Comics and Cosplay
Two 90s 'Trends' Pop Culture Insisted Were Geeky

Ross Lincoln | 14 Aug 2014 21:45
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It was the best of times, it was the tackiest and rap/rockiest of times.

In the 80s, the standard idea of a geek was one note: basically, people who like computers, comics, video games and RPGs were schlubby, unwashed basement dwellers with ridiculous glasses, no friends, and no chance at having the sexytimes.

This changed in the 90s. It was a decade in which geeky movie concepts finally began to supplant standard issue action movie heroes as the default blockbuster template. When music previously associated only with weirdos and nonconformists became popular. When comics were seen, all of a sudden, as inherently valuable art (leading to the comic speculator bubble that, well, almost destroyed comics. SIGH.) When video games went mainstream. And when computer hacking went from the pastime of awkward but dangerous losers to the domain of kewl phreaky hax0rs* who changed the world just by coughing at their computers. In many ways the decade is still with us.

When that kind of shift happens, you can bet that people who funded movies and tv smelled money. So it was that painfully "cool" and "edgy" geeks soon replaced the old style. Where a decade earlier, the closest a movie would come to an attractive nerd was Matthew Broderick in Wargames, now you had Keanu Reeves. But just like when old advertising guys in the 80s tried to use the rap music to sell cereal, attempts in the 90s to represent what geeks were like provided us with amazing combinations of wish fulfillment and funny.

Let's look back, shall we? Here are two of the funnier ways pop culture told us you were looking at someone geeky.

* According to movies, anyway.

hackers the plague

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In the 90s, people thought two things: 1) that hackers were so powerful they could literally destroy an alien spaceship; and 2) that hackers basically dressed like they were coming out of a sex club.

William Gibson's 1980s cyberpunk novels, which featured sprawling urban decay, renegade computer experts and a world collapsed into corporate anarchy, is partly responsible. His characters were basically updated punk rock archetypes with keyboards. But it wasn't until the popularity of Goth Music peaked just as the Internet was taking off that the world zeroed in on the dominatrix-meets-rasta look that everyone insisted was truly geeky.

While some unfortunate TV shows like Tekwar laid the groundwork, two movies in 1995 made it official: Johnny Mnemonic and Hackers. In Mnemonic Keanu Reeves plays the title character, a courier who stores critical data in his brain. He wears super expensive suits and comes off like a dickish 80s yuppie. It's definitely a step up from Matthew Broderick, but what really distinguishes this movie is the kewl underground hackers he eventually meets up with. Like J-Bone, leader of a dissent group called the Lo-Teks, played by noted O.G. Ice-T. The image at the very top of this page? That's how he looked. No really.

Hackers went even further. Rollerblades further.

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