In light of recent developments in the comic, gamer, and cosplay worlds, I plan to do a series of entries about “fake fans” and how established fandoms treat newcomers, women, and minorities. This first entry is the Comics Edition, wherein I focus on the comic book community.
How do you decide if someone is unworthy to be part of your fandom? How do you label someone a poser, a noob, or a fake? Whom do you invite into a fandom and why? Whom do you reject and why? What are the criteria to go from noob to knowledge-master? How does someone graduate from being a “fake geek girl/boy” or “fake fan” into a “true fan”? Is such a thing even possible?
I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about how unfriendly the nerd culture can be to newcomers, or even to established members if they start commenting on flaws with the status quo… especially if those members are women. (Yes, #GamerGate, I’m looking at you.) It seems like there are two prevailing extremes: either the fans are portrayed as the most friendly, knowledgeable, welcoming group around, or they are seen as the most close-minded, antagonistic, sexist group alive.
So far, I’ve been fortunate to escape the fake geek label, but a lot of people, especially women, haven’t been so lucky. And I have yet to learn of a standard for judging someone’s relative geekiness. Is it the number of comics you read? The variety? The age? The popularity? Do you have to be super-obsessed with one particular facet of comics or do you have to have the entire history of Marvel and DC, or every plot contrivance of Batman on the tip of your tongue to qualify as a true fan?