We're All Fans Here
By Andrea Fort
It’s good to be a fan. Shows like The Big Bang Theory, and events like Comic-Con, are taking our little slice of pop culture and propelling it from subculture to media darling. We are a group that has found comfort in sharing each other’s eccentricities; we are bound by our inability to fit in with what many consider “normal.” But recently, there’s been a disturbance in the Force, and the fan community has seen some dark days. From Joe Peacock’s scathing words and attempt to define female nerds, to the violent threats against Anita Sarkeesian as she examines the roles of women in video games, and the shockingly sad and horrifyingly tragic events of Aurora, Colorado, it seems we are falling apart.
Joe Peacock writes for CNN’s Geek Out, and covers all things nerdy. While it is amazing to see such a blog linked to such a high- profile news outlet, his recent blog “Booth Babes Need Not Apply” leaves controversy in its wake. He argues that the paid to attend booth babes are “fake geeks”, and they are not the only ones. According to Peacock, there are many women with no interest in fan culture who costume, or dress to attract the attention of men they would normally ignore, thereby inflating their own egos. Peacock condemns women like Olivia Munn as “a pox on our culture” as their presence suggests that they believe that the men at the convention will slobber over them. While this insinuation, if true, is insulting, there is greater insult in Peacock’s argument; these women may exist, but why must we qualify them? Peacock concedes that not all women who attend conventions are attention-seeking and vapid. In fact, he extols the many virtues of geek girls such as Felicia Day; but by condemning those who are seeking something, he is condemning all. Who is he to say that these ladies can’t pick up a comic, or a controller? They may fall in love with one of the characters or stories featured at the convention, and so become part of the culture themselves. Yes, this is idealist, but placing restrictions on attendance and casting judgement removes the entire purpose of conventions in the first place. After all, are they not a place to meet new people and share interests without fear of discrimination?
Olivia Munn as Princess Leia
It is just this type of discrimination that plagues Anita Sarkeesian. She is a feminist critic of pop- culture and media who hosts the video blog Feminist Frequency on YouTube. Sarkeesian is a fan herself, and as a fan, she advocates an active and critical approach to all media. Recently, she held a Kickstarter campaign to fund a video series examining female tropes in video games, and was met with extreme hostility; the Kickstarter was viciously attacked. She received death threats, threats of rape, and racial abuse on her blog and YouTube pages. There was even a game created that allowed the player to beat Sarkeesian, all because she sought to open a dialogue. All of which occurred before she had even produced a single video—the outcry came at the mere suggestion that these videos would be made. How can fans act out so strongly against one of their own, when they are the ones who analyse every second of their favourite Farscape episodes? There are problematic depictions of both genders, and theses tropes are not restricted to genre media. We should celebrate those fans that are willing to step back and examine what we watch, not silence anyone who suggests that our culture is imperfect.
Then sometimes we watch too closely. The world was fascinated by the horrific shootings that took place at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. The tragic event left 12 killed and 58 wounded and has gained greater notoriety then the film itself. We cannot discount or minimize the tragedy of what happened, but we should not glorify it either. The accused, James Holmes, is everywhere in the media. News casts are constantly showing the same image of him, looking stunned in court beneath his shocking red mop of hair. They report that he is a Batman fan, that he told the police that he was the Joker, that Batman paraphernalia was found in his apartment. By observing all of this, we are glorifying him. There were Batman fans who were afraid to see the film after hearing the news, but there is no need for fear, nor is there any need to pinpoint him as a fan. This is a man who allegedly committed a horrendous crime, whatever the reason, and is now facing the consequences. Contrary to the reporting of the major news networks, fandom does not factor in; we should rally as a community to enjoy the things we love. This tragic event should be recognized, its victims remembered and families aided, but there is no room for the voices that tell us that enjoying a story is wrong. We have to ignore those who would vilify our passions.
Batman and Bain from The Dark Knight Rises
Being a fan is about being passionate, it’s about getting excited, and that is the commonality that binds us. As a community, we must stand up to bullies who wish to label, qualify, and divide. We have to show everyone, even non-nerds, the understanding we show each other. If we don’t, we are no better than them. We have created and participate in a community so that we can enjoy comics, movies and everything else without fear of judgement, so why are we judging one another? Why are we turning against our would-be friends because we disagree? If someone says something or does something not to our liking, we have options other than slander and glorification; we can open a rational dialogue or we can ignore them. There is enough room in fandom for everyone’s opinion, and we are all fans here.