Monday, October 3, 2016
Nerdom and White Male Culture
2016 has been an interesting year. Social scientist may one day encapsulate it as the year white males openly declared war on plurality. From the rise of this guy-
To the relentless attack on the new Ghostbusters with the female lead cast. It is this latter expression of irrational rage that may be more revealing. After all, everyone already knew politics is the epicenter of white male dominance.
In the attack on Ghostbusters, an area of pop culture that, on the surface, seems like it would be the beacon of progressive ideology was revealed to be a cesspool of poisonous monoculturalism.
Maybe I missed the obvious, but I thought that Nerdom would be a safe haven for difference, after all Nerds are classically depicted as outsiders themselves.
This article discusses the Ghostbusters issue for what it is "a sexist control issue" Ghostbusters Reboot Backlash .
"We’ve long had the habit of using the universal to refer to men while shunting women into their own subcategory, but the original “Ghostbusters” already was “the male ‘Ghostbusters,'” whether we called it that or not."
True. And the more I look at Nerd culture, the more I realize it relishes in its exclusion. Ghostbusters just pulled off the mask.
I am a part of Nerd culture. I subscribe to Loot Crate. I go to the comic shop for new issues on Wednesdays. I binge watch Star Wars and discuss the world building of Tolkien with enthusiasm. Yet I am disturbed that Loot Crate sent me a Ghostbusters shirt with the number '84 on the back nodding to the original at the expense of the new (at least it wasn't 88). I have overheard numerous sexist conversations at the comic shops. I see how series like Star Wars and LOTR celebrate Western imperialism at the expense of the Other.
Ghostbusters isn't showing us anything new. It is showing us how bad the problem actually is. Just look at Gamergate https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamergate_controversy
Nerd culture was meant to be participated in ironically. That is when it is at its best. Recognizing the limits of popular fiction and the fun absurdity of those limits should be part of every culture. But the more I look at the shirts I get, the comics I read, the Nerdom I enjoy, the more I realize the culture is exclusionary in a serious manner, failing to see its own ridiculousness and becoming the self-fulfilling caricature it was meant to subvert.
There is nothing light about this , because behind it we see a guy who exhibits the privilege mentioned in the quote above. His reasoning for not seeing the new Ghostbusters? It's called Ghostbusters. He feels it should have another name. Perhaps he won't see the new Birth of a Nation because it ripped the original's name too.
The sad part of all this is the potential for white male culture as expressed in Nerd culture to be subtly subversive and accepting of its deficiencies. I love Batman and I will argue about the best incarnation till I'm blue in the face, but I do with my tongue somewhat in my cheek knowing that Batman is a construct of a culture that should be growing in flexibility. Batman is everyone's to create and recreate. So are the Ghostbusters. So is any work of fiction. I thought Nerd culture was awesome because everyone was in on the joke. Apparently not.
Here is a couple of interesting articles discussing or unintentionally revealing sexism and racism within Nerd culture, or various aspects of it.