Ashleigh’s Best Friends like Marvel – welcome to 2013!

THOR

Once upon a time it was witches and wizards; then it was vampires and werewolves, and now it’s dystopian future worlds that you’d never want to live in. When something in Hollywood proves profitable, studios, directors and producers seem to go slightly nuts trying to squeeze every last dollar from audiences. However, there’s a new trend in town that’s actually been around for quite some time – and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere fast.

Once upon a time when I was young(er), if you were into Marvel comics, cartoons or fantasy worlds beyond the age of about 12 (and even that was pushing it), you were hideously uncool. Only the most hardcore nerds were into anything of this nature beyond their teenage years; you know the stereotype – basically, anyone you might see starring as a “geek” on “Beauty and the Geek”.

In recent years, though, a shift has occurred, and what was once social suicide is now an accepted part of pop culture – geek chic, and it’s comic to a cinema, TV screen, computer or shopping centre near you.

I’m the first to admit it – I’m a closet video game nerd. I LOVE The Sims, received a Nintendo DS for Christmas two years ago and logged more hours than I ever should have on World of Warcraft many moons ago. I’m also obsessed with “Game of Thrones” (I own all the books, the DVDs, a House Stark hoodie and several PopVinyl bubbleheads including Jon Snow and Cersei Lannister), will probably dress up for the premiere of “The Hunger Games” and enjoy any Marvel movie more than most girls. Oh, and I’m also blonde, skinny and (so I’m told) very-well dressed; I love getting my hair done and putting on makeup, and you won’t catch me dead out of the house looking less than put-together.

Then there’s my best friend, who is 21 and recently bought the latest edition of Pokemon for his Nintendo 3DS; he also spends many of his nights in front of his XBOX and loves GOT even more than I do. Oh, and he’s also a real foodie, works at a major corporate bank and has a very active social life. Or, take another friend and a colleague of mine; his idea of an entertaining evening is catching up on “Agents of SHIELD” or some old Marvel cartoons (“Thor and Loki”, anyone?). And please, don’t get him started on “Star Wars” or “Battlestar Galactica”. He also competes in Tough Mudder regularly, loves working out and is one of the best dressed guys I know (when it suits him).

And then there’s our colleague at the site, C. A die-in-the-war “Star Wars” fan who loves “Superman” more than almost anyone? He’s been riding the “geek chic” train since before “geek” and “chic” had even been in the same sentence together, he’s that ahead of the trends.

So, why has it suddenly become socially acceptable to engage with games, TV shows, books and movies that we wouldn’t have touched with a ten foot pole a few years ago, lest we seem horribly uncool?

First of all, these days, things like “Pokemon”, “Star Wars” and anything similar has gone from “boring” and “lame” to retro; and who isn’t into anything vintage these days, whether it be cars or fashion or music? If not those things – why not vintage pop culture, too?

The rise of shows such as “The Big Bang Theory” have also brought certain elements of “nerdiness” and placed it front and centre in the spotlight, all the while spinning it as something kind of funky, kind of endearing and hilariously entertaining. After all, who doesn’t love witnessing Sheldon’s “Green Lantern” t-shirts or Leonard’s attempts to bring “Star Wars” into the bedroom with the beautiful Penny? Because these characters that we know and connect with engage in these types of media, it makes it more accessible AND more acceptable for us to follow suit.

Then there’s “Game of Thrones”. Only the HBO could take 1000-page fantasy novels and bring them to life for television in such a way that men, women and children who haven’t even read the books find themselves pulled into the world of Westeros. No doubt the women are attracted to the handsome men, political intrigue and strong female characters like Brienne of Tarth and Daenerys Targaryen; men no doubt love the no-holds-barred nature of the filming, the constant tussle for power between the characters and the bloody nature of the plot lines and though I wouldn’t let my child watch it (or any child under the age of 16), I’m sure it’s the appearance of Daenerys’ dragons, the fiery young characters of Bran and Arya Stark (among several) and the magic subtly woven into the storyline that has them hooked.

And as for Marvel? Well, Marvel have taken the domain of children – cartoons and comic books – and translated it into an entire world that has us hooked on the latest installment. By transforming superheroes from drawings on a page to beautifully buff guys sporting tantalizingly tight clothing (or better still, very little clothing at all – hello, Thor!) or by creating stunning visual renditions of characters like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, we find ourselves hooked. Not only that, but the films and TV shows often include hilarious dialogue, relatable characters and scenarios that we find ourselves drawn to. Whether it’s “The Avengers”, “X-Men” or “Transformers”, there’s a little bit of a Marvel-loving geek in most (or maybe even all) of us.

So, what does this teach us? That there’s absolutely no shame in spending this coming weekend inside, with a group of friends, a bottle of wine and a Marvel Movie Marathon; nor is there anything bad to be said about waiting on tenterhooks for the next series of “Game of Thrones” to hit our TV screens. Instead, we should embrace “geek chic” and all that it has to offer; really, it is the new black.