Saturday, November 17, 2012

Geek Culture For Everyone; or, I am Spartacus!

I spent a good long time this week considering whether I was going to discuss some of this week's controversial geek culture events, and how I was going to. It's hard to stay positive sometimes, and since the whole point of this blog is to remain positive, well... But I decided I wanted to put my two cents into the conversation. I don't know if I'm going to be saying anything that hasn't already been said, and possibly more eloquently than I am going to, but here goes. This isn't about comics in particular, so if you're looking for my usual discussion of a good comic, come back Monday for reviews. But if you want to read something I think might be thoughtful and personal, keep going.

This past week, there were a few people involved in the comics industry that posted things on-line that were misogynist stupidity. I'm not going to name names simply because I don't see the point; who they are isn't as important to what I have to say as that they said these things. Misogyny and fandom isn't new, tragically, and I'm sad to say at least one of the people involved is a creator whose work I have enjoyed. I'm not going to burn all his work I own, but I will not support his future projects, which were things I was looking forward to.  But it's not just misogyny that's a problem in fandom.

I am a self admitted geek. I know labels aren't required, not even necessary, but you know what, I'm proud of what I am. I'm proud I can tell you pretty much anything about Batman and his rogue's gallery, that I've read all the novels in the Star Wars expanded universe, and that I have nearly a whole bookcase dedicated to the works of Neil Gaiman.

What I think many lose sight of is that, in my opinion, geek culture is the culture of inclusion. I won't speak for anyone else, but I was a lonely little kid. I was bullied, and I didn't make friends easily. Finding friends who also read comics, or watched Star Wars over and over, or liked Star Trek: The Next Generation, that made all the difference. And even if they thought Kirk was better than Picard, or that the Hulk was stronger than Superman, that didn't give me or anyone the right to say they weren't part of that culture. We all need each other, and that buy in to the culture is what matters, not exactly what you think or like. There are so many things in the world that divide us, that make us "other." Why do we try to look for reasons to make those we do have something in common with less than what they are? These questions are rhetorical, obviously, because any reasonable person might be able to come up with some reason why someone else might, but not experience true understanding of it. I hope I never understand either.

What that boils down to is that no one has the right to say whether or not someone else is a geek. If you choose to call yourself a geek (or nerd, or fanboy/girl, or an Atlantean for all I care) then that is what you are. And we all should stand by each other for that. Some say geek culture is more mainstream now, but so what? Isn't that what we all wanted, for the things we love to be appreciated by a wider audience? And now that it is, some people whine that, "I was a fan when..."

But the fan who has just watched Batman: The Animated Series or just watched the Nolan Batman movies has as much of a right to call themselves a Batman fan as I do, someone who has dedicated his life to Batmanology. Battlestar Galactica fans are as entitled to their fandom as Stargate fans. Maybe you're a gamer, and that can mean tablestop, PC, or console. More power to you. And maybe you like to spend your time making costumes to wear at cons. Good for you, cosplayers!

One of the rants this week that "tore the internet in half" had to do with female cosplayers who aren't comic book readers but just dress in the costumes. I'm not a cosplayer, and I do have my issues with cosplayers, but that more has to do with big anime weapons strapped to their backs that hit you in the face and leave you scrambling around on the floor of the Javitz Center looking for your glasses like Velma Dinkley from Scooby Doo (no, I'm not speaking from experience, not at all). But if it was just the coolness of the design that inspired someone to dress up, isn't that a great compliment?  Someone just saw the costume and liked it so much that they decided to spend all that time to make the costume. I would be tremendously complimented. Just because they don't know Kitty Pryde first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #129 doesn't mean they can't love the design and find something to love in the character. In my younger days, I got into a discussion with someone on a fantasy lit forum who had Death of the Endless as her avatar. I was shocked to find out she had no idea who the character was; she just saw the image on-line somewhere and thought it looked cool. So we got to talking about Death, Dream, and the whole lot, and pretty soon she had devoured all of Sandman. Does it really matter how she came to it?

I'm the uncle of two wonderful nieces, and have friends with daughters. And you know what, I'd be proud if they decided to embrace  fan culture. A close friend of mine's young daughter was about the cutest little Dalek I've ever seen for Halloween this year, and my 4 year old niece can't get enough Spider-Man cartoons. I introduced my eight year old niece to Bone for birthday, and granted she might be waiting to finish reading that first volume with me when I go to visit next because I do all the great voices, but she loved it. And if that's as far as any of them go into fan culture, great. If they decide they want to dive in more, want to read more comics with Uncle Matt, start buying them on their own, I'll support that too. But I want to think a bunch of Neanderthals won't come down on them for not knowing some obscure bit of trivia. That's unfair though. I'm sure Neanderthals had better things to do, like surviving and hunting mammoth, than to pick on each other. Modern man has too damn much time on his or her hands.

So, before I kind of sum up, I wanted to just shout out to some of the women who make fandom awesome. To Gail Simone, writer of awesome comics, and queen of taking the lemons that people throw around and making sweet, sweet lemonade. To Jill Pantozzi, whose tweets were the thing that made me sit up and take notice here, and who is probably the best comics journalist out there. And to all the comic fans, Star Wars fanatics, and gamer women who have been in my life as friends, significant others, and anything else, especially my wife, Amber, a geek girl in her own right, who supports me in this little endeavor.

I think I've wandered a bit far afield in what I've been writing here, but I think the real point is that geek culture, fan culture, whatever you want to call it started out as a collection of outcasts. People who needed to find something in common, something to believe in, whether it was a guy in red and blue tights, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, or space being the final frontier. Even if you weren't like me, a lonely kid who loved comics, there has to be a time in your life where you didn't feel like you fit in, and I'd wager knowing there were other people out there who liked the things you liked made you feel better? Why would you want to make someone else feel the way you felt? Why don't you want to share your love of all these wonderful things with someone else? When someone says they're a geek, even if you don't share the same geeky interest, why not stand up, and instead of scoffing, say that you are one too? Maybe you'll find something cool that way, and understand a little better the common humanity we all share in our love of all things fantastic.

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