That True Fan Thing: The Disturbing Exclusive Nature of Geek Culture

Cause this shit is NOT okay. This is something I’ve been wanting to post about for awhile and I feel like the GamerGate incident is a good time to bring it up. And I’m not even going to address the hostile sexism that’s been displayed recently. That’s a whole other post for a later day. I want to address something else.

I’m not a gamer. I admit that in this capacity I have no idea what I’m talking about. But I do tend to go for some of the fringier interests. I’ve never been the popular kid; I’m a GIRL whose into SCI-FI. I’m a hardcore WHOVIAN, and ever since seeing Star Wars at age nine, I knew I wanted to be a JEDI. It’s just so hard to find a legitimate Jedi master. If you know one, hook me up.

But there have been some disheartening events as of late, and for someone like me, who is distrustful of and skittish around people at best (I was tortured from 1st-8th grade), these happenings are terrifying.

Often times the people who are into a lot of the same things that I’m into, were in a similar boat when they were kids. They were picked on, they were bullied and called names and harassed. At best, they were ignored. So they know how that feels. It sucks. And I wouldn’t wish the treatment I received on my worst enemy.

I’m trying not to use the terms “geek culture” or “nerd culture” but fine, that’s what society’s calling it. These are a passionate group of people who love films, TV shows, video games, comic books, any number of things. But I sometimes worry that that passion is focused in the wrong direction.

I think it begins by feeling empowered by being part of an exclusive club. Like those cool kids were in. There’s this really cool thing and not a lot of people know about it, but you’re one of the proud few. And then other people hear these proud few talk about this cool thing so much that they check it out, and it spreads and all of a sudden that exclusive club isn’t so exclusive.

As a result there seems to be a certain amount of retaliation and exclusion. People don’t want other people broadening this little slice of heaven. And to an extent, I understand. It is more special when it’s not so well known. And when the fringe is the mainstream, you accidentally become mainstream too. Horror of horrors.

But here’s what bugs me. Certain people in these groups, have constructed a very strict set of guidelines that have to be met for anyone else to be a true fan.

“Oh, you haven’t read the Harry Potter books? You’re not a real fan.”

“You haven’t seen the Flash animation to Douglas Adams’ Shada? Then you must not be a real Whovian.”

Now even if either of these things are true, there’s a massive Potterhead who saw the movies and has yet to experience the euphoria they will soon obtain through reading the books. Or they’re really into Nu Who, but have yet to discover the golden nuggets in over 20 years worth of classic Who serials. That person has discovered something that they’re passionate about, and if you’re having this conversation with them then they were probably trying to connect with you on a personal and human level and you just shut them down. What the fuck?

At the risk of being a hypocrite, I’m going to out myself right now. I have on occasion caught myself doing that “true fan” thing (luckily this usually only happens in my head), but I’ve been trying to be better about it. I discovered that I don’t like that part of myself, and there’s something I can do to correct it. I’m in control of those thoughts, and I don’t want to be having them. When I do, I catch myself and run a little reality check, because I don’t know everything about any of the universes I’m a fan of. It’s damn near impossible to. Yes, yes, trolls, I just ended two sentences in a row with prepositions, but are you hearing me?! Is any of this penetrating that thick skull?!

Instead of shunning that kid who hasn’t read the Harry Potter books, but is talking enthusiastically about their favorite scene in the movie, offer to lend them the first book. Or when that newbie Whovian wants to know who this Sarah Jane chick is that the Doctor’s so enamored with, suggest they watch the Pyramids of Mars. Maybe they’ll turn you down, maybe they aren’t as into it as you, but don’t you owe it to that outsider part of you to try to include them?

When we’re attacking the nerd-defenders like Felicia Day, I think we need to reexamine why we got into these obsessive passions in the first place. Because I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the politics surrounding the game/comic/TV show/film, but rather the game/comic/TV show/film itself. And the very things that should, and in some cases were probably meant to, bring people together, are having divisive barriers built around them.

Let’s all just love what we love.

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About Risa Romano

Writer type thing. I work on stories for kids when I'm on the clock and screenplays quite a bit less for kids when I'm not. I have a blog: rambleonnerdyponderings.wordpress.com I'm also the creator and moderator of the Doctor Who vodcast/podcast A Disused Yeti: https://adisusedyeti.wordpress.com/
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