Face It, We’re All Geeks

A lot has been written over the past year about fake geeks, particularly female geeks. So much focus and time wasted writing and reading venomous screed, a lot of it filled with misogyny, and the flame wars in comments, Twitter and Facebook that followed. The latest rant is by comic creator Tony Harris about women who dress in cos-play. Women he dubs “con-hot.” I could go on a whole other rant about costumes and attractiveness, but that’s another post… maybe.

I will start out with this (and I’m sure I’ll lose a lot of you, but bear with me please), I do feel some, both men and women, dress in cos-play to be gawked at and admired. There is absolutely some exhibitionist tendencies associated with the practice. It’s our version of peacocking. But that’s no different than what you might see going to a bar on Halloween, this is not exclusive to geek conventions. There’s a line though that many cross when they find themselves in front of these dressed up individuals. To look, maybe even too long, is one thing, but far too often people cross lines, and make comments or even touch those who are “on display.” Making individuals uncomfortable and unwelcome. I’ve seen this happen towards women AND men. Yes, this does occur to men too, by women (not in the same proportions though). So, for those who think this is a one sided issue, it’s not. The focus as a whole though is how people want to be, and should be treated. That’s with respect at all times. That’s where we  geeks have a tendency to fail, because we judge, a lot. Of course we judge. We judge the comics we read, games we play, movies we watch, it’s what we do as fans.

So many have judged the hired professionals (models) who pitch products to us at conventions. They tend to be easy on the eyes, and might not be die-hard fans, like us, but they are there to do a job, get us geeks to buy or talk about their product when we go home.  The fact is, somewhere along the line, folks felt that us geeks were so pathetic, that we’d fall for a pretty women in a skimpy outfit. That we’re dumb enough to fall for that, and not care about the product they’re attempting to pitch or what they have to say. And there’s something there. It’s insulting to us, both men and women, to think that just become someone is attractive we’ll overlook the fact these hired models don’t know the product they’re representing. But, the sad fact is, it works. It works, because if it didn’t, they wouldn’t do it. Marketing and business really is that simple. If something isn’t successful, they stop doing it. If something is, they continue with the process. The fact this has occurred for well over the dozen years I’ve been going to conventions means it works. And we geeks only have ourselves to blame, because we let it and don’t demand to be shown respect.

But, where many of the rants go off the rails is they then attack “fake” geeks. They usually give the example of a woman with thick glasses who poses seductively with some video games strategically placed. But, the big fact is missed upon them all. Geek is now mainstream, there are no “true geeks” anymore. The biggest movies of 2012 were based on comic books, the biggest entertainment property money wise in 2012 is likely a video game. Geeks run Hollywood, technology, sports (Moneyball anyone?) and politics. Our President is the Commander in Geek, the man reads comics and enjoys Star Trek. Face it, we’re no longer the outsiders we think we are. We fans are struggling to stay relevant and “cool” in the age of ironic t-shirts, corporate branding and Hipsters. Urkel was a geek in the day, but today he’d be considered a Hipster. We are no longer special snow flakes, we are mass marketed and mass produced and what we like is too.

We need to face fact, Geekdom is now mainstream.

Some folks seem to have chips on their shoulders because these neo-Geeks haven’t “bled” like the rest of us or put in their time suffering for their fandom. Twilight fans, Walking Dead fans, True Blood fans, Game of Throne fans, the new to Who Doctor Who fans, they’re geeks too, no matter how long or short their fandom has existed, they have a passion for something like we do and sometimes the same things! And like them, we weren’t always geeks, someone had to have introduced us to our fandom and stoke the fire of our passion.

When Andrew Garfield was announced as the next Spider-Man, early on he mentioned his love of the comics. The fans reacted with disbelief and it wasn’t until his heartfelt speech at San Diego Comic-Con that fans embraced him as the latest Peter Parker. We’ve become weary and wary of those claiming to be “one of us.” Want another example? Adorkable.

The majority of this ire seems to be focused mainly on women. You never read about someone bitching about a guy posing naked with nothing by a TARDIS (it’s bigger on the inside!) covering his crotch to sell… something. Geekdom/fandom is at a point I think sports was at not long ago. Years ago female reporters were looked upon as second class (and some times still are), like they had no right to be on the sidelines delivering the latest news or talking to our sports heroes. Female creators, reporters, bloggers and fans are all looked at and treated in that same way, like they have something more to prove than those of us who pee standing up. These female fans though are judged by the way they look, female, nothing more and nothing less. And the “more attractive” one is, the more scrutiny one is put through, the greater the amount of skepticism they meet. The question though is, where is the cut off line where one can’t consider oneself a geek? Who are we to judge who we let into the clubhouse? Isn’t part of fandom sharing our excitement with others and getting them excited as well?

I can only come to the conclusion that these particular individuals have issues with women, the entire gender. That can only explain the exclusiveness and mean spirited comments and writings exacerbated by the anonymity of the internet. I could go into some Freudian attempt to explain it all, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is we, of all “cultures,” have no right to exclude anyone who wants to be part of the fun.

Whether they are new to the party or a lapsed fan coming back, we should be embracing them, men, women, whomever, with open arms. There’s so many out there now circling our orbit waiting to be invited in and we’re failing to make them feel welcome. Men, women, young, old, tall, short, big, small, attractive or not, everyone should be welcome. Instead of shunning those we’re skeptical of, we should be talking to them, finding out what they’re passionate about and showing them all the other cool things they’re missing out on and would enjoy. That’s what geekdom and fandom is about.