Welcome to Part 2 of the Fake Geek Girl discussion. Last week, I explained the Fake Geek Girl phenomenon and the pressing problems of prejudice and sexual harassment associated with the Fake Geek Girl perception. Today I want to conclude the Fake Geek Girl discussion with the less obvious but more perilous issue of dehumanization.
So what is dehumanization? Well, to put it bluntly, dehumanization is a mutated form of devaluation. As I said in my previous post, dehumanization is the destructive form of mental and social blindness behind the societal thorns of sexual-harassment, gender-bias, and general prejudice. When you or I see others as less human and therefore less valuable than ourselves, we blind ourselves to the true beauty of that person. Likewise if we dehumanize ourselves, we blind ourselves to our own true worth. The “Fake Geek Girl” is one very prominent example of this blindness, but it is only a symptom of the root cause.
When one person devalues another, he or she usually excludes the offending person outside his or her own social circle. The excluded person then does one of three things: she will either try to reestablish a relationship with the person shunning her or she will establish a relationship with another person or she will remain alone. Because we humans are social creatures, almost all of us will continue to try either reestablishing relationships or establishing new relationships throughout our lives. Almost all of us also exclude others from our social groups based on our personal evaluations of others’ compatibility with our own set of values, morals, and preferences.
There are many reasons why we devalue each other. For example, I might perceive another person as too old or too young to fit into my social group. Someone may not like the same forms of entertainment that I do. They may follow a completely different set of religious or moral principles than I. They may be physically weak, disabled, or otherwise unattractive in some way to me. And the list of examples continues.
So how does the human habit of devaluation and the subsequent problem of dehumanization relate to the geek community? Well, to answer that, let us look at the history of geeks. Since its beginnings in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, the geek community has mainly been a group of people would rather immerse themselves in the subcultures of science fiction, fantasy, and horror rather than in more mainstream entertainment. This love of the “weird” over the “normal”, led many other people to devalue, dehumanize, and marginalize these citizens. Indeed many science fiction genre books were originally sold as novelty items in porn shops despite having little or no sex in them at all. Because geeks have historically been sequestered from most of mainstream society, the geek community as a whole has been very open and welcoming toward newcomers. However, within the last 10-20 years, that has begun to change.
The geek community has ballooned in size in recent years thanks to the increased popularity of science fiction and fantasy genre movies and TV shows such as Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Futurama, and Firefly. Add to that rapid expansion the widening interest in video games, anime, and fantasy books such as the Harry Potter and the Twilight book series and the members of a once vibrant community of “outsiders” have suddenly found themselves thrust screaming and kicking into the mainstream. Consequently this oversized community has ceased to be held together by the common glue of “It’s us verses the world” and instead has begun splintering into factions of “true geeks” versus “fake geeks”. Of course the criteria for “true geeks” varies so widely that it is next to impossible to discover where the boundaries between true and fake lies.
Take me for example. I am not considered “geek enough” by certain members of the gaming community because I do not play serious games like first person shooters (FPS) or massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG). However, I still consider myself a gamer because I love and regularly play games like: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Portal, Portal 2, Minecraft, Sims, Eufloria, Mahjong, Cubis, and Spider Solitaire. And, while I have no interest in personally playing the Mass Effect series, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching my husband play through all three games’ story lines. My spouse is certainly a more active gamer than me because he devotes more time to the hobby than I do. But does that make me less of a gamer? Not remotely.
The same could be said about my hobbies of reading, writing, or anything else. I may not have written and published over 20 best-selling novels, but I am still a writer. Does my current publishing count of one devotional, two fantasy short stories, 20 by-lined news articles, and 1000 ghostwritten market reports make me more of an author than someone who has published a single story? No. At the end of the day, both of us can be honestly introduced as authors. The only difference is that I can claim more experience in certain areas than my colleague…for now.
Never has this problem of devaluation-based splintering been more apparent than during the AggieCon 44 “Fake Geek Girl” discussion panel. At one point in the discussion, Dr. Nerdlove commented on the fact that the Twilight Saga book series by Stephanie Meyers had brought a lot of attention to vampire mythology among its fans. At the mere mention of Twilight fans, there was a collective groan among most members of the audience. When the audience recoiled, Dr. Nerdlove warned them not to do so because, as he explained, “These are the people you need to recruit to become the next generation of geeks.”
It worries me that most people in the audience seemed to easily dismiss his statement. Such acts of aversion and dismissal seem to show that geeks are taking their aversion to the Twilight series and automatically transferring that animosity to the Twilight fans themselves. This is the exact thing that so many panel attendees were angry about geek men doing to cosplayers thanks to their aversion to Booth Babes (see The Fake Geek Girl, Part 1 for that discussion).
Admittedly, I sympathize with people who dislike the Twilight Saga. I personally found the books’ writing style prosaic, the themes confused, the characters shallow, and the protagonist of Bella to be a weak-willed and petulant doormat. That being said, I believe that it is my job as a reader, an author, and an all-around geek to make sure that a Twilight fan feels welcome around me. It is not my job as a geek to rake him or her over the proverbial coals for liking the book series; however, it is my job to introduce him to books like Twilight that are better written and truer to historical legends. Perhaps after reading Twilight, a fan becomes genuinely interested in traditional vampire lore. At that point, I can expose him to Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the historical accounts of Count Dracula’s real life inspiration, Vlad the Impaler. Perhaps I can encourage him to read the Vampire Hunter D series by Hideyuki Kikuchi, the Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine, or even my own Metamorphosis series. These works are far darker than the sparkly Twilight series, but they are also far more accurate and well-written depictions of vampires and their relationships with humans.
If we well-educated geeks can gently introduce the uninitiated to well-told stories through books, games, movies, and TV series, we will have the opportunity to grow our community into a thriving and welcoming environment. Getting individuals interested in a story that is well-told is the surest way to overcome the social barriers that otherwise divide us as people. If we can do that, then we just might survive the thrust of our community into the center spotlight.
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