Monday, September 9, 2013

Nerd Rage Syndrome

Alright followers of the Frog God, it's time I finally tackle this monstrosity. 

"Fake geeks, nerd rage, and general idiocy"

It seems that this undercurrent in the "geek community" has always been swirling beneath us, but the last six months seems to have brought this subject to a head.  Articles, blog posts, even Youtube videos of women claiming they're being slighted by the community at large because they're a girl/lady/woman, or worse yet, a cosplayer to boot!

Now, let's get this all squared away before I go wild on this like a drunken bear on a motorcycle, if someone comes up to a woman and claims their 20+ years of comic knowledge is invalid simply because they're female, that person is a complete idiot.  If someone claims that girls can't play rpgs/video games/boardgames/etc because of the lack of a Y chromosome, they're jerks.  If they say derogatory comments to a cosplayer based entirely on looks, they're probably a misogynistic bastard.  Worst case, these people are all assholes, and to reverse the saying, Assholes are like opinions, everyone has one, and we usually don't want to see or hear any of them.

If you don't have even indirect proof that any of those scenarios apply to you and you're still feeling slighted?

Welcome to club, my friend.

A quick visit on Google defines "Nerd Rage" as taking something entirely too seriously, and seems the most references are towards multiplayer online console games like HALO.   I'm going to pare down the criteria for that term a bit, as despite a lively nerd demographic, the average man on the street would lump most popular first person shooters into the same same "mainstream" video game category as Madden. 

Nerd Rage Syndrome has been around since the first two over-educated social outcasts met. It's a game of one-ups-manship with none of the guidelines of societal mores.

Lets put it another way, anyone can be the Sheldon of the group, it just depends on the construction of said group.

The geek/nerd/dork community (Yes, I know there's a vast difference between the three, but for this, the average person doesn't care about them.  In their eyes, you're a dork.  Just ask my wife.) might have a few larger than life personalities, but it's populated by introverts who cling to their sense of self harder than any member of the Raider Nation who dresses up like an extra from The Road Warrior.   It does not matter if their focus is on Star Wars, some particular style of manga/anime, or the 15mm Napoleonics, any affront to the sanctity of this comfort zone will not be dealt with diplomatically.    Why not?  Have you seen the social skills of the geek community?  While most of us can deal with day to day interactions, there is a higher than normal number of socially maladjusted people in our hobbies, and I'm not even including the people with legitimate physiological reasons. 

So, if the "normal" people are concerned about a new demographic affecting the hobby (i.e. These silly fantasy creatures and games infiltrating our Medieval Wargaming Club,  Cardfloppers taking over a role-players, Goths in general... Sorry it's true), and they might have a word of two with this entity, imagine our socially awkward brethren

Place this on a large scale, such as even old school GenCons in Milwakuee, and it's a recipe for some terse situtions.

Now let's add the largest demographic to sweep into our little niche...


Yes, yes, yes, women have been part of the culture from the very beginning, but they've been under-represented and usually fell into three neat, if horribly stereotypical categories:

1.  The Nerdy Girl:  Just replace the Y chromosome with an extra X. 
2.  The Hot Girl:  At the table, we have a case of "One of these things is DEFINITELY not like the other." Be it a hot girlfriend, sister, cousin, etc, she can be a newbie, a casual fan, well-groomed nerd in disguise or (internet hate begin...NOW) loving the attention of a table of drooling nerds.  Sorry people, that one I've seen more confirmed cases of than confirmed all 18 's when someone's creating a character.  They're out there, usually moving from the geek flavor of the week.  The classic Vampire storylines in KODT illustrate the issue well, with just enough hyperbole to make you laugh.
3.  The Booth Babe:  There was a time that the hottest girls at a convention were guaranteed to be wanna-be models who were dressed in skimpy clothing to attact attention to the sales table.  They catered to the base desires of the teenage mindset still stuck into a large number of the adult gamers at the con, and tended to alienate a number of female attendees, much less mudane parents, and people with more conservative attitudes. Back in the day, these ladies were largely there to collect a paycheck and had little experience, if any, with the game they were hawking.

Now, the success of "geek" properties is a double edged sword.  More success means more future products, but it also means more mainstream acceptance.  And you know who are part of the mainstream?  Women.  With a larger number of women getting into the community, however the means, those stereotypes get pushed away by "real" women.  We can know see the full diversity between the proud nerdy girls, and the hot gamer girl. 

Again, a number of people assume that since they didn't seem them at ComiCon in '03 or Origins in '98, these women aren't "veterans" of the hobby, paid their dues, etc.  While it's short-sighted, this is the attitude that pervades every social group I can imagine, it's just more noticable when the (supposed) incoming group is so large.  It's the simple case of taking one's lumps, "razzing", so to speak.  It's just when a new ingredient is added to the homogenous group that we notice the problem.   Throwing an insult to a Vampire LARPer isn't cool, but the LARPer can usually respond with an equal, if not greater one in return. If that's the issue, then ladies, welcome to the fold (and I've seen plenty of women on both ends of that equation.)

 Focus on the Vampire LARPer being a woman?   Not cool. 

Guys need to understand that for all our silly little hobbies to flourish, we need to be inclusive, and that even includes... (some form) of cosplay.

My opinions aside (at least costuming in LARPing has a use), cosplay is evolving from a cottage industry into it's own solid arm of geekdom.   Gone are the days when the outfits are a mere step above some Halloween costume from party city.  A LOT of people are spending considerable time and money on their costumes. 

At larger conventions to upper tier of cosplay have their own tables, and some are even the guest of honor.  This confuses me to some extent, but then again, they do sell professional photographs/posters/etc.  I'm just wondering who buys the stuff, fans of their craft, grown men with adolescent fantasies (and not the type that was in Amazing Fantasy #15), or the same crowd who trivializes other cosplay females because their rivets are 16mm off from the original design, thus making theirs inferior... thus she's a stupid girl who knows nothing?  

I going to admit that I've tried to follow some of the female cosplayers, and I get ridiculously mixed messages.  Despite the fact that the female geek manifesto claims that "I do not not have to prove my geek cred to anyone,"  I see a lot of veiled attempts at promoting their geekiness just for their own credibility.  They only way it could feel more forced was it the items were located in their online store (and sometimes... they are). 

Perhaps the one thing that I stumble over is the "professional cosplayer." To me, costuming should be an accessory to the activity, not the full activity itself.  Dressing up like a drow in a LARP at some remote campsite is acceptable because it aids in the activity, but dressing up like the Stay-Puft Marshmellow Man as a paying attendee at a con boggles my mind, so it's got to confuse others who are bit less...tactful than I am. 

The second area of the professional cosplayer that gets derision is the fact that some of them like geek-genre models.  What is this?

They're hot as hell.  Even if their normal alter ego is a Nerdy Girl #1, professional make-up, lighting, costuming, and photography should turn the heads of most men (and some women) on the planet.  And a lot of the cosplayers start higher on my three tier stereotype list.

Empowered Hot girl + socially awkward geek = intimidated geek who lashes out.  And while "Why is there even cosplay at this event?" can be a valid question, this advances to hurtful comments far too easy.

Now, I've had a LOT of hunches that some of these people (male/female) are more attention seekers who realized some mundane level enjoyment of Doctor Who or other geek favorite could turn into a lot of time as the center of attention, but you know what?  Every other facet of society has the same type of people.  Geekdom has never been so ostracized from society that we don't emulate it.
Here's my problem with geekdom:

Both sides here are absolutely right.

This woman decided to cosplayers one of the two dozen itrrations of Joker's Daughter, a character comic writers insist on bringing back over and over again since the 70's and most have failed with barely a whimper.  There's a good chance that outside of a DC press day, a majority of people at the even could not tell you who she was portraying, outside of a female Joker in a Willy Wonka hat.  I can't believe she's such a fan of the character, the costume is elaborate, steampunkish, and so busy that peole can't complain about the bosom. (Seriously, the first thing I noticed were the goggles.)
Good God, I'm in my own version of full out Nerd Rage, damn it.  See, it's just that easy.

*erases full blown rant on the DC Universe, and Affleck/Damon Batman movie, and a reference to the Elektra movie... seriously, you guys thought Daredevil was horrible... oh wait, that's why I'm erasing this*

After all of this ranting and testifying to the mountain top on this blog (which is my own expession of ME ME ME ME ME ME! afterall), remember this.

No matter how much pop culture, the media, and society claims to break down the walls of bigotry and general, people are naturally judgemental. There's a reason why that Jesus needed to say "Don't judge, lest you be judged."   

We will find whatever flaws (real or imagined) in others whenever we can, no matter how hard we try.  Hell, we judge ourselves, sometimes even a bit too harsh.   If we admit that we are imperfect beings, let's judge people on their actions rather than characteristics that we can't always control. In return, accept that people won't judge us as we actually are, and remember the true Golden Rule:

Sometimes people are idiots.

I am a people.

Ergo, I could be an idiot.

Try not be an idiot. 
Time to go back to wargaming and gnomes...

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