Tag Archives: social justice

Nerd Rage

There's been a lot of whining lately about whether or not Ben Affleck should play Batman, or what role Black Widow (or any female hero) should have in franchises like The Avengers or the upcoming DC Comics movies.  The loudest whining comes from the hardcore fanbase who have strong notions about how these franchises should work.  And it does seem like studios worry about these people when they make creative decisions - there has been talk about walking back "Batfleck".  Wonder Woman movies have been canceled because studios don't feel they can modernize the franchise without losing comic fans.

Mike Lawrence - Sadamantium
Mike Lawrence embodies nerd rage, but at least he's funny when he does it.

But I say, so what if the "hardcore fans" hate a creative decision?  Just ignore them!  Old-guard nerddom makes up a tiny fraction of the current geek and geek-friendly fanbase.  They're also a much narrower demographic, being mostly straight white men in their 30s, 40s, and 50s.  The actual audience for these movies - the ones whose butts are going to be in the seats - is much larger and far more diverse.

You have to weigh the effect of listening to the old guard against the benefit of moving in a new direction.  Listening might prevent some short-term blowback, but it also means perpetuating some of the worst parts of geek culture and geek media, including the marginalization and objectification of women, the tokenization and exclusion of minorities, etc.  When hardcore fans argue that any deviation from their established canon is bad, they're really arguing that narratives created in the 1950s and '60s - with all of the cultural baggage that implies - should be continued into the twenty-teens.

The current geek fanbase contains the trend-setters and taste-makers of the next generation.  We had a saying in college: "A tradition is anything that started before your freshman year."  If we take the time to change our stories to be more modern and inclusive now, those changes will be reflected in both the media and the perception of "canon" in five, ten, or twenty years.  We'll look back on the sexism of comics today the same way we look back on the camp of the Superman and Batman stories of the 1960s - as a curious, outdated artifact and nothing more.

So let us reject the calls for sameness, for established understanding of characters and their roles.  We can create new stories - not to cash in on a particular short-lived facet of the zeitgeist, but to be lasting additions that move our beloved franchises in completely new directions.  Let's remember that the best way to avoid negative press is to make a good movie.  And if a bunch of whiny, entitled man-children decide they're going to boycott then let them.  The old-guard nerds can't live without geek culture, but geek culture can certainly live without them.