Objection! Girls Can Be Geeks, Too!

Joe Peacock really ruffles my feathers. You may have already had the misfortune of reading Peacock’s newest tirade against what he calls “geek posers”. This newest installment is specifically against those geeks who just happen to be female. In it, he claims that attractive girls who cosplay or wear “geeky” attire at Cons are “poachers.” He claims these poachers are women who resort to wearing skimpy outfits because they are incapable of finding companionship outside of the legions of mouth-breathing, desperate nerds. The outfits, according to Peacock, supposedly make these women feel better about themselves and impress the basement-dwellers at the Cons.

Wait, back up. How exactly can he make this argument, anyways?

The Clubhouse

Let’s start with what we know about Joe Peacock’s stance on the matter generally. Joe has already made his views clear on how he believes the geek community should be regulated in previous articles. Mr. Peacock has this belief that, if you now become interested in the geek community or its myriad topics, you must be a “poser”.  For Peacock, this is doubly-true if you are an attractive woman, since you’re here just to boost your self-esteem (more on this later).

See, according to Joe Peacock, if you weren’t in the clubhouse already, you must only be in it now for the popularity contest, because you had ample opportunity to get in before it became cool, but you just couldn’t bring yourself to do it.

I contend that this is just factually incorrect. Geeky pursuits of all varieties have had varying (but mostly low) levels of public exposure for a long time, and much of it has been negative. Sure, people outside the “inner circle” knew about these pursuits–but were they actually exposed to them?

Let’s also not forget that everyone has to come to this community somehow. I am lucky in that my Dad made me watch Star Wars as soon as I was old enough to understand the plot, but that doesn’t make me a better geek than someone who watches Star Wars for the first time today and throws themselves into it–it just makes me an older geek. Why is it less legitimate for someone to come to enjoy geeky pursuits now?

The insistence of people like Joe Peacock on holding aloft their geek credentials like some kind of rallying point is troubling. When did this community become a clubhouse, anyways? We should be welcoming new minds and hearts to our geeky pursuits of choice, not discounting them based on timing or gender, as Joe would have us do.

We can’t exclude people based on their gender, physical appearance, or their relatively new arrival to the community. What we should be doing is encouraging new geeks, not trying to shut them out of our clubhouse. Joe does state that he is willing to teach the “posers”, and I believe that what we’re seeing from him is likely a genuine love for “geek culture”, or whatever you want to call it. He states:

“‘Geek’ is what happens when passion overrides your need to be accepted or fit in. It’s loving something so much that you throw yourself wholeheartedly into it.”

This is an interesting (if somewhat poetic) description. The sad part is that Joe feels that he is able to both define the parameters as to what constitutes a “real” geek and also to decide who fits this description ahead of time, thus regulating the whole community. The argument he presents is basically “if you’re not as passionate as me, you must not be a real geek.”

The Poachers

Specifically, he shows us his lurking fear of geek girls.

I give Peacock credit for identifying the entertainment industry’s increasingly common attempts to reach the geek demographic, but this fact does not an argument make (or at least not this one). Is the entertainment industry trying to introduce more geek-friendly programming and icons (including female icons)? Sure they are: they see it can make them money. Love it or hate it, that’s how capitalism works.

But Peacock takes this and runs too far with it. Does this mean that the attractive girl in the Cammy outfit is only at the Con because she has low self-esteem and wants to be idolized by nerds? No, that is a leap even Mario would have trouble making.

Yet here Joe finds himself:

“I get sick of wannabes who couldn’t make it as car show eye candy slapping on a Batman shirt and strutting around comic book conventions instead.

I’m talking about an attention addict trying to satisfy her ego and feel pretty by infiltrating a community to seek the attention of guys she wouldn’t give the time of day on the street.”

Joe tries to soften this blow by stating beforehand that he knows beautiful geek girls who are “bona fide geeks.” That’s great Joe, really great. Couldn’t you consider that the girls you dismiss offhandedly as being “attention addicts” could also be legitimate geeks? Why is that so difficult for you to believe, and what gives you the right to act as ultimate arbiter over the status of any geek girl you see at a Con that you don’t personally know?

Why does anyone have to prove anything to you?

I am not a champion of the cosplay community, so I allow for the possibility that this kind of person could exist. Even so, you cannot pre-judge someone based solely on their appearance. Even if you positively ascertained that someone is a “poacher” by talking with them (again, this is a stretch and no one is obligated to prove anything to you), wouldn’t it be better to try to show them the joy that is our hobby rather than kick them to the curb? And ultimately, even if they were one of these mythical “poachers”, what harm have they done to you? Matt Dukes (@direflail) of Critical Hits echoes my sentiments on Twitter:

Joe does betray some of his feelings on the topic by using the word “Infiltrating,” though. He seemingly views geek girls as invaders or outsiders. What damage they are doing to him, or even to the community at large, is not elaborated upon with any amount of clarity:

“They’re poachers. They’re a pox on our culture. As a guy, I find it repugnant that, due to my interests in comic books, sci-fi, fantasy and role playing games, video games and toys, I am supposed to feel honored that a pretty girl is in my presence. It’s insulting.”

I can’t speak for Joe or anyone else, but not once have I ever been at a Con where an attractive woman in a costume walked up to me and demanded that I feel honored in her presence. Of course, no one is actually insulting Joe–he’s just threatened or maybe confused by the fact that an attractive woman at a Con might actually enjoy the same things as him. I don’t know why this is difficult for him to believe. Anyone can be a geek.

Perhaps even more disturbing is that Joe equates these women with Olivia Munn immediately afterwards, claiming they have no investment in the culture. Reality check: regardless of your personal thoughts or feelings on Olivia Munn, she was being paid by organizations with a vested interest in expanding the types of viewers they could attract. You can argue whatever you want about Olivia Munn, but an attractive woman cosplaying at a Con does not have anything in common with her besides her gender, as far as you know.

And I can’t help but feel that this is part of Joe’s real issue.

Though he gives props to Felicia Day and allows for the existence of “real” attractive geek girls, it seems like he is unwilling to implement these beliefs at the ground level. To him, these new attractive geek girls are poachers, until proven otherwise. He’s already counted them out. But then, he ironically goes on to claim that he is not the one objectifying women:

“However, you “6 of 9s” out there? You’re just gross. There’s an entire contingent of guys in geekdom who absolutely love you, because inside, they’re 13 year old boys who like to objectify women and see them as nothing more than butts and a pair of boobs to be leered at. Have fun with them, and don’t be shocked when they send you XBox Live messages with ASCII penises.

Those of us who actually like substance? We’ll be over here celebrating great comics, great games, great art, great movies and great television, because we’re actually attracted to a completely different body part: the brain.”

Honestly, it was a shame that this section was left until the end of Joe’s piece, because if he had put this at the beginning of the post, it would have been better for everyone involved. Joe has excluded these women and reduced them to nothing but “butts and boobs” by dismissing them as poachers without allowing them the possibility to just be attractive geeks. Perhaps my favourite and most telling reply to the article came via Twitter, from Felicia Day (@feliciaday):

Inclusivity is what the geek community needs, and what will make the community a stronger and better place to share all our geeky joys. Any man or woman can be a geek. No one person has sufficient geek cred to pretend like they get to decide that.

Unfortunately, inclusivity is the one thing that Joe–and people like him–are not willing to compromise on. They’re too busy deciding who the “real” geeks are.

Have something to say about the state of modern geekdom? Sound off in the comments!

[Guest Post] – 1980s Horror Films: Better Than You Remember?

It may be regarded as the decade that fashion forgot but the 1980s had a remarkable array of films. Even in the horror genre, this decade provided a futile ground for innovative and groundbreaking ideas. Now, you may be thinking that the 1980s was simply a collection of ‘slasher’ films. That Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees reigned supreme in an ever-growing collection of repetitive, violent outings.

However, I like to think that there was far more than that in the field of film horror. I believe that some really great examples of the genre came from a place that dared to use a combination of imagination, special effects and even humour (black , of course) to achieve its goals.

The Fog (1980) was a nice lead into the decade with its sombre ghost story and use of the ‘less is more’ technique that John Carpenter honed with Halloween in the 70s. However, special effects had advanced quite a bit since then, with An American Werewolf in London (1981) and The Thing (1982) proving that showing everything could be just as horrific. Creepshow (1982) and Fright Night (1985) took advantage of special effects, but also blended genuine dark comedy to create unique outings that are both quite frightening in parts but tongue in cheek when appropriate.

 Similarly, Re-Animator (1985) and Return of The Living Dead (1985) took the ‘mad scientist/zombie’ horror tropes and combined them to make gory outings that also remain humourous and disgusting in equal measure.

Vampires were given an MTV-influenced injection with The Lost Boys (1987), creating monsters that were recognizable by the teen-heavy audience through their music and dress sense.

Another great example of unique horror focused on the body as a tool for pain and revulsion in a way slasher films might not have thought possible. The Fly (1986) and Hellraiser (1987) are definitely two effective examples of using the body as a jumping off point for horrific consequences.

Horror in that period might be predominately known as the era of razor gloves and hockey masks, but it also brought a few unique things along for the ride too. Just make sure you check those out before writing the 1980s off. And don’t forget the soundtracks too. 80s horror soundtracks are amongst the best.

Images courtesy of  scarymoviemania.blogspot.com and theaceblackblog.com, respectively.

Halit Bozdogan loves films and thinks 3 of the best soundtracks ever are from 80s horror: Return of the Living Dead, Fright Night, and The Lost Boys.

Dragons Flights and Sacrifice: A Tribute to Hermione Granger

The following is a guest post by my lovely wife Jennifer, who reminds me of Hermione in more than a few ways (which is a good thing!).  She even has her own Hogwart’s textbook, Marauder’s Map, and butterbeer mug.

Hermione Granger - Deathly Hallows Part 2Like every other woman who went through school with frizzy hair and the label of “the smart girl,” I identify strongly with the character of Hermione Granger. I have no illusions about how clichéd this is. I know it’s about as original as every non-Republican professional woman with glasses believing herself to be the one real-life Liz Lemon (I had this moment about 10,000 times while reading Bossypants).

Cliché or not, Hermione is still often my touchstone in the Harry Potter books and films. Another aspect of this connection is that, at every point when I’ve read the books or watched the movies, I have always been older than Hermione. I think a lot of older Potter fans have a feeling of pride when we see how well the three actors have grown up. I feel the same way about Hermione’s character. Even though I see parts of myself in her, I also have a sense of big-sister pride at the fact that she is stronger and more courageous than I have ever been.

And man-oh-man, does Deathly Hallows Part 2 give me plenty to be proud of.

First of all, I believe that DH2 is fantastically successful as an adaptation and, more importantly, a film. I can’t say yet whether it’s the best of the series, but I think it may be. I also think it has a chance at being the only one of the movies whose success as a film exceeds the book’s success as a novel. It’s much, much too early to say, though.

But I want to talk about the two Hermione moments in the film that made me love my girl even more.

1. Hermione jumps on a dragon.

Pretty self-explanatory. The Gringotts scene may be the best action sequence in the whole series. It combines whimsical effects (the magical reproduction of Bellatrix’s treasure), plot-driven suspense (they have to get that horcrux), our three leads in danger, and a daring escape via dragon flight. I also loved the quick nod to Hermione’s compassion for enslaved magical creatures (mostly left out of the films) with the pained look she gives upon seeing the tortured dragon.

When escape seems impossible, Harry and Ron look to Hermione for a plan. She says she has one, but that it’s “crazy.”

She then proceeds to leap onto the back of a crazed, fire-breathing dragon.

There’s a concept that comes up over and over in many feminist analyses of pop culture: the idea of agency. In looking at agency in this context, scholars examine whether female characters actively participate in the world—that is, whether they initiate behaviors and actions that have tangible results. A lot of times, the underlying passivity of female characters is masked by their sassy personality, but when you examine their behavior, they actually only act in response to the actions of male characters. They don’t initiate.

But my Hermione says “I have an idea” and jumps onto a dragon to save herself, her friends, and—ultimately—the world. Beej will tell you that a huge, proud grin broke out on my face as I said (quietly, of course) “Good girl!”

2. “I’ll go with you.”

The internet is flooded with lists of tear-worthy moments in DH2, so I won’t list mine, but I will say that this line was the most poignant teary moment for me. Harry tells his two best friends that he is going into the woods to let Voldemort kill him, and Hermione’s immediate response is to offer a teary—but determined—“I’ll go with you.”

Now, this is different from all the other times that Hermione has insisted on coming along because, usually, Harry needs her smarts and her spells to help navigate the situation. But this time, there isn’t anything for Hermione to help with. There’s no hope for a daring last-minute escape, no chance of somehow defeating Voldemort. She knows that Harry’s death is necessary and that she’s not going to talk him out of it. So when she says, “I’ll go with you,” she’s just a young woman who is willing to die to keep her best friend from dying alone. Not to stop him from dying, mind you, but just to stand by his side as she always has.

I’m sure there are other moments in pop culture that portray such remarkable friendship, but they are certainly rare. It’s also remarkable that the same character who breaks traditional feminine roles by leaping onto a dragon also embodies the very best of that traditional role with her nurturing selflessness.

Of course, Hermione’s devotion to Harry brings up one question for some fans: Why does she end up with Ron instead? I always kind of went with the flow on the central romance, and I’m a little ambivalent about the message Rowling sends about love and relationships. On the one hand, it does annoy me a bit that she reinforces the “type of person you’d be best friends with” vs. “type of person you should fall in love with” dichotomy. Too often in pop culture, these are presented as opposing personality types when, I would think, they should at least be very closely related. Beej and I were friends for two years before we started dating.

On the other hand, I love that Rowling portrays a long-term, loving friendship between a young man and young woman. My oldest, most loyal friend is male, and we’ve each stood by the other during plenty of hard times (not so difficult as Harry and Hermione’s, but difficult nonetheless). Plus, Hermione and Ron are very dear friends, after all. It’s not as though she suddenly ends up with Draco, which would happen in plenty of romantic comedies with the “if you love that jerk enough, he’ll stop being a jerk” plot. (By the way, this romantic-pairings tangent was inspired by this lovely post that I ran across tonight).

Like everyone else who has followed the series for years, I feel a little sad that the main avenues for the stories are finished. What a tremendous gift it’s been, though, to see it through with these characters who have simultaneously been friends, reflections of ourselves, and heroes we can aspire to emulate. Hermione is far from the only unforgettable character of Harry Potter, but I sure am glad that she’s been around for me and that she’ll be waiting for the next generation of book-smart girls and boys who dream of saving the world.

Which moments in the Harry Potter series (novels or films) have stuck with you?

[Guest Post]: "That’s no moon: It’s a space station!" 10 Ways to Tell the Difference

imageIf you weren’t already aware, May 4th is Star Wars day. So in honor of the Star Wars we are going to help you be prepared for possibly running into a Death Star. It’s happened to all of us at some point or another. You’re chasing an imperial fighter you are worried has identified you and you notice what looks like a small moon. But in this day and age of subterfuge and super weapons how can you be sure that what you are looking at isn’t a giant space station? Here are 10 ways to help decide.

1. Does what you’re looking at have a Superlaser?

While big enough to house their own civilizations, space stations the size of moons are really only there to be a platforms for world destroying super lasers. So if the thing in front of you has one, you’re looking at a space station. What you are looking for is a massive lens, known as the eye, with 8-12 tributary lasers, built around a synthetic focusing crystal. Anything shy of that and you aren’t looking at a full blown Death Star.

2. What’s in the trenches?

Yes, moons often have long deep trenches and so do death stars. The primary difference is that the Death Star’s trenches will form straight concentric circles parallel with the equator. Moon trenches will be more sporadic like Earth’s Grand Canyon and are usually naturally formed from erosion or plate tectonics. You can also look inside the trenches. A moon will just have rocky or icy formations, whereas a space station will have landing bays, drive thrusters, sensor arrays, tractor beam systems and of course, mind-blowingly undefended exhaust ports.

3. Has that “moon” always been there?

If you are in a familiar area of space when you encounter the astral body in question, and you could have sworn there wasn’t a moon there before, then you are probably looking at a space station. Moons orbit planets in regular patterns defined by their relative mass and inertial trajectory. Space stations like the Death Star have ion engines that convert reactor power into thrust and they can go as they please.

4. Is there life on that mystery object?

There is a big debate about how many people live on a Death Star. We assume it takes at least 1 million workers, clones, and aliens just to keep it operational, and this is the number reported by the rebel alliance after the battle of Yavin. The Empire says that there were closer to 800 million at the time, and that the rebels’ conservative estimate was just a way to minimize the atrocity of what they had done. There’s some debate as to whether or not moons like Jupiter’s Europa can harbor simple single-celled life, but either way, most moons are definitely not inhabitable by people. So if you see people, chances are they’re actually living on a space station.

5. Are there thermal exhaust ports you could shoot a proton torpedo down?

This is actually a trick question. If the answer is yes, then you are looking at a first generation Death Star, and you know exactly how to blow it out of orbit. If you don’t see thermal exhaust ports, you’re not out of the woods yet, though, as this fatal design flaw was fixed in the second Death Star. Moons may also vent thermal heat into space through holes in the crust–but those holes are called volcanoes.

6. Did you come out of hyperspace at a planet only to find an asteroid field that’s not supposed to be there?

If so, then I am sorry to say your home planet was blown up by a Death Star type space station and its giant Superlaser. You should probably get the hell out of there as fast as possible because the perpetrators could still be waiting in ambush.

7. What’s on the surface?

The surface of a moon has a lot of irregular geological formations, including: craters, Maria (sloidified lave formations), highlands (typically igneous rock), etc. The surface of a space station will usually resemble a bustling metropolis, with lots of buildings. Scattered among these buildings are literally thousands of laser and ion cannons, as well as anywhere between 600 and 1,000 tractor beam projectors.

8. Gravity or Tractor Beam?

If your space craft experiences a slight attraction caused simply by gravity then it is a moon. If you are inescapably drawn in by a shaft of blue light, then you are stuck in a tractor beam and about to see in person the harsh realities of space station life.

9. Are you in possession of stolen plans?

Space stations are incredibly complex, difficult to build and a monument to modern technology, knowhow and ingenuity. The Original Death Star took nearly 17 years to build, once the plans were in place. Moons are the result of immense astrological events; they take no planning and thus have no plans. If you or someone in your spaceship is in possession of stolen plans for the thing you are looking at, it is most definitely a space station.

10. What does the force tell you?

The easiest way to tell if “that’s a space station or a moon” is to always travel with a Jedi Knight. The first time the Death Star was discovered, Obi Wan saw right through the Imperial tricks proclaiming, “That’s no moon: It’s a space station.” Don’t have a resident Jedi Knight on board? Then you’d better revert back to steps 1 through 9 on the list and pray that you are looking at a moon, because going up against the Death Star without Jedi support is suicide!

Happy Birthday Star Wars!  May the Fourth be with you!

About the Author: When he’s not out skiing the Utah powder, Greg Buckskin is a writer and blogger for Comcast.USDirect.com – home to Comcast Cable Deals.

Guest Post – The Modern True Grit: Another Coen Brothers Masterpiece

It’s probably a personal quirk, but the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men is one of my favorite movies. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would share that opinion with me, but for the most part, it’s not the typical moviegoer’s cup of tea (or Coke, as it were). However, beyond the frighteningly precise violence that turns off the faint of heart, there’s a compelling story with vivid characters and an immaculate standard for subtlety and talent.

When I saw True Grit last weekend, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Having read the book and seen the original movie, I knew it couldn’t be a nonstop stream of austere brutality and elaborate violence. I hoped for the high production standards I’ve come to admire in the Coen brothers’ work, but True Grit is the epitome of the classic Western. I didn’t know what they could possibly do to it that would top John Wayne’s performance, provide a new perspective, improve the story, or make it better in any other way. And that’s why I’m not the Coen brothers.

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