Being really frakkin' geeky is in - Stan Lee is responsible for approximately half of the summer blockbusters this year (again), Glee is at Comic Con, and The Big Bang Theory a) exists and b) won a Golden Globe. Also? Game of Thrones.
I don't have to tell you how exciting this all is for a card-carrying geek such as myself. Unlike Patton Oswalt, I'm all for the mainstreaming of geek culture. I think we can all agree that the more movies about Hobbits that Peter Jackson is given the budget (and Ian McKellan) to make, the better. But, despite the fact that our entertainment and media industries are currently standing on the shoulders - and milking the wallets - of my community, they've overlooked something important. Not to get all James T. Kirk about it, but this whole "geek" Enterprise sucks for women.
Historically, "geeks" have not been considered a particularly female-friendly group, the Simpsons "comic book guy" being held up as the desexualized, unpleasant, unsociable, always male icon. Since then, this image of a "geek" has been rehabilitated. He's still awkward, but now he's young. He's clever. He stars in action films. He's Indiana Jones's son. See: Shia LaBeouf, Justin Long, Michael Cera, and every other skinny, white dude that looks like Shia LaBeouf, Justin Long, and Michael Cera.
The situation reminds me a lot of the recent discussion about the significance of "Bridesmaids'" success. Mainstream comedies tend to target men assuming women will follow, because men are considered to be the neutral perspective. And though everyone insists on being surprised every time, when something is targeted explicitly at women, we flock to it, whether or not it's complete crap. Beggars can't be choosers, after all.
Yet, geek women's demands for attention, spaces, and products from the mainstream - not at all new - are beginning to finally be heard. What has been a vibrant, active, subculture with its own prominent voices, celebrities, groups, and events, is showing potential to go as mainstream as male geek culture. The first cracks within the media stronghold might be seen in the success of almost-feminist geek commentary such as io9 by Gawker and the emergence of The Mary Sue by Abrams media. Then there's AOL's own awesome Comics Alliance , a website that was developed and run by a woman and currently stands as the #1 comics site in the US.
However, this is not enough. And while I can't believe I have to beg giant corporations to give me more opportunities to spend my money on movie tickets, DVDs, action figures, and collector's items, here goes: My demands from the television and movie industries, or any industry that caters to the cult followings and camp of geekdom, are as follows.
- Hire Jane Espenson to write all the things. Or create an army of Jane Espenson clones to do so. If this is not technologically possible, you can settle for hiring more female writers, producers, show runners, and directors, in general.
- Bring back Buffy. Okay don't. Okay do. No, don't. Um. We're conflicted, okay?
- Take a page out of Battlestar Galactica's book (we know you all want to, anyway) and when you do your tired sci fi remakes, try some gender-blind casting. See, the awesomeness of Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck.
- Discover the female George Lucas. Or Kevin Smith. Or Simon Pegg. Or Seth Green. She's out there, but no one is paying attention.
- Go beyond standard popular comic franchises when searching for the next huge summer blockbuster - these have been traditionally (though not exclusively) by and for men, and besides, everyone else is already doing it. Be original.
Of course, there is nothing I've said here that can't be said for race, sexual orientation, or any other identity that faces erasure or indeed, exclusion, in society and even within geek culture itself. Geeks are diverse like every community. But it is patently ridiculous to pretend that women don't read comics. That women don't like sci fi. That women don't want to play with lightsabers and swords. That the role of women in the genre is as decoration in a gold, metal bikini.
And, to anyone who anyone that thinks that targeting girls and women within the sci fi and fantasy genres won't be successful or profitable, I have one word for you: Twilight.
Follow Elizabeth Perle on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lizperle