Much like every other noxious creed which has been squeezed from humanity’s turd cortex, the outrage over “fake geek girls” has bubbled back up to the surface of the shared ideaspace. This week’s vector was a spittle-flecked Facebook rant from artist Tony Harris, whose quite nifty work on Starman will now be forever marred by the “I am a complete fucking tool” filter his remarks have retroactively applied to it.
These attempts to separate the geek elect from the poseur damned angers me for multiple reasons, with the knuckledragging sexism aspect being only the most obvious and creepy of the lot.
Though I’ve railed against a lot of fandom’s idiotic behaviors over the past seven years, I could at least understand — if not empathize with — the circumstances from which they arose. Yeah, it sucks to see something you cherish take a turn away from your Platonic and deeply internalized idea, even if the saner course is to step back and glimpse at the bigger picture instead of ramping up the rhetoric and finding a easy scapegoat for your misplaced rage.
The outrage over fake geek girls closely follows that traditional road to Asshole Central, except that the trigger is a false construction used to mask a bigger, nastier sentiment in what passes for “Geek Culture.” I don’t care what a woman’s motives are or how extensive her knowledge of comics continuity is — the act of preparing and displaying an elaborate cosplay get up at a con is an intrinsically geeky one.
She may or may not self-identify with the scene, but that doesn’t matter. The terms of participation and engagement are supposed to be fluid, but the fact remains that you’d have a hard time finding someone willing to dress up, sans pay or Halloween party, like a comic/movie/sci-fi/et cetera character who didn’t have some shred of inherent geekiness.
In truth, the “fake geek girl” is utter bullshit, a manufactured proxy upon which to project a host of perceived grievances about the changing demographics of conspicuous fandom. Similar to the dog whistle rhetoric used to mask revanchist outrage over the evolving body politic, it provides a means of expressing underlying intent while (barely) concealing its most overtly offensive aspects.
Fandom has grown in size and diversity. The markers have never been so elastic or widespread. The professed egalitariamism of the traditional (white manchild) base has come up against a truly egalitarian set of circumstances which don’t give a flying fuck about “how it used to be.”
Now that “if there were only more of us” has become a reality, the goalposts have been shifted to “if only there were more just like — or willing to have sex with — me.” It’s the obnoxious notion of the “friendzone” writ large, manifested by dudes up against the unpleasant truth that old traditions of social ostracism may have been rooted in terms of one’s unpleasant personality rather than in one’s choice of hobby.
In addition to the misogynistic underpinnings of the “fake geek girl” myth, there’s also a strong current of elitist condescention. While these unpalatable behaviors do tend to work in tandem, the puritantical will to judgement has been amplified by efforts (both cynical and well meaning) to stake out “geekdom” as a movement based on consumption habits as opposed to a broad social concordance based on a wide variety of related interests.
The notion of “canon” is fundamental to this process of codification, both in terms of acceptable texts within a given niche and in the sense of a common language based on “must see/read/play” touchstones. (Try telling a representative of geek orthodoxy that you think the Nolan Batman films are shit if you want to experience this firsthand.) The sacred traditions must be protected against the vandal hordes.
Even the saner side of geekdom can fall prey to these delusions of solidarity, where utopian aspirations tend to ignore historical realities.
Geeks are forward-thinking! Geeks are visionairies! Geeks are making tomorrow’s wonders into today’s reality! These are lofty and laudable sentiments, but they also get hung up on the wrong side of the is/ought fallacy. There are plenty of nerdy folks who don’t care for geeky shit. There are also a lot of (too many, in fact) folks who love geeky shit and are dumber than dirt — and I’m not talking about the pseudo-intellectuals whose reading lists start with Atlas Shrugged and end with Starship Troopers or Ender’s Game.
For all the talk about visionary thinking, there are outsize currents of (small and big “c”) conservatism which permeate the scene. If anything, those currents have become stronger with the current wave of mash-ups, re-and-de-makes, adaptations, reboots, and other corpses dredged from the ditch of childhood nostalgia. We beg for something new, then leave it to wither and die in the marketplace when someone cranks out a Mario Brothers-meets-Star Wars illo to throw up on a t-shirt.
This is not an endorsement of the status quo, but a forensic dissection. If things are going to ever get better, the folks doing the advocating are going to have to stop treating the reactionary tendencies as some atavistic mutation and admit that they are intrinsically tied up in fandom’s DNA. Geekdom is not a singular entity held together with a common dream. It’s a diverse coalition of individual enthusiasts — visionaries, assholes, dabblers, diehards, and every permutation in between.
Shout down the jerks, but never presume that “we” represents anything but the most tenuous network of ephemeral relationships.
And for fuck’s sake, you shit-for-brains trogolodytes, just live and let live and accept that no one gives a crap about the size of your nerd-peener.