Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Momma Sed

I grew up on science fiction. I was raised with the aid of television and video games. I had a stack of books and comics on my bedside table that kept me up every night since I was six. They became obsessions. My head was filled with stories and characters and intricate, complex dynamic universes. This did not go away as an adult. I, in a very positive and beautiful sense, am a nerd.

Eh...close enough
This is a fact that I am very proud of. As the author John Green famously said, “nerds…are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff.” I think that’s a great thing. I think society would be much better off without a nerd culture. That idea should simply be inherent to human civilization. It is unfortunate, then, that there are some elucidating moments that causes my pride to waver.
There has been a very odd backlash in nerddom against general female inclusion. The reason for this has perplexed me for some time and continues to do so. Some of you might remember when late last year comic writer Tony Harris published a rant on Facebook against ‘fake geek girls.’ Why someone would pretend to be a geek or a nerd in the first place is beyond me.

This idea of ‘fake geek girls’ has been making the rounds for a while, but very recently has become a widespread and eruptive topic of debate. Even the existence of such a discussion fills me with a deep sense of shame for this beautiful culture I’m privileged to take part in. This should never have been a conversation to begin with. That it has become a regular facet of public dialog is viscerally disgusting.

It was somewhat of a culture shock to learn, as I grew older, than nerddom is a big old boys’ club. It seemed odd to me not to include women. I grew up on a generation of intelligent, strong, independent, sexy badasses doing whatever the hell they wanted or thought was right. That image developed into what I found to be attractive in women. I can't for the life of me understand why anyone within this culture would view things from so far on the opposite end of the spectrum.

With more redheads than exist in the natural world
A lot of writing has already been done on this topic by people with a better grounding to comment than myself. Namely, women that have suffered the brunt of this indignity. Some men, yes, but mostly they echo the women’s frustrations. They repeat the same valid arguments of the absurdity of demanding some sort of geek credential from women. That women only pretend to be nerds to toy with men, like Greek sirens luring nerdy vessels to rocky deaths. It insults the individuality of a woman, robs her of her identity and paints her as simply an accent to men with no discernible personal qualities of her own.

These are all very well-established and poignant arguments that I wish and encourage others to make, but that I will retreat from repeating in length at the moment. I’d like to try and tackle this issue from the male perspective. As a man who wishes to include all people, including women, equally in this wonderful culture of ours, I hope I can add some of my own insight to this discussion.

In every conversation I’ve had with men on this subject there is one phrase that they all repeat. It’s so blatantly derogatory that it blows me away every single time. The idea is so engrained in our public consciousness as an absolutely misogynistic concept that it shocks me to hear it every time, especially from men my own age. It goes something along the lines of, “if she didn’t want me to react like that, then she wouldn’t dress like that.” If you don’t immediately know that you are a sexist ass when you say those words you lack all sense of self-awareness. 

An entire subculture of Michael Scotts
There is, I believe, a direct link between the objectification of women and the push to exclude them from geekdom. ‘Objectification’ is itself a very culturally-nuanced term that elicits a wide range of reactions and perspectives. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s, for the purposes of this article, say that to objectify is to make something into a purely technical item. To turn something or someone into nothing more than an object. So what does this have to do with fake geek girls?

Almost every argument against women pretending to be nerds comes down to, or at least mentions, cosplay. You’d be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t. Which, when you think about it, is incredibly odd. Why is it that this particular subject is such a sore spot for nerds? What is the problem with women dressing up in costumes to emulate beloved characters? Is it then equally wrong for men to do so?

Lying slut
Apparently not, because time and time again it is the cosplaying women who seem to bear the ultimate burden of proof of their devotion. And most of the time the argument comes further still to being about attractive women who cosplay. That attractive women especially cannot be nerds. Why would a beautiful person, as the previously-quoted John Green put it, ‘like stuff?’

Well, the absurdity of that is already reasonably apparent. How attractive you are has nothing to do with what you enjoy. Even having to argue that concept is irritating to me. You, as an observer, are not allowed to dictate what somebody else likes because of some ridiculous preconceived notions. It is childish and ignorant and shouldn’t have been humored in the first place, but here we are.

So if the argument is that how a woman dresses permits a man to behave a certain way and that attractive female cosplayers are fake geeks, then there seems to be one conclusion to draw from this. That fake geek girls self-objectify. That by dressing the way that they do they turn themselves into purely aesthetic objects. But ask any nerdy girl and they’ll all tell that they have no intention of doing so.

If the male external perspective is that the woman is self-objectifying and the internal female perspective is that they are simply expressing their adoration for certain sexy female characters, which are mostly created by men anyway, then the external perception has to be the incorrect one. You cannot define someone else’s identity. It is then the man who is objectifying the woman and projecting his perception onto her. It is a failure of the male to perceive the female as a real person.

"Wait, wait, wait. Are you telling me boobs come with people now?"
Now the issue becomes far less complex. It becomes the same problem we’ve always had. It comes down to treating women as purely sexual beings and judging them by a double standard not applied to men. And when that woman won’t have sex with that man, or at least when the man perceives that to be the case, then it has to be the woman’s fault. It is the same misogynistic sexist nonsense that many of the great science fiction writers have indicted and denounced. It is a horrible and despicable irony. 
A woman displaying her sexuality does not strip away her own identity. If anything, that sexuality is a part of the sum of her individuality, as it is with men. Being attractive, being sexual, does not make one less of a human being. And that seems, to me, as a male looking in from the outside, to be at the heart of the matter. It’s the same old story. A woman cannot express her sexuality without being turned into an object by certain men. If you cosplay in a skimpy outfit, you are not really a nerd. When you boil it down like that, it sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it?

When I was a kid being a nerd was perceived to be a bad thing. We were bullied and beaten, mocked and hated, subjugated by those who saw what we did as socially unacceptable. Now we do the same to an entire half of our fellow geeks. Yes, there are that many nerdy girls out there and, yes, they are all just as genuine as you or I. Let’s embrace that and forget about this absurd idea of ‘fake geek girls’. Let’s just enjoy this wonderful experience together. Nerdery is about joy and love, not fear and hate. We should all learn to live the lifestyle as well as its basic underlying philosophy.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Well, I Never!

I don't understand anymore what people mean when they use the term "offensive."  I've never understood how a word could be considered "bad" or how the nude form could be an ugly thing.  Underneath these surface reactions to make-believe problems I see ideas.  People don't like specific language or certain portrayals of human sexuality.  Language challenges the way we think and people seem to just be completely uncomfortable with sex.

"Your genitals offend me."
But, watching all these sitcoms lately, am I wrong?  Are people really just offended by the superficiality of curse words and penises?  Or are people simply comfortable with the ideas being portrayed on certain shows?  A new trend I'm noticing is that the independent liberated woman is a complete trainwreck at best and a stupid drunk whore at her almost best.

I'm not the only one who's noticed this current spree of vag-hate.  It's a cultural trend that some people (and I mean self-important assholes) have dubbed "retro-sexism," as though bigotry was some sort of a fad from the '80s that's currently going through a revival.  A few feminists have been making a rather big deal about the show Work It, which portrays men who dress as women in order to get jobs at an upscale office.  Sure, this is all quite sexist in and of itself, what with men, essentially, in blackface(or would that be in vaginapenis?).  But the racial undertones are far stronger, as they are with most sitcoms.  For instance, that a black man can only be allowed to be with a black woman is a common theme on a lot of cookie-cutter television and Work It is no exception.

A crime against nature, apparently.
A show portraying men portraying women isn't really as nefarious as what is being presented on other programs.  It's kind of an old shtick that people can't seem to understand was never even funny in the first place(I'm talking to you, Ancient Greeks).  In any case, you can't really portray a person as negatively as they can themselves.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of women willing to degrade themselves just to keep their failing careers afloat.  And I don't mean by showing bush.  I mean by unabashedly selling out their gender.

The three worst culprits of this current cultural motif are Chelsea, Whitney and 2 Broke Girls.  Now, in order to express a truly informed opinion, I thought it would be a good idea for me sit down and seriously watch these shows.  Analyze them.  Really figure them out.


I absolutely refuse to watch past the first episode of any of these godawful shows.  Fuck you, I won't do it.  They're so entirely unfunny that they will just make you angry by how funny they desperately try to be.  What?  Not scared?  Oh, you will be.  You will be....

I know.  I'm sorry.
I'll start with the least culpable perpetrator: 2 Broke Girls.  When I first watched this show it seemed like a slightly-honest slightly-exaggerated representation of a young 20-year-old girl trying to make it on her own.  Kat Dennings' character seemed familiar to me.  She reminded me of many women that I personally know.  As the episode progressed something started to seem a little off.

The protagonist isn't just strong and independent, she's kind of a bitch.  Granted, Hollywood does tend to assume that those two things are one thing, but it goes deeper than that.  She isn't just cold, she's an idiot.  If your significant other cheats on you that hard then you more than likely know.  And that's not just me going "oh, come on, how could you not know?"  That's a statistical fact.

Not only is she a cold-hearted, iron-willed, mean-spirited oblivious asshole, but she just let's people walk all over her, turning into a little girl whenever there is a real problem with real consequences that she has to deal with.  The real lesson behind this show?  All strong women are just putting on a front to protect themselves from a hard uncaring world.  What a load of crap.

"I'm just a scawed widdle giwl.  Won't some big stwong man help me?  Pwetty pweeeeaaaase?" -Virginia Woolf, circa nineteen-hundred-and-fucking-never.
In Whitney it seems that the only reason the main character is so liberated is because she is just completely out of touch with society.  She claims that "all we seem to do is go to weddings," yet doesn't understand that she shouldn't wear a white dress to a wedding.  Then she eats all the cupcakes!  Yeah, that does sound pretty retarded, but apparently people do that instead of wedding cake sometimes.  Or whatever.  She's not strong.  She's just a prick.

Whitney also seems to be very uncomfortable with sex.  She doesn't like talking about it, she reprimands her friend for showing cleavage in a photograph and she can't be intimate with her long-term boyfriend.  When she does finally try to "spice things up" she just gets a bunch of costumes for roleplay and demonstrates how incredibly sexually awkward she is by boring the hell out of and then hospitalizing the guy.

I've never actually watched Whitney Cummings' standup, so I can't compare her to the show, nor can I have any say on her as a comedian.  I understand that a television show has a lot of little fingers in the pot.  Just because a show is modeled around a celebrity that doesn't mean that the quality of the show has anything to do with them.  This show is just terrible.  However, pedophilia jokes are always funny.  So, good job on that one, writers.

What is she, like, a ventriloquist or something?
During the third act, there is actually a very human and poignant couple of scenes at the hospital.  The show makes some solid points about relationships and people and Whitney Cummings finally plays her character as a real person.  There's this excellent bit about the strength of a relationship when you strip away the ridiculous social connotations we conform our views to and thus warp our expectations of each other.  Then Whitney strips down to a slutty nurse outfit and mounts her boyfriend in the incredibly-busy shared hospital room.  Now that is one classy lady.

But the absolutely most insulting bit of tripe garbage?  Are you there, Chelsea.  I think during the entire episode I laughed once.  That was because the cat's name was Assface and, come on, that's just comedy gold right there.  Not only is Laura Prepon's character a total mess with no direction in life whatsoever, she's an utter alcoholic.  The opening scene of the first episode has her literally drinking the worm and getting thrown in jail for a DUI where she makes out with a butch lesbian played by, who the fuck else, Dot-Marie Jones.

The worst part of it is that Chelsea Handler is writing and acting for it.  While she may not be an out and outspoken feminist, many women do look up to her.  I'm not a believer that celebrities ought to be role models(quite the opposite, really), but it is still a shame to see someone many women find inspirational throwing her hat into this particular ring.  At least she has good taste in vodka.

Mm-mm, good.

These shows are all really terrible.  Outside of their obvious bigotry that extends beyond sexism, they're just not funny.  That's really the most important bit.  You can be as much of a dick as you want, but you better make me laugh.  However, there are some really good shows out there that do the same thing these other one-season-max sitcoms are doing.

I'm really sorry to say this, but 30 Rock is one of them.  Not to the severe degree that these other contrived crap-on-a-stick shows are, but it's there.  It's something that's developed more and more as the show's progressed.  Liz Lemon went from being this awkward nerdy workaholic who was just able enough to keep her life together to a baby-crazy hate-filled narcissist who kept hopping the border between hating men and being completely incompetent with them.  Granted, the new midseason premiere addressed this issue very well and kind of completely fixed all that, but let's just pretend right now is last week.

It's a great show.  I love 30 Rock and I love Tina Fey.  Tina Fey herself is an actual inspiration to women and 30 Rock is an actually funny show.  I can't count the number of times I've heard a woman say, "I want to be Tiny Fey."  The point is that it's just a really ugly trend that's been popping up, it seems, everywhere lately.

I'm sorry, Tina!  I never meant to hurt you!
That's why I don't understand the rationale behind what's "offensive."  On the Hulu page for Where Are You, Chelsea someone wrote, "Don't you just hate it when they substitute dirty jokes for humor."  And another person, in a post titled Oh! Great! Sluts R Us!, remarked, "Like we need just one more low brow show! What IQ demographic is geared to? Non-existent."  Yes.  What a well articulated point.  And may I add, 'quite.'

Really, though?  That's what offends you?  Not the blatant bigotry, the two-dimensional characters jurry-rigged together from unfounded stereotypes, the complete lack of regard for ethicism.  But naughty words?  Seriously?  I think it bodes poorly for our society when morality itself is morally corrupt.  Fuck.  Shit.  Ass.  Piss.  These words shouldn't offend you.  A vagina shouldn't offend you.  Bigotry should.  And so should unfunny, derivative laughtrack sitcoms that act as vehicles for it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'll Be Whatever I Wanna Do

I kind of miss when geek culture was the outlier.  Being a nerd was supposed to be denigrating.  These used to be derogatory terms.  We hushedly reappropriated every slander thrown at us.  And in our campaign to become comfortable with ourselves we made everybody else comfortable with us, too.

We enjoy graph jokes
That said, I am a fan of geek chic.  I like that my point of view and my interests are now being represented in popular culture.  But have we become too accepted?  When I bring up, in passing conversation, that I am a big ol’ nerd almost everybody comments that so are they.  They know exactly where I’m coming from.
That’s my problem with this whole phenomenon.  They don’t.  They haven’t spent years obsessing about pointless minutiae.  They didn’t memorize the arbitrary yet (sometimes) steadfast rules of fictional universes.  They never got in a fight because someone thought they were weird for liking Pokemon at fifteen.  They’ve only now discovered the joy of geekhood.

It is a good thing.  Everybody should share in our culture.  It’s fun and it’s humorous and it makes you feel better about life.  But it’s also been taken advantage of and fetishized.  In ways that, as I see it, aren’t for the better.

The Big Bang Theory, for instance, is one of the single most insulting shows to all of geekdom.  It is a show born of market testing.  They studied demographics, sliced and diced us up and took our habits and our interests while completely disregarding our natures.  What else can be expected from the creators of Two and a Half Men?

Being a nerd and watching the Big Bang Theory is like being black and watching the House of Payne, or pretty much anything Tyler Perry does.  Sure, you can take a gander across the pond and bask in the brilliance that is the IT Crowd.  It is a very fair representation, though granted a very over the top and absurd one, of nerdhood.  Pretty much any nerd can claim themselves to be either a Moss or a Roy.  But that hasn’t had nearly the level of financial and popular success that Big Bang Theory has.

Zooey Deschanell’s entire career is another good example of the dangers of geek popularization.  She’s created a persona for nerds all around the world to lust after.  She’s taken the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype and added nerd.  It isn’t an honest portrayal of nerd, it’s really just more of the same, but also she wears gawky glasses sometimes and is annoyingly awkward.

Zooey Deshanell's real life equivalent

Not that I don’t enjoy her work, it’s just another example of how someone took a traditional product, slathered a thin veneer of nerd over it and sold it to the masses.  This is how nerdiness has become fetishized.  Being completely socially unaware used to be an ostracizable offense.  It didn’t used to be okay to be completely miserable at interacting with people.  Now it’s considered cute.  Sexy, even.

Which would be great for me if I hadn’t spent years working on my social skills to the point where I now excel at social interaction.  Now that I’m not awkward anymore awkward is in.  And therein lies the issue.  When we were kids, hell, even just a few years ago, being a nerd was like belonging to our own little not-so-secret society and our crummy lives had been the hazing ritual.  We were inductees.  Now everyone’s a member.  And these new folks never paid the toll.

The popularization of geek culture is a good thing.  The benefits to culture and society outweigh these minor frustrations.  It’s nice that I can have an in depth discussion about Futurama or quantum entanglement with a random stranger at a bar and feel accepted, even appreciated, and receive some genuinely insightful input.  I guess I just feel that the real geeks out there deserve a little more credit.  We were here a long time before you all realized how fun science and superheroes and cartoons could be.  Not to sound like some annoying hipster,  but we were weird before it was cool to be weird.  I just don’t want that to be forgotten.

And as a point of fact I’m totally a Roy.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Land Of Race Car Ya-Yas

I hate other drivers.  Genuinely hate.  Whenever I go for a simple drive to the bank or the grocery store there seems to be a slew of crazy people out to kill me in the most brutal way imaginable, full of twisted metal and fire and screaming.  Now, I do a lot of city driving, and to a point I’m very glad for the wide streets in San Fernando.  It’s a big relief compared to the tiny one lane roads back in Philly, though the traffic does seem to somehow move slower here.

I also do a lot of highway driving, and living in L.A. if I go anywhere more than five miles away I’ll probably take the freeway.  So, city driving now also becomes highway driving and I fear for my goddamn life.  I’m not scared of getting mugged and shot.  I’m not scared of being stabbed in a park in the middle of the night.  I’m scared of being run off the road by someone who seems to think that the other cars on the road are some sort of a mirage and the only way to make them go away is to get some water RIGHT FUCKING NOW OR THEY WILL DIE.

So, to help you out, in my ever-vigilant campaign to make my life better and you all as awesome as me, I have created a list of why I’m a better driver than you:

1. I use my turn signal.

This is a big one.  Driving safely is dependent on being aware of other drivers.  So when I’m going about my way, tralalalala, and you decide, at the point where I’m about to pass you, to cut in front of me without signaling, I tend to panic and my life flashes before my eyes as I imagine myself perishing in a fiery and not-ironic-enough-to-be-funny death.

2. I don’t tailgate.

Mostly I don’t tailgate because I don’t trust myself to not spasmodically twitch, accidentally slam on the gas and wreck the car ahead of me.  Or, more likely, wreck my tiny 2002 Echo.  I know that some people are simply good at tailgating.  You know what a lot of people aren’t good at?  Being tailgated.  So next time you drive up to a little sedan thinking “maybe if I ride this person’s ass they’ll get out of my way, even though it’s physically impossible for them to change lanes for at least two miles” please consider the person driving that sedan and freaking the fuck out because there’s a giant monster people nowadays call “trucks” about to eat them.

3. I don’t drive ten miles below the speed limit.

In fact, I don’t drive the speed limit.  I stay at least five miles above the speed limit mainly because 90% of the people around me are doing exactly that same thing.  If you don’t keep up with traffic you could cause a car accident.  That’s right, if you’re driving slowly you’re not being a safe and concerned citizen, you are putting people’s lives in danger.  Don’t do that.

4. I don’t text, sext, tweet, blog or take pictures while I drive.

That’s right, take fucking pictures.  People do that.  I’ve seen it.  Or wear headphones instead of just plugging the thing into the radio.  I literally can’t count the number of times I’ve almost been killed by someone who thought that their phone or their music was far more interesting and pertinent to their lives at the moment than whatever was happening on the road.  And you know what the worst thing is about these filthy, disgusting people?  They never realize they’re doing anything wrong.  It makes me sick.

5. I’m not impatient.

That is such a total lie.  I am the most impatient fucking person you will ever meet.  I get pissed off that I have to wait a whole minute and a half to microwave leftovers.  What the fuck is that?  A whole minute and a half?  You have got to be shitting me.  But impatience is what kills people on the road, it really does.  Running late for work?  Maybe you should leave for work earlier instead of trying to murder me.

6.  I don't blind people.

People seem to love to just leave their brights on all night long.  From 6 PM to the wee hours of the morning people love to make sure that they can see everything and you can't see anything.  They don't seem to understand that A) other cars on the road are supposed to help provide lighting and cues on how the road bends and B) if you flood a car with light then that person is rendered fucking blind.  By endangering other people on the road you are endangering yourself.  And, believe me, you are not a good enough driver to swerve out of the way of a car going 80 MPH that just crashed into meridian because everything looks the same when your pupils are so dilated that it's all just one big bright light.

7.  I’m not old.

I know what you’re going to say.  “But, K, you can’t judge an entire population based on a few bad apples.  That’s bigotry.”  You know what, concerned citizen?  You’re right.  And I don’t care.

Well, that’s my list of reasons why one of you will one day end up killing me.  If I think of anymore I’ll be sure to put them up.

Friday, September 24, 2010

That's Where I Want To Be!

I have made peace with New Jersey.  Beverly Hills has the worst drivers.  Every time I venture into this deathtrap of packed cars operated by wholeheartedly unaware drivers I fear that I am going to die.  And every single time almost do.  You ever play that game Traffic where you have to shuffle around wooden blocks or cars in order to get yours off the board and to safe haven?  Well, it's like that.  Only at 40 miles an hour.

And I say "wholeheartedly" because you have to try to be such a bad driver.  The near death experience I had today involved two young women, or cunts, going five miles an hour down the middle of an intersection in heavy traffic(because it's never not heavy).  Here's roughly how it looked:

Even as I slammed on my breaks, as my tires squealed, as I blared my horn the two Beverly Hillians just kept on giggling.  That's right.  Kept on.  As in they'd been laughing the whole time instead of fearing for their lives in some sort of confused panic like decent human beings.

I hate Beverly Hills.  You know how it's portrayed in movies and television as being full of really stuck-up self-absorbed jaggoffs?  It's pretty much true.  I was chilling at a Starbucks and actually saw a guy in a sports jacket talking like Ron Whitey from Futurama.  The thing is, it looks just like every other town ever.  Well, except for all the gates.  Every house has a gate.

And that's the big hint right there.  That's better than any metaphor I can come up with.  Gates.  Isn't it funny how the more money people have the more they worry about it?  Poor people aren't worried about money.  We're worried about the things that money gets us.  Like food.  And shelter.  But rich people, they have all the things they need.  So they need to protect their money.  You know,'s so very green?

Don't get me wrong.  I want to be rich.  I need to be rich.  Here's a formula I've come up with.


Pretty sound, right?  But I can't ever imagine hoarding my money.  I'd rather like to think of myself as that rich buddy who's always buying you beer.  What the hell do I need?  Food.  A place to live.  Some money to travel around.  A Mini Cooper S Convertible.  To live the life I want I need, what, a hundred grand a year?  Two hundred, maybe?  What the hell am I gonna do with the rest of the gobs of money I see my future self possessing?  See, that's what freeloading friends are for.  And maybe I'd buy a casino.