Home Culture Geek Culture – We Are Failing Our Superheroes
Geek Culture – We Are Failing Our Superheroes

Geek Culture – We Are Failing Our Superheroes


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.

Artwork by Yusef Abonamah

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.

Art by Maryne Lahaye

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.


  1. I think the core problem lies in articles like this that make presumptions of good and evil. “One is good therefore the other is Evil”. Life isn’t that simple, even is comics it’s not that simple. I think a perfect example is the thumbnail for the article that caught my eye with Doctor Manhattan. Watchmen is the embodiment of the argument. In Watchmen there is no definitive good or evil. The Comedian saves thousands of people both at home and abroad, but he also had a propensity for violence which led him to be sadistic and monstrous. Doctor Manhattan helped mankind at every turn, but he kills Rorschach at the end when he wants to reveal the truth to the world. Ozymandias helped the world through both his heroism and through his philanthropy and yet he killed millions in order to save billions. Which one of them is evil?

    Painting people as good or evil shifts your position from one where you can come to agreement and one where you can’t. If there are opposing sides, then the first instinct of everyone nowadays is to double down and tell the other person to fuck themselves because they are wrong. Everyone thinks they are a moral bastion of truth, that’s why there is so much perceived “Evil”. Because everyone thinks they are the Good Guy.

    1. Just to clarify, the picture is just that. Its context is no more relevant to the contents of the article than a representation of my feelings of disappointment while writing. In the picture, Manhattan is feeling a discontent with Humanity that I sympathize with. I never mention Watchmen. Secondly, good verses evil is not the focal point of the article. There are always colours and shades and messy bits between. No doubt. The problems lie in our seemingly hollow interpretations of good. We recognize it when we see it, but seem unwilling to act in its defense. And I’ve seen enough fence-sitting and people claiming devils advocate lately to really give it much of my attention. When it comes to basic human decency there is no opposing, valid arguments. It exists. Or it doesn’t. If in some way it falls short, that’s a failing that needs to be rectified. No excuses.

      1. I understand that you don’t mention watchmen but in order to make my reply more easily represented i took the best case at hand to elaborate. You say that people seem to have a hollow interpretation of good but that goes on the premise that everyone has the same idea of what is good and that in having that same idea of good, people choose not to act on it. You lump all comic readers in together when you say “We” and “Our”. We are not a unit, we are a community who need to discuss, reflect and then act on what we think is right and/or wrong.

        I will name a controversial topic, the American Crisis. Some people believe it’s right, others believe it wrong. Some people think that everyone deserves to live where they want, that they are entitled to live free of despotic regimes. Others believe that these people pose a threat in the veil of ISIS and islamic extremism and are applauding the move as it secures the majority over the minority. Whether you side one way or the other, how should it be dealt with? Discussion followed by action, i think is a reasonable answer. How has it been handled? Name calling, smear campaigns, internet drama, violent protests on both sides. The difference is that one side is in power and the other isn’t. The reason things are at such extremes now, more than ever, people are divided, because they don’t want to sit down at a table and let everyone talk if it doesn’t agree with them. Because one view point is “Evil” and the other is “Good”.

        “Good” and “Evil” only exist so far as people make them. If everyone could sit down and talk to one another, came up with a solution and then act upon that solution instead of seeking the destruction of the other, then maybe “Evil” wouldn’t be a problem. I think we are failing our superheros is not because we don’t act on our ideals, but because we don’t challenge them out of fear they won’t hold up. Instead of progress, we get action. Action not guided by reflection or out of understanding but out of protest against someone “Evil” who dared to say something they disagree with. This perspective solely applies to western culture mind you.

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