Not too long ago, geekdom was seen only as the realm of the uber-nerd; a place for overweight, under-socialized weirdos to indulge their love of comic books and video games away from the rest of the world. The essence of that is still true — fandoms are all about a shared love of fictional worlds. But we’ve come a long way from the image of the ‘Comic Book Guy’ in recent years as geek culture has become a mainstream global phenomenon.
Now, nerds are holding their heads high at conventions like SDCC and NYCC, enormous events that bring together thousands of fans and huge celebrities. Geeks are wearing their fandoms on their sleeves, celebrating the things they love with pride, and reveling in the popularity of things that were once considered too weird for most people. As a result of this massive Geek Culture boom, fangirls (and fanboys!) are getting a new lease on life in mainstream pop culture — moving from the throwaway joke characters to center stage in movies, TV and books. We’re loving these odes to fans, so we’ve rounded up ten of the best to inspire the geek in you!
Geekerella by Ashley Poston
The latest YA novel from fangirl author Ashley Poston is a love-letter to sci-fi fans and convention-goers. A geeky twist on the classic fairytale Cinderella, Geekerella tells the story of Elle Wittimer, huge fan of (fictional) sci-fi series Starfield and the daughter of the man who launched a Starfield convention. The book weaves together cosplay, convention-going, sci-fi fandom, and a sweet romance in a perfect new take on an old favorite. Elle even has an evil stepmother who believes that all ‘that stuff’ is just for children — a criticism that elicits eye rolls from every devoted fangirl.
[TV still from The Guild, RobotKittenGigglebus Entertainment]
Originally launched as a webseries, Felicia Day’s homage to online gaming and the world of MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games, to the uninitiated!) became a massive hit, spawning several seasons, a comic, and a release on Netflix. The show follows a group of gamers as they meet offline and become real friends, not just online guildmates. It’s sweet, funny, and incredibly uplifting to see Codex blossom alongside her strange and wonderful friends.
[TV still from Con Man, Con Man Productions]
Alan Tudyk shot to fame in the short-lived (and much mourned) Firefly, and has risen to become a nerd icon in recent years. He’s now appeared in the DC universe (in Powerless and as the voice of several animated superheroes) as well as in the Star Wars franchise, but it took him a little while to get there. And now he’s created a new series riffing on his time as a convention celebrity. Con Man, another webseries, is a semi-autobiographical story about an actor who starred in a cult hit sci-fi series, and has been dining off it ever since. It’s funny, wacky, and Tudyk has described it as an homage to convention-goers and fans.
The Fangirl’s Guide To The Galaxy by Sam Maggs
This non-fiction offering written by Sam Maggs and illustrated by Kelly Bastow is a guidebook to all things fangirl, and welcomes in newcomers to the world of geek culture as well as old hands at the fandom game. The Fangirl’s Guide To The Galaxy covers a huge range of topics, including “fanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more…” and while it stays light throughout (with phenomenally fun illustrations to help!), the book doesn’t shy away from the male-dominated state of geek culture, and how women can better navigate this world.
[Movie still from Fanboys, Trigger Street Productions]
This cult indie flick from 2009 does a fantastic job of putting nerds front and center, even if it does play into some of the stereotypes along the way. Fanboys brings together big comedy names (including Kristen Bell, Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel) for a cross-country road trip to the Skywalker Ranch. The gang are determined to see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace before it is released (and before one of them passes away), and their adventure is an always funny, often poignant look at adult friends who connected through geekdom as kids.
[TV still from Big Bang Theory, Warner Bros Television]
The Big Bang Theory
Possibly the best-known entry on this list, The Big Bang Theory has become one of the most popular sitcoms on TV today, and it is all about the nerds. Originally about a group of four nerdy friends and the pretty-but-dumb girl who lives across the hall from them, the show has evolved into a look at a group of friends who have great jobs, loving relationships, and an obsession with all things geeky. Packed with references to comics, movies, video games, sci-fi and tabletop gaming, it’s all about the nerdy in-joke, flipping the idea of the ‘cool crowd’ on its head.
[TV Still from Heroes of Cosplay, 51 Minds Entertainment and Syfy]
Heroes of Cosplay
Reality shows about geek culture has become an industry all to itself, but Heroes of Cosplay was one of the original hits in this new genre. The reality show/docu-series followed several big-name cosplayers (fans who create and compete in costumes of their favorite characters) as they travel the convention circuit. Yaya Han, one of the most famous cosplayers in the world, and a fangirl who has made cosplay her full time job, is one of the stars.
[TV still from King of the Nerd, TBS]
King of the Nerds
Another reality show, King of the Nerds brings Geek Culture to the reality-game-show genre. King of the Nerds pits nerd against geek as contestants are tested on their knowledge and skills in a range of subjects. During the show, the nerds live in a giant, geek-themed house known as Nerdvana, and the winning contestant gets to sit on a Throne of Games. The show brings together multiple different aspects of geekdom, including math, science and engineering as well as pop culture, and it’s a phenomenally fun watch.
You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
Felicia Day has become a Queen of the Nerds, with her hit webseries leading to appearances on other geeky shows, podcasts and conventions. In addition, Day’s acting career has taken her onto the set of geek culture classics like Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Supernatural, making her a fangirl icon. In 2015, she released her memoir, You’re Never Weird On The Internet (Almost), and it’s the ultimate love letter to awkward, anxious fangirls. Funny, vulnerable, charming and informative, the book is Day on a page, and it’s a must read for fangirls everywhere.
[Movie still from Revenge of the Nerds, 20th Century Fox]
Revenge of the Nerds
Last but not least, the original homage to the fanboy — Revenge of the Nerds. It may be over thirty years old now, and struggling with some tired stereotypes, but this film was the first to really put geeks in the spotlight as sympathetic protagonists. A silly comedy with plenty of raucous humor, Revenge of the Nerds is an absolute classic — and it just shows how far fangirls have come.