I overheard a conversation the other day, in which a young man was told he wasn’t a real nerd because he’d never seen the original Ghostbusters. Other people in the group were swift to jump on the bandwagon, naming movie after movie from the 80s. The gavel had fallen. He wasn’t nerdy enough to call himself a nerd. He wasn’t one of them.
Gatekeeping is insidious. As a woman who has played video games and read SpecFic from a very young age, I’ve been told I can’t be a nerd because I’m a woman, because I’m a fake gamer girl, because I didn’t like Stranger in a Strange Land. Because I fall asleep every time I try to watch Bladerunner. I’ve been quizzed about Star Trek. I’ve been asked if I know what my shirt means. There’s a reason why I keep to myself in comic book stores. I’m an introvert anyway, but I’d prefer not to be challenged about whether or not I’m allowed to like Saga.
Humans have the tendency to tie brands, sport teams, fandoms to their personality. We go on the offensive because we want to be special. Not everyone can belong. You have to answer three questions to pass through and know the secret handshake.
Gatekeeping exists to exclude.
No one should want to exclude new or old fans, or to discourage participation in a fandom. The whole point of a fandom is celebration. Yet it happens. Maybe that young man went home that night and forced his way through the list of necessary movies every nerd should watch, in an effort to later provide the correct receipts. Here I am; am I nerdy enough now? Maybe he even liked his homework. I’m sure he’ll be hesitant to call himself a nerd again, though.
Once excluded, it’s difficult to claw your way back. You’ll always be on the defensive, waiting for the next three questions you don’t know the answer to.
I say barnacles to that.
I don’t care if you hated Netflix’s Daredevil or if you’re not into Star Wars. I pick and choose my own media because my time is precious. More and more I gravitate toward stories written by, and about, women. I want to see myself reflected in some way in the narrative. I want to expand my horizons by reading #ownvoices stories and experiencing media from outside the United States.
No one should have to suffer through a book or movie because of an obligation to the gatekeepers of fandom. If you’re hating a novel because it’s boring/sexist/racist/derivative/etc, put it down. Find something else to read. Not everything is for you, and that’s more than okay. But no one can tell you that part of your identity doesn’t belong to you just because you didn’t like a super, special thing.
Featured image by Pixabay.