Why Peter Parker is the better nerd

I. Coleman has a point, comparing the hero of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One with Peter Parker:

If you want a geek hero, look at Peter Parker. He likes Star Wars and obsesses over superheroes. He’s a nerd. He gets bullied for being a nerd. But his fondness for LEGOs isn’t what makes him a hero – that would be his heroism. His goodness. The fact that he’ll go out of his way to help an old lady cross the street. He knows what it’s like to get picked on, and instead of picking on others in turn, he chooses to stand up for the little guy no matter how hard it is. Peter Parker is what geek culture needs to strive to be every day. When we write an article or a videogame or a book, we should think “Would Peter Parker write this? Would he agree with what we’re saying?”

And conversely, I propose we should also ask “would Wade Watts like this?” And if the answer is yes, you should delete your draft, burn your script, drown the thing in white-out and start over. And it’s this test, more than anything else, that Ready Player One so catastrophically fails. Yes, it’s boring, poorly-written, and literally contains a ten-page list of titles of things the author likes. But it also fails the basic test of humanity, creating a character and a world so repugnant that I feel more than justified in saying it represents the absolute worst of nerd culture.

Peter Parker: science nerd

But there’s another way in which Peter Parker and Wade Watts differ, one that’s just as important as the one Coleman points out: what kind of nerd they are. It’s this difference that at least partially explains their moral differences as well. As we all know, Peter Parker got bitten by a radioactive spider that turned him into Spider-Man, but the reason he was bitten by that spider was because he went to a scientific exhibition, because Peter Parker was the kind of nerd who was really into science, who was studying to become a scientist. That’s why he was bullied, at a time when being a brainiac was not a good thing. There’s more than a hint of classism in the bullying, what with his principal tormentor being the popular, rich jock who could afford to tool around in a sports car, while Parker wore handme down clothes and thick nerd glasses. And that’s why he was bullied: he looked poor, he was a brainiac, he didn’t share the interests of the cool people nor felt the need to imitate them.

Wade Watts on the other hand is the worst possible sort of nerd, the one that thinks his (excessive) love of Star Wars and knowledge of eighties nerd trivia makes him special, gets him persecuted. He doesn’t create, he just consumes, never does anything original. He has a persecution complex but nobody’s persecuting him. His type is widespread among fandom, usually white men who’ve never had much hardship in their lives, but who’ve convinced themselves that a light spot of bullying during high school means the entire world is against them because of their brilliance. These are usually the same people who want to exclude anybody not like them — LGBT, women, PoC — from fandom, that only they are true fans though they never contribute anything. That’s the kind of fan who eat up flattering trash like Ready Player One.

Your Happening World (March 16nd)

  • What’s the Deal with Kemono Friends?– I wasn’t even paying enough attention to the announcements or the upcoming anime charts to know that what would become the Japanese anime fandom’s biggest anime of Winter 2017—a moe animal girls show based off of a defunct mobile game rendered in exceedingly poor CG—even existed. But here we are
  • A letter to Apex editors re: the intersectional SFF roundtable – It is not your choice to publish RH that I find appalling, but your specific choice to ask her to contribute to a roundtable on, of all things, intersectionality.
  • The Anti-Library of Kemono Friends: Fans, Theories, and Everything in Between – With a plot like that, it’s easy to think of the show as a Dora the Explorer thing — except it aired as a late night anime. The more you watch the show too, the more you realize the Japanese fanbase might be onto something. There seems to be a cynical, dark past to Japari Park amidst all this cute girls doing cute things crap.
  • Being an itemised list of disagreements – The main reason RH/BS was able to bully people with impunity for such a long time was because it looked, from the outside, as though the SFF community condoned her behaviour. You’d see a Known Cool Person chatting with her on Twitter as though it was OK for RH to chase people around on the Internet having a go at them,
  • Forgotten Realms: The Isekai Boom of the 90’s – The main difference between isekai then and isekai now is the intended audience – 25 years ago, it was a staple of the shoujo demographic, rather than today’s escapist playgrounds for young men. Ordinary young women were pulled into alternate worlds where attractive young men told them they had a special destiny to fulfill. They went on grand adventures and usually – though not always – fell in love along the way.
  • The 2017 Hugo Awards: Why Hugo? – So no, nominating for the Hugos this year is not an act of resistance. But I think that it can be an act of affirmation. A reminder that just because the world is going crazy around us, doesn’t mean we’re not going to hold on to what’s ours. That just because we seem to be surrounded (and governed) by people who care about nothing and no one, doesn’t mean we’re not going to keep caring about things ourselves–even when they are completely trivial–and keep working to preserve them.
  • Peter Chung on Japanese animation theory – It’s very easy for even a casual viewer to notice that Japanese animation has a different “feel” than American animation. Usually the difference is attributed to a divergent cultural viewpoint. What most viewers don’t realize is how much it actually comes down to the physical differences in the technical processes.
  • Breaking Gender Norms, Healing Trauma and Finding Acceptance in PriPara – It’s never stated that Love is trans, but it’s very easy to make the connection between her self-image to that of many trans women. I personally couldn’t help but view her as trans as I watched the episode the first time and the same goes for later episodes and rewatches. Intentional or not, PriPara made what might be the most positive and accepting portrayal of trans women in anime with Love’s character. Nobody ever bashes Love for her build, not during her reveal or later episodes. She’s always looked up to by the people around her as a beautiful woman whose height and etc. only enhances her lovely appearance.

I blame Heinlein

It’s a day that ends in a “y”, so Sarah Hoydt must’ve said something stupid again. Yup:

The main reason I like first person singular is that for a moment it tricks you into that space behind the eyes of another person, relieving the loneliness of that narrative voice that can only ever describe your own life.

This is a universal and enduring quality. I’ve had teachers tell me — and to an extent they’re right — that first person is “less believable” because you KNOW you haven’t done those things.

Who believes that? Seriously, who believes that? Nobody, that’s who. First person singular is how you tell what you did this weekend to your cow-orkers around the water cooler on Monday. Nobody would confuse that with what they did that weekend. But that’s not the annoying thing about this quote. Rather, the tone of voice is what grates. I blame Heinlein for this. He was a master of selling total bullshit with a straight face, sounding authoritative even when it was clear he was talking out of his hat. But filter it through 3-4 generations of right wing imitators and it becomes what you see here: all the bullshit, none of the authority.

Your annual Hugo sabotage

Well, that made me laugh in the midst of yet another puppy temper tantrum/Vox Day publicity stunt thrown at the expense of the Hugos. As you know Bob, “Chuck Tingle” is a cult writer of increasingly bizarre gay porn, usually about being pounded in the butt by metaphysical concepts. The pups thought it would be hi-larious to nominate his story “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” for Best Short Story, just because it sounded similar to Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” which they still have an incredible hate-on for. And of course also because these are the kind of people who think calling somebody gay is both funny and an insult.

Of course the only real reason it’d bother anybody is because it means some more worthy story lost out because of this stupid stunt, not so much that a bit of gay porn with a sci-fi flavour got nominated in the first place. Tingle nominating Zoe Quinn to receive his award is a great piece of counter trolling. Zoe Quinn was Victim Zero of Gamergate, as her ex-boyfriend Eron Gjoni involved the shadier parts of the socalled gaming community to harass her. Puppies being who they are they’re of course on the harassing side, so having Quinn accoet is a giant fuck you in their direction by Tingle.

It helps soften the annoyance and pain of having to deal with their shit for another year.

The smell of print comics gives me flashbacks now

Tabletop Gaming has a White Male Terrorism Problem (but don’t think your nerd hobby is any better):

White male terrorism is the white underbelly of the gaming community, meant to terrify and disrupt the lives of those who threaten the status quo by race, gender, or sexuality. It succeeds because the majority of men in the community are too cowardly to stand against the bullies and the terrorists. At best, these cowards ignore the problem. At worst, they join the terrorists in blaming their victims for the abuse. The point of online terrorism is that it is endless, omnipresent, and anonymous.

This is an absolutely disgusting story and sadly all too typical for many women/POC within fandom and nerd circles. I want to believe that this is an American problem and that we’re better here in Europe, but I fear that’s a lie.