Broadsheet blogger Judy Berman today came out to being a geek.
I recently had to admit something to myself: I am, it turns out, a geek. I finally came to terms with it earlier this week, after drinks with female friends. We had been catching up and talking shop when someone mentioned Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All of a sudden, we were all shouting over one another, recounting our favorite episodes and most loved and hated characters.
Despite the fact that Berman used a very cool Kevin Smith quote,* I spent a good few minutes trying to ferret out why her post left me feeling disaffected. Shouldn’t I be glad that more and more women are owning up to their geek interests? (yeah) Shouldn’t I be ecstatic that there’s a much larger female presence at geek venues like Comic Con? (hell yeah) So what’s my problem?
I re-read the post a few times and kept coming back to an angle that initally flew right under the radar:
One friend floated the idea that the show includes just about every kind of guy a girl geek could possibly be attracted to.
To each her own, obviously, but this is not why I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love that show for these reasons: Buffy, Willow, Cordelia, Tara, Fred, Darla, Drusilla.
Buffy can kick arse six ways to Sunday, Willow has the power of the universe at her fingertips, Cordelia has more self-confidence in her pinky finger than most women will ever have, Tara lived a life of authenticity, Fred has one of the biggest brains on the planet, and Darla told the world to suck on its outdated idea of “good little girls.” But Berman and her gal pals would far rather talk about how dreamy Angel, Spike, Riley, and Xander are.
I am not saying that I’m immune to the charms of vampire boyfriend fangs, super-secret special ops pectorals, or best friend late nights, but there’s something in Berman’s sentiment that reminds me of that “crapload of new TWILIGHT fans” she references. Last week over at Writers At Play in my post “Of Paranormal Heroines” I asked why there are so few truly paranormal heroines and noted that:
The “vampire boyfriend” type shows us a story through the “Female Gaze,” something quite blatant on all of those naked torso covers. We’re so used to experiencing stories through the viewpoint of a male character that this switch is remarkable and probably one of the elements that make these books so popular.
With its mundane heroine, TWILIGHT is the typical “vampire boyfriend” story where the reader, presumably female, is meant to identify with Bella and swoon over Edward. It seems Berman and her friends have experienced Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a similar way. Did they bypass Buffy’s own supernatural nature?
I think geekdom is about not being afraid to pursue your interests with gusto, no matter how obscure those interests may be. In that light, I’m glad that more women aren’t afraid to acknowledge their fangirl tendencies. “[B]ooth babes and jiggle physics” seem to be the counterpart to Team Edward, swooning over Angel, and naked torso Romance novel covers.** All of these examples are the Gaze at work and I’m glad that both genders are represented. In her post, though, Berman tries to parse how the genders express fandom differently, but I rather prefer the Joss Whedon quote she cites:
“There’s not a difference,” he tells Rogers, between male and female fans. “What? Female fans are more nurturing? People are crazy, and fans are the best kind of crazy. And I speak as one of them. And I’ve never seen a difference in the way the men and women respond to things.”
Like a lot of fanboys out there debating who had better tech, Batman or Night Owl (Batman), I’d rather talk about who’s probably stronger, Buffy or Glory (Glory, but strength obviously isn’t everything)? I certainly don’t dismiss how smoking Spike rocked that leather trench coat (as I’m sure those fanboys noticed Silk Spectre’s garters), but my ultimate focus is on how all these freaking awesome women get to do all sorts of freaking amazing things.*** You’d think a Feminist blog like Broadsheet would at least mention that in passing.
Berman closes with this:
So, what do you think, Broadsheet nerds? Was the TWILIGHT kerfuffle a battle of the sexes or the ages, or both? Is there a difference between fangirl and fanboy behavior? And will girl and guy geeks ever learn to put down their lightsabers and get along?
Doesn’t she know that a true Jedi doesn’t ever put down her lightsaber unless she’s trying to trick the latest Sith apprentice into making her a part of the Force?
Meh. Baby geeks.
Back in the day I used to have to trudge through 10 miles of snow just to manually set my VCR to record Buffy, but now you can watch it on Hulu. And I didn’t even have call waiting to know which friends wanted to debate whether it was fashion tape that kept Glory contained in that slinky red dress or was it due to her supernatural Big Bad powers?****
I mean, really.
* “That’s what I love about a comic book convention. People will come to a convention, stand there in a Spock costume, look at someone in a Chewie costume, and say, ‘Look at that f__in’ geek. How dare you pass judgment on those 12-year-old girls who like vampires!”– Kevin Smith
** The Romance novel, especially Paranormal Romance, has more in common with comic books than most people want to think about.
*** Unlike, say Padme, who wrung her hands and lamented having to quit her job because of becoming pregnant. But I digress.
**** Because that’s a superpower I’d like to have. It wouldn’t be good to have a wardrobe malfunction while kicking Big Bad ass. BTW, my real friends know that I refused to answer the phone at all when Buffy was on.