After a lot of social media chatter on Paul Blewitt and Lucy Cokes’ fake geek girls piece last week, I wanted to explain why I don’t think there are any fake geeks. Now, I’ve previously looked at the issues of geek credentials and geek gate keeping over on an old blog of mine and so I plan to expand upon the thoughts and ideas I originally tried to convey in that piece of writing.
I’ve never met a fake geek
I’ve met people who show varying levels (and that’s subjective of me to use that word) of interest in geek culture and its myriad of texts, but no one who was trying to fake a passing interest in a comic, videogame or film for the sake of some goal. Even when I’ve seen women and girls trying to get the attention of those who define themselves as geeks, because they’re interested in them on a physical and/or romantic level: those girls and women have made an attempt to understand that which their desired partner finds so interesting. And I’ve seen the same happen, though less frequently, with boys and men who are interested in girls and women who define themselves as geeks.
In all the times I’ve visited conventions, I’ve not met anyone who has pretended to be a geek. You could try to argue to me that a great number of scantily clad female cosplayers are just so dressed in order to pick-up guys (or gals), but I know actually they’re only emulating the extremely risqué designs of their chosen character. I know that it takes a lot of devotion to cosplay and to me devotion to what interests you is more important than having facts and figures about it stored in your head when it comes to being a fan of stuff that’s considered geeky.
And going back to this “knowledge” aspect that’s creeping in: I’ve only ever seen media representations of people who try to learn enough about a thing in order to make a move on someone. I’ve never seen this happen in real life in a way that I would consider fake. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and TV is not reality and so on.
Ah, but what about those pics?
What, the ones with women posing with game controllers while wearing hardly any clothes? Well, if I’m to consider my statement that there no fakes in this context, I would say they’re either pics taken privately, shared privately and then exploited by someone who shares it in the public domain or… they’re soft core porno images that someone has lifted from either a professional site or an amateur site. In the past week (and don’t make me link to it) a publisher has started up just that sort of magazine.
But how are they not fake geeks? It’s the context. They don’t outright claim they are geeks (and in relation to that particular magazine, words have been put on a page by an editor), we just assume they are due to the props that are usually involved in this images. Yet consider this: if you see a picture of a woman in a Playboy style bunny outfit or an air hostess outfit designed in a particular way – you don’t assume she’s really a bunny or an air hostess. There’s a fiction that’s already been established by the visual context.
Why are we worried about fakes?
Probably for reasons that are very similar to the whole Jonathan Ross/Huge Awards thing that kicked off earlier this year. The geek community still tends to be overly protective of itself: constantly worried by perceived attempts to undermine it (even I get defensive when a media effects study criticises videogames) and as Rachel Edidin pointed out in her piece on Geek Masculinity and the Myth of the Fake Geek Girl:
When you’re part of an underrepresented group, it’s easy to fall prey to a reductive fallacy that there’s only room for one way to be female (or Black, or disabled, or queer, or…) in geek culture, and anyone who approaches that identity from a different angle threatens your claim to it–not so different from geek culture’s own struggle to maintain a discrete identity as our iconography and media bleed their way into the mainstream. If those people can be geeks, what will be left for me? And if the tent is that big, what, ultimately, is membership worth?
Another problem is that one of the things that geek culture has tried to define itself by is the knowledge individuals have of that which they profess an interest in – are a fan of. And this is discrimination I have experienced. If people want to take up the mantle of geek then it should only be based on devotion and not whether they know absolutely everything about something. Like I said in my blog post from last year:
You don’t need to know the complete history of the world to be acknowledged as a historian, so why should someone only be considered a fan of Superman when they know everything to do with him since the Golden Age onwards?
The answer is that you shouldn’t need to know all of that in order to call yourself a geek.