Thursday, April 5, 2012
Felicia, I am disappoint
To promote her new Youtube channel Geek and Sundry, Felicia Day and the members of webseries The Guild have released their third music video. I watched it, danced along to it, laughed and bought it on iTunes. But then something weird happened. The more I listened to it, the less I liked it. Nothing to do with the video itself (which admittedly isn't as funny as the first two) or the music (which is the third style they have explored).
The idea that geek is 'in' and that we've been flooded with a volley of faux-gamers in hipster glasses is not new. Neither is the backlash against these perceived intruders by the 'real geeks'. The proliferation of geek litmus tests and evaluations of newcomers has been around for a while now, as a way of protecting the subculture, which has been a safe haven for underdogs and rejects for so long.
What I take objection to is the way geeks are clutching at the umbrella of 'cool' as it floats on by. You see, I dislike the word 'cool'. A lot. The way this song, sung by a group of geek icons, has embraced the word is what's left me a little disappointed and sad.
At school I was a nerd. I didn't like sports or fashion, I liked reading and learning. I had glasses and braces and no clue what to do around boys. I was bullied, teased and ridiculed by the other kids in my classes. I was not in any way 'cool'. So what I began to associate with the word 'cool' was obviously not very positive, and what I began to associate with myself and the things that I liked was decidedly 'un-cool'.
It took me years, but I embraced that. I embraced myself and the things that I liked and the things that I was good at. And suddenly I became glad I hadn't tried harder to be 'cool'. By staying true to myself, my passions and quirks and by not bullying or mocking other 'uncool' kids, I had become a better and happier person. To me, 'cool' is about the pressure to conform to an ever-changing ideal. To be constantly censoring yourself lest something 'un-cool' slip. It's a state of constant judgement of yourself and those around you. It sounds exhausting!
As much as I'm glad that reading, gaming, fandom and other 'nerdy', geekish pursuits have become more socially acceptable - even with the added difficulties of sorting through those who are genuine and those who are faking it - my issue with 'cool' is that there's always an 'un-cool'. Competition. Judgement. Exclusion. Do those things sound good to you? Do those things sound like they belong in a community that was a home for the socially ostracised? Don't get me wrong, I'm not so stuck to my high horse that I wouldn't love to make those bullies understand exactly what they did and how they hurt me back at school. But jumping onto the bandwagon of cool is not the way to do it. Not only will there be a backlash once geek is no longer 'chic', but many people will be left with those horrible cool-people attributes of scoffing and back-stabbing and geekier-than-thou-ing. Who wants that? I don't think that being 'cool' is worth the time and energy that is required to maintain. Not worth damaging other people's emotional well-being and not worth the confusion it causes about your own identity. 'Cool' is just a collection of habits and values that changes so often.
To be clear, I'm not actually disappointed in Felicia Day. She is an absolute inspiration to me. She pursued her dreams to act even after being told she was not "beautiful enough" for Hollywood (which is total BS, I'm glad she's not fake-beautiful like most Hollywood actresses) . She's an amazingly talented writer, a genuinely wonderful person, and she understands what it's like to be socially outcast and misunderstood. She's made friends and connections in the entertainment industry and pioneered the webseries movement, changing the landscape of entertainment and social media alike. Lonelygirl15, eat your heart out, Felicia is real and she's here to stay.
In one of the many panels (this train of thought starts around 8:30 if you're not keen on watching the whole panel) on The Guild, Felicia talked about how internet friendships allow you to bypass the visual trappings of society to make friends with people as intellectuals and personalities - to make connections you might have missed in real life. That's reflected in the storyline and characters of The Guild and is one of my other favourite things about the geek community - overcoming social boundaries. After all that hard work, I hate to see 'coolness' becoming a preoccupation for Felicia. That is the system that created social inequality, why would we want to perpetrate it?! Why are we so eager to become the people that tormented us for so long - who gave us baggage many will carry for years to come (see this interview with Chris Colfer about being bullied at school. I remember the names of everyone who bullied me, too).
I have a proposition. How about we stop worrying about being 'cool' and focus on the things that make us happy? On learning new things and being better people, better friends, better geeks? Let's celebrate what we have in common AND what makes us different. I don't want to be cool. I want to be me, whether or not I'm wearing my Dr. Horrible t-shirt.