As much as I have been pushing off this post, I think now is a great time to put my thoughts into the mix. My decision to speak up was inspired by a pin from Pinterest, nonetheless:
When I first saw this, I was really upset by it, for so many reasons. First of all, I feel for this woman; as someone who struggles with image issues, I’m always afraid of being judged. Along that same vein, being a geek in any fandom opens you up to criticism, especially if you’re not well-acquainted with that particular fandom, if you’re new to it, or if you’re female. Finally, on top of all this, I understand the feeling of being discouraged. I have two lists for cosplay: who I can cosplay as, and who I can’t—based on body limitations that I feel I have with which I will never have, and therefore I can never be certain characters for fear of being ridiculed.
I just felt so awful after I read this. I thought, Do people really do this to other fans in public? Are they that cruel?
Overall, being in any fandom opens you up naysayers–to people who will find you weird, to people who will find you “unworthy,” and to people who are just plain mean. In the end, fandoms and geeks are sometimes seen as exclusive, rude individuals who are highly judgmental, and push non-geeks away.
If you’re not aware of what I’m talking about, maybe this will clarify:
This is a parody video done by Buzzfeed about the stereotypical image of so-called “real geeks,” or “purist” fans, as I call them.
Most of us know of the stereotypical image of these “purist” fans; they’re the ones who drill 101 questions at a comic books shop to any newcomers, because they have to see if they are just as big a fan as they themselves are. They’re the ones that scoff at a lost detail, or write angry letters if a character was not depicted properly. All in all, they try to bring people down, and figure out who’s “fake” or not.
While I have not met anyone from a particular fandom that has been this way towards me, I have met people in general that try to make you seem like a fool. These people are everywhere, from school to work to fandoms, but the geek culture always gets a particularly bad reputation with having this image imposed on them. I’m not saying that these people don’t exist—they do, just read the comments on YouTube or Tumblr sometime—but not every person in fandoms is a jerk.
On top of all the negative stereotypes that are imposed upon geeks and nerds, the most difficult challenge seems to be evoking this image that you’re a true fan of something. I’m going to say it: if you love something, you are a fan. No questions asked.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t need to write a 1,500 word essay on why Picard is a better Star Trek captain than Kirk. It’s just a preference.
My gender should not be a major factor as to how pure of a fan I am.
If you like the movie over the book, that’s okay.
And you don’t have to have read, watched, purchased, or experienced everything in a fandom to be a true fan.
Sure, geeks make jokes with other geeks in a particular fandom, and that’s totally cool. But when these jokes start becoming malicious, that’s when the fun stops completely. Not one fandom is better or worse than the other, and no one should be judged by it. Fandom is about having fun, making connections with others, and having a shared interest with people, wheter or not they’re old friends or new acquaintances. That’s what makes fandoms great. Fans that are “purists,” or believe themselves to be true fans, are prioritizing facts over enjoyment a lot of the time, and should be encouraging promotion of their fandom instead of deterring people from it.
And, contrary to what the above image says, size and appearance does not dictate your worthiness for what you cosplay as. Moreover, image does not dictate you as a fan in general, or who you are as a person. If you’re skinny and fit, and decide to dress as Wonder Woman, you’re not a slut; if you’re heavy-set and decide to dress as Wonder Woman, you’re not “fat Wonder Woman,” or an embarrassment. You’re a fan of Wonder Woman either way, and have found qualities that you want to emulate.
And besides, who really has the body of any female superhero? They’re fictitious, made-up body dimensions—of course no one is going to look exactly like them.
What I’m trying to say, overall, is that geeks and nerds aren’t bad. No one deserves to be labelled, and no one deserves a negative stereotype. Sure, there will be some bad eggs, but they’re everywhere. Being a geek is fun, it’s rewarding, and it’s one of the best ways to make new friends and form connections. So, with that, I’ll leave you with a better, more cheerful pin from my Pinterest board, to conclude my thoughts.