Truly, we live in a geek renaissance.
Not only is it cool to read comics, play video games, and follow television series with bated breath, but all those things are absolutely in vogue. No longer do kids get shunned for being into roleplaying games. No longer are adults side-eyed for reading thick fantasy and sci fi novels. The most successful movies are superhero flicks; the best received television shows are based on books like Game of Thrones, and new game releases–be it video, board, or book–dominate conversation. Being nerdy, geeky, dorky is all the rage.
And on top of all those amazing things, we also have an influx of reboots, re-releases, remakes, and sequels that some thought would never actually come to fruition: Mad Max: Fury Road, another season of X-Files, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Twin Peaks (maybe), Baldur’s Gate: Seige of Dragonspear, Ash vs. Evil Dead, another Ghostbusters film…
The best thing of all, is all these sequels and reboots and recreations are, on the whole, surprisingly good. Really, really good.
So why are nerds so critical of them?
The truth is, it’s not simply nerds who are being so critical of these, it’s primarily male nerds (but not all men).
It was men who stated they would boycott Mad Max: Fury Road because a female character was featured just as prominently as the titular hero.
It was men who most actively reviled Star Wars: The Force Awakens for two of its three lead characters not being white men.
It was men who complained that the inclusion of a subtly transgender character in the newest Baldur’s Gate game was “political correctness,” “LGBT tokenism,” and “SJW pandering,” and subsequently attempted to flood the game with negative reviews and dox a one of the game’s writers.
It was men who have been most verbal about panning the Ghostbusters trailer, with their Youtube “dislikes” leading to the video being the “most disliked trailer of all time.”
(It’s also a man who says he won’t review–or see–Ghostbusters because…it won’t star the original cast? Because it “isn’t appropriate”? Because it has a majority female cast? Because it’s simply called “Ghostbusters”?)
I really wanted to hate this Cinemassacre GHOSTBUSTERS review but I’m such a fan of noisy, thick-saliva swallowing it won my heart.
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 17, 2016
These can’t all be a coincidence.
There’s an inherent thread of sexism tying all these “critiques” together.
This attitude of gatekeeping aimed at female and LGBTQ+ fans is nothing new, but since the rise of Gamergate, and the subsequent “Sad/Sick Puppies,” on social media, people who engage in that sort of discourse, regardless of gender, have become more courageous about speaking out.
The truth of the matter is many of these commentators are simply seeking to gain acknowledgement through ruffling feathers. These same people are often the ones to resort the death and rape threats when someone makes a less-than-positive comment about media they like, or even chooses simply to interpret a story element differently than they would. In some cases, these people will even go so far as to create multiple social media accounts on a single platform with the express intent to harass people who disagree with them.
There’s an inherent sense of privilege, whether it’s denied or acknowledge, that all men (but especially white men) have that makes them feel they are–or should be–the target audience for media. All media. In a lot of cases, companies encourage this attitude, like DC Comics’ skewed readership survey, used to affirm their choice of target audience (men 18-37), while other companies don’t actively dissuade it (think Marvel and Disney’s non-response to its lack of female toys back when Avengers: Age of Ultron came out).
New things, even when they are based on “nerd canon” standards, will always face negative commentary, but with the pervasiveness and anonymity of social media, negative comments can quickly turn down darker paths. Though it may be a minority voicing their dislike, it is often a verbal minority, and negative comments are more “news worthy” than positive ones.
When asked about the reception of the Ghostbusters trailer, director Paul Feig said, “Geek culture is home to some of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met in my life.”
He later clarified his comments to CBR, ending the interview with a celebration of what it truly means to be a geek: “the bullies are not the norm and I would dare say they are not even true geeks. They are the micro-minority. God bless the true geeks of the world, and here’s to taking our community back from the bullies.”
It’s a beautiful thing that men are no longer the only audience when it comes to geek media. Now if only everyone could embrace that.