting ignorance of a section of the canon is a bit of a faux pas. "I'm terribly sorry, I've never actually read Hamlet." "Really!" The implication is that it's a gap that you should have already attended to, and really ought to remedy at the first opportunity. It's got a moral imperative of its own. "How can you call yourself a geek without ever having seen/read/heard this?"

One of the commenters in the above thread said "well, these are the things we're constantly making jokes about, the memes". Yes! That's exactly what the canon is. It's familiarity with the memetic strings of geek society, knowing that when someone says "It's just a rabbit!", it is most definitely not just a rabbit.

Let's leave the topic of an anime canon to another day - I don't know that there is any such thing, honestly. I'll leave books to another post, too, because that's a topic that needs some meta-analysis. But what about films and TV? What should the modern geek be familiar with?

  • Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail. The quintessential geek film. The alpha and omega of this discussion.
  • Star Wars. Spaceballs too.
  • Star Trek. Not necessarily all of them, or even most of them, but at some point, you should have seen some of it. You need to know who James T. Kirk is and why speaking - in - pauses is his thing. You need to know "He's dead, Jim." You need to have seen at least a little TNG.
  • Someone suggested Aliens. I don't know if it's quite widespread enough to be canonical - certainly none of the other movies in the series would be. Might be just "damned good".
  • I'm also hesitant to suggest Buffy. Too goth for true geek canon. Firefly, too new and not nearly enough people have seen it.
  • Princess Bride, at least to recognize Inigo Montoya jokes and "Inconceivable!"
  • Something with Bruce Campbell in it. Doesn't matter what, though Army of Darkness seems to be the lowest common denominator.
  • Matrix, first movie only. The other ones don't exist. ;p
  • Wonderduck suggests Blade Runner, though, y'know... I've never seen it.
Ideas? Suggestions? Open season, here or at Duck's. I'll hit books sometime tomorrow, too.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at 04:23 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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"I am serious, and don't call me Surely"

Posted by: Jace at March 04, 2009 12:28 PM (hRylH)


For Star Trek, I agree that you only have to have basics, but Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is probably required viewing (it might be all you really need).

I think Aliens works, for these quotes alone:

"Game over, man!  Game over!"

"I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

Nuke it from orbit (It's the only way to be sure) has grown in use considerably...

The Simpsons has to be on the list somewhere.  Cromulent (this is actually in dictionaries now), cheese-eating-surrender-monkeys, D'oh, and probably a billion others.

There's probably lots of others.  I wonder if anyone's cataloged the sources from the Jargon File to see if an inordinate proportion of the words come from this or that movie.

Posted by: Mark at March 04, 2009 12:57 PM (aUPJJ)

3 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy should also be part of it. Not saying a true and proper geek must have read all five, but they should, at least, know a couple of the more famous passages in it (42).

In addition to Holy Grail, the Dead Parrot sketch and the Lumberjack song are also musts.

Posted by: Draneor at March 04, 2009 08:00 PM (mN8zR)

4 They will be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

BTW, hated the book. But since it's such a cultural icon...

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at March 04, 2009 09:57 PM (/ppBw)

5 Well, you've got a different cultural background, Pete. ;p

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at March 05, 2009 12:53 AM (7TgBH)

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