The Hunger Games, Racism, and Geek Exclusionism

(Alternately titled: “The only thing tying these two topics together are the confessions that I’ve never read The Hunger Games and have judged people for not being geeky enough – I’m such a hypocrite!” But that was too long of a title…)

For anyone who’s been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you should know that the movie adaptation of The Hunger Games came out last week. And it was awesome. Even as someone who’s never read the books, was sitting in the veeeeeeery front and getting nauseous from all the movement (and probably the full belly of fast food I made the mistake of eating just before) and thus watched a large chunk of the movie out of my peripherals, it was awesome. 

What was decidedly not awesome was to wake up this morning to discover the Hunger Games Tweets tumblr and the horrible reactions some fans had to the movie. At first I assumed this was due to the movie probably being a little different from the book, and I’m no one to judge since I got annoyed when large chunks of Harry Potter were chopped out of the movies.

But oh, no. Why were these fans mad, disgusted, and confused? Because there were African American characters. This wasn’t the still-silly-but-probably-benign complaint that characters that were white in the books were casted with African American actors; these characters were described as having “dark brown skin and eyes” and people were upset that they were portrayed as such in the movies.


Ok, ok, there were only one to two lines that described the darker skinned characters, so I get it if someone skimmed and missed it, or only picked up on the portion that described the dark skinned character as being similar to a pale one. Where this gets problematic is when there are reactions like saying that (SPOILER!) her death wasn’t moving because of her skin color, or they were upset that the one on the screen wasn’t the innocent caucasian one they pictured. Yes, innocent = white, suspicious = black, and that’s a comparison that should sound familiar to anyone following what happened to Trayvon Martin.

Yep, shit just got serious – we just went from science fiction movie casting choices to the very real murder of a young guy.

It’s disgusting, horrible, apparently prevalent, and I have no idea where to even start to work on this problem. As shown on the Hunger Games tweets tumblr I linked earlier, even calling someone else out on it – with an easily cited page number to clear up any doubt – as is often the case with bigotry, it doesn’t do any good. What hope is there to get rid of entrenched racism that deems it acceptable to kill someone due to their skin color if we can’t even agree on words printed on a page? I don’t know, but thankfully there are a lot of people talking about this, people more knowledgeable and experienced than myself, and they’re who we should be listening to rather than the ridiculously white girl from the mountains that’s writing this post.

Is it ok if we talk about something I actually know a little bit about now? Good, cause it’s time for a topic change.

There’s a topic that’s started popping up more and more in the circles I run in, and it can be phrased a few different ways, including but not limited to: “how do you really define being a geek/nerd?”, “isn’t it weird that geekdom is becoming more mainstream?” or “that person totally isn’t a geek because they don’t do X or like Y”

As you can tell from the phrasing, some people view the widening of the definition of what it means to be a geek as a good things, since now the label is a badge of honor rather than an insult. Others feel like the broad view of geekdom as degrading its very meaning; now you can call yourself a geek if you read occasionally or have moderate computer literacy.

I’ve been on both ends of this. When I’m around what I might call “hardcore” geeks – ones who engage in geek hobbies that are less widely approved of (I’m looking at you, Warhammer 40k players) – it feels like I need to justify myself as being geeky enough, especially since I’m a woman.

On the other end of it, when I see Facebook friends that I would describe as any number of things except geeky post statuses like “I’m such a geek, LOLOLOLOL” along with Instagramed photos of them reading a book or studying for a class, my first instinct is to nerdrage back with “No, no you are not, don’t you take being a geek and make it that!” So I get it, there’s the compulsion to police our labels and make sure that what we call ourselves actually means something.

At first I wanted to fall on the exclusionist side of this debate, because people who act like a geek to get attention are obnoxious, and particularly grating to me are the girls who take on fake hobbies so they can be the “sexy geek girl”.

But you know what? That’s tiring. It involves getting mad all the time and trying to tell people that you know better than them what they do or do not like and that they don’t get to choose how to label themselves. Some people will be geek posers, just like every label has posers, and it’s not worth our time to embark on a witchhunt to chase them out. Wouldn’t we rather be defined by what we are rather than who we are not?

Maybe an adapted phrase used by Nerdfighters is useful here: if you want to be a geek, you probably already are. Have the hobbies you want, consume the media you want, and don’t forget to be awesome. If someone gets mad or makes fun of you for being too geeky or not geeky enough then they’re probably not a great person to hang out with, geek or no.

source (no affiliation with the seller)

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