Today's tastemaker was yesterday's unpopular geek Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Have you ever heard of Felicia Day? She's a Hollywood actress and producer, and she's super cool, whether you're a geek or gamer. A few years ago, she shot the record-breaking web series The Guild on a shoestring budget in her house. These days, she runs one of the biggest channels on YouTube.

I've never met Day, but I imagine we'd have a lot to talk about. We both enjoy the same kinds of things. That's why I wonder if she went through what I did in high school, mainly getting teased and bullied because I liked Star Wars, video games, and other things that made me "nerdy." More than once, I thought of dropping those interests for something deemed more "popular."

I'm glad I stuck to my guns. I bet Day is, too.

These days, she is seen as a cultural tastemaker when it comes to all things geeky because, unlike when I was growing up, all of those geeky things are "in." They're super popular: Batman, Captain America, The Big Bang Theory, and Game of Thrones. Geeky stuff is important, big business these days.

In magazine interviews, Day talks about getting pigeonholed into certain kinds of roles when she moved to Hollywood, roles that weren't getting her to where she wanted to be. Instead of waiting for others to change their minds about her, she went out and created the roles she wanted for herself. Because she didn't give up on what she loved, she's now a powerful producer and a cultural tour de force.

Culture changes. Public opinion is fickle. In 1995, if I'd gone to a superhero movie, most people would have pointed and laughed.

Cultural values often seem set in stone: cool or uncool, in or out. But just look at fashion to see that what's cool and what's not is as fluid as a river. Bell bottoms were popular in 1974. They were "out" and skinny jeans were "in" in 1982, but bell bottoms later made a comeback, skinny jeans were "out" and have come "in" once again.

Being cool is not about wearing the "right" clothes. The coolest thing is being who you are, and there's no better time than high school to find that out. Try everything. Play sports, join the robotics team, try out for a band or a play, and volunteer at a youth group. You never know what you're going to discover.

Every tastemaker in the world today -- black or white, woman or man -- shares one specific habit: They didn't let others dictate what they thought was cool. They discovered it for themselves.

Every field needs passionate people who love their work and who are authentic about who they are and what they love. They need that to succeed and push society forward.

That person could be you.


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