Hey, IGN–remember that cover letter I wrote you a few weeks ago?
Ahem. I’ll refresh your memory, if I may. My second paragraph went a little like this:
Video games have come a long way since I first unwrapped a new GameCube, but we are still not as advanced as we should be. Gamers like me are still chased out of online forums with various and unimaginative threats. Gamers like me are still accused of being frauds. Our contributions to the gaming world are usually laughed out the door or booed into silence. In spite of all this, though, we persevere. We’re still hunkered down with the latest Dead Space, anxiously awaiting The Last of Us, and salivating over Uncharted 3. [Bolded for emphasis.]
Keep that in mind as we explore what’s going on here.
Last week, I went to see Man of Steel. I didn’t like it, and I wrote the review behind the link explaining why. I felt that I had legitimate and well-articulated reasons behind my distaste for the newest attempt at a Superman movie. Despite my irritation, I believed that I’d given the movie a fair shot, and was passing on my opinion–like a lot of other movie-goers these days, if I’m honest. A lot of us out here on the internet write about what we see and play and read. Most of it is so much dust in the wind, caught in the churning river of information flowing through the cloud.
I figured that this would be like any other thing I’ve written. I didn’t think it would get much attention at all, for one. (Some of my more complex meta–like Monsters, Humans, and Hunters–has gotten a modicum of attention on Tumblr, but nothing substantial. A couple hundred likes and reblogs in the Tumblr environment is nothing, really.) I also didn’t believe it would provoke any kind of hostile response. While I wrote to you, IGN, about “gamers like me” being chased out of forums, name-called, and threatened, I’ve never been the target of such shenanigans myself. I’ve just watched a lot of other people go through it.
I should probably rephrase “gamers like me” to “nerds like me.” It’s more encompassing, and covers what happened to me last week.
I posted the review–both here and on Tumblr–late on Thursday night. I only spent about an hour cobbling it together, and I went to sleep glad that I’d had a chance to put down exactly what frustrated me so much about Man of Steel. In the morning, as always, I huddled down in bed after my first alarm went off and scrolled through my e-mail. I was surprised to have a notification from Tumblr, informing me that someone had anonymously asked a question.
I snorted. Well, it was a first, but I have unusually thick skin, and this seemed a hilariously weak assault on my analytical capacities. I staggered out of bed, slapped the coffee pot on, and opened up my laptop to write an appropriate response–only to find that there wasn’t just one of these messages. There were three.
At this point, I was full-on giggling. I’d realized my error. All of my previous reviews–all of my other meta–none of it had hit home with that specific niche, the reservoir of fanboys lying in wait to take offense whenever you so much as raise a finger against their beloved heroes. Man of Steel has probably provoked my most negative criticism so far in my writing adventures on the internet, but I thought it was all entirely reasonable criticism. Not so! cried the Superman fans from behind the protection of the infamous Gray Face.
I eventually stopped laughing long enough to respond, politely, and with a healthy dose of sarcasm. I don’t know how else to handle these types of people; I don’t think that there’s a best way. After the initial onslaught, I closed the sandbox. I went on with my day. I knew that I was going to feel compelled to write this post–eventually–but only when I’d gotten over my good humor at the situation.
Here’s the thing: I wasn’t kidding, in that cover letter I wrote to you. This is the actual way that women are treated in nerd culture. (This is the way women are treated in culture, period, but that’s an article for a different day.) Take a look at what these messages insinuated:
- That because I was a girl–and didn’t like the movie–I must have gone to see it because the lead actor is attractive. (Wrong.)
- That name-calling was an appropriate way to respond to my perfectly legitimate criticisms of something they clearly liked. (Wrong.)
- That sexually violent threats were an acceptable way to react to this perfectly legitimate criticism of something they liked. (Wrong.)
Every single one of them also has some weird fixation on The Avengers, too, like they rooted through my blog enough to know that I’m a fan of that movie and enjoyed the franchise (for the most part). I say they rooted through my blog because I didn’t mention The Avengers or Marvel at all in my review; you’d only know I was a fan if you dug through enough of my reblogs and read through enough of my tags to get a general picture of what I liked. I made no direct comparison between the movies anywhere in my writing. Or, it’s possible that they just assumed–I didn’t like a DC production; ergo, I must be worshiping at the altar of Marvel, which seems to be synonymous with devil worship for these people.
There’s also the assertion that I’m “trashing” or “bashing” Superman by criticizing a single movie–cheerfully accompanied by the declaration that I am “A TOURIST” or “intellectually challenged.”
It’s not hard to figure out from my blog(s) that I’m a woman. My name isn’t one that is commonly used for both genders. It didn’t take the anons long to pull out the big guns once they’d figured that out. Forget all my careful criticism; forget my valid points; don’t bother to read my review in its entirety, in fact. Read enough to figure out that I didn’t like Man of Steel, and then open fire. I must not have liked it because I’m a girl. Because I’m an old cat lady. Because I’m a casual viewer of the comic book genre, so I’m not entitled to a valid opinion. Because I’m not a real nerd, basically, or I would’ve liked it.
Various and unimaginative threats? Check. Accused of being a fraud? Check. Laughed out the door, or booed into silence? They certainly attempted to accomplish the latter; they’re giving the former a good shot, too. The single unifying message in these attacks is that my opinion is not valid. Does this happen to men, too? Of course–but not nearly as often or violently as it happens to women. (I’d love to see an actual study done on this; currently, all I have is my own experience navigating the bowels of the internet, and the experience of every other woman down there with me.)
This kind of thing only starts to change when there are more women running the show–and in “nerd culture” that, sadly, just isn’t the case.