Geek Girls and Fanboys: Or, Yet Another Ready Player One Hot Take

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.)

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And now, for something entirely different: the rise and fall of a queercore duo (you know the one)

(cw: sexual assault and associated topics, Nazism, general racism and unpleasantness)

Early 2016, maybe late 2015. It’s my last year of college, and I’ve finally to decided to say fuck it to unhappiness: I’m going to take the classes I want and hang out with people I actually like and fuck it to denying myself happiness for some ideal of maturity or fiscal responsibility. So I move out of my old apartment, the one that’d been quietly making me miserable for a year, and I find myself a newer one, where there’s space and cats and an actual functional A/C system, thankfuckinggod. There’s the nagging matter of the two theses I’ve signed up to write, sure, but I’m living in a space that makes me happy with people who make me happy and I am, if aware of how fragile this peace is, for the moment content.

Around this time, the early weeks of the school year, enjoying the start of fall and being back in a city again, my roommate sends me a link to a Tiny Desk Concert for a band I haven’t heard of, one of those indie weirdly named groups she has a talent for picking up. There’s catching and banter and makeup slathered on with a paintbrush, one of those heavy-duty things you use to paint fences and houses with. The music is simple but catchy and unapologetically queer and there’s glitter, so much glitter it almost hurts me just to think of having to clean up afterwards.

They’re called PWR BTTM, and I’m in love.

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Death Note (2017): This Movie Literally Halved My Lifespan

So. I get into Death Note when I’m 14 or 15—ninth grade, in any case, which makes it 2008, 2009 maybe. I’d watched anime before, read a bit of manga, but I’d never considered myself a fan per se, not the way the other kids at my school were anime fans, fanatic with their dog-eared manga and garish T-shirts proclaiming their loves out to the world. You know the type I’m talking about, right? It’s weeaboos. I’m talking about weebs.

And look at me now.

There’s a Tumblr post floating about how Death Note is everyone’s starter anime and yeah, guilty as charged: Death Note got me into anime (RIP all pretense of dignity I ever had). Death Note got me into cosplay. Death Note got me into yaoi.* Death Note got me, nearly six years later, into an ill-conceived attempt at light novel translation despite that my Chinese was a equivalent to that of a third-grader’s. Death Note didn’t get me in fanfiction—I don’t remember when that happened, but I’m pretty sure I was always trash—but it did get me into writing it, to the tune of writing a 60,000 word murder mystery AU based on it. I physically printed out fanfiction, okay, and read it on long car rides. It was, in hindsight, only mildly tragic.

I mention all this background not to emphasize my superior knowledge of this franchise, some sort of weapon to yield against fake fans, but to underline just how much this show was an integral part of my adolescent development, how emotionally invested I was in this silly anime at the peak of my teen angst. I loved Death Note, okay. A lot of people did. None of us, really, needed this movie to be a masterpiece—Death Note fandom is about camp as much as it is about death: if a TV drama two shades away from L/Light fanfiction and a musical where they play tennis without an actual tennis ball can become widely beloved, then you don’t exactly need to be Chekov to pull this off. Just. Try a little, okay?

So. Here we come to it, the moment of truth, part where I finally give my thoughts on this movie, and all I have to say, fortified by a pumpkin-flavored beer and mutually inebriated friends is:

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@God: is this how you get shortlisted for the Man Booker these days

I can’t review A Little Life for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I can, on a semi-objective level, admit that it’s a well-written book—good prose, interesting characters, a compulsive readability that lets me speed through hundred page chunks in one sitting, the works. My issues with the book, I know, are less craft-based than they are philosophical/ideological—which is not to say I don’t have craft issues because OH BOY DO I, but those are kind of drowned out by the sheer visceral asdf;kjl keyboard smash that is my frustration with Hanya Yanagihira.

Why so? Ooh boy. Buckle up kids because, as my humanities TAs used to say, it is time to unpack this shit. 

(major cws for sexual assault, suicide, and self-harm ahead)

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America, Gods, and Terrifying Sex Scenes: Some Thoughts


I’m a Neil Gaiman person. I wasn’t always a Neil Gaiman person—few people come out of the womb quoting Stardust and talking about The Endless—but I’ve known of his existence since middle school, when I first found (and was subsequently traumatized by) a copy of Coraline in my school library, and I’ve considered myself a fan since high school, when I first read Anansi Boys. Even then, after reading Good Omens and American Gods and Fragile Warning listening to Stardust and Neverwhere on audiotape, it was still a low-key kind of Gaiman love—I liked Gaiman, I told people, but I considered myself more of a Pratchett person.

And then came college, when my school library carried the complete run of Sandman, and creative writing classes that required you to show-and-tell your favorite writers to class, and somehow, by the time graduation rolled around, I had two Sandman bookmarks, a battered version of Fragile Things, multiple copies of Good Omens, and an extensive knowledge of the Gaiman-Palmer-Chabon-Lemony Snicket wedding. Somehow, as the years passed, I had become One of Those People.

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