Is Nerd Culture Filled with Entitled Crybabies?
Not completely, of course. But there is a growing awareness of a small but loud subset of comic/superhero/sci-fi fans who do, in fact, seem to be whiny, entitled crybabies.
Recently, when Marvel announced that there would be a female Thor and black Captain America, the response to the effort to diversify was overwhelmingly positive. However, there were a few bad eggs who called Marvel executives "gelded," told the "feminists" to "chill out" and let Thor be a man, and called a black Captain America an "abomination."
Now, the angry nerds are at it again. Yesterday, Stephanie Zacharek of the Village Voice wrote a negative, but far from vitriolic, review in which she basically asserted that the movie winks a little too much and is a little too pleased with itself. In response to this perfectly reasonable opinion, Guardians of the Galaxy fans (who, keep in mind, have not actually seen the movie yet, as it comes out this weekend) launched sexist and degrading attacks at her, because apparently it's automatically bad and snobbish to dislike a superhero movie, but it's even worse if you're a woman.
5thailandbkk regressed about 150 years and called her a "harlot" ("Harlot"? "Gelded"? What is this Victorian business?):
"We live in a world where 1000s of people are being beheaded and murdered throughout the world each and every day and this harlot has the nerve to knock it because it's too fun?"
And then the same man(?) followed up with this gem:
"Her opinion is 100% worthless, as is any woman's for that matter..."
(I would think this latter comment was a joke, but the same handle made the "harlot" comment, which does not sound like a joke...)
Greenarrowmn took home the award for basest insult, which is saying something in an internet comment section:
"She's just pissed because she lives in the Village full of gay men and no one wants any of her old, dried out pie."
Alexanderhomemovies wrote, illustrating the relatively new phenomenon of being inordinately preoccupied with an unblemished Rotten Tomatoes score:
"This is someone who skews the general reviews of any awesome superhero summer blockbuster from having a perfect score. I think she does it just for the attention, even if it's negative attention. She should stick to reviewing chick flicks only."
The comments became so hostile, Village Voice editor Alan Scherstuhl felt the need to respond to the attacks: "We're happy to have you here, just as we were when you made similar complaints about our pre-release reviews of Man of Steel and that one movie where Batman cried in a hole for an hour. You were absolutely right about those, of course — both flicks are undisputed masterpieces. So, please, fire away at us! But maybe do yourself and your fan community the solid of actually responding to Zacharek's arguments rather than just spewing sexist hate."
Several other publications have responded to this online scuffle, and have questioned why this subset of the community exists. They are, in the words of Indiewire's Sam Adams, a "tiny but vocal subset of angry crybabies for whom near-total dominance over the direction of popular culture is not enough to make up for the time their mom threw out their complete, Mylar-bagged run of 'Cloak and Dagger'... They've got time for female characters, as long as they show a little leg, but at heart they're enthusiastic members of the He-Man Woman Haters' Club."
[Credit: Comedy Central]
Although the stereotype of the angry nerd sitting in his basement, whining about white male disenfranchisement on Reddit is just that, a stereotype, this nerd culture subset does seem to be angry on the grounds of entitlement. When Zacharek wrote her review, she was not only hurting their precious Tomatometer score, but she was encroaching on traditionally white male-dominated territory. And although this subset of people may very well be small compared to the increasing number of people who are geek culture enthusiasts, they can still do a lot of damage to the culture as a whole. They can help to perpetuate attitudes that have prevented women from having their own superhero movies (Black Widow is finally going to have one in the next few years), hindered women from becoming writers and directors for superhero films (Guardians of the Galaxy's Nicole Perlman is the first woman to write or direct a Marvel movie), and contributed to a culture of rampant sexual harassment at Comic Con.
Progress is being made, but female superheroes are still much more overtly sexualized, men still dominate nearly every aspect of comic book culture, and science fiction that is mostly read by women is still considered "soft." In the meantime these commenters and others like them are "tell[ing] every woman that she's only welcome at the comic-convention table so long as she keeps her mouth shut. (Cosplaying that chick from "The Fifth Element" wouldn't hurt either.)"
And ironically, by using these juvenile and hateful means of defending their fandom, these "crybabies" are not only "validat[ing] every stereotype of maladjusted, basement-dwelling nerds," but they're invalidating everything that superheroes stand for. According to Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post, "It is a betrayal of the very idea that made that culture so powerful in the first place: a sense that the dominant culture does not tell all of our stories, and that it does not meet all of our emotional needs." At their best, superhero narratives are about defending disenfranchised groups and promoting tolerance. In the sarcastic words of one Twitter user after news of black Captain America and female Thor broke, "If there's anything comics taught us, it's 'being different is bad.'"
In a recent interview with Vulture, Guardians of the Galaxy comics writer Brian Michael Bendis said, "Just yesterday, a woman wrote an article analyzing what she thought was a poor comic book cover, and she was met with just a bunch of shitty anonymous people being awful to her online. I think that a huge problem is people who read comics and don't understand the point of superheroes, which is to be the best version of yourself. You love Captain America? Well, you know what Captain America would never do? Go online anonymously and shit on a girl for having an opinion."
Scherstuhl said it best in his response: "When you eschew argument and instead act like sexist pricks you not only encourage all of the lonely-dude stereotypes that comics creators and fans have been working to shake for decades — you make Steve Rogers cry."