Interview with Lauren Berkley

In this week’s blog, Lauren Berkley of Geeks are Sexy answers a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about yourself.

LB: I grew up an only child in suburban Atlanta and began writing at an early age. I have a degree in Telecommunications (Broadcasting) from Georgia State University, with minors in English and Film Studies. After graduation, I began working at The Weather Channel and after about 4 years, I got a job at CNN. I am obsessed with doggies, pop culture, TV/movies, and musical theater, both attending shows and performing in them. I’ve studied tap, ballet, and jazz, as well as vocal training. I currently live in Phoenix, AZ with my fiance Will and Mackenzie, our cattle dog mix. I work at iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel) as a news writer for a wire service.

2. How would you describe Geeks are Sexy? What are the coolest things this site has to offer?

LB: I would say that Geeks Are Sexy is an amalgam of anything even remotely geeky, at this point. It began as a tech-heavy, review-heavy site — and it still is that — but it’s grown into more than just computers and hardware. I think it had to, honestly, in order to compete with the smorgasbord of geek-related & “tech only” sites out there. You want cosplay ideas? We have that. You want funny online comics? We got that, too. Want the latest casting news? Movie trailers? Breaking news? The latest perspectives on women or female characters in pop culture? How about cats dressed as “Game of Thrones” characters? Geeks Are Sexy serves all your needs. Since I began writing for the site — oh gosh, three years ago now — I’ve made it a personal goal to conduct and include more interviews.

3. What inspires you to write your blog?

LB: I initially began writing for GAS as both a creative and personal outlet, as my job at the time was extremely unfulfilling, and I felt like I was losing my mind. When I first started, I would also write about anything and everything, in part, because I was desperate for an outlet and partly because GAS happens to be able to pay their writers per post. Now, though, I’m older — I’m planning a wedding, I finally have a very fulfilling, fun, and successful job, I’m acting again — so I write a lot less now, but when I do, it’s mostly over topics I actually care about, rather than anything and everything.

4. What would you say is the best thing about geek culture?

LB: There are so, so many things, obviously, but I’ve thought about this question a lot, actually, and I think I’ve narrowed it down to two things: One, overall, I’d say maybe even 99 or 99.9 percent of the time, the geek community are the kindest and most welcoming, most all-inclusive group of people you’ll ever meet. Yes, there are examples of “us” being not-so-great people, but I firmly believe those instances are anomalies. And ‘geek’ is such a broad term now. It doesn’t just refer to comics or Star Trek, which — and I realize this will sound hypocritical — is both good and bad, but mostly good, I think. Some ‘purists’ or whatever you want to call them might say, “Ugh! TWILIGHT doesn’t deserve to have a place at our con!” But you know what? Those Twilight fans should be able to gather together from all walks of life and share their glee in a place where they should feel safe. And better still, what if some — or even just one — of those fans learns about Anne Rice or Nosferatu or yes, even True Blood, and it expands their fandom and a whole new world of vampires or horror or whatever opens up to them? That’s what being a geek and fandom is supposed to be about.

The other thing I love about being a geek is seeing little kids taking after their geeky parents. I love going to cons and seeing 4-, 5-, 8-, 10-year-olds cosplaying as their favorite superhero or villain or princess and seeing the joy in their faces as they see Batman walk right by them or as they take a picture with Darth Vader or Princess Leia. Parents, you’re doing it right!

5. What would you say is the worst thing about geek culture?

LB: I think “Corporate America” is doing more harm than good, in the long run. Since shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and even “Bones” or “CSI” made being a geek ‘cool,’ geeks are the new, sought-after demographic. Companies, or most I’ll say, don’t care about us at all. We’re just dollar signs to them. And EVERYONE seems to be trying to get a piece of the geek pie, and personally, I think we’re hitting a saturation point, even in media. I realize this might finally be “our time” and many of us are seeing our beloved characters on screen for the first time, but how many of those movies and shows and such are actually GOOD? And how much can we consume at once? There are only so many hours in a day, esp. if you work 40 or more hours a week. We’re so desperate for the content and characters that speak to us, that we’ll accept nearly anything, even if it’s awful and we complain about it. We’ll still watch it. And part of that, honestly, lands on the fans. We should be demanding MORE and BETTER than what we’re given much of the time, but I understand the flip side, too: If enough geek shows don’t do well, then we’ll stop getting them, because, again, it all comes down to money and companies will think the ‘general public’ doesn’t want shows about zombies or superheroes or scientists or WOMEN, instead of realizing (or caring) that we DO want those things, we just want them to be done WELL. So it’s either consume what we’re given or boycott it, watch it get cancelled or discontinued, and run the risk of not seeing something like that again ever, or at least for years and years and years. I mean, I get it. I understand, I’m in the same boat, and it sucks. [laughs] And yes, I’m even talking about ‘geek’ companies here — DC, Marvel, et cetera…. It all comes down to money for them, too. I mean, listen, I haven’t seen it yet, but Ant-Man is currently at 76% on Rotten Tomatoes, for what that’s worth. But remember when Edgar Wright was attached? And remember when Joss Whedon said that he read what Wright wrote and what his vision was and basically said Wright’s Ant-Man would have been the most Marvel movie that ever Marvel-ed? Well, we’ll never get Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man now because of “creative differences.” We won’t get an Ava DuVernay-helmed Black Panther now because of “creative differences.” Patty Jenkins didn’t end up directing the “Thor” sequel because of “creative differences.” Marvel literally has a formula for their movies, and if you don’t fit that formula, you’re out, even if your vision would result in a 100% rating from every critic — and fan — everywhere. I majored in media. I’ve worked in media for nearly a decade. I realize media is made with the “average” person in mind, i.e., not hardcore fans, but there needs to be a line. Or at least, there should be. The mentality of “well the fans will go see it no matter what” needs to stop, and it starts with us.

6. What’s your favorite geeky book? Movie? TV show?

LB:

I’m gonna be honest: I barely read anymore. I used to be an avid reader, but after being ‘forced’ to read in college and then working jobs where I’m staring at a computer screen all day, writing my own words, reading others’ words…the LAST thing I want to do is come home and read more words. That being said, I go through phases where I’ll start reading again, and I’m actually reading two books at once right now: “Gun Machine” by Warren Ellis and “Going Clear” by Lawrence Wright. I’m flat-out fascinated by Scientology (and serial killers,l unrelated) and it’s the book the HBO documentary “Going Clear” is based on. And while I’ve been remiss in not reading “Transmetropolitan,” I absolutely love Ellis’ first novel, “Crooked Little Vein.” I also should probably finish “Ready Player One” and “The Strain” at some point. And “Altered Carbon.” And “Dune” (yeah, I know, I haven’t read it). THERE’S TOO MUCH! Which is also why I don’t read a lot — too overwhelming to catch up on stuff, both old and new.

As for movies, well…you’re going to be sorry you asked me that question! My favorite movie of all time is “Singin’ in the Rain,” followed by “Vanilla Sky.” I am a huge Mel Brooks fan — my dad showed me “Young Frankenstein” at an early age, but “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” is my favorite, followed by maybe “Spaceballs,” because I love “Star Wars.” I’m obsessed with “Dredd” and the new “Mad Max,” and “The Princess Bride,” of course, but I’ve also had a love of classic films since an early age — I even have a tattoo of Charlie Chaplin and I was named after Lauren Bacall. I love sci-fi and fantasy and comic book movies, but before I accepted and embraced my geekiness, my taste in movies has always been action — “Die Hard,” “Mission: Impossible” series, Nic Cage movies, Tarantino…virtually anything where stuff blows up and bullets and fists fly everywhere. In my late teens/early 20s, I also developed a love of horror movies, with the “Hellraiser” franchise being my favorite. I’ve seen every single one, no matter how awful.
I have less time for TV now than I’ve ever had before, which is unfortunate, I think, because TV is better than it’s ever been. My favorite TV show of all time is the reboot of “Battlestar Galactica”; I even have Starbuck’s tattoo on my shoulder blade. Honestly, though, my taste in TV is a lot less nerdy — I don’t watch too many of the comic book or fantasy shows that are out there, although “Daredevil” on Netflix is definitely the best one so far! I love “Castle” and “Law & Order: SVU,” and “The Blacklist,” but that’s mostly for James Spader. I watch “Agents of SHIELD,” but I don’t know why, and I never finished the first season of “Arrow,” although, I’m told it gets better. I watch “Game of Thrones,” of course, and “True Blood,” when it was on — definitely a guilty pleasure. Same with “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” I enjoyed “Fringe”…until the final season. I really like “Doctor Who,” although I’m so behind it’s embarrassing, so that probably doesn’t count. “Orange is the New Black,” oh, and “House of Cards,” how could I forget! Honestly, if you look through my Hulu and Netflix accounts, you’ll see that my TV tastes tend to lean towards dramas or procedurals, rather than shows classified as ‘geeky.’
Many thanks to Lauren for her time and her insights!

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