Geek culture is a monolith, and that’s boring.
Things have changed a lot here at Otaku Journalist. I haven’t been writing as often about my own fandom activities (From the New World, Chihayafuru, and Spice and Wolf right now if you’re wondering). I’ve been focusing less on geeking out and more on what it means to be an observer and scribe of geek culture.
I was invited to participate in Charles Dunbar’s fandom identity project, and I wrote about why I think this is. I wrote about my my self induced alienation in middle school as a direct result of not toning down my love of anime. I wrote about bullying that I could have made all go away if I had just acted like less of a nerd.
Two girls used to follow me home from school, sneering at me and trying to rip the Gundam Wing pins off my backpack. Another girl, who I thought was my friend, stopped hanging out with me because her mom said I wasn’t a good influence. I knew what that really meant. I felt closest to people I met over AIM and chatted about anime with.
Can you imagine anything like that happening today? Anime is everywhere and is hardly something unusual. Studio Ghibli films play in theaters all over the Western world. Don’t try to tell me those bug eyed “Monster High” girls aren’t an American anime. Every news outlet covers wacky inventions and happenings from “Weird Japan.”
The Internet and increasingly attended fandom conventions unite us and ensure that geekiness is uniform just about everywhere. Geeks are practically a voting block, getting a WoW playing politician elected and singlehandedly smashing SOPA.
And then there’s the commodification of “narwhal bacon” geek culture. Some geeks criticize the “New Enthusiasm,” but not because it’s an indication of wearing your geekiness on your sleeve. It’s because it’s EASY to go for the robot-ninja-zombie laughs instead of delving into creative entertainment. It’s not that our geekiness is so edgy it’s controversial, it’s that our geekiness is no longer unique. Everyone is a geek about something.
I guess that’s why I write about anime fans less than I ever have before. It’s not a big deal if people like it. My new thing is using the same reporting narrative I used to expose the humanity of fans and applying it to all kinds of obsessions. I think the best journalism to write and to read is when you take somebody usually classified in the media as an other, and get to know them almost like a friend.
When I first discovered anime it felt marginalized to me. It was a refuge from the every day, an escape from everything familiar. Blame the Internet’s globalizing touch, but now it’s hopelessly intertwined with the rest of pop culture. Sometimes that’s awesome, but a lot of times it makes me nostalgic. Back when I was getting picked on, would anyone say I was just a “fake geek girl” pretending to like anime in order to seduce geek guys?
Now that everyone’s a geek, you can’t even entertain the fact that you’re somehow different from other people. You don’t ever have to be a loner if you don’t want to be. Sure bullying’s gone online now, but so have more ways to make friends.
How has the geek cultural shift from variable to monolith affected you?
(Illustration via dilettantiquity.)