There are so many wonderful things about being a geek in this day and age that it would be hard to even pick a place to start. The Emma of twenty years ago would have wept with delirious joy to think that one day all the things that made her a bit of a weirdo would now be so widely accepted and even commonplace. Just look at the biggest movies to come out in the last ten years. Hell, some of the biggest TV shows of our time are coming straight from the realms of fantasy and comics. We’ve been here to witness an entire cultural shift in not only accepting our nerdy eccentricities but normalizing them. Nowadays, a sole adult walking into the cinema for a Disney animated movie in full cosplay will maybe only get the occasional odd look, and that depends on what character they’re cosplaying. For those of us who remember how uncool all of these things once made us, it’s been a bit of a head-spinning one-eighty to find yourself on the majority, mainstream side of pretty much anything.
So I sit here, writing this, and wonder why I’m filled with so much self-loathing when it comes to my soul-deep nerdiness. I have become so disillusioned with the culture I feel the most connection to, and it’s so incredibly difficult to understand why I’m so disappointed in us, and growing increasingly more so, the older I get. It’s such a messed up feeling. Like the moment you wake up as a teen to find that the world is suddenly filled with so much undiluted darkness and irredeemable hatred, and even worse when you realise it always was. It wasn’t the one that changed; you just opened your eyes. And once you see it you can’t go back to the person you were before. That’s how I’m feeling right now; desperately trying to claw back some semblance of wide-eyed enthusiasm for my favorite comics and books and movies.
But it’s so hard, because, how can I possibly enjoy any of it knowing how badly I’ve failed the ideals I should have been protecting and upholding.
Nerd culture is one that’s populated to the point of bursting with icons of justice; paragons of goodness and light; of inescapable, hard truths that rip through our comfort zones and teach us to be better. To do better. But the only truth I’ve come to see the last few years is that we had such an opportunity to change the world and we didn’t. We were the outcasts, but instead of instilling in us an empathy for people on the fringes. For minorities. For the persecuted. The different. Instead, we’ve still become a culture mirroring the one that made us feel worthless and insignificant. We’ve become cruel. Selfish. Willfully blind. In certain circles people are still arguing that blackface is okay, really, people, really? Or fat-shaming cosplayers who easily put months of time, truck loads of money and souls full of fucking love into a character, because you know, totally worthless if you’ve got a bit of pudge and someone you don’t know doesn’t feel attracted to you. Cause that’s what all our personal hobbies and passions hinge on, right? Wait, they don’t? No way!
We still joke about people’s pain and suffering when it should be resonating with us on the deepest of levels; we’ve been there, haven’t we? Isolated; a mocked subculture, stereotyped to be jobless sponges in basements. We should fucking know better. Yet we’ve allowed racism, classism, misogyny and bigotry to gain footholds in every level of our culture when we had the ability to stamp it out in our circles. Generations, both mine and the younger, still seem happy to ignore any concepts that make us feel uncomfortable or don’t fit the narrative we want to believe. Gods forbid something makes us feel in someway responsible for the world we live in or the suffering around us.
I don’t know how to say it, but we have actually become the thing that we hated. And I hate that about myself. You should, too.
The world I grew into was filled with the idea that heroes did what was right. Spider-Man, Superman, Wonder Woman. But I’ve seen, and continue to see, so many of the very individuals that have lifted these icons up to dizzying heights, take a figurative dump on all the things that these heroes represent.
We have become the thing that they would fight against. We’ve laughed and joked, utterly complacent, while actual, honest evil has walked into power in so many places, the world over, almost unchallenged. Not clawed its way to the top. Waltzed fucking merrily up. While we’ve laughed at them and liked their amusing memes on Facebook. Cause this one time they inadvertently pulled a funny face that sorta accurately captured how I felt this other time, and I got a giggle. Cause they’re so pathetic you have to laugh, right? Shit’s funny now, isn’t it?
The things I loved, I loved, because to me they had meaning. They represented an idea that life was filled with some horrid, festering, vile kinds of shit, but that if good people had the power to change it they would fight to do so. A lot of what I’ve seen has been so very far from that. It still seems like the burden for change is being dropped at the feet of those least capable of doing anything about it. Regardless of all the good people in the wider geek community, it’s still falling to the most vulnerable to stand up and shout out.
It’d be stupid to think that one person can change the world; we aren’t superheroes. But it’s even dumber to think you don’t have an impact on the space around you. Even if you can’t change the world out there, you can take a good long look inside, and try changing yourself. You might not notice it, but there’s some stuff that needs sorting in there, believe me. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. So do your culture, your community and yourselves a favor and call out the poison when you come across it. Try doing something nice for someone having a bad day. Consider someone other than yourself occasionally and understand what’s taken me thirty years to figure out; that responsibility is a good thing. It means you have the power to do something. So do something good. No matter how small.
The world is filled with enough villains as it is.