The Geek Girl Debate: Bangin' It Up
There’s been a lot of talk about geek girls in the last year. Some of it has been outrageous. Some of it has been empowering. As a result, when I started hearing tell of last week’s Big Bang Theory, I groaned in despair.
From the commercial alone, the show that I love, and that many love to hate, was about to knife me in the gut.
The storyline – without spoilers – basically goes like this: The boys head off to a comic convention in Bakersfield, and the girls venture to the comic shop to see what all the fuss is about with these comic books their men love. The commercial clips for the episode showed the girls going “where girls have never gone before” as they entered the comic shop, setting me up for disappointment in the way that girls in the geek community, and girls in general, are portrayed.
I was so turned off by the advertisement that I didn’t watch the show live.
But when I did get around to it, the writers and actors at Big Bang Theory actually did a bang up job of representing both the boys and girls in this wacky community that I love.
When the girls walked into the comic shop in the actual show, there was no dramatic music overtone to indicate they were walking into the maw of Mordor. Lightning did not strike them down. No, they just walked in and everyone (all men) turned and stared at them with slightly creepy smiles.
Now, as a lady who frequents comic shops, I have to admit, I cracked a smile. Because this has happened to me – not in a while because I’m a regular at my shop now – but a few years ago, I walked into a well-known comics and collectible store outside of Boston and was amazed that I was the only girl in the shop and that I was on the receiving end of disbelief and a lot of overly eager attention from the staff and other patrons. To say a pin could have dropped and I would have heard it would be accurate.
The joke in the Big Bang Theory that the owner of the comic store will turn a hose on the guys who are staring if they don’t stop was a perfect representation of what can happen to a lone girl in a comic shop. I’m not saying it always happens. With the rising of nerd culture and the popularity of comic book superhero movies in the last few years, more and more women are seen in the geek scene, and a lot of the guys we interact with inside the community are normal, socially-capable human beings.
While the portrayal of guys and girls on Big Bang Theory may not always play nice with stereotypes or represent either geek guys or women in the most positive light, this episode in particular was a great demonstration of my definition of geekiness. It’s not about a comic book. It’s not about a superhero or some crazy advanced technology. I mean really, those things are awesome, and I want a light saber, don’t get me wrong. But the thing I have in common with my fellow geeks is the fact that I can sit around a living room and totally freak out about how awesome something is.
That passion, whether you’re painting your face and wearing a hair piece like the guys do to portray your favorite Star Trek character, or arguing the physics of whether or not you picking up Thor who picked up his hammer means that you have picked up the hammer like the girls do, is what makes you a geek to me.
Show me your passion.
Show me your ridiculous love of something like a song or a novel or a television show or recipe, and I will grin at you and listen and walk away with a feeling that all is right in the world. It’s not about who loves something.
It’s about the fact that you love something so much you make a costume, learn to write in a fictional language, or make your life’s work talking about the inner workings of a space ship that doesn’t exist because we haven’t figured out a fuel that could create an explosion big enough to propel it into space.
It’s about the fact that you love something that much.
Really, the geek girl debate – that we’re faking it, that we’re just doing it to get attention, that we don’t really passionately care about the comic books in the same way that boys do – does a disservice to us and to the guys in the community. The Big Bang Theory – with the exception of the early and sometimes continuing acerbic cruelty of Sheldon Cooper – has illustrated a lot of what I have loved about being part of the larger geek community since I jumped into it with both feet a few years ago: the geeks with more knowledge share that knowledge with the geeks who have less knowledge. Leonard and the boys share video games and science fiction with Penny. Through her friendship, Penny exposes the boys to a wider world of social interactions like football game parties (see season 1 – it really did happen).
Sure I wish they had gone a different way with the promotional campaign for this one episode, but in the end, the actual portrayal of the geeky community was one I enjoyed so much that I decided to get over it. Maybe it got some of the naysayers and Negative Nellys to see how messed up their opinions on geek girls are. I mean, I’m not holding out hope, but a geek girl can dream, right?