I have been thinking a lot about community lately and honestly, I’m rather repulsed by our entire species.
As I write this, the first batch of promotional images for the new Lord of the Rings show have been published, and the backlash is as predictable as it is reprehensible. See, some characters have a skin tone that’s darker than beige. It’s shocking, I know, that an epic fantasy would reflect real-world diversity. After all, there were no people of color in England in Tolkien’s day—except that there were. And there were no people of color in England in the mythic past—except that there were.
William Shakespeare wrote about a black man in 1603. People of color were an integral part of the Roman society that pre-dated Arthur in Britain’s history. One of Arthur’s Knight’s of the Round Table was a black man.
Throughout history, their stories have largely been sidelined the same way they are today, and for the same reasons.
I am Proud of my Geekery
I am unapologetic about it. I love wizards and monsters and plucky farm boys who save the world. I love that fantasy allows us to push real-world issues to the extreme to point out both their importance and their absurdity. I love that we can throw the real world in the garbage for a while and talk about love and friendship and honor and duty and what it really means to be human.
I hate that there are so many goddamn racists in geek spaces. I fucking hate it. The world is hard enough. Why do you have to make it harder?
Because we white men have sidelined the stories of women and people of color, we have entire generations who have grown up believing women and people of color didn’t exist in the historical realities that much of our fantasy emulates.
And because they’re mediocre white men whose only achievement is the accident of birth as a mediocre white man, these racist fucknozzles cling to their whiteness like a dingleberry on the ass of society.
They think we all need to hear their opinion and we don’t. We know there are racists in the world. We know there are racists in geek spaces. We just want to watch cool shit with wizards and walking trees without having some would-be grognard screaming about how dwarves can’t be brown.
It’s Worse than that, Really
These people are so insecure in their manhood that they have to destroy things that aren’t to their standards. They tried it with the Wheel of Time on Prime. They bombarded IMDB and other review sites with negative reviews because it was too woke. They started a petition to have the whole thing scrapped and redone with a different showrunner. They said that reflecting real-world racial and sexual diversity was an agenda as if having an agenda were foreign or antithetical to geek stories.
Science Fiction and Fantasy have always pushed the edges of what is socially acceptable. Sometimes in good ways. Sometimes in bad.
The first interracial kiss on American television came in Star Trek. When Nichelle Nichols wanted to quit Star Trek, it was Martin Luther King, Jr who convinced her to stay because Uhura was that important as a role model.
But they don’t care. The reactionaries in geek spaces ignore both the themes and the evidence of diversity because they can.
And I get it. I’m a straight white man, too. When I first read about Rue in the Hunger Games, I straight up ignored the description and it never occurred to me that she was black. When the movie came out and people were pissing and moaning, I went back to look at the description. There is no question she’s black. None. I just missed it when I was reading.
The reactionary elements of geekdom don’t just miss it when they’re reading, they deny that it’s there so they can protect their empty racist little feelings.
We Should Do Better
There is a book out there that every geek should read—certainly every geek who isn’t a racist shitfucker. It’s called The Geek Feminist Revolution (affiliate link) and it’s written by Hugo Award winner Kameron Hurley. In it, she describes a question she received in an interview about what she hoped to accomplish with her fiction.
She instantly replied that she wanted to change the world.
Well, so do I.
If that sounds bold, well fine, let it be bold. But remember that Uncle Tom’s Cabin made the Queen of England weep, and that Ben Hur prompted a post-war religious revival in the United States.
The stories we read have a tremendous impact on the people we become. I want to contribute to generations free of this regressive bullshit.
I want to be part of a community that makes the world a better place, not a lesser one. I want to be a part of a community that will not tolerate racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or ableist bullshit.
So that’s what this space is going to be.