Like most subcultures, geekdom in its various manifestations has always been a sort of boys’ club. Women with nerd-culture-identified obsessions have consistently been discredited as “fake geeks.” This has become especially visible in the last decade or so, as geek has become chic, and the internet has lent a shroud of anonymity to those who seek to hide behind it. It is a common claim that girls and women are seeking male attention through cosplay or other outward signals of geekdom without any real interest in geek topics. Like in everything else, women have to somehow prove the legitimacy of their geek interests, when men have a free pass.
In a recent, transparent example of this, comic artist Tony Harris posted a rant on facebook about the “problem of the fake geek girl.” In this rant, he spews a bunch of anti-woman bile dripping with male gaze rhetoric, the gist being that female cosplayers at conventions are not real geeks, but sad and pathetic egoists just vying for male attention. Also, the “hotter” you are, the less legitimate your geek cred. Awesome. Sounds legit, right?
Sadly, this view is more the rule than the exception in certain geek circles. This is the same flattening and objectifying of women we run into in most areas of modern society. We’re not even safe to express ourselves in a community brought together not just by interest, but by a larger feeling of exclusion, without being torn down by male privilege. This rant has sparked a number of awesome and articulate female geek responses on the internet, including this awesome vlog post by ALB in Wonderland, and recently, the amazing music video for “Nothing to Prove” by the Doubleclicks.
And this is why prominent female geek icons like Felicia Day are so important. We need more representation of successful and dedicated geeks that challenge this sort of stereotyping and marginalizing of female geeks. Day is an actress, writer, producer, and geek. She has appeared in many Joss Wheadon productions, including Buffy Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, and the web miniseries Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Recently, she has appeared in other geek shows such as SyFy’s Eureka.
She is probably most known, however, for writing, producing, directing, and starring in the Youtube series the Guild. The series is about the lives and interactions of the people behind a fictional MMORPG guild. Day says she based the characters on real people she gamed with in her time playing World of Warcraft. It was her attempt to depict a more realistic diversity of geeks and geek expression. Clearly she succeeded, as the series has become explosively successful and has just completed its sixth season.
Last month, Titan Books released the Guild Companion, a behind-the-scenes look at the creation and production of the show’s first five seasons, as well as the three music videos, “Do You Want To Date My Avatar,” “Game On,” and “I’m the One that’s Cool.” The publisher has graciously offered us a copy for review, which we will be giving away to one of you!
The Companion is composed of interviews, arranged chronologically, with all the main cast and a lot of the crew of the Guild. The big thing I took from first reading this book is how innovative Day’s effort was at its time of conception. Day began the show in 2007, in the nascent days of YouTube. We don’t think about it now, but in the early days of YouTube, no one really thought it could be a medium utilized for well-produced, original content. Day’s intro sections of the Guild Companion make it abundantly clear how little initial support there was for her project and what a big accomplishment it was. It really contributed to the democratized entertainment movement, recognizing YouTube as a potential medium for unique DIY content.
Oh, and Felicia Day was 28 when she began the Guild. Talk about an accomplished 20-something geek girl!
The Guild Companion just starts there. The other interviews really delve into what a collaborate and evolving project the show is, as well as how diverse the cast is in background and exposure to geek culture. Her co-writer and co-producer, Kim Every, really provides a lot of insight into the writing process of a show of this nature. Jeff Lewis (Vork) is just as deadpan hilarious as he is in all of his comedic efforts. There’s even an aside in which he discusses the development of his Youtube show, the Jeff Lewis 5-Minute Comedy Hour. Sandeep Parikh (Zaboo) has some interesting moments about how his control and connection to his character developed throughout the show. Amy Okuda (Tink), Robin Thorsen (Clara), and Vincent Caso (Bladezz) did not know Day before auditioning for the Guild. Each only had limited exposure to geek culture prior to joining the show. It adds a great dimension to the book to hear them talk about their learning process through all seasons of the show.
The whole thing comes off as a rag-tag effort of collaboration. Reading about how the show was created and developed revitalizes my enthusiasm for the geek community. You see through the interviews in the Guild Companion how much each and every one of the contributors grew throughout the process of the show, and how much it really was a grassroots, diy labor of geek love. This includes the decision to ask for fan funding, starting in the middle of season one, so the series could continue. And the fans responded with fervor.
And at the center of it all is Felicia Day. She really is a force, and a positive one at that, who really ties this whole community and effort together. She is at the center of the book, as she is of the whole Guild project. It is really refreshing and empowering to see a geek effort of this magnitude initiated and coordinated by a young and passionate woman. She is an inspiration to geek girls everywhere, declaring her geek love proudly and with nothing to prove.
The book itself is beautifully made on thick, glossary paper. There are many candid, screenshots and promo photos of the cast. It really is a lovely piece for your geek home library.
When it comes down to it, Felicia Day is a trailblazer who has done so much for modern geekdom. After the success of the Guild, Day went on to start her own Youtube Channel, Geek & Sundry, comprised of many awesome shows such as the Flog, Tabletop with nerd-icon and female-geek-ally Wil Wheaton, and the strangely addicting Co-optitude, in which Day plays retro video games with her brother Ryon. Whatever you do, check out the Guild and all the other amazing shows on Geek & Sundry!
To enter the giveaway to receive your own copy of the Guild Companion, leave a comment below. For extra entries, tweet, or post a link to this post on your blog, facebook, or tumblr account. Leave a comment below for each entry. The winner will be randomly chosen next Tuesday, August 20th.
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