I recently read an article in the New York Times that, as a part of the geek community, upset me. The article, written by Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes, uses the stance that geeks consume violence-ridden media and we turned out okay, so there just can’t possibly be a correlation between it and behavior. I find the logic of this piece not only fundamentally flawed and ultimately crap journalism, but an insult to the geek community at large.
You are probably saying to yourself, “Well they are right, aren’t they? We are good little girls and boys and we watch stuff blowing up all the time.” That’s not the point. The authors, in their infinite wisdom and presumed good intentions, do us a disservice while using the backdrop of the San Diego Comic Con. Also, the stance taken that we are an exception amongst society is a misnomer; in fact, it has become quite apparent over recent years that we are becoming a majority.
In the article, we are depicted as a group that is very well mannered and nice. Well, aren't we being obvious. Of course there is no elaboration as to why or other adjectives added to this assessment, most likely omitted to service the prose of the article. Even more disparaging is that we are singled out not for who we are - a diverse community of intelligent and sophisticated individuals - or what we represent, but as an example to push an editorial agenda. There are reasons for our civility; ones that the authors neglect to go into in order to satisfy a stance.
First and foremost, we are a passionate and creative community. We may disagree with one another and have the occasional troll, but we are like minded individuals. We are diverse, coming from all walks of life and look to experience new things from various cultures. At the end of the day, we understand that we do not want to be embroiled in conflict; that is what we have comics, TV and movies for.
But make no mistake; we are also legion when it is necessary. If we disagree with something, whether it is a Marvel editorial change or gay marriage, we do voice our opinion in unison. There are things we need to rectify within our own ranks (misogyny being at the top of that list), but we always make our voices heard when we feel slighted. More so than society gives us credit for.
SDCC is a time where we celebrate our culture and community as geeks. We do not celebrate violence at the convention. We celebrate our love for these properties. Some of us are more creative and up front about it than others (like cosplayers), but that’s the reason why we congregate like this. We do not care about the contents of a story unless it is produced well and it is riveting (Doctor Who is a big example of this.) We never asked the studios to be at SDCC and bring movies like The Expendables 3 or the Twilight series; they hitched a ride on the crazy train of their own free will long ago. So insinuating we go to SDCC or any other convention to project our love of MDK (Murder Death Kill for anyone who was born in the 90's or later) is an insult to our community. In fact, the authors completely missed the point of these conventions.
The authors also attempt to mention us and Elliot O. Rodgers (the Santa Monica assailant), Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook shooter) and James Holmes (Aurora mass killer) in the same breath to prove a point. We take no responsibility for them. In fact, despite The New York Times writing an article regarding a major factor in these incidents - unlike other US "news" outlets - Cieply and Barnes refuse to acknowledge it. It is the one detail that not only clearly sets them apart from us, but many in society in general. In all three instances (much like the kids in Columbine and others who perform these acts) the perpetrators were psychologically unbalanced. You have one who had Asperger’s (Lanza), one who was clinically depressed (Rodgers) and a third who is clearly a sociopath (Holmes.) All three disengaged from society for any number of reasons, their reality becoming so warped they felt their actions were not only justified but actually a good idea. Society does not care about those who have mental illness; it is considered a dirty secret no one wants to talk about. Such an unwanted topic in fact, that when these tragic events occur we start pointing fingers in the wrong directions. The news outlets automatically go into the hypocritical arguments of "This is the fault of <insert either media or guns>!" Not the fact that when people get to a certain low point they withdraw themselves from society and have no one to talk to without fear of being locked up. No, our society never reacts the way they should in these scenarios. We are quick to blame others than reflect on the causes or solutions to the problem. News agencies only perpetuate the behavior further with sensationalistic pieces like the one Cieply and Barnes wrote.
The geek community is the only one that I know who responds to such topics correctly. We care about what happens to our society in general, because we understand that if affects all of us as a whole. We do not wear blinders until a tragedy occurs. It was our community that had the right dialogs and responses after Sandy Hook. It was us who denounced James Holmes’ gruesome attack at the movie theater in Colorado. We are always talking about issues such as how society should be equal and strive to get others involved both within and outside of our community.
Cieply and Barnes questioned how we can be around such violence and not be affected. I have questions for them. Don’t worry, they are very simple.
Where were you when our community took to social media to not only renounce the tragic act at Sandy Hook, but had a real conversation about how mental illness was the cause? When 50,000 gamers took a pledge to not play FPS’s for 24 hours in response to the Sandy Hook shootings? Or when the studies that came out before and after Sandy Hook which illustrate how video games are actually good for people by helping their eye/hand coordination, cognitive reasoning and decision making skills?
Where are you when girls and women are harassed or treated objectively at conventions? Where were you when a 17 year-old female SDCC attendee was found bloodied and unconscious on July 27th, possibly a result of an assault? Or when it was discussed on a Kevin Smith podcast that Cartoon Network does not care about having females watching DC/Warner Bros. Animation shows?
Where are you in the discussion of the lack of people of color developing projects for a mass audience that are not racially stereotyped? That there are many non-white creatives out there who have great story ideas but are unable to break through into a general audience? That a recent study suggests that Hollywood movies do not reflect the diversity of the US?
Where were you when DC refused to allow Batwoman, a lesbian character, to marry her same sex partner? While we’re at it, where was the larger article when the gay Marvel character Northstar married his boyfriend? Why would you care at all, when you normally leave such news items to outlets that are apparently beneath you?
Ah, that’s right; editorial agenda. You are filling the need of your advertisers, the same studios that spent millions pushing their products on us at SDCC.
Do the geek community a favor New York Times, and stick to journalism. If you really cared about what we think, then cover items or concepts that concern us like racial, gender and sexual equality. Don’t come to these here parts unless you want to write a real article about our community.