Just a Geek
By Wil Wheaton
If you read my previous review of Wil Wheaton’s Sunken Treasure than you already know how difficult it was for me to decide to give him a chance as a writer. I enjoy reading celebrity autobiographies but most of them are ghost written and heavily edited by a professional. Just a Geek is all Wil Wheaton pure, honest and stripped down bare. His courage and honesty are virtues with which every writer struggles. The ability to tell any story without holding anything back is the Holy Grail of writing and being able to do that while telling your own personal story is something most writers would never even consider. Yet, there he is, this “has-been”, this struggling actor, someone that most people look at with a don’t-I-know-you-from-something stare, beating us writers at our own game. I read Michael J Fox’s books Lucky Man and Always Looking Up and have just started his newest (A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Future) he is an amazing man with an optimism that is beyond words. I have a great respect for him as a human. Now, why am I suddenly talking about Michael J Fox? I mention his books specifically for a reason; I want my next statement to have optimal impact. I have never been so deeply touched or affected by an autobiography as I was by Wil Wheaton’s Just a Geek. Think on that for a moment.
Hollywood is really just perpetual high school, the “A list” being the most popular cheerleaders and jocks with most other stars falling someone where between that and, as Kathy Giffin puts it, the “D list”. In this analogy Wil Wheaton really is just a geek, like the rest of us. He has struggled in Hollywood since he left Star Trek: TNG. Let me make one point abundantly clear right now, this is not a book just for Star Trek fans, although fellow Trekkies would probably love it, it is a book for any person who has ever struggled emotionally or financially, felt insecure, lost or simply unhappy with their life.
When he writes about the insecurity he felt when meeting up with some of the cast from ST:TNG I was heartbroken for him. I also knew exactly what he meant. My own personal insecurities jumped into my head. Times when I have seen people from my high school at the super market and jumped behind a display of canned corn so they wouldn’t see how much weight I’ve gained. Or when a friend from college wrote me on Facebook asking if I’ve had any books published yet and I was too embarrassed to respond that no, I haven’t even managed to finish one yet and that I haven’t done anything at all with my degree other than a couple of WordPress blogs.
There is one story in particular that I can’t get out of my head or my heart for that matter. Mr. Wheaton was at an audition and ran into his old friend, Sean Astin (Sam from LOTR). They chit chat a bit and agree to stay in better contact. Sean Astin gives him his phone number but he never “gets up the courage” to call him. The vulnerability in admitting to that is staggering to me. The entire book is filled with very candid heartbreaking embarrassments that most people would want to keep hidden, especially people with an “image” but Wil Wheaton not only shares those moments unabashedly but he goes into honest detail about how those situations made him feel. He gets angry, he gets hurt, he gets embarrassed, he gets scared, he gets his hopes up, they come crashing down, he has every possible human emotion that you sometimes forget other people go through too especially actors who the rest of us tend to think have such great lives. I’m not saying he doesn’t have a good life and I don’t think he would either. He loves his wife and stepsons, but he certainly hasn’t had everything handed to him and everything does not come easily. He does an incredible job of exposing his weaknesses in an unapologetic and honest way that is rarely rivaled.
I feel that I have touched on some of the things I love about this book and my new admiration for Wil Wheaton but there is one thing I feel I must mention; Why all the hating on Wesley? I don’t just mean from Wil Wheaton (who has a whole separate emotional issue with that character), I mean from all the Trekkies at the conventions. I would be embarrassed to put into writing just how many times I have seen every episode of ST:TNG and I still don’t understand it. Yeah, he was kind of whiny and a little annoying but he was a teenager. The writing for him wasn’t great I am not going to argue that it was but I wouldn’t go so far as to say he was “unbelievable”. What is so wrong with showing a smart teen interested in math and science and taking an active role in his own future (working on the bridge)? Wil Wheaton did an excellent job with what he was given, the scene when he sees the hollow message his father left for him before he died is incredible. It is all in the face, there was no writing for that one it was all Wil Wheaton and it is very touching. I can’t believe that any Star Trek fan would claim that Wesley Crusher ruined the show, come now. He wasn’t that bad and Star Trek isn’t that fragile. Aside from that I have to say that I was so upset to hear how Wil Wheaton had been treated by people who claim to love the series. I am about to completely geek out now so be warned. First of all, you don’t treat people that way, booing him off the stage and saying you hate him. Second, you don’t treat a teenager that way, ever. Third, if you truly love Star Trek and the Star Trek universe you show some respect for its cast and characters. Look I’m not a fan of Ensign Ro but if I ever met Michelle Forbes I would certainly have the sense and couth not to blame her. But most importantly, has watching Star Trek taught you nothing? Did you somehow miss the whole concept? The entire point of Starfleet? Rant over, I digress.
Back to the real person, Wil Wheaton, I find that I am cheering for him still. Everyday I want to hear that he’s going to be on TV or in a movie. Hell, I’d love to write a best seller and demand he play the lead role, whatever it may be. I want to know how he’s doing, how life is going, if he has had any auditions, even though I don’t feel he is of the caliber of actor that should have to audition at this point. But what do I know? I would have never canceled Firefly either so apparently Hollywood and I disagree on a lot of things. I have to say that after reading Just a Geek I have completely rethought all of my beliefs and misconceptions of the people that I watch on TV. They are so much more real to me now. For the first time in my life there is even one I would like to meet and have over for dinner.