Just A Geek: Unflinchingly Honest Tales Of The Search For Life, Love, And Fulfillment Beyond The Starship Enterprise, by Wil Wheaton
It is easy to feel bad for child stars, as Wil Wheaton was for his work in “Stand By Me” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and this book certainly does have the undercurrent a certain degree of resentment and the author’s efforts to overcome it. As a general rule, though, this book is an honest and rather self-effacing tale of someone to come to terms with their past and to make a good living while striving to show love to stepchildren and a wife who are caught up in the midst of a difficult legal struggle with his wife’s first husband. One sees in this book the agony of being so close and yet so far from chances at movie and television roles that would elevate someone from a has been to someone on the comeback trail, as well as the politics of the convention circuit and the way that the grind of acting can wear on someone’s confidence, especially if they are reasonably sensitive people to begin with, as it is clear to see that the author is.
Coming in at a bit more than 250 pages, this particular book is mostly made up of selections from the author’s blogging as well as the author’s explanation of life and its complexities as he shows us he is just a geek (even showing his geek code for interested readers; I lost my geek code myself, though I had one as well). The essays, which are in generally chronological order, show Wheaton coming to terms with the end of Wesley Crusher as a part of the Star Trek universe with prank notices and scenes that get cut on the editing room floor for Nemesis, enjoying his friendships with other Star Trek veterans and finding that they are gracious in dealing with him and his transition from frustrated teen actor to more mature adult, dealing with the tensions of auditions and call backs and the endless wait for a chance that could be one’s big breakthrough and a return to the spotlight. We also see Wheaton’s transition from someone who is a frustrated and underemployed actor like so many to being a writer who is capable of mobilizing a large army of loyal readers to help keep others in line, which can be helpful if one is involved in the Star Trek fandoms like the author is.
I greatly appreciated this book, not least because it put a human face on an actor who played one of the more thankless roles on television. While it is easy to blame some of the problems of child acting on child actors themselves, who are of course immature people who think they know a lot more than they do and make a lot of mistakes (even when they don’t become drug addicts and flame out as so many do), at least some of the blame for their struggles belongs to those adults who make things particularly difficult for child actors, whether it is in writing poor dialogue because one does not really understand young people in an appealing and humane fashion, whether it is in terms of production and control, or whether it is in the marketing of works and in the recognition that child stars often want to continue their stardom as adults and often lack the opportunity to do so without friendly writers and casting directors. This book is testament to a life full of grinding struggle from someone who has seen a variety of sides of life in Hollywood and who comes off looking like a thoughtful geek.