Thursday, September 10, 2009

FoG-PoP Revisited: January 2009--Pop on Pop Episode 1: Mission Statement

I’m Matt Bergin, a lifelong geek and brand-new father. Some people might think being a parent means you have to put away all your own toys, that geekiness and fatherhood don’t mix. This monthly column will chronicle my attempts to prove those haters wrong, as I guide the evolution of my daughter, Alexa Sky, into a genuine geek goddess.

(Why Pop on Pop? Long story short, this is a pop culture column about parenting and Alexa's first words ("Pat sat!") came from me reading her the Dr. Seuss classic, Hop on Pop. Got it? Good.)

Alexa hadn't been out of the womb more than 24 hours before I read her her first comic (it was an issue of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8"):

Here's Alexa admiring her second comic from a far, the one her dad wrote:

Alexa Sky was born on October 4, 2007. A friend of mine insists she’s named after a piece of computer malware, but that’s not true (because I ain’t no tech geek). Really, my wife and I just wanted her to have a solid, no-strings-attached name with limited make-fun-of potential. Of course, I knew going in that “Sky” could be short for “Skywalker,” and her nickname growing up would most definitely be “Lex” (as in “Luthor”), but those are just happy coincidences (right, honey?).

My secret naming conspiracy aside, I’ve tried to play it pretty cool with regard to Alexa’s geek training and not press the issue with my wife. I’ve balanced superhero toys with lots of traditionally girly cuteness, plenty of fairies and generic infant goodies. Sure, I had Alexa on my lap every Saturday morning to watch the first season of The Spectacular Spider-Man, but I also encourage her to enjoy nü-geek offerings like Yo Gabba Gabba (stoner geeks!) and Jack's Big Music Show (band geek's!). And, while every night, Alexa gives a goodnight kiss to her Playtown Spidey, Wolverine, Hulk, and Captain America figures (She calls the Hulk “Kul,” and Cap, “Cup”), it’s a decidedly non-geeky stuffed puppy that she actually sleeps with. I’ve got to ease her into this, lest it backfires and she rebels against her geek destiny!

And speaking of destiny…
Even though this first column wouldn't be live until January, I wrote the bulk of it well in advance, putting the finishing touches on it just hours after the historic election of the first geek U.S. president, Barack Obama (fan of Conan the Barbarian, Spider-Man, Superman, hope, change). It will be interesting to see how this historic election and subsequent 4 to 8 years of science-friendly, technology-friendly, and nerd-friendly new government play into Alexa’s story.

I don’t know if my daughter will want to be president, but now it really is a possibility that she could if she wanted. But this isn’t all about possibilities. Alexa’s reality is going to be an exciting, sometimes scary, thing. She has been born into a new world order (and not of the Hulk Hoganian variety!). She is going to grow up in a world where every TV is widescreen, HD, and DVR-equipped. Alexa won’t have a clue what to do with cassettes, and may not even recognize CDs and DVDs as anything but nostalgic artifacts of her early years, from back before everyone got their own brain chips and USB implants. Her video games will look like smooth animation at worst, and live-action movies at best. Cursing and partial nudity will be a common element of her prime time television shows. She’ll know how Lost ends before ever deciding to watch it.

My daughter will be part of the first generation to have to deal with actual androids and clones in everyday life.

Big Brother will be watching her every move.

It won't be weird to her that a freaking Batman movie is probably going to win an acting Oscar!

Alexa’s world is going to be a very different place from the one I grew up in, and it will be downright alien compared with the world in which her grandparents were raised. Science fiction will be her reality.

And bringing this all back to being a geek...
Jocks may be more physically capable to fight in the coming robot/zombie wars. Hipsters and Jetsetters may be more in tune with the superficial, materialistic fringes of future culture. But Geeks will thrive. “Geek” won’t be a subculture—it will be the culture. It's happening already!

So my mission here isn’t simply to indoctrinate my little girl into choosing Wonder Woman over My Little Pony. I'm like Sarah Connor preparing John to take on SkyNet! I must prepare my daughter for the future—and the future is now.

There is no fate but the one we make ... and I'm going to make this kid awesome!

A brief aside about the geek high holiday, Halloween:
I think Halloween is a crucial holiday in every young geek’s development, so it would be a tragedy to have to wait until October 2009 for it to get any mention here on FoG. I've decided to sneak a quick mention into this first column -- especially since this past Halloween offers a good indicator of how my mission to geekify my daughter will play out.

Technically, Alexa’s first Halloween was in 2007, when she was only a few weeks old. So she was essentially a blob of meat that cried and pooped a lot. We stuck her in a duck suit for 20 minutes, took some funny pictures, and called it a day.

For Halloween 2008, my wife wanted to dress Alexa as a fairy. There’s nothing wrong with fairies, per se, but I felt it was too generic and girly for my budding geek progeny. Alexa was just about 13 months old, not yet walking unaided, but certainly mobile. Not yet speaking coherently, but speaking nonetheless. I figured we could stick her in Hulk Hands and teach her a catchphrase (“Alexa Smash!”), or put Yoda ears on her and teach her how to wield a light saber ("Poop or poop not, there is no try!"). Fairy just seemed like a missed opportunity. Boring.

Over the summer, I decided (without getting the wife’s sign-off) that Alexa was going to be Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The wife and I, meanwhile, could dress as vampires. I had everything ready to order—toddler-size blonde wig and cheerleader outfit, toy crossbow. But when I told the wife what I was planning, she wasn’t feeling it. She said Alexa wouldn’t be comfortable in a wig, and she’d hurt herself with the crossbow. I think what really got her upset was when I suggested we whittle a homemade, baby-size wooden stake. I don’t know what the big problem was with that…I promised to dull the tip.

I didn’t want to be a jerk about it and exclude my wife from the decision. I also felt kind of bad that other people might agree with her that “wooden stake” and “crossbow” weren’t exactly the best accessories for a 13-month old.

The compromise? Alexa went as a monkey.

I don’t know how a monkey became the middle ground between fairy folk and sassy teen vampire hunter, but it worked -- especially since I dressed as a banana and carried her around the neighborhood. I even justified our costumes as secretly geeky by incorporating the Banana Man/Monkey Baby duo into an upcoming script for my comic, Division 18.

Sometimes, as a grown-up geek, you just have to stand down and go with the funny. And sometime, as a father, you’ve got to choose your battles and just listen to the wife.

We'll do Buffy next year.

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