Essay:Geek elitism

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There are, surprisingly enough, a few subcultures within what's generally considered "geek culture", and that these subcultures are often fairly rivalrous with large amounts of snobbery and elitism within them.

Geek culture crash course[edit]

In order to understand the elitism that can be found in geek culture, you first need an understanding of some terms and concepts:

  • Anime/Manga/OVA: Anime is Japanese (or sometimes Japanese style) cartoon TV series or movies, Manga is Japanese (or sometimes Japanese style) comic books, and OVA (Original Video Animation) are Japanese styled animated movies that are not related to a manga. To draw a comparison to western equivalents, the Batman comic book series is manga, the TV series is anime, and the Dark Knight movies (inspired by, but not drawn from any particular comic story-arc) is an OVA. The phrase "Japanese style animation" when used instead of "anime" refers to either a western production which uses anime artistic style, or more commonly a Japanese created show or movie which is inspired by a non-Japanese source.
  • Comics vs. Comic books vs Graphic Novel vs Webcomic: Basically, this is a difference of size. A "comic" usually refers to a short series of panels in a printed media. This can be in a dedicated multi-series comic book (like Detective Comics) or in the newspaper. A "comic book" is a serial produced magazine about a specific main character, while a "graphic novel" usually refers to shorter run, and can be thought of as a movie compared to a TV series. Webcomics are comics that are produced online. They vary hugely in terms of production run, size, and quality.
  • Otaku: This word has different connotations in Japan and the West. In Japan it is generally used as their version of "geek", but is actually more of a pejorative there then "geek" is in the West[1]. It basically refers to anyone who is obsessive of Japanese animation and video games, but in the West it means someone who is obssesive of Japanese culture generally. Because the idea of Otaku is less known in the West, being mainly relegated to Otaku themselves, it doesn't carry nearly the same negative connotations.
  • Cons: Generally named 'something-con', like Dragon*con, Comic-con, Anime Nebrascon, and the like. This is basically where geeks and fanboys get together and geek out. There will generally be dancing, people selling comics, TV series, movies, manga, anime, OVA, toys, costumes, and various degrees of celebrities signing autographs, and generally plugging various things. They generally have a theme (usually anime, comics, scifi, or video games). In Japan these are called "Otakon"
  • Cosplay: This is basically dressing up as a character from some series (this could be an anime/manga/OVA, TV series, movies, video games, comic books, and even just cultural ideas, like the Anonymous guy[2]). These costumes are often incredibly elaborate, and many need to be made from scratch and for a specific person.

"Fake Fangirls"[edit]

Look, more then enough has been has been written about the idea of hot girls dressing up to humiliate male geeks. If you want to read them, see one of these links[3][4][5][6]. Basically, there are people so elitist, sexist, or just plain stupid that they think there are women who will dress up to make fun of them. This ignores that these costumes are pretty much always form fitting (per the source material) meaning each one has to be made by hand by a highly skilled seamstress requiring possibly hundreds of man hours and costing maybe thousands of dollars, for an extremely elaborate costume, that still leaves them half naked in glorified fetish clothing. This is probably caused by the same thing as the whole "there are no women on the internet" phenomena, where a lack of highly active women in the community makes people start to say "there are no fangirls", which then makes it somehow acceptable to ostracize women, which discourages women from getting in the culture in the first place, creating a self fulfilling prophecy, that keeps people that are stereotyped as being socially awkward from meeting women with similar interests, basically guaranteeing that they'll never have sex with a women who knows who Thara Ak-Var is, let alone willing to dress up like her before having sex with a him while he's dressed up like Nightwing.

Sci Fi snobbery[edit]

For some reason this is seems to be focused in the Sci Fi community, but there is a large amount of rivalry in the sci fi geek community between fans of different shows, especially between Star Wars and Star Trek. If you spend any time near sci fi geeks, there will be an almost inevitable mention of the long running feud between fans of the shows[7]. This frankly idiotic hatred has promoted George Takei (who played Sulu in Star Trek TOS) to create the "Star Alliance", and Voltaire to create the album "BiTrekual", both about getting rid of some of this hatred.

This inter-fandom hatred is most noticeable between Star Wars and Star Trek, but extends really the whole line of sci fi fandom, and while you can see some of it outside of sci fi, it is most prominent here. And it isn't like there's an open hatred that is always present, but there is a definite trend of rivalry here.

Otaku snobbery[edit]

Aside from interest in obscure anime and disdain for common ones like Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, and Bleach, a big line of elitism in the anime-fan community is about "how original" the material you're familiar with is. There's a sort of hierarchy in the community with the lowest of the low being the people only familiar with English dubs of Japanese anime that are popular (like the aformentioned DBZ, Sailor Moon and Bleach), or god forbid "Japanese style animation" like Avatar the Last Airbender. The next layer is people familiar with less common anime, but only in English (like Soul Eater) and without familiarity with the manga. Next rung is people who watch Japanese subtitled anime, or are familiar with the English mangas. The highest tier is reserved for people who have done both of those.

What makes this hierarchy so ridiculous is that there is often little difference between the manga and the anime, and there is often literally no difference between the English and the Japanese versions of the anime, aside from words that translate awkwardly.

Tabletop RPGs[edit]

While Dungeons and Dragons is the most common tabletop RPG, it is hardly the only one, and hardly except from internal conflict, rivalry, and elitism. DND is the most common tabletop RPG, but has nearly a dozen versions (DND, ADND, ADND 2nd edition, ADND 2.5 edition, ADND 2.75 edition, DND 3.0, DND 3.5, DND 4.0, and Pathfinder, which is basically a modification of DND 3.5). This creates a lot of internal conflict, especially between ADND's different versions against 3.0/3.5/and Pathfinder, against 4.0. ADND's different versions left a lot open to player interpretation, which makes them see 3.0 and further additions as being "dumbed down", while 3.0 and further additions saying that the ADND holdouts are just old fuddy-duddies that cannot move-on. There is almost universal hatred for 4.0, which many claim was an attempt to get World of Warcraft players to play DND.

There's also plenty of conflict outside of DND. HERO system is a common tabletop RPG which many of its players say is the best system because it doesn't require huge numbers of different game books to get a lot of diversity (it allows you to play a fantasy or a sci fi, or anything else you can think of). GURPS players like to make a similar claim, but with the addition that their rules are already made for them. White Wolf fans like to talk about the realism and the well developed setting, and so on. And there is a huge number of gaming systems, so the different kinds of internal conflict is actually pretty damn big.

Like with all of these rivalries, it's basically people attempting to justify what really amounts to personal preference.

The lucky exempt[edit]

Somehow, horror fans seem to be largely exempt from the worst of the geek wars. Other geeks must find out how horror geeks have done this, and either copy their methods to end the bloodshed, or do their best to break those methods so as to extend the war to other genres. No peace for us, no peace for anyone!

Genre snobbery[edit]

This breaks down along a few lines. Firstly, there's a lot of rivalry between fantasy, sci fi, and superhero genres. This really comes down to a personal preference, but some fans like to pretend that one genre is better then others for some reason or other. Fast trolling can be had in saying something like "since superhero backstories all pretty much fantasies, and sci fi shows almost exclusively have shit physics they're really more 'fantasy in space' anyways, so it's all really fantasy" in a sci fi forum or chatroom. Mention the shit physics of most sci fi, and watch as sci fi nerd' brains explode.

Another line of conflict is between Otaku and western Geeks. The artistic style and plot lines of anime are normally pretty different then the ones common in western fiction, which makes some people prefer one over the other. Really, it all comes down to personal taste, but some like to pretend that there's some objective way to show that one is better then another.

Finally is within video games. There's an often extremely complex multiple layer pile of bullshit within the video gaming community, with fights between gaming platforms (Wii vs. XBox 360 vs. PS3 vs. handheld platforms vs. computers), between game genre (first person shooter, real time sim, puzzle, driving, etc), and often between game makers and even game series. These conflicts are often based on some things that actually matter like the game or systems user interface, graphics, story line, character development, and bullshit, like cultural perceptions of what game genre is the most manly (most FPSes are dominated by men, while puzzle games and the Wii are mostly women).

General snobbery[edit]

There's a general amount of elitism in terms of reboots, eras or places, and spin offs. Plenty of series have been rebooted at some point like with Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, and recently Thundercats. Generally the "hardcore" geeks, the elites of the culture, will insist that the original is better then the reboot, that the reboot panders to non-geeks, or whatever. This is mostly bullshit, because by the time the reboot comes out the original has been largely forgotten, and the reboot is the only way for new people to learn about the original.

Many also are elitist about the era of production or the country of origin. There are noticeable differences between Japanese and American video games, or superheros from America and Germany (for example), and the fans of a specific country's genre (like K-horror) often make it out so that their country has the best space marine themed first person shooter game, even if their only evidence is pretty much just their only personal preference. A similar pattern can be see in the change of style over the years, with distinct eras often being noticeable in different genres.

Finally is spin offs, for lack of a better term. This is very noticeable in Star Trek fandom. There is really six TV series and 11 films, with the most hardcore fans insisting that one of the shows/films is the best. Like with everything else, it's just arguing about personal taste. The weird part is when people start insisting that one of the series is terrible, while ignoring that it (like with reboots) does little but draw in new fans. If you don't like Deep Space Nine, well, no one is forcing you to watch it. That fans of series with multiple shows tend to gripe endlessly about one of the series actually shows a bit of irony: they hate the new series, but still obsessively watch it.

The consequences and solutions[edit]

Because of the frank elitism and subconscious sexism found in these geek cultures they tend to be very exclusionary: if you haven't read the latest books, seen the latest anime, played the latest game, you lose cred among the culture. Without cred, it can be hard to get into the culture, and even harder to learn about it. This feeds a sense of "outsiders are not welcome here", that makes it easier to target them for moral panics, like the comic book moral panic from the 60s and 70s, and the video game moral panic from the 80s and 90s. This makes the members of the community wary of outsiders, which feeds the paranoia the "outsiders" have about this strange insular community, creating a self fulfilling prophecy of mockery and disdain for the community.

Another big issue with the insulation of the geek community is that it tends to prevent anyone from getting in. By mocking and deriding newbies, they tend to discourage newer geeks from wanting to get into the culture. The elites may not even realize they're doing it, which is what often makes it so hard to fix this.

Something akin to a solution to this sense of "geeks are weird and not to be trusted" can be seen in mainstreaming of their interests. While hardcore geeks may hate World of Warcraft as it becomes more popular, the reboot of Thundercats, the new Star Trek and Star Wars movies, and the mainstreaming of (especially good quality) comic book inspired movies like Watchmen and Dark Knight for pandering to people outside of the culture, this makes their culture more mainstream, which removes a lot of the negative stigma that they have built up over the years. This brings in new members to the culture, and makes it so its more acceptable for a grown-ass man to dress up like Batman before the premier of the newest movie, or go dressed as Green Lantern for Halloween.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. For example, wp: Tsutomu Miyazaki is known as the "Otaku murderer" because he killed Otaku that was causing a bit of a moral panic at the time
  2. This video includes a large array of different cosplay examples, and how people act at cons
  3. http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Fake_geek_girls
  4. http://www.dorktower.com/2012/12/04/fake-geek-girl-dork-tower-04-12-12/
  5. http://geekout.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/24/booth-babes-need-not-apply/
  6. http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-7-most-ridiculous-things-about-calling-out-fake-fangirls/
  7. It's a rather bizarre twist on Godwin's Law