I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating over and over, geeks are a welcoming, and inclusive group of people. The men and women, boys and girls I’ve known over the years have loved nothing more than to share the things they love with other people. That’s what being a geek is, loving something so much that you learn as much as you can about it, want to share that love with others, and spend a great deal of time consuming related material. Over the last few years it’s become ‘chic’ to be a geek. Growing popularity in movies, TV, and other genre has led to the geek chic trend, which has been a double-edged sword for most of us who have been geeks forever, before it was cool if you will (but for frak’s sake don’t equate us with hipsters, we aren’t snobs about it.) Along with the benign people who just want to be trendy, or have discovered their inner geek by opening their minds to something new, we’ve also gotten the people that want to change everything to meet their own preconceived expectations. Not that there aren’t things to be improved upon, but geek culture has probably been the fastest group of people to adapt to new ideas out of any I know of.
The problem is how conversation is held now, as in conversation with outsiders, or newcomers, that expect change to happen by shouting down any discussion that isn’t outright agreement with their views. We can’t actually discuss the merits of something, good or bad, without vociferous ideologues coming out of the woodwork to shout ~isms at us. And if by some twist of fate it’s a woman criticizing something done by, or starring women, suddenly it’s internalized ~isms. They’re bullies, plain and simple. They shout down anyone who wants to talk about anything, and expect you to comply with their opinion, or they’ll call in their friends to shout at you too. The worst is the pretender media, who care more about clicks and pushing ideology than geek culture, such as The Mary Sue who was recently exposed releasing fallacious agenda articles written by a fictitious person. The last time I disagreed with something they printed their writers jumped right down my throat and tried to make it an issue about gender rather than just having a different opinion. Don’t believe me? Have any guy you know visit the site and offer a valid criticism of something they post. If it’s seen, it’s likely to be bashed all to hells, not on it’s merits, but on the gender and assumed ~ism of the poster. How can we have honest discussions about the merits of anything when criticism is responded to like this by the media who claims to support, and be a part of our culture?
Recently the media has become peppered with articles stating you cannot dislike the new Ghostbusters trailer unless you’re sexist. They’ve created an untouchable narrative and it’s serving no one, least of all the target market. The saddest part is that none of the defenders I’ve seen are defending the cast of this movie because they’re good actresses, funny comedians, or that the movie actually looks good, they’re defending them solely based on their gender. How’s that any different than being against them because of their gender?
It’s not a recent phenomenon either, but it seems to be getting worse. It’s as if an entire ‘special class’ of people, wanting to be included and accepted just like everyone else, are also protected above everyone else. Is that what we’re going for? The same but different? Equal but special? Women, minorities, and people of various identities and orientations, who have fought so long to be accepted just like everyone else are actually supposed to be above the same criticism that everyone else gets? Is that what the suffragists and civil rights activists fought for? Is that even what the creators and artists themselves want? I certainly see a lot more bystanders, people on the sidelines like media and journalists doing this far more than the artists themselves. In the end, how does this help art improve if we can’t offer legitimate criticism for fear of offending someone? How does it benefit the artist themselves if their gender or identity makes them immune to any sort of discussion?
As I said before, geek culture is probably one of the most inclusive, diverse, and tolerant groups I’ve ever come across or been a part of. Just walking any convention floor will show you all different types of people enjoying comics, games, movies and the like. We’ve made more progress in our entertainment industries than any other, and that’s because we were never afraid to discuss new ideas and try new things. For some that isn’t fast enough, we haven’t moved far enough, but I argue that people don’t, and shouldn’t change so fast. There’s a reason we change slow, but we change.
So, you want to come into geek culture to make it better? Maybe talk to those artists and creators first and ask them if they want you defending their honor as a special class. Ask them if they’d rather you argue the merits of their work, not what’s in their pants or the color of their skin. Looking through Leslie Jones’s Twitter timeline something tells me she’d say it’s her work that’s important. All of you though, all the ones that come into this community and start pushing people around, calling people names for not liking what you like, writing articles about how we’re all neckbeards, basement dwellers, social pariah’s et al, you’re just bullies. This culture is a home for many people, the one place they fit in when nothing else feels right. Geek culture is a family for many people who don’t have one, a place where they can express themselves without fear of judgement. We’ve built a community where most people only care about your ideas, your work, your art, your hobbies, and you’re trashing up the place by making identity more important. You’ve created an environment of fear where people, often introverts who try to avoid conflict, are afraid to speak up because they don’t want to be called names or pushed around. So congratulations, you’ve become the bullies, no different than the kids on the schoolyard who think they are cooler, their ideas are better, and push around the easy targets because they don’t fight back. Next time someone says they have an issue with an artist, maybe ask them to explain that issue before you call them a sexist, you might be surprised, and even learn something.