Moderately Interesting Morning Fact Feb. 6: That Guy With Emma Peel Edition


Happy 91st birthday to Patrick Macnee, best-known as the suave John Steed in the British spy thriller “The Avengers.” The show featured Macnee paired with a series of gorgeous women, including Honor BlackmanDiana Rigg and Linda Thorson. His teaming with Rigg, who played Emma Peel, provided viewers with a lively banter, rich in sly dialogue and sexiness without a hint of being ribald. Though Macnee played a spy, he never handled guns on the show. A veteran of World War II, he hated guns and would have nothing to do with them.

Moments: Don’t call me geek

Don’t call me geek. That’s a bully’s word.

I’m a person. I buy and read comic books. I watch cartoons, TV shows and movies about heroes, both of the super and more traditional variety. I have been to several comic book conventions and one “Doctor Who” convention, right here in Iowa with my Great Depression-reared father by my side.

This does not make me a geek. It makes me just like everybody else.

“Marvels’ The Avengers,” a film about six superheroes — the oldest of which, Captain America, dates back to March 1941 — made more than $207 million its opening weekend. I saw it twice. Both times I stood in line with men, women and children of all ages, shapes, colors and sizes.

This was not a gathering of socially-awkward dwellers of their mother’s basements. These were people excited about going to see the first true blockbuster of the summer. This is an American tradition going back to “Jaws” in 1975.

Yet still it’s OK to call people who enjoy such things geeks and nerds.

Because only a geek or a nerd — somebody who is really weird, odd and different — would enjoy a movie such as “The Avengers.” Or “Star Wars.” Or “Lord of the Rings.” You have to be one of those people. People who are different in a bad way.

A co-worker suggested that “geek” is like other derogatory terms that have been reclaimed by the groups derided by the words. Some members of the gay community, for example, use the word “queer.” Many hip-hop artists use the n-word. By using the word in their art and expression, they’ve taken away the negative connotations and made it “their word.”

Anyway, that’s the idea behind reclaiming words. It sounds like mumbo jumbo to me. Hurtful words are hurtful words. And though I would never say being called a geek is as painful as the slurs used against minority groups, geek is nonetheless a slur.

It’s a slur my colleagues in the news media use with frequency or fear of reprisal. A Nexis search of “The Avengers” movie and “geek” turned up nearly 200 results in major newspapers in magazines in the last month. Phrases such as “adolescent fantasies of every geek in the audience” and “season of the geek” were commonplace.

Let’s ignore the dictionary definition of geek, which has mostly to do with circus performers and people who are smart but not liked.

Instead, use common sense. The way geek is used in language, it is a suggestion of outsider — of people outside the mainstream, different, odd and in some way deserving of ridicule.

Yet “The Avengers” made $207 million its opening weekend. Chances are a few of the people who are reading this column were in a theater last weekend. Think about the people to your left, right and in front and back of you.

Were they really so different than you?

I didn’t see anybody in costumes at my showing, not even children, though there were plenty of superhero-themed T-shirts. It would not have bothered me if someone did show up dressed as a superhero. That seems a little silly to me, but if they’re having fun and not hurting anybody, what difference does it make?

Another friend tries to convince me that geek is chic. She points to our mutual affection for “The Big Bang Theory.” The top-rated sitcom is about four scientists who devour all things popular culture. They refer to “Star Trek” and comic books in each episode.

But they also refer to being bullied by people who singled them out for being different just because of what entertainment they chose.

I realize there are some people who freely embrace the geek moniker. They like the outsider status it provides.

I don’t. It’s not that I worry about being an insider or an outsider. I just don’t like to be bullied. And, as I’ve said, geek is a bully’s word.

Life is not a giant taxonomy experiment. We need not have labels for every person. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. Only pleasures. I like what I like. I feel no need to define that in such a way that others can openly mock it.

I’m a person. Let’s start there. Then we can talk about what I do for recreation.

You want to call me something? Call me Daniel. That was handle my parents gave me.

It’s the only one I’ll abide.

5 best Tony Stark/Iron Man lines from The Avengers

5. Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) to Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo): I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.

4.  To Thor (Chris Hemsworth): No hard feelings, Point Break. You’ve got a mean swing.

3. Thor: You don’t know who you’re dealing with. Stark/Iron Man: Shakespeare in the Park? Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?

2 .Stark/Iron Man to Bruce Banner/the Hulk: “What’s your secret? Mellow jazz, bongo drums and a huge bong of weed?”

1. Stark/Iron Man to Loki (Tom Hiddleston): You’re missing the point. There’s no throne. There is no version of this where you come out on top. Maybe your army comes and maybe it’s too much for us but it’s all on you. Because if we can’t protect the Earth, you can be damn well sure we’ll avenge it.

5 sentence review of The Avengers

5. “The Avengers” is an unqualified masterpiece by writer-director Joss Whedon, who brings alive the comic book work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby with flawless mixture of humanity, heart and humor.

4. The ensemble cast renders earth’s mightiest heroes perfectly from Iron Man’s (Robert Downey, Jr.) narcissism to Captain America’s (Chris Evans) cynicism to Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) guilt to Bruce Banner’s (Mark Ruffalo) self-loathing.

3. Jeremy Renner, behind Whedon’s writing and direction, manages to do what seems impossible: make the character of Hawkeye, a guy who shoots arrows, both interesting and formidable in the midst of an alien invasion while Scarlett Johansson offers equal substance to the assassin-spy Black Widow, a woman haunted by her past and driven to redemption.

2. The Hulk, interpreted somewhat simian compared to previous incarnations, steals every scene he’s in and justifiably so — not since Lou Ferrigno split the backs of flannel shirts on “The Incredible Hulk” TV series has the green goliath been so enjoyable, nor has an homage to the late Bill Bixby’s interpretation of Banner’s terrible burden ever been as spot-on as Ruffalo’s work.

1. Since Frank Miller ushered in the era of dark and gritty comics with “The Dark Knight Returns” graphic novel in 1986, nearly every comic and film has sought a noir edge, but Whedon embraces the light of heroism with Marvel’s flagship super team and reminds us the true purpose of heroes, as noted by “The Natural” author Bernard Malamud, writing about tarnished icons who represent so much more: “Without heroes, we are all plain people, and don’t know how far we can go.”

The Avengers

Time: 2 hours, 22 minutes

Rated PG-13‎‎

Genres: Action-Adventure

Director: Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgård, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg

Finney’s Flicks Grade: A+

Summer movie preview podcast Vol. 1: Avengers, Dark Shadows, MIB 3, The Dictator and Battleship

General Tso and Memphis Paul discuss their anticipation for the coming summer blockbusters. Click any poster to hear or download their free, highly unprofessional and poorly produced podcast.

“The Avengers”

Cast and crew: Joss Whedon (director/screenplay); Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgård, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg Action, Adventure

Plot: Earth’s mightiest heroes — Captain American, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black WIdow and Hawkeye — gather to turn back an alien invasion.

Release: May 4, 2012

Level of anticipation on a scale of 1 to 10

General Tso: 11

Memphis Paul: 8

“Dark Shadows”

Cast and crew: Tim Burton (director); Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay); Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Bella Heathcote, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, Gulliver McGrath

Plot: Johnny Depp plays Barnabus Collins, a vampire from the 200-year-old revived in the 1970s, to pester his modern-day relatives.

Release: May 11, 2012

Level of anticipation on a scale of 1 to 10

General Tso: 4

Memphis Paul: 10

“The Dictator”

Cast and crew: Larry Charles (director); Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, Jeff Schaffer, David Mandel (screenplay); Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Kingsley, Anna Faris, Megan Fox, John C. Reilly, J.B. Smoove

Plot: Sacha Baron Cohen acts like a jackass for two hours.

Release: May 16, 2012

Level of anticipation on a scale of 1 to 10

General Tso: 0

Memphis Paul: 0


Cast and crew: Peter Berg (director); Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber (screenplay); Alexander Skarsgård, Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Rihanna, Liam Neeson, Asano Tadanobu

Plot: They made a whole movie about the classic Hasbro board game, but maybe it’ll be better “Transformers.”

Release: May 16, 2012

Level of anticipation on a scale of 1 to 10

General Tso: 4

Memphis Paul: 5

“Men In Black 3″

Cast and crew: Barry Sonnenfeld (director); Etan Cohen (screenplay); Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Emma Thompson, Josh Brolin, Nicole Scherzinger, Jemaine Clement, Alice Eve, Michael Stuhlbarg

Plot: Secret government agents investigate why they made a third movie in this series.

Release: May 25, 2012

Level of anticipation on a scale of 1 to 10

General Tso: -3

Memphis Paul: 0