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!

Summer TV Rewatch: Babylon 5

Ten years ago, watching TV shows on DVD was a new idea. Netflix wasn’t a thing, and TiVo was just beginning to become a household name. So when I brought home a DVD set of a 90s sci-fi show titled Babylon 5, my dad wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.

I had bought it because the series’ creator, J. Michael Straczynski, was writing two of the best graphic novel arcs I had ever read: Rising Stars and The Amazing Spider-man. When I realized he had his own TV show that was new on DVD, I rushed out, paid my $80, and got the DVDs.

We started watching it, loved it, and burned through the seasons more quickly than they were being released. When we had watched all five seasons, the movies, and the spinoff series Crusade, we wanted more–but there was no more.

We moved on to different shows, and over the course of the next ten years, my dad and I finished a lot of SF series on DVD together. Babylon 5 will always have a spot in my heart for beginning that tradition, especially now that my dad is gone.

So this summer, I decided to work my way through Babylon 5 again. I can’t go visit my dad and watch our shows together, and I can’t quite bring myself to finish Star Trek: Deep Space Nine–the series we were watching together when he passed away. So watching Babylon 5 all over again is a good compromise.

Babylon 5 is definitely 90s sci-fi, but the narrative is phenomenal, the characters are sympathetic, and the writing is better than the series’ contemporaries.

At least, that’s how I remember it.

I’ll be blogging about the series over the summer, and while I’m not suggesting a full-on blogging group watch, I do hope you’ll join me as I rewatch Babylon 5. If you’re interested in contributing a post, feel free to contact me by email or on Twitter.

[Guest Post] The End of an Era: The End of “House, M.D.”

Lisa James loves numbers, logic, and telling people what to do. So it should come as no surprise that one of her favorite TV shows was House, M.D. With its series finale having just aired, Lisa gives us a retrospective on the series and why it lasted when so many other shows get the Friday Night Death Slot.

House MD FinaleI don’t really blog, but as this is a special occasion—House, M.D. is ending!—I thought I would give it a try.

I am not usually one to get hooked on a TV show, but House, M.D. got me hooked from the pilot episode, the one where the patient had worms. I guessed the diagnosis before House did. Now, to be honest, that was mainly luck, but it also possibly had something to do with the fact I was taking a parasitology class at the time as well. Either way, I was hooked.

 

That Love/Hate Relationship

House, M.D. is one of those shows you either love or hate; there isn’t really an in-between. For me, it is a love. In the eight years the show has been on the air, I have never missed an episode. I own every season and watch them regularly. I am not such a crazed fan that I wear the logos or anything like that, but I wouldn’t mind having a snuggly Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital hoodie. Anyway back on topic, the end of the show.

For those of us who have watched the show from the beginning, we have grown to love the disgruntled doctor. We have watched him struggle with addiction, pain, friendship, and love. We have watched as he destroyed buildings, set people on fire, and drugged his one and only friend (more than once!). We saw House fall in love, let go of love, and ultimately close himself off to it completely. We have seen him struggle with human connection, with emotional ties to friends as well as lovers.

Gregory House has never and will never fit the norm of society. He will always be the outcast, eccentric, egotistical genius. But that’s why we have come to love him.

The show has taught us that everybody has secrets, that everybody has something they want to hide. It has also taught us that everybody lies.

Each week, House, M.D. has taken us through puzzle after puzzle after puzzle, and we keep going back for more. We have watched as murder was committed, as addiction and rehab danced their dance, as love ended, and as we saw what life in prison is like. Yet through it all we still feel for Gregory House and his team.

Because through it all, they’re people, too. Which makes us ache all the more for House’s inability to connect.

The show has revealed the minds of the characters in it. Chase’s insecurities as a doctor. Cameron’s inabilities to let go of lost love. Foreman’s fear of not being the best. Wilson’s struggle to give up his friendship as the enabler. And Cuddy’s refusal to admit her love. The show has introduced us to a variety of people with real personalities and real problems.

 

And now, it’s over.

Who knows what House will do now? For that matter, who knows what I will do now?

I am not ashamed to say I don’t want this to end. I don’t want to stop watching the show. I don’t want to stop interacting with the show and loving these characters.

I need more. I need more puzzles. I need more deceit. I need more control issues and egotism. Put plainly: I need more House.

I have loved and will always miss my beloved Gregory House. But at least I can say he taught me two lessons I’ll carry with me from now on.

Everybody lies. Everybody dies.

What did you think of the House, M.D. finale?

Castle: Droppin’ the Writer Ball

Richard Castle Writer VestThe world is full of two kinds of people: those who love Nathan Fillion, and those who haven’t been exposed to him yet.

I am one of the former, having been a fan of his since Serenity came out in the theater, and my friend lent me the Firefly DVDs.  Fillion’s brand of shenanigans and outright wackiness is right up my alley, and I can safely say that I would watch pretty much anything he’s in.  (Including the fantastic and not at all vulgar PG Porn: Nailing Your Wife.  If you haven’t seen it, you should.)

Last year, my wife and I found Castle, really liked it as a series, and made it one of those shows that we fit into our schedule and stayed more-or-less current on.  For Jennifer, she watches because Nathan Fillion makes a lot of funny faces.  She could care less about the procedural of the week, and only a few of the characters.  But she loves her some Faces of Fillion.

I agree with her on almost all counts (I do still really enjoy the procedural of the week, though), but my primary draw is Richard Castle, the author.

Sure, the portrayal of an NYT bestselling author is hyperexaggerated and entirely unrealistic.  No one–not even the wealthiest, most glamorous authors–lives like Castle does.  Nonetheless, that’s what I watch for.  I want love his job, and I think some of my favorite scenes happen when he’s discussing his work or just sitting in his office writing away on his laptop.

Sure, his relationship with his mother and his daughter is great, and I think it’s pretty nifty when the show cuts away from the grisly murder to humanize the characters.

But what really sets Castle apart from CSI: Miami (outside of Nathan Fillion outclassing David Caruso in every way) is that Richard Castle is a writer.

Or Is He? (Cue Eerie Music)

Over the course of Season 3, Castle is decidedly less writery than in the first two seasons.  The storylines are more formulaic, more traditionally procedural, and deal far less with his career and family.

And let’s face it: without his career and family, Castle is just another procedural. A well-done procedural, but just another procedural nonetheless.

Season 1 of Castle was fantastic.  It was fresh and new, and did new things with the genre.  Season 2 upped its game, and it was thoroughly enjoyable because the series began to really find its legs, find its sense of humor.  But then during Season 3, something changed.

We stopped caring.  There was just something off about the third season, and try as I might, nothing stuck out to me.  Sure, I liked the third season, and I made sure I stayed caught up on new episodes, but it wasn’t the shiny, new episode of Faces of Fillion it had once been.

Then Jennifer figured it out: at some point during Season 3, Rick Castle went from being a writer to being a cop who just happens to notice irony.

With that in mind, I reevaluated the whole season.  Sure, there were episodes that dealt with his work as a writer, and those turned out to be my favorites.  (The finale was pretty good, too, because it dealt with Kate’s mom’s murder and had some genuinely human moments in it.)  But overall, the third season is unfortunately more generic than the other two.

It could be for any number of reasons, but I really hope that it’s not because the network has leaned on the writers to dumb it down, to make it more mainstream-accessible.

Because seriously, if Castle weren’t accessible enough for mainstream audiences pre-S3, something’s wrong.  (And if that’s the case, what hope does any unique or experimental series have for success on a major network?  Where does that leave them?)

The Future…

Season 4 airs this fall, and we’ll likely stay caught up on Castle.  We’ll just have to wait and see if this issue is addressed, or if it’s just the direction the series is going.  With the Heat Wave movie under production (within the series, that is), and the release of the Derek Storm graphic novel (both IRL and in-series), there are some really good opportunities for writery goodness to be had.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Do you have a favorite series that started strong and then veered away from its most attractive quality?  Did it ever get back on track?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

[Guest Post]: On the Death of Stargate Universe: a TV Industry in Flux

This guest post is brought to you by Matt Herron of TangibleMotion.  If you’re not a reader, then I suggest you become one.  Even follow him on Twitter (@tangiblemotion) if you’re feeling frisky.

With only a single episode left to savor in the second and final season of the SyFy original series Stargate Universe, now is the perfect time to examine the factors that led to the show’s cancellation.

The Sad Tradition

By now sci-fi fans expect it. They groan inwardly when SyFy cancels another awesome show, and yet they are not surprised. They saw Firefly beheaded; Dollhouse was murdered in its youth; Caprica went the same way; and the funeral procession for SGU has already been prepared.

The cancellations are expected. But are they understood?

Multiple theories have been posited to explain away the choice to cancel two of SyFy’s original series’, SGU and Caprica. Most agree (even Scalzi), however, that poor network scheduling is the main culprit, particularly the choice to move these shows from Fridays to Tuesdays. They were shucked aside in favor of the guaranteed revenue brought by WWE SmackDown on Friday Nights, which SyFy acquired rights to in 2010.

TV is a business, so it’s no surprise that the network values SmackDown over SGU. New shows still have to prove their worth, while SmackDown came with a Friday night audience. It’s simply bad business to put your best bet on the back burner.

But SyFy didn’t do that. They cut their losses, and SGU had to go. The fans are heartbroken, but the network will survive.

Could SGU have been saved? We can only speculate. Fans of the Stargate universe are quick to rise to SGU’s defense, and for good reason. It is a marked improvement over it’s predecessors. There are no cheesy alien costumes. The characters are likeable and they actually develop as the show progresses. For example, the scientist Nicholas Rush becomes less insubordinate and less secretive after he is left to die on a strange world.
The show also has a noticeable story arc, as opposed to the pre-boxed cracker-jack episodes that are common in other series’ like SG-1 and BSG. This may make it harder to gain a large audience, since someone joining the show mid-season could get lost without knowledge of the back story. But for someone who is a fan of the show from the beginning, the story is engaging and the progress the characters make in figuring out their situation is captivating (finally gaining access to the main system controls of Destiny; pressure from the homeworld that causes tension among different members of the half-civilian, half-military crew; mistakes they make along the way that cause the death of crew members and friends.)

If the audience for a good original sci-fi show is out there (and it is: SG-1, BSG, Lost, Heroes, Fringe all make further proof unnecessary), then why did SGU get the axe? What did SyFy do wrong?

The Shift to Online Viewing

What I’m going to call the online shift theory is touted around the sci-fi fan geekdom as the main reason for many a show’s cancellation, SGU and Caprica included. It goes like this:

“Sci-fi fans tend to be younger and technologically savvy, and so among the earliest adopters of new technology. We got DVRs first and stopped watching our favorite shows live. We were the first users of Hulu and iTunes, and sci-fi fans were torrenting new episodes illegally before most people even knew such a thing existed.”

And the reason, the theory continues, is that since the ratings systems doesn’t count online and not-live DVR views (when you skip commercials) properly, the ratings are poor for sci-fi shows and eventually the network drops the show.

Craig Engler, GM and senior vice president of Syfy Digital, wrote an article on Nielsen ratings and online viewing for Blastr, an “imagined by SyFy” blog. He writes, “There’s some truth to what’s being said, but there are also lots of misconceptions and things people overlook when the topic comes up.”

He goes on to explain how Nielsen ratings work, why DVRs that allow you to skip ads are a “bigger issue” than online viewing, how online viewing is counted, how sampling works, etc. You can read the article in it’s entirety at Blastr, but this is what it comes down to:

“Overall I don’t think there’s any evidence to support that Nielsens are wildly inaccurate or especially harsh on sci-fi shows. And sci-fi shows are actually canceled no more frequently than other genres. The reality of TV is that most shows fail, in any genre. That’s endemic to all entertainment businesses. Most movies aren’t successful, most books don’t become best-sellers, etc.”

In other words, the Nielsen ratings system isn’t great, but for now it’s good enough for the TV industry because they need some level ground to negotiate with advertisers on.
So the shift to online viewing doesn’t have that much of an impact. But if you factor in the tech savvy audience, the move to Tuesday nights, and the non-cracker-jackness [Note from Beej: Best Phrase Ever, Matt.] of the writing, it is really no surprise that SGU was cancelled after all.

A TV Industry In Flux

Engler does provide a few caveats, or back doors through which to escape from the unpredictability of the TV industry. First, he writes that Nielsen plans to unveil a new ratings system that includes online viewing:

“Later this year Nielsen is going to roll out a new rating that combines TV and online views for shows that run online with the same ads as on air, and that may entice more advertisers to buy their online and on-air ads in sync. Until they do, there is a real business need to track them separately.”

This seems like a good thing from the perspective of the online viewer. But it will only work if SyFy’s online viewing option evolves. Because the current online viewing option that SyFy offers on Hulu is not up to par.

In the case of Stargate Universe, for example, episodes can be streamed on Hulu. But as of now, the week before the final episode is to air, only the twelfth episode is available on Hulu. That leaves multiple episodes that the frequent viewer may wish to see that are unavailable on the only online service that brings SyFy revenue.

The missing episodes can be streamed on alternate streaming services, but they don’t do SyFy any good since they are not paying SyFy for their use.

It seems sensible for SyFy to create their own streaming portal, instead of going through a third party. If what the fans believe is true, then SyFy has a large, tech savvy audience just waiting for a decent online viewing alternative. If SyFy also manages to sell the deal to their advertisers, then they could capture the shift to online viewing before it overtakes on-air TV viewing.

The pattern is laid out, the audience is looking for it… and until SyFy takes advantage of the situation, sci-fi fans will continue to see good shows die young and full of potential.
The second and most important caveat Engler mentions is that online viewing is gaining worth as we speak.

“The TV and online industries are both in massive flux right now, and that will continue for a long while. Five years ago, online revenue for TV shows was counted in pennies, and now it’s counted in nickels. Hopefully it will get to quarters in the next few years, and then online viewing might really start making an impact on the ability of TV networks to renew shows.”

In other words, online viewing has increased in worth to advertisers 500% in the past five years. There is no reason to suggest that this will change.

Indeed, SyFy would be daft not to take advantage of the online viewing market while it’s still affordable.

Perhaps Stargate Universe could have been saved, if the industry were in a different, more tech savvy shape than it currently is. Things are changing, though, and if online viewing (including DVR’s, on-demand, etc.) becomes the norm, it’s a whole different ball game.