REAL GEEK GIRLS: Writer, Producer and Host Meredith Placko
The goal of my “Real Geek Girls” series is to show the world that girls truly can be geeky. For some, that seems like an obvious observation, but there’s always that one person, almost always a guy, who will talk about how girls are fake geeks who don’t know what they’re talking. Girls are just doing it look cool and lure in geek guys. They don’t know what it’s all about when it comes to “geek culture” and they’re somehow just there to be admired by geek guys. I’m here to let the world know that girls DO know what we’re talking about. We can be and we ARE just as geeky as the guys. Every now and again, I’ll interview a new geek girl just to highlight how many of us are out there, how real we are all. We come in all shapes and sizes, and love a many number of geeky things. I’m going to show the world that there are real geek girls, and they know as much, if not more, than the somehow more revered geek guy.
Meet Meredith Placko! She’s a writer, host producer and an all around badass! She’s done a lot in her career and I got to talk to her a little about her journalism career, superheroes and cats! Check out the interview below and do not forget to follow her on her twitter page here and check out her website here.
In your opinion, what does being a geek mean?
Being a geek just means you are overly passionate about something. I know for most of the world, that “something” is something tech related, or video games, comics, Japanese cartoons… but I know sports geeks, and music geeks, and trivia geeks and all sorts of geeks! I just feel the word has evolved into something so much more, it’s no longer an insult you call the girl with her head buried in a book. And while it may be cool to be a geek now, I kinda feel anyone has the capacity to be one, wherever you deep seated love of something lies.
There’s always someone out there who thinks women are faking it when they say they are geeks, what’s your take on this?
I simply don’t get it. Sure, some people are more passionate or knowledgeable about their geekiness than others, but I didn’t realize this is a hierarchy. No matter what TV may try to tell you, there really is no King of the Nerds. Or at least, there shouldn’t be. I got into a disagreement once with a friend who made a post about seeing a girl wearing an Avengers shirt at a coffee shop, and how she was probably only a fan because of the movie, not the comics, and how she probably got her shirt at Target. And I called her out on it. Like, why does it matter what medium this person became a fan of – they connected, on some level, to this incredibly nerdy franchise enough to sport a shirt. And if you had told 15 year old me I would one day be able to by a Captain America, or Avengers, or Guardians of the Galaxy shirt at a box store, I would have stared at you in disbelief. I love that video games, anime, comics – all this stuff that now falls under pop culture is popular. Let everyone enjoy it because it means there’s even more of it for me to enjoy! And sometimes, the whole “fake geek girl” slur comes from our own gender, which I think, in many ways, is worse. I don’t understand women who put down other women because they feel threatened by not being the only nerd girl in the yard.
You have a huge passion for reporting and writing, where did this passion come from? Any influences? Heroes?
It’s been cemented in my core that I wanted to be a journalist since I was in grade school. I was living in Ft. Lauderdale when Hurricane Andrew hit in 1996, while we didn’t get much damage, I remember watching Bob Norcross and Kerry Sanders live reactions as a helicopter flew over Homestead, revealing the insurmountable devastation. It looked like a war zone. They compared it to such. And it stuck with me. I started writing fake news stories based on events I read in comics. In high school, I got involved in our local radio program, and was one of the top news writers there. In college, after a brief flirtation with CompSci (to follow in my parents footsteps), I questioned why I wasn’t following my passion and made the switch to Journalism. Through the years, and most notably in college, I grew to love and take influence from writers Hunter S. Thompson, Dave Barry (who is more a satirical fiction writer from South Florida), Peter Arnett and Helen Thomas and Lois Lane, because no one is as cool a reporter as she is. Then in 2009, I took a job with NBC Network News in their south east bureau and I got to work with Kerry Sanders. It was amazing how that came full circle, and I’m forever grateful for the experience of working with him and everyone on that team. But on a more personal level, journalists and managers Cynthia Landers, Danny Noa and Mary Murry influenced me directly. Cynthia was the Executive Producer at my first news job at WESH in Orlando. She put a lot of faith in me, even as an intern, and saw a lot of things in me I’m not sure I even see. Danny was my boss at NBC, who gave me a chance at the Network level. Mary, a producer based out of Miami and Havana stepped in temporarily after Danny was promoted, and taught me so much about ethics, journalism on an international level, and the responsibilities we have to serve the people of our community. I wouldn’t be half the journalist, or half the person, I am today without these strong influences.
Your career on-air started back in high school, what was it like juggling high school and being a DJ/program director for 88.5 WKPX?
So like I said, in high school I had this great opportunity to be on air, on live radio, on 88.5 WKPX. We were “South Florida’s Radio Alternative” It was great because the station was housed in my high school. We were one of eight public schools with a radio license and it was one of the best, toughest programs to get into. I lucked out and started before I even got into 9th grade, during summer school. I learned a lot from my time there, mainly I have *really* alternative tastes in music (it’s where I began my continuing love affair with the goth/industrial scene) and made some of the coolest friends I’ll ever know. And it taught me a lot, about not just working in this industry, time management, and that desire really drives what you do, but I also learned a lot about people. There was a girl, an upper classman, who I butted heads with. Mainly because I thought she was the coolest person in school and she probably thought I was a weird little freak because I certainly had that younger classman awe over her, and if this were a Japanese anime, I would have left unsigned notes in her locker. She’s the one who I first learned about Morrissey, Front 242 and Chem Lab from. Always thought she hated me. But she was my mentor, in a weird aloof way, and I learned so much from her. And I was so happy when we reconnected a reunion. To this day, Beth is still very much a mentor, and now a good friend and, as I would later find out, a huge geek!
If you were stuck in an elevator for 3 hours and could only have 3 people in the elevator with you, who would they be and why?
As someone who lives in a building with a constantly broken elevator, I live in fear about who I might be stuck with! Never thought about being stuck with people I actually LIKE, always worried it’s going to be the elderly lady who tries to run me over in the parking garage… But if I could be stuck in an elevator with anyone, it would have to be Vince Gilligan, so I could ask him what was the deal with the Breaking Bad series finale (I’m still convinced it was Walt’s hypothermia ridden dying dream). Roi Choi, SoCal’s infamous chef, and hoping he’d have some snacks on him (and to just pick his brain about dishes to make for dinner). Finally, let’s toss Magneto in there, because if doesn’t try to kill the humans in the elevator first, he could at least get us out of that jam if he’s feeling generous that day.
You love cats, what kind of cats do you have?
I think I can be classified as a crazy cat lady. I have five rescues, all your generic, run of the mill street cats. Kana, my first, is a big beautiful grey girl. Then there is Angel, who suffers from chronic asthma and I give him an inhaler twice a day. He’s what I call the color of wheat. Hush is named after three of my favorite Hush references – the KRS One song, my favorite Buffy episode, and the Batman villain. He’s a fluffy grey cat who was born without vocal chords. Then there is Feets, my balding polydactyl. She has 28 toes in total and some strange hair loss on her belly. Finally Squee, the great white walker. He’s a giant beast of a cat who I rescued from an abusive household. A lot of people balk when they hear I have so many cats, but they were the ones no one would love at the time, and I’m just glad I can give them the best life possible. It’ll be interesting when I move in with my boyfriend, because he’s also a cat lover and has two of his own – a calico named Cali (because she was found on California Street in Santa Monica… California) and a black Bombay named Luna.
If you could be any superhero, which would you be and why?
Is there a super hero whose skin turns into ice cream? I’d like to be that one. And yes, I would cannibalize myself whenever I got snackish. Barring that, I’d really like to be Emma Frost. While she’s become more of an anti-hero, she’s one of the few characters who has undergone such character progression in comics. I mean, you see good guys go bad and vice versa, but from the White Queen of the Hellfire club, to teacher, to X-man, she has really cemented herself in the X universe. And while she may have been one of those characters a lot of people dismiss as being overtly sexual due to a male fan base, she’s one of the strongest, most independent women in those books. And when she finally does fall in love, she does it with all her heart and has to deal with the repercussions of her actions. I don’t think a lot of fans give that character the credit she deserves, and I am glad that Marvel has allowed her to have such an enigmatic run in the books.
For anyone out there who wants to get into Journalism or hosting (on-air or whatever else), what advice do you have?
If you are in college, major in it and get an internship at a local news station or paper. They are invaluable. I’m not of the mindset that interns are free labor – while yes, some companies do abuse that institution, if you think about it, the idea of a mentor and apprentice has been around for centuries. But it’s up to you to make the most of the experience. I owe everything in this industry I have to my start at WESH as an intern, and subsequent hire. Also, just because you may like to be on camera, doesn’t mean your good (or you could be like me who hates to be on camera and also sucks at it). like anything, it takes practice. Start a YouTube channel, get some friends with some basic video gear and go do small stories on local events that interest you (movie premiers, conventions, new comic book day) and just crack at it. And be consistent. A lot of the folks I know in Los Angeles got their start by doing just that, not the more traditional route I went. So you have options – the thing is, you have to want it. Not wanting to be famous is enough, you have to be passionate about what you do. Do you want to be on air because you want people to know who you are? Or do you want to be on air because you feel it’s your duty to deliver a story, perspective, or some slant no one else can do?
Is there anything you’re working on right now we can look out for in the future?
What’s your advice to the girls out there who feel embarrassed to be geeky?
Never question who you are. In a society that constantly tries to force their opinion on what a woman should and shouldn’t be, and this goes for geekdom as well, don’t sell yourself short. I find it’s easier to be accepted as a geek by the masses than some of our own peers. Women who pursue cosplay, or want to put attention to how they style themselves, are cut down by a lot of men (and a lot of women, as well!) in our little nerd club. If you want to buy an Avengers shirt at Target and wear it, do it. If you want to cosplay a character because you like the design but aren’t drawn to the media, have at it. If you want to dress up and flaunt your geekery with cool accessories and clothing, enjoy it. Embrace your geekiness. If someone says you are too geeky, or not nerdy enough, that is their problem. Don’t let others project their insecurities on you. And I always implore people to do this – offer a kind word to a fellow geek. Every one of us has been there, where we feel out of place in our own skin, and seeing a fellow fan at a convention, just going up and complimenting their costume, style, or you see someone posts something you agree with online, let them know. I think it’s better to build one another up, and find common ground in our fellow fans. We’re all nerds here, let’s embrace it!