Ready Player One—
Ah, where to start with Ready Player One.
The briefest description of Ready Player One I can come up with is that it stands within the dubious pantheon of books I wholeheartedly despise. For all that I’ve been a part of fandom, I’ve also spent my fair share amount of time in hatedom, read the Livejournal posts and nodded yes at the blogs on why Edward Cullen’s behavior was peak stalker; and so, when the inevitable backlash to RPO began, let me tell you, I was ready. Having listened to half of RPO on audiobook before frustration quitting (1) a year or so before the Spielberg adaptation was announced, I was more than ready to describe all the reasons I found RPO and Ernest Cline in general repellant.
On paper, Ready Player One very much meets the requisite characteristics of a thing I’m designed to hate: the worldbuilding is poor, the female characters are paper thin, the main character is an overpowered self-insert power fantasy, and to top it all off, there’s the smug veneer of Reddit nice guy entitlement, racism, and transphobia. All of these, individually, merit their own rant (and believe me, I’ve subjected plenty of friends to them), but I don’t actually want to talk about Ready Player One—there are plenty of thinkpieces around to break down just what delicious, problematic trash this book is, and God knows I’ve done enough soapboxing of my own. What I’d rather talk about is the way Ready Player One and so much similar frames nerd culture, and how that view of geekdom fails a large proportion of its demographic while also perpetuating a limiting view of what it means to be a nerd.
In other words: as many Tumblr posts have already pointed out, there’s a fundamental difference in the way fanboys and fangirls interact with media, and it’s naive to think the view of fandom offered by RPO is but one view of a much wider, much more heterogeneous community.
(The following discussion contains somewhat broad assumptions about gender roles and essentialism, with the “fanboy/fangirl” split meant to characterize a common cultural paradigm and not necessarily a fixed view of either fandom or gender. Tl;dr, the fangirl/fanboy dichotomy is a construct and very, very fallible, but also useful for the purposes of this discussion.)