I have heard a lot on the issue of the fake geek girl, much of it heated, and much of it involving accusations of sexism. Whether or not you believe “the fake geek” is a valid complaint, I believe there is an underlying issue that has yet to be discussed—that some in the geek community are feeling invaded by their “normal” cousins.
If you don’t know, the basis of the “fake geek girl” cultural movement, if you will, is that some in the geek community—mostly boys and men—are upset that extremely pretty, “normal,” and socially-accepted women are showing up to conventions and forums, dressed as these male’s favorite characters, when they don’t know much about the characters. The girls and women are accused of doing this explicitly to exploit geek males’ hormones, social awkwardness, and low social status in order to get attention they could “just as well get elsewhere.”
Clearly, there is sexuality involved as I have described the issue, and hormones cause swifter knee-jerk reactions than most. But it is not just sexism and entitlement that makes this issue resonate, that keeps it on geeks’ mind. I feel this particular brand of knee-jerk revulsion, this anger against “the fake,” is a reaction to changing social norms outside of the convention space that the geek community is having trouble keeping up with.
After all, scars that Sarah Sexy gave you when she beat down your ego just to get a laugh from Gary the Quarterback fade much slower than consumerism evolves. Your scars and Halo’s birth may have happened ten or so years ago, and though both continue to haunt you, in that time since, America has become Sparta, so war games, even simulated, are normal—perhaps even exalted. So when Gary, exhausting his football companions, shows up at the convention—that you went to in order to build yourself up without the fear of ostracism from Gary and Sarah—yeah, whattya gonna do now? You’re going be scared. Fear leads to anger, which leads to irrational lashing out—at whoever is perceived to be weaker. In this case, unfortunately, it seems to be a traditional fall-back: women.
This discrimination is not acceptable; however, simply calling it out is not solving the problem. To do that, we must get to the root and address it. That root is a fear that is consuming our culture, which no one has been willing to talk about until now: mass commercial success may have validated our sheltered community, but it has also propped opened its gates.
With gaming becoming more popular, and comic-based movies hitting theaters everywhere, previously geek-only products have become more visible, and are quickly becoming socially “normal.” Socially and financially “successful” people are now taking a liking to these geek products, and thus, showing up at conventions. There is, understandably, a natural inclination of the geek to look upon this change with despair; the homogeneity of geek communities is disappearing, and with it, the sense of community itself. No longer are cons a place of refuge and unequivocal social inclusion, but a place of theme-park like enjoyment and marketing.
You may not believe in the power of psychology, but having studied it, let me offer this nugget as the internal seed of our geeky troubles: The “normal people” in the world, to use the colloquial term, are the majority. They are the ones in power in society; it is their communal thought that decides “what’s normal” and accepted, and what is pushed out. But, geeks are not used to being normal, nor being accepted. In fact, our identities, and pride, are built upon being outcasts—and not often by choice.
So, when suddenly faced with the label of liking “normal” things and thereby being “normal,” a geek’s mind may lash out—unsure, fearful—because his or her identity, rooted in being socially abnormal, is challenged. Exacerbating the problem, the ones who have caused this upset—Gary and Sarah—have arrived in the clubhouse saying the you can be “one of them” now—or they get to be “one of you.” Such an extreme change in views, and social acceptance, is shocking, to say the least. And when brains are shocked, they short-circuit, and lash out. Thus, an influx of “normal” people feels like an invasion that needs to be fought.
But does it need to be fought?
The call for geek solidarity in the face of immigrant members is counterproductive and tragic. If a minority group reacts with the same prejudice it has endured by a majority group, it is not only the epitome of ignorance, it is a tragedy. The situation of geeks drawing lines in the sand, is, instead, a golden opportunity for bridges to be made.
Are “normal” people who come to cons against gaming and being gamers, against enjoying comics and their stories? Are they against accepting people for who they are? How do you know if you don’t take the time to get to know them? The fact of the matter is, we are still the majority in our home, the convention space. The new people are here whether we like it or not; and whether they stay in the long run or fizzle away as a fad, the only way to deal with this “invasion” to our community effectively is to be a community. It is our responsibility and prerogative to take the new people under our wing and show them what it means to be a geek in our community if we want our world to survive—not to curse them and throw them out, nor to pick a scape-goat and detest that.
The dude that yells at a cosplayer from his truck is not the same “normal” guy that shows up at the convention hall. If someone was being that egregious, the con would throw them out. Gary may still be immature—but he’s the newb here. Maybe you can teach him something about Halo, and how to treat people, and he can teach you how to throw a party.
The newcomer is the guy or girl that plays Halo on the weekends with his or her buds, and is interested in finding out about a premier of a Marvel movie. He or she stands at the gates of this monumental institution, like Comic Con, and asks to him or herself, “What is here? Is there a community for me here?”
Sound familiar, scared geeks?