Begun The Geek Wars Have
These past few weeks many of us have observed the first shots in the geek wars being fired. Most of these initial skirmishes seeming to have been kicked off with a Facebook post by comic book creator Tony Harris. This little bit of digital mayhem has spawned off a number of debates via twitter, blog posts, and article postings on various Comic Book related sites, etc. Pretty much take a quick search through the InterWebs and you’ll see the initial shots of the geek wars being fired by different camps of the Nerd/Geek world, from fans and creators alike. What seems to be at the heart of this geek civil war; the questions of The “Fake Geek” or “Fake Geek Girl.” While this whole thing may have started with the whole “fake geek girl” or “fake Cos-Player” argument it has seemed to have snowballed into whom has real geek cred and who does not? And now that I’ve actually typed those words onto a screen seems like really stupid argument, but nonetheless still invokes some sort of emotional response from those in the geek culture, myself included. I’ve read a lot of responses to the original Tony Harris posting and the subsequent arguments devolving from there. Some have gone crazy hate rage on Tony and his supporters. Over at Comics Alliance someone took a couple semesters of sociology and gender studies and did a “gendered” analysis of this whole argument. So here’s my two cents. First let’s look at what we are really arguing about here namely the title of Geek.
Via Dictionary.com we get multiple yet similar definitions of Geek:
1. A computer expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often considered offensive when used byoutsiders.)
2 A peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual.
3. A carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, such as biting off the head of a live chicken.
As well as:
|1.||A person who is preoccupied with or very knowledgeable about computing.|
|A boring and unattractive social misfit.|
So now we know what we are fighting over; the privilege to be called a dislikable, an unattractive social misfit and a degenerate. I know I know that’s not how we use it in our circles but really maybe this is at the heart of our little battle here and kind of what Tony Harris and many others are trying to argue. For years and years, the geeks and nerds did suffer and hideaway in our little dens and basements. For years we took refuge in our small corners of the world at local comic book shops, enjoying our geeky things in hidden quite. We were those social misfits; we were the disliked taking refuge and comfort in our comic books and other geekery. Escaping and taking some solace through whatever story or journey Comic Book creators had designed for us. This is why many of us develop such emotional attachments, towards these books, these characters, and the hobby as a whole. But as
many people have stated this is 2013 and such silly notions will have to be left behind. True to a point but this social outcast icon is somewhat hardwired into the Comic Book/Geek world. Remember not all heroes are billionaire playboy, genius, philanthropists. Let us not forget that Peter Parker was the nerdy wallflower whom no one ever gave the time of day to. Let us not forget that Steve Rogers started off as the gawky weakling that the U.S. Army initially rejected before he was a super solider. Let’s not forget that Clark Kent hid is true power behind the facade of a clumsy farm boy that for years couldn’t get any love from Lois Lane. The X-Men a group of societal outcasts due to their genetic twists are the very definition of geek!
This geeky outcast is at the heart of our culture. It’s what made many of our heroes Super. It’s encoded into our geek DNA. And from such story and character evolutions we got bits of hope and encouragement that perhaps one day the socially awkward days would be behind us. That maybe someday things would get better. Perhaps this is why many of us get so defensive when it comes to the fake geek. The argument is made that we struggled, that in one form or another we suffered through this social rejection and social outcast status and thus earned our stripes and our title of geek. Now does this apply to all geeks? Certainly not, and most of us seem to have gone through these growing pains and have adapted to the social majority later in life. Many of my fellow geeks I know have gone on to live pretty good lives. From comic shop owners, to fellow collectors/readers, to even many of the creators within the comic book world, many of these gents are married or have some sort of significant other. Many have gone on to have pretty good careers or have become successful business owners. So while not all geeks are socially awkward, or remain that way later in life, at the core of the geek world is this social outcast component. A component that most of us experienced and identified with at one point or another during our lives.
The Fake Geek Girl: does she exist? Yes and No. This is a tough question. Because how do we determine who the fake geek girl is? But going back to the Tony Harris post here is what I believe he was trying to state, and where I actually agree with him. Are there actually some girls who probably dress up just to get some male attention? For sure. Are they true geeks? Maybe not. If the whole aim is to simply get some male attention and not too much focus on the true craft of Comics is there then yeah, one can kind of lean toward the direction of a fake geek poser girl? I know many will stand up and scream and say “Hey that just isn’t so!” But really, are we going to be that naïve? Let’s be realistic here, because to disagree with this and with some of Tonys’ argument is to simply live in a fantasy world. To simply deny this is to really deny pretty much a huge component of human behavior and the human social order/structure as whole.
It goes to the same ideas as say a strip club. Cause yes Bambi is really so deeply into you as a human being and a person. Nope. She’s there to hang on guys with her “glossy open lips and promise the moon and stars of pleasure” until you’re out of money; Then its thanks for stopping by and she’ll be moving on to the next customer. But some guys like that. Is an attention seeking cos-player as far fetched of an idea as say women dressing in up in provocative Halloween costumes for the sake of gaining some male attention at a party? Cause yes Slutty Cat is a real thing. Ok so maybe too extreme. Then let’s just look at normal human interaction as a whole. On pretty much any given night in any city across America, heck across the world there are girls spending hours getting prettied up and hitting the clubs/bars in the nicest of outfits so that guys will give them some attention and maybe buy them some drinks. Is this wrong or bad? No it’s called life. It’s called normal human dating. It’s the way the sexes have decided to play this whole game called dating, attraction, and love. Depending on your point of view this could be seen as “preying”. But we have to be honest with each other with the fact that some people on both sides of the table male and female alike take advantage of this. Sure a girl may be a little nicer to a guy at bar for some free drinks or just for some ego boosting attention. But of course we all know what guys are after, we are not subtle and sometimes blatantly dumb about what we’re after. So both sexes play this game and dance this dance, because it’s human behavior.
So to think that Cons and the geek world are insulated from such human behavior is a pretty fantastical thought. Are many of the geek elite some of these socially awkward guys who may not have such great girl skills? And might some of these gals be taking a little bit of advantage and maybe getting a little bit of an ego boost from said guy? Yes, because that is human nature! It may not be our most noble or proudest feature but it does exist. But it has also occurred to me that maybe that is not such a bad thing. You know many of the socially awkward males have countered their geek flaws, with other things, like becoming really smart and fathering their education an intellect. Changing his overall social skill set for better outcomes later in life and maybe hitting the gym. Or if your Bill Gates start a software company and just became really super rich, geek social outcast problem solved.
But maybe this more provocative level of Cos-Play is the geek girl way of compensating for the social outcast part. As we have observed in many recent political debates women have it kind of hard in the world as it is. So maybe getting really nerd smart at something doesn’t quite do it for them. Maybe trough such cos-play these geek girls have harnessed their bodies and sexuality to feel a little bit more empowered. Sexiness and sensuality can be a very empowering thing for a woman and from my own personal
experience if she uses it well can make for one super awesome person. Maybe the super hot sexy outfit empowers said girl and is her way of feeling a little bit better about herself as a whole? Yes maybe some of us guys were picked on by the Jocks in our high school. But maybe that gal, was done the same by the popular girls or the head cheerleader. From what I understand girls can be pretty vicious to one another, more so than guys even. So maybe dressing up as a hot super hero and gaining a little bit of attention from some “safe” guys gives her some of her confidence back, hey more power to her I say. I am just putting out ideas here as a hetero-male I can only guess. While no she may not know all things geek or recite comic book canon like the rest of us, perhaps she too was cut from the same social outcast cloth. As far as “Con Hot” goes, well beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And trust me what you find beautiful, hot, or sexy is not what the next guy or gal finds hot or sexy. Whatever fills your Twinkie I say.
But where I disagree with Tony Harris, and mind you I consider his Face Book post an excited utterance to be taken with a grain of salt. Where I disagree with him is the wide net he cast, the huge generalization, for both geek girls and guys. No, not all geek guys are pathetic awkward virgins. Again going back to my earlier statement of how many in the business as well as consumers have significant others whom they share their lives with and live on successfully in their daily lives. And not all female cos-players are the attention seeking type of girls, perhaps some but not all.
In fact I know and highly respect many awesome geek girls as well as praise many wonderful female creators. And in Tony’s defense so does he. A line in his Face Book statement “I know a few who are actually pretty cool-and BIG Shocker, love and read Comics. So as in all things, they are the exception to the rule” Seems to get glossed over during most retorts.
And you have to hand it to theses gals fake or not. It takes a bit of courage to dress up at the cons, in any outfit. Even if I had a super rocking GQ body I still don’t think I could muster up the courage to dress up in public at a con. I have to hand it to them for getting up the courage that we admire so much within our favorite comic book heroes for doing what they want and doing what makes them happy. I say we credit these girls true geek or not with at least that much. How can we idolize and champion such ideals as courage and individuality within the pages of comic books, yet when we see a little bit of those ideals in real life and right in front of our faces scoff at it and mock it? It just doesn’t fit.
So, who is a real geek and who is not? Maybe we are really fighting the wrong enemy here. Maybe the shots in the geek wars are being fired at the wrong targets. Maybe the guns need to be pointed elsewhere. Perhaps the idea of the fake geek or fake geek girl is coming from somewhere else entirely, rather than from within the geek ranks. Let’s say for example this college humor ad that seems to be on every DC comic book cover out there. You see in my opinion we should not really be fighting ourselves but rather fighting the machine. Geek culture has pretty much been co-opted and sucked into the corporate money machine of America, from Hollywood blockbusters, to the Big Bang Theory, as well as the soon to be King of the Nerds show. From AMC’s Walking Dead to all of Tolkien’s books going Hollywood, to Disney buying out Lucasfilms/Star Wars like so many stocks being traded on the floor of the exchange. Our geek culture has been sucked into the corporate money machine and spit back out at us. And maybe that is really what we are raging against. That this love of all things geek is getting picked at like the remains of our thanksgiving turkey and spit back at everyone in the name of the all mighty dollar.
Where this once close knit subculture was exclusive to the Geek Elite is now open to any and all. Where as in the past we journeyed to the sanctuary of our local comic shop to get our geek fixes; Now any one can walk into a Barnes & Noble, Target, or Wal-Mart slap down a few dollars and become an instant geek. But this is what happens once you hand over you little piece of the world to the corporate machine for 30 pieces of silver. In sports we call these guys the bandwagon guys. But it seems to happen to every little subculture once the machine gets it’s claws into it. About 10 years ago, you couldn’t walk 10 feet without seeing someone wearing an Orange County Choppers or West Coast Choppers shirt. Yet I’m sure half the people wearing them couldn’t tell you the differences between an Indian or Harley motorcycle much less a chopper. I’m sure half the guys out there wearing a Tapout or other type of MMA shirt couldn’t throw a proper punch to save their lives. And the biggest co-opting crime ever committed is rap and hip-hop. A style of music that started out as way for young urban youth to tell the message of their struggling daily lives living in hardened South Central L.A. or New York is now used to sell super cheesy nachos or whatever.
So rather than fight one another as to who is more geek, I say fight the system. Fight the companies like Marvel and DC who put out such ads as the “Fake Geek Girl” within their books. Let’s get more women into the geek world, not only at the creator level but at the management executive level. Anybody notice how it’s the same group of like 10-20 guys running things at the top in the comic book game for the past 20 +years? We’re the consumers and maybe we can take a break from raging about the New 52 or some crappy storyline and take back our geek culture. Maybe we can ask not only for more women in comics, but also better portrayal of other ethnicities, religions, alternative lifestyles, or any other issues that maybe really need to change in the comic book world. Rather than rage about Robert Liefeld’s art, rage about the “Fake Geek Girl” ad that their advertisers are placing in your hands. Rage at the companies who are taking up our passions and turning them back on us to sell cheap crappy merchandise. I say let’s stop firing at each other and let’s start firing back at the machine itself.
To all the geek girls fake or not out there I ask that you have a bit of patience with us men. For years comic books have been heavily based on the male mentality. Let’s be honest it has and still pretty much is based on male ideas and concepts of the world, much of which are based heavily on T&A. (For example the infamous Batman -Catwoman rooftop banging scene at the opening of the New 52.) This streak has always been and probably always will be embedded within Comic Books. But I think we can dial it back a bit and still tell good stories. So women you’ve come a long way since Millie the Model, so please keep fighting, please keep pushing, and please have some patience with us guys. Keep up the great works such as Womanthology and keep up the great support for women creators. The more we get inside the system and within the machine the better it will be down the road for all geeks.
But also maybe reach out to your fellow girls in the geek sisterhood, and maybe ask them to tone it down a bit. Yes we know that Emma Frost mostly runs around in just a thong but as Mr. Harris said is that the image and message of the comic book world that we want to send out to the world? Is that what we want the mainstream and the outside media to solely latch onto? Yes, I agree it’s her body and this is America and she can wear any damn thing she wants, but there is nothing wrong with a bit of self-regulation. Just as I would expect my fellow male geeks to not send out negative images of geeks to the world such as sexually harassing said cos-players. I know I will speak up and expect many of my fellow male geeks to do the same if any such negative behavior pops up within the geek-sphere because that’s not what I want people to think of when they think of comics. Perhaps the girls could do the same with the images and concepts sent out to the mainstream. But above all please keep coming to the cons even if you’re a real geek or not. I like the cos-players. And I think it gives us someone else to talk to and look at rather than the gathering of middle aged overweight bearded guys. Yes I love his work and he can draw Batman super freaking awesome, but he’s still a middle-aged bearded fat guy! Nothing wrong with a little bit of eye candy thrown in there.
To the geek guys: I know, I know it’s hard. But we are going to have to share our toys. We are going to have to let the girls play in our sandbox. For the socially awkward guys I say keep trying. It’s called game and like all games you get better with practice. You have the whole year to sharpen up your game so maybe when the next con rolls around you get a little farther down the field. And really if we say “no you’re a fake geek girl and you don’t belong in our world”, then we’re pretty much doing to them what was done to many of us. We are making them geek outcasts, and not letting them play in our reindeer games as was done to some of us, way back when. And that is just not cool cause then we’re essentially geek bullies here. Let’s not become the things that we fought and hated for so long. Let’s do better by the girls than what was done to us. Let’s offer far more support to their efforts and their works.
To all the geeks both male and female: Lets reach out here, yes we might not all be Jedi Masters of the geek but hey you might find someone cool out there. I am not sure where I read it (Comics Alliance maybe) but someone thought the notion of finding geek love at a con a bit farfetched. You wouldn’t think it what with a marriage proposal video coming out of San Diego every year. I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of maybe finding someone with some of the same interests as me. They may not be a hardcore super geek elite like you but they may share just enough of your interests to get where you’re coming from. And really that’s what a Convention is about, an awesome gathering of people who all share the same interest as you at all levels and from all angles of the geek world.
While the Corporate machine has given us some cool things such great movies, games, shows etc. we as a whole still need to also draw the line as to what we’ll allow them to shove in our faces in the name of the all mighty dollar. Not only influence things with your wallet, but also speak up. You have a voice use damn it. If enough people feel that something just doesn’t sit well or crosses a line, let them know. Support the independent projects and books. Support creator owned projects. Support a change of the status quo in any form. For those non -geeks coming into our world I say welcome them. Like any religious zealot take these heathens and make them fully fledged converts. This past year at Emerald City Con I took two buddies whom have never picked up a comic in their life to the con. Introduced them to many great creators, showed them different styles of art and yes even some of those geek girl cos-players made an impression. They’re hooked now. To the uninitiated I say don’t be a snob to them, rather take them by the hand and lead them to the geek promised land.
Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. Well I say geek friends don’t let friends read crappy comic books. Take the noobs and make sure they get good books in their hands, make sure they check out good art, and make sure they read good stories and not just what the corporate machine tells them is good. And even if they don’t stick around at least hopefully they left with a couple of good stories and maybe some new ideas in their brains. Do the same to even strangers. I can’t count how many times a perfect stranger has spotted a geek shirt I was wearing and has come up to me and asked the inevitable question of “I want to get into comics, where should I start?” This always excites me, because I hopefully get to make sure that they get into good comics. It even gives me the opportunity to direct them to a local small business that needs all the customers it can get, namely my LCS. I say it’s our responsibility to guide them through the geek world. And remember with great power comes great responsibility.
P.S. This editorial piece reflects my personal views and opinions, and mine alone. They are not necessarily the views or opinions of this website or its owners. Once again I consider myself very lucky and grateful that they allow me some public space to drag out my soapbox every now and then.