At London Film and Comic Con last weekend something stood out to me. It wasn’t following Nymphadora Tonks off the tube at Earl’s Court. It wasn’t the seemingly endless array of geek paraphernalia. It wasn’t even people dressed in full 4th Doctor regalia despite the blistering heat. Those things are all the bread and butter of every geek convention I’ve ever been too.
The thing that struck me was the huge variety of people there. I may have cursed the couple with a pushchair but, despite taking up too much room in a space full to bursting, they were indicative of a much larger trend that has been creeping up on those of us who have been going to cons for some time now. Nothing however was a better example of geek mainstreaming than a man who excitedly informed me of his plans to open a geek nightclub.
I hear all too often about the terrible diluting effects of allowing non-traditional fans into the hallowed spaces. I even understand, to a certain degree, where these people are coming from. Frequently ostracised by normal society, geeks have created safe spaces free from judgement (unless you’re a furry), only to discover that the very people they were trying to avoid have apparently co-opted that space for themselves.
Unfortunately this has often resulted in hostility to newbies and a particularly virulent strain of sexism that portrays women as manipulative, vapid, bitches who feed on the souls of defenceless geeky men.
I think this is the wrong attitude.
Sure, a person might only be at Comic Con because they watched Game of Thrones on TV, but instead of shunning people who nothing about Farscape or [insert favourite show/comic/film] we should teach them. With the right attitude you can walk someone from the Avengers films to the wider Marvel-verse and out of the chrysalis emerges a geek where there wasn’t one before. Not everyone will undergo the full transformation of course. They don’t have to but the experience, if positive, may broaden their horizons and start to create a generation of people who will be much more accepting and encouraging toward the next generation of geeky kids.
Believe it or not, these non-geeks might have an awful lot to teach the geek community too. Many of the new fans that are looked on with scorn are women. In fact LFCC felt like the most gender balanced convention I’ve been too (despite my start in Whedon fandoms which had a better gender ratio than most). By sheer weight of numbers these women will help fight the worst excesses of sexism that still plagues the geek community from the nearly-nude, overly sexualised artwork to the dismissive attitude of men and the guys who just wanted to see Danaerys’ boobs.
Beyond misogyny, there are also new ideas and perspectives to be explored that are outside the comparatively narrow experience of the ‘traditional’ white, male geek. Isolation can only breed an incestuous talking shop. Diversity of experience, personality and attitude will set us all free.
This is not to say there isn’t a lot that’s worth protecting about the geek community. I rarely meet such imaginative, inventive and creative people anywhere else and I wouldn’t change that for the world. However if we want to maintain that reputation it is time to truly embrace the diversity of the fandom.
More thoughts on being a geek:
- Embrace Your Geekness Day Is July 13 and Tees For Your Head Offers Geeky T-Shirts to Wear (prweb.com)
- On Being a “Geek” (eyehavealotoffeelings.wordpress.com)
- The evolution of the geek (infographic) (siliconrepublic.com)
- London Film and Comic Cons 2013 – Not just for comic geeks (metro.co.uk)