Ok everyone, it’s nostalgia time with Sean. Everyone, please grab your reading glasses and follow along. No, no.. um.. the ones with the rose-tint. Yes, those. Now, for the purpose of this purpose of the post, I’m going to say the word ‘nerd’ quite a bit. I mean it to refer to anyone sharing a common lifestyle or interest that involves gaming, an appreciation for sci-fi and/or fantasy and just generally living in a world of imagination and intellectualism. Ok, everyone ready? Let’s begin.
I remember my first couple of years in college fondly. I grew up in a wonderful, supporting, loving home. My parents loved each other and were happy and we lived a truly normal Middle Class life in a suburban town fed by a huge auto plant and an ever larger Air Force base. But yes, we were very Middle Class. Capital ‘M’; capital ‘C’. Why do I point that out? Is that bad? No, never. The point is only that I never really knew much beyond the world of my family and close friends. I was a band geek, so I got my fair share of bullying and low social order issues, but on the whole, it wasn’t the lowest strata I could have been in and so life wasn’t horrible. I was normal, never really exposed to strife or suffering and therefore never exposed to other ideas or other lifestyles.
My first two years in college were an eye opener. I truly met people from other cultures and ethnicities. I learned about my own sexuality as well as the myriad other sexualities out there. I learned more about politics and society in my first year of college than I had the preceding seventeen years of my life. It was simply a time of awakening, of realizing there is more to life than simply existing. I found things to believe in.
I grew up a huge Star Wars fan but had never really gotten into Star Trek, even though I had seen some of the original Star trek series and a few of the movies. However, in the Honors Dorm, The Next Generation ruled supreme and Sunday night viewing was the must-attend event in that building of nerds, geeks, dreamers and intellectuals.
Star Trek: The Next Generation was about as multi-cultural and progressive as you could get. If there was a social issue that existed at that time in history, TNG tackled it. So, as I embraced the nerd lifestyle in my early twenties, TNG truly instilled in me what I thought were core values of the nerd culture: progressive attitudes, hope for a better future, the equality and necessity of a multitude of voices and ideas and the ideal that we are stronger by including people and ideas rather than excluding them.
Flash-forward twenty years…
Today’s ‘nerd’ is nothing like the nerds of my day. We have come into our own power. We are a definite and powerful market and societal force. Our mistakes make the front page news and our passions serve as the template that everyone from advertisers to movie producers fall over themselves to satisfy. We have taken the words ‘nerd’ and ‘geek’ and turned them on their ear, appropriating and redefining them. The outcasts have become the overlords.
And that last bit is more truth than fiction. We’ve lost something in the journey. We’ve forsaken all of our ideals and forgotten all of our tribulations in our quest to become mainstream. We’ve taken every bit of prejudice and bigotry that was once leveled against us and turned it upon others. We’ve embraced a radically conservative view of change in the gaming and sci-fi world that mirrors the close-mindedness of the most right-wing conservative out there. We’ve become the Tea Party of Nerd-dom. Think that I’m wrong? Read on.
POINT 1: Anita Sarkeesian enraged the gaming geek culture a few years back by having the unmitigated gall to suggest that maybe, just maybe, we treat women in games with a little less respect than we probably should. The skimpy metal bikini in the fantasy genre is so pervasive it is recognized as a ridiculous and outdated trope, yet we still gleefulyl embrace it with a snicker and not-so-subtle groin-tug. When Anita suggested that approaching women in games with more respect and equality, she was greeted with a resounding ‘f*uck you’ by an outspoken percentage of men (well, more likely man-children) in the form of death threats, rape threats, and outright criminal acts. All she really suggested was that we could do better. She challenged the status quo and many nerds hated her for it.
As an example of what she meant:
This is a male sniper in a video game. He is wearing the traditional uniform that most snipers for the military wear (at least when not in an urban area): the ghillie suit. It covers every inch of their bodies and is layered with small strips of colored fabric to simulate foliage and disguise the sniper. It is necessary to keep the sniper hidden and to protect against things that might bother a sniper while they line up a shot. So, male sniper = ghillie suit, full coverage.
Now, this is Quiet. She is a female sniper from Metal Gear Solid V, circa 2015. She is wearing a bikini, some torn sheer stockings, a lot of belts and damn little else. She is not wearing full-body coverage. She will be easily spotted and shot. Poor Quiet. Why is she wearing a bikini to go a’sniping? Well, the actual answer is because she’s a woman and has boobs and boys love them boobies, but Hideo Kojima says it’s not that and it’s not misogynistic; it’s because she has a rare condition and can’t speak or breath through her mouth and she can only respire through her skin so she has to have as much skin exposed as possible! Of course, its not because she has a nice rack, no, not at all! *pant*. Which naturally explains why one version of her figurine has silicone implants in her breasts, so they are squeezable. For.. breathing? You can say what you want but all that the rest of the civilized gaming culture hears is *blargleblargle* male gamers are pigs. So, the final count is woman sniper = bikini and torn hosiery, large exposed bosom. This isn’t equality of gender in games. It’s sanctioned wank material. Yet, try telling that to a vast percentage of nerds and reap the flame storm!
POINT 2: In 2014, game developer Zoe Quinn had the audacity to possess a vagina that she occasionally used for pleasure and to create a video game. Her bitter ex-boyfriend took to Twitter and accused her of being a hack and of sleeping with a game journalist to receive a favorable review (it should be noted that said journalist never reviewed her game; I have no idea about whether they slept together, but its irrelevant to her skill as a developer). The creeping hordes of neo-con nerd-roaches scurried from their dark and damp burrows beneath their parent’s houses and set about reviling her, defaming her and doing the same damn thing they did to Ms. Sarkeesian: threats of violence, rape and death. (Nerds-guys: listen… rape is not funny and it’s not a valid strategy in an debate. No matter what you might think, you are a monster if you threaten a woman like that. That is all.)
Our culture has forsaken a view of embracing what is different, of challenging our ideals and our perceptions, of wanting to build a better world to live in and simply embraced the status quo. Our culture seems to like to personify itself the same mold as Congress: largely white and predominantly male. Want something different? F*CK YOU. F*CK YOU. DIAF!!!!! (Again guys, hoping someone dies consumed in flames is just not cool. It’s abominable. Grow up.)
POINT 3: This brings me to the new controversy du jour. Writer (now you see how this is a writing post after all?) Chuck Wendig released his latest novel -and The Force Awakens prelude- Star Wars: Aftermath. In his novel, Chuck Wendig details the adventures of plucky hero Sinjir Rath Velus during the tumultuous days following the destruction of the second Death Star. It is noticeable in that it is one of the new canon books in the new Disney-Star Wars universe. Oh, and the character is OMG gay.
Needless to say, nerds are losing their shit over this. How dare they put their gay in our Star Wars?! Our galactic heroes are men, straight men! And damsel princesses! That look good in a metal bikini. The yammering cockroaches have emerged again and are tied in knots that one of of the new heroes in the canon likes boys more than girls. What’s odd is that many authors have already introduced the notion of homosexuality before in the Star Wars extended universe and no one squacked in the least. The difference: that character was a lesbian and boys love lesbians too – twice the boobs!
Star Wars loses nothing from having a gay male protagonist. Our heroes don’t always have to be hetero. Or white. Or male. Leia was a pretty good heroine when they didn’t have her in that metal bikini. Our heroes can be strong and courageous and gay and it doesn’t diminish your lives in any meaningful way. It also doesn’t diminish the Star Wars brand one bit.
As a writer, I want the freedom to make challenging fiction. I want to be judged on how well I write, whether my stories are compelling, my style is engaging, my prose is artful. good literature needs an open mind to be appreciated. You don’t have to agree with what a writer says, but you have to be willing to listen and to think. If you go into a novel with a bigoted, hateful mind, then you are limiting the message that the writer can impart. You’ll be too busy being offended to truly listen and try to understand. I want to give my readers a story that hopefully challenges their expectations and assumptions, that makes them think about something more than airships fighting amongst the clouds and swashbuckling heroes and heroines) doing their swashbuckling activities. By bringing all this crap into a story, you’re coloring everything that is said and done in the book, everything that the writer intended. You invent your own narrative for what goes on. You betray the covenant between writer and reader and you sure the hell violate your self-idealized role as a nerd, someone that is supposedly open-minded and accepting.
What bothers me most about this is that people who are in outrage about this like to say they are ‘protecting the integrity of Star Wars’ but that’s just an excuse to justify their bigotry. They claim to adore their franchises so much but if that is true, then why are they defending any sort of prejudice or hatred? Star Wars is about fighting against tyranny and bigotry. Why would you mimic the franchise’s biggest bad guys in your own life? How has being a nerd lost its desire for a better, more accepting world? Why are we becoming less than we could be? When did hatred trump hope? You can cry all you want about ‘the progressive liberal agenda’ or ‘feminazis’ or whatever group of people seeking equality and respect that you currently hate. But you’ve lost your nerd cred. You no longer are the hopeful, dreaming underdog. You’re just the bitter, misogynist (or bigot) that is losing your grasp on your pastime. I think Chuck Wendig said it best:
“[I]f you’re upset because I put gay characters and a gay protagonist in the book, I got nothing for you. Sorry, you squawking saurian — meteor’s coming. And it’s a fabulously gay Nyan Cat meteor with a rainbow trailing behind it and your mode of thought will be extinct. You’re not the Rebel Alliance. You’re not the good guys. You’re the fucking Empire, man. You’re the shitty, oppressive, totalitarian Empire. If you can imagine a world where Luke Skywalker would be irritated that there were gay people around him, you completely missed the point of Star Wars. It’s like trying to picture Jesus kicking lepers in the throat instead of curing them. Stop being the Empire. Join the Rebel Alliance. We have love and inclusion and great music and cute droids.
(By the way, the book also has an older woman, a mother, rescuing a man. So if that bothers you, you might wanna find a bunker for hunkering down. And I dunno if you noticed, but the three new protagonists of the movie consist of a woman, a black man, a Latino man. The bad guys all look like white guys, too. So many meteors. So little time to squawk at them.)“
You’re not heroes. You’re just assholes. Please go away. Let the real nerds come out to play.