Written for the Carnegie Library teen blog. Hey, a girl’s gotta work off her library fines somehow.
I am a geek. And usually, I’m quite proud of it. (Except when my father’s friends assume that I am eight years old because “your room is covered in those cartoon posters, I just thought…” No, you didn’t think, you stereotyped. But that’s a story for another day.) I go to anime conventions, read fantasy and science fiction, and aspire to own a sonic screwdriver.
You would think with the amount of media about male freaks and geeks - Freaks and Geeks, Revenge of the Nerds, the ever-present Anthony Michael Hall geek in John Hughes’ films – that society would devote some time to nerdy girls. I mean, chicks who are cute (in that shy, glasses-girl way, of course) and can whup your ass at Halo? What in the world could be better?
I don’t know the answer to that question, or why girls like my friends and I are so underrepresented in popular culture. Sure, it’s a popular trend in teen fiction to cast the main female character as “the outsider” – doesn’t shop at the cool stores, not a cheerleader – but then they go on and have that same character decry LARPers, comic fans, and Those Guys Who Don’t Like It When They Put Corn In The Chili as, oh my god, such freaks. Where as male main characters, such as Fanboy in The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, can be as geeky as they’d like. Boys never have to take off their glasses and put down their hair for a happily ever after; the girl learns to appreciate them for who they are inside. For girls? Get the prom dress and show off your boobs and he’ll miraculously realize that you’ve been beautiful all along!
Apparently girls like me don’t exist. Girls only read books with pink covers and lots of kissing. Girls only use the internet for social networking and flirting with random Myspacers; girls only watched the Star Trek reboot film for Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine. (Although I must admit, seeing my favorite ability-stealing TV villain-slash-object of much fangirling on the big screen… I enjoyed that a little more than I should’ve.) There’s no reason for people without a Y chromosome to enjoy any aspect of Supernatural other than Jensen Ackles and Jared Paledecki (nope, not even the frickin’ badass actions of their characters. We are the shallow sex, after all. It’s not like men watch certain movies just to watch stacked model types prance around in bikinis or anything…) Girls play video games like The Sims and Wii Sports. Female fans of games like Bioshock, Silent Hill, and Metal Gear Solid don’t exist. (They’re all genetic anomalies! They’re created by the government to trick you into thinking that some women are – gasp – allowed out of the kitchen! Insert other conspiracy theories here!)
Sometimes, of course, the attempt to put nerd girls in the media… misfires. Greatly. Take Gamer Girl, by Mari Mancusi. THIS BOOK. AAAAAGH, THIS BOOK. The main character is a know-it-all anime fan who wants to draw her own manga, hates “old” anime and manga and takes potshots at Sailor Moon. (For shame!) She’s the epitome of the stereotypical American otaku, throwing random Japanese words into descriptions (which apparently all anime fans do. Uh, yeah, newsflash: we do not throw “kawaii desu ne?” into every sentence. The sane fans, anyway.) Also she seems to think that .hack// is a good anime. The poor, misguided child. (Then there’s the whole issue of the boy she flirts with on an MMORPG being the most popular guy in school, which she finds out when they make plans to meet offline. FIRST RULE OF INTERNET SAFETY, LEARN IT. Christ on a cracker, think of the impressionable young girls reading this and thinking it would be a good idea to do the same!)
Gamer Girl makes the mistake of turning the story all about the main character’s “weirdness” because of her love of nerd culture. What teen literature (and movies, and TV) really need are central characters whose entire plotlines don’t revolve around that. A coming-of-age story where the main character just happens to be a WoW-playing girl. A story of a boy romancing a girl who happens to be a Harry Potter fanfic writer. Something like that. I’m not saying that everything should be about the pursuit of geekiness, rather that it’s accepted and not just a “boy thing” anymore. Do it for the nrrrd grrls.