Fake Geeks and Mean Geeks

There has been a lot of talk this year about Fake Geek Girls. That concept might not make sense to a lot of you who are not involved with geek culture, on or offline. I’ll break it down for you: The idea is that 99% of all girls in geek culture are fake. They are there purely for the attention and in some cases money to be made from exploiting geek culture.

While I believe it’s true that this happens, I think it happens with both genders, especially in cases of actors/entertainers who either on purpose or accidentally fall into roles that elevate them to geek idols.  In truth, we’re really only talking about 1% of geek culture who are in it for the attention and possibly money. A while ago, I interviewed Laura Mannell from SyFy’s Alphas and she was very forthright – she’s not a geek but she ends up playing geeky roles because a lot of those shows film in Vancouver, where she lives. She has a job and her job happens to have a geek slant, but it’s not why she got into acting and it’s not part of her everyday life. There’s nothing wrong with that. But not all actors are that honest or have that kind of integrity. Instead they choose to capitalize on the fanbase and do what makes them money.

But then there are those actors who fell into geek roles and also fell in love with the symbolism and culture. Are they less of a geek because they didn’t come out of the womb reciting the Hobbit?

Lately, female cosplayers have been attacked for not being genuinely into the characters they dress up as. If you don’t know, a cosplayer is someone who dresses up in costumes. Sort of like someone who attends re-enactments. Instead of dressing up like a historical figure, cosplayers dress up as a fictional character. There have been several rants from male geeks lambasting women for only cosplaying because they like the costumes or the look of the character without actually knowing anything about the character.

This is from Molly Crabapple’s webcomic Puppet Makers. It probably doesn’t count as a real comic because it was drawn by someone with a uterus.

Here’s the thing about that: when you attack the costumers who craft these amazing works of art, and that’s what some of these costumes are, you forget one of the most crucial aspects of the comic book world — the art itself.  Many people are drawn to comic books (pardon the pun) because they are visual. I have heard many dyslexics say that they ‘read’ comics because while words are difficult for them, the images tell a story they can follow without challenge.

Let’s just be honest – some of the art is stunning and more compelling than the story.

To take this out of the comic book genre, let’s talk about geeky tv shows. In the short-lived Pushing Daisies, the art direction was more important to the story than the script. I loved the writing on the show but I was truly captivated by the brilliance of the sets and costumes.

People often do not think of fashion as a geeky or even intellectual thing. It is. Fashion is always references the current socio-political nature of a culture. To make really great fashion, either costume or ready to wear, you need to understand the inner lives of people. You need to evoke an emotion. You need to be able to tell a visual story.

Ask yourself why Batman matters to you. What do you love about him? Why does his story resonate with you? Then consider that a costumer may have the same feelings about an image. They see that story in the comic art, in the uniform of the character. They are as dedicated to that visual image and everything it says about culture and themselves as individuals, as you are to the written words. They want to embody it, express it and take joy in it. They do that by cosplaying and becoming works of art.

I have written before about how my geek knowledge has been tested. I can’t tell you a lot about Batman. He’s not my thing. My brother, however, has an authentic replica of the Batman suit from Tim Burton’s Batman. I can also tell you at that age 12 I was sneaking into his bedroom to read his Sandman comics. Of course, a lot of the concepts were lost on me at the time but I was immersed in that world.

I wore his Sandman shirts to school and was horribly teased. I don’t wear geeky t-shirts now because I don’t have the disposable income to spend on them. When I was working a corporate job my money needed to go to corporate clothes. My geekiness is called into question frequently because I look more like a fashionista than a geek. Just because I don’t fit into your preconceived notions of what it means to be a geek doesn’t mean that I’m not one. When I was younger I refused to go out on Friday nights because that was when the X-Files was on. I never missed an episode.

I’m not a gamer and by some people’s definition, that means I’m not a real geek. I can’t play video games anymore because I’m going blind. I can’t process images like everyone else. It makes me extremely sad that I can’t play first person shooters. That little target that appears on the screen telling you if you’ve got someone in your sights? I can’t see it. I was having a horrible time trying to play Black Ops for the first time & my nephew said “You can’t see that target can you?” I said “What target?” I can’t play split screens, my brain can’t process what I’m seeing correctly. The general fast moving nature of games is difficult for me. I desperately want to be a gamer geek. I used to be one but I can no longer game. That’s not my fault. It’s not my choice. People have looked down on me because I don’t game. I shouldn’t have to explain myself to them. I shouldn’t have to say ‘Frak you. I’m blind so I can’t play.’ Anytime someone does that, it brings up a whole host of issues for me that’s about more than playing a game.

That should never happen. Ever.

Plus, if you assume I’m not a geek because I wear heels and have shiny hair, then you’ll miss the chance at having me out geek you about H.R. Giger and Clive Barker.

There are lot of judgy voices in geek culture. We have lost the concept of what it means to be a nerd. We now have a very narrow view of what that means. It’s specifically comic books, gaming and select books and films. Being a nerd originally meant someone that was outside of the masses. Someone that lived in their own inner world. Someone that everyone else thought was weird and different because they had different interests or expressed their interests in a different manner.

Currently, I have a lot friends who are tech nerds. They are immersed in that world and likely have zero idea who Madelyne Pryor even is. Likewise, not all of you who know who she is understand what it means when I ask you if you’ve rooted your phone. And I’d wager that most of you have zero idea how to carbon date anything. I do.

But just because I can flow from tech nerd, to comic nerd, to academic nerd, doesn’t mean that I’m a better geek than anyone. Although I had a Sailor Moon phase like everyone who was a teenager in the 90s, I’m not into Anime. My nieces and long-time friend Dominique can out nerd me on that subject like woah.

In my view, a nerd/geek is someone who understands the metaphorical and cultural implications of a subject, even if they do not have the skills to explain those implications.

Recently, one rant about fake geek girls went on and on about how these girls prey on the true geeks, who are naturally men. These true geeks are starved for attention because they have been ignored by society and all things with a vagina. They go to comic cons because they want the attention of other geeks. It is perfectly acceptable for these male geeks to want that attention that society has denied them. However, when a woman wants that attention, she’s a whore looking to exploit these poor innocent men with her boobs and her vagina.

Anyone else see the hypocrisy in this? It’s all right for a man to want attention but not all right for a woman. A man who needs a attention is a victim of society. A woman who needs attention is a manipulative whore.

In the same rant, which I’m not linking to here because I have zero desire to give that guy any credit whatsoever, the comment is also made girls who cosplay are liars. Why are they liars? Because they dress in sexy clothes thus immediately giving the impression that their vagina is open for business to the first geek who is nice to them. They are called liars because they won’t get on their knees just because someone says ‘Your tits look great in that catsuit.’

It’s 2012. I shouldn’t have to say this. But here goes – Just because a woman looks sexy, just because she puts her breasts on display does not mean that she wants to sleep with you. Women do not exist for you. Our breasts do not exist for you. When a guy goes to a con dressed as Wolverine in tight yellow and blue pants with his package outlined for all to see, should I immediately assume that he is only wearing those tight pants to show that he wants to sleep with every woman he encounters? Should we call him a liar if he refuses to the advances of someone he doesn’t find attractive? What about the poor nerd girls who’ve never been kissed. Should he kiss her because she has been ignored by men all her life?

Guess what? No matter how sexy or revealing an outfit, a woman never stops being human and deserving of yours all of them because they have been denied attention by society? Should he wear those pants if he has a girlfriend? Is it perfectly acceptable for me to spend my interaction with him staring at his crotch? Is it acceptable for me to grab it? No, it’s not. But when a woman is dressed in a costume that shows her body many people feel that she no longer belongs to herself. She belongs to everyone who sees her. She is their property and no longer human or entitled to respect.

I get it. As nerds, you have been bullied. You have been ostracized. You have been made to feel invalid. You found a world where you feel whole, accepted and human. You don’t want that to be taken away from you. But trying to take that validation and acceptance from others won’t save you. It won’t make you feel better, not in a way that counts.

It is horrible and morally wrong that people have teased you for not fitting into their box. But it is also morally wrong for you to tease others for not fitting into yours. A culture of Mean Geeks is on the rise, one that would make all girls named Heather & Regina George cringe.

No one gets to decide what is normal. As people who have been chastised for not fitting into the ‘normal box’ we should celebrate variety and different levels of cultural immersion. We should be the one to rally against social norms and these non-existent gender and cultural roles, not enforce them.

If you want to be true champion of geek culture, you would stand up for everyone’s right to explore their interests without condemnation. You would encourage variety within your own culture because variety fights stereotypes. You would be like those superheroes you worship. You would stand up for equality, even if it meant changing what you view as normal.

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