Before I slip into full-on rant mode, let’s get have a brief history lesson that pertains to the issue at hand. In the mid-nineteenth century one particular group of abolitionists came up with an ingenious idea: since slave liberation seemed unlikely in America on an economic and political basis, was it feasible to re-locate freed slaves in Western Africa? You know the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” right? That’s basically the idea here. This was a two pronged attack: on one hand the slaves were being freed, which made the abolitionists feel good about themselves and their devotion to God. And if the Blacks were free, the largely evangelical movement didn’t have to actually socialize with these newly freed persons of color. They could keep white society and help set up a separate but equal colony far, far away. This group, The American Colonization Society (ACS) helped over 13,000 former slaves travel across the ocean to create new lives for themselves in a new country dubbed “Liberia”. The main problem that faced many of these “Americo-Liberians”, as they were now called, is that many were not African, and if they were, they were so far removed from their former culture that they simply could not relate to tribesmen on the interior of the country. This lead to a massive division where a lot of these former slaves saw themselves as more educated, more civilized, and simply “better” than the locals, leading to the creation of a leadership class that existed until the 1980’s.
So what does this African history lesson have to do with Doctor Who? I think the idea behind this event has a lot of ramifications in nerd culture at the moment, and I believe we ALL can learn a very important lesson here. Formerly marginalized “nerds” are being forced to mingle with people that they see as inferior, and are treating them like garbage as a result. In a way, the formerly oppressed have become the oppressors and I’m really sick and tired of it. Just because someone got picked on in school, doesn’t give them the right to strive for the very power used against them. This has been brewing for a while, but there is starting to be a real elitist attitude blemishing nerd culture. Some people are weary of, if not downright antagonistic to, any “newcomers” to their hobby of choice. Whether it be comics, TV shows, cartoons, or in this case Doctor Who, these people have invested so much time that they feel the need to protect their baby from the marauding barbarians.
The opening shots in this asinine “war” seemed to be a fairly misogynistic blog post from last year. The post in question, which I have placed below, is by veteran comic creator Tony Harris. Harris had problems with what he perceived to be “fake geek girls” at conventions, a type of woman that Harris suggests is there to either seduce or “cock-tease” unsuspecting geek guys. I could elaborate more, but you can read it yourself:
I have been asked my opinion on this for a while, and I kept mostly quiet because internet crusaders made a huge deal out of the situation, and I have a tendency to stay out of giant internet fights. Also I DO NOT share the popular opinion of many nerds, and welcome anyone to do anything they want, and participate in anything they want to. My opinion is that Harris clouded what could have been a decent post about people dressing scantily at conventions with a ton of misogynistic garbage. As somewhat of an egalitarian on gender roles, I find his mindset terrible. It all boils down to this:
“Attractive women at cons are not really nerds, they are just trying to hurt you.”
“These girls are not fans of whatever they are pretending to be.”
“I should get more attention at cons because I make comics.”
“P.S. These girls are only hot at cons, in real life I bet they are ugly.”
Without reading too much into this rant, one can see the bitter ball of hate that sits in the belly of many a nerd fan. After this was posted, many women were incredibly mad at Harris. He seemed unready to accept the gigantic backlash he got afterward, and tried to back-peddle a bit. He did have his supporters though, as it’s not like Harris came up with this all on his own. There is a real problem with folks attacking “fake fans” whatever the hell that means.
This finally brings me to Doctor Who, and the recent announcement of Peter Capaldi taking over the role from a departing Matt Smith.
For the better part of a decade now, the lead actors in Doctor Who have been on the relatively young side. Long time fans will know that this is a new trend for the show as a whole, but for some new fans this is the ONLY reference they have. This shift to a younger demographic helped bring one type of fan into the Doctor Who family that seemed elusive for years – young women. Many young women have become fans of the show because they were initially attracted to the main actors, then got into the fun of the program itself. This is exactly what the production team wanted to happen, and it worked very well. In no time at all, the show’s fans went from a small inclusive crowd to a worldwide audience including casual fans of all ages.
For this next example, let’s try to think like a teenage girl, and if you are a teenage girl- BONUS! So imagine if you will, having a crush on this actor that you really like then he announces that he’s leaving the show. Even though you fell in love with the guy before him, you were really starting to like this new guy, and he’s already leaving. You’ve sat down to watch them announce the successor and someone as old as your grandfather comes walking out!
This puts The Doctor way outside the romantic comfort zone for many of these fans. Thus the reason for videos like this:
In the video above, a girl that is obviously a huge fan of the show ends up less than happy about the choice of Peter Capaldi. I’ll agree that the video seems superficial, and the girl seems rather annoying, but let’s go deeper. The video is almost besides the point, as my real problem lies with all of the “real fans” that feel the need to be nasty to a young girl for “being fake”.
“Bye Fangirls! WHO don’t need you! Go listen to bieberand STFU”
“Back to Loose Women and X-Factor for you, slattern. You have “squee’d” your last.”
“Im surprised she wasnt fatter. Good job being superficial kid!”
…And it just goes on and on.
This video was circulated quite a bit over the weekend, and the “fake geek girl” crusade finally made it’s way into Doctor Who fandom. My question is: since when did we need to prove how much of a nerd we are to gain “street cred” with stuff like TV shows? Are we supposed to collect merit badges now, or are we simply measuring the size of our nerd genitalia here? I honestly see no difference here to what happened when Matt Smith was announced for the role in 2009. Many old-timer fans were furious that someone so young was offered the role, facetiously suggesting that the Twelfth Doctor was going to be ten years old. Some stormed off and claimed to never watch the show again because of such a decision. Fans like me may have said: “good riddance to them, as they are just as annoying as the video above.
So what if someone hasn’t seen 50 years of a TV show, does that mean they can’t enjoy it? Maybe they enjoy it for a different reason than you. Just because somebody chooses to express their love for a show doing something like writing erotic fan fiction about it, that doesn’t make them part of some subservient class under the almighty uber-nerd class you you obviously are part of. If they are a “fake fan” then they will simply disappear when the next big thing comes along, why would they hang around something they hate?
We, as nerds, need to GROW UP. We need to realize that things like science fiction, and comic books, and movies based on comic books have all gone mainstream. That thing that you are a fan of? Millions of new people like it as well, and that doesn’t mean that they are any less fans because of it. Some may not memorize random trivia related to the show, some may even concentrate on something you could care less about like wearing costumes from the show, but they are still fans. There are not “fake nerd girls” trying to destroy the lives of nerdy guys, because that sounds utterly ridiculous when said out loud. Yeah that cheerleader may have made your life hell in high school, but what if you both like Batman movies? Doctor Who? Comics? Maybe we should strive for common ground, and not perpetuate stupid John Hughes movie high school class structures into adulthood, it just makes us all look bad.
- Peter Capaldi swears not to swear on Doctor Who (telegraph.co.uk)
- What’s Missing From This Video? (blackgirlnerds.com)
- OFFICIAL: Peter Capaldi Is The New Doctor On ‘Doctor Who’ (geek-news.mtv.com)
- What Do You Think of Peter Capaldi as the New Doctor Who? (sliceofscifi.com)
- Doctor Who Fan Art Drawn by Peter Capaldi (The New Doctor) (neatorama.com)
- Resonance Highlights Marketing Lessons from Doctor Who (prweb.com)
- Peter Capaldi’s Hartnell Tribute! (ghostradio.wordpress.com)
- Peter Capaldi: The New Doctor Who! (thehollywoodgossip.com)
- Things We Saw Today: Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who Fan Art (themarysue.com)
- Peter Capaldi!??!?!?!???!!!!!? (whogirls.wordpress.com)