It’s that time again. Time for me to make a little comment on commentary. Why? Because who watches the watchmen, really. Who critiques the critics? Well apparently I do, and this week I’m aiming my sights at those who critique nerdy things for the media. I’m specifically looking at you, Linda Stasi over at the New York Post. She recently wrote up a review of the upcoming SyFy television show, Heroes of Cosplay. And let me tell you, this review is a positive stinker.
Right off the bat, Stasi opens up her review admitting something: she doesn’t understand cosplay. She admits she doesn’t get it in the least. Then she spends the next few paragraphs trying to describe cosplay to the uninitiated viewer who might not be familiar with this subset of geek culture. Hopelessly floundering, Stasi falls back on sayings like “Renting is so last decade!” and “What the hell is that?” I’m sorry, Ms. Stasi, but this isn’t Sex in the City and you aren’t Carrie Bradshaw. What you are, however, is clearly attempting to cover up your ignorance with cute quips that don’t quite do the job. The reviewer here was clearly unfamiliar with the material and therefore went for the cheap joke. No surprise here, since reviewers have been falling back on the stereotypical ‘point and laugh at the nerdy folks’ trope for their commentary since geek chic began.
Newsflash: there are more television shows on about supernatural/fantasy elements than ever. Game of Thrones is winning Emmies. Lost was a thing for ages. The Avengers blasted down the doors at the box office. The Big Bang Theory (like it or hate it) is HUGE. NERDS ARE IN. So why are we still accepting nerd-hater reviewers throwing their ‘cool kid’ crap all over the place?
Folks, it is no secret that reviewers have to watch a lot of crap. They sit through television shows, books, movies and plays that they might think are great, but a lot of the time they’re going to get stuck with things they hate. At the end of these drawn out experiences they have to fill up column inches or blog posts or even on-air commentary about the pros and cons of said piece of work. Yet if the reviewer has any familiarity with the material, has done even the slightest bit of their homework on the piece they’re reviewing, and was approaching the material with the least bit of respect, it shows in the work. Those reviews at least give honest critique and commentary on a piece of material, citing points and facts about it rather than falling back into little snide jokes.
It’s not as if audiences aren’t noticing the difference. Just last year was the awful One Girlfriend’s Guide to The Avengers debacle, in which a Moviefone review (purportedly satirical, but only indicated as such after the fact) not only insulted women but anyone with an IQ about who would be interested in seeing The Avengers film. That movie went on to break records in the box office and prove that comic book movies can not only rock, they can kick the crap out of earnings reports. Reviews, screw with that at your peril.
What is even worse about this kind of review is that its once again laugh at the nerd day. Reviews like this come off as superior, smug high school cheerleader nonsense at its worse, and yet they are perpetuated. I’d like to remind folks of something: nerds spend money on these products and are a huge part of the commercial audience. Embrace the geek or risk alienating key portions of your audience. Media outlets that splash pictures of sexy cosplayers during New York Comic Con week and then publish reviews like this (I’m talking to you, New York Post, you had your NYCC coverage too) have very short memories indeed about how popular geek cultural items have become and how they draw readership both from geek communities and from everyone else. Instead of embracing that, some outlets have clung to treating geek media and culture like it is some kind of sideshow attraction rather than actual valid popular culture.
Worse yet, these outlets ignore an incredible resource they could be utilizing: the geek community themselves. There are vital, vibrant, passionate commentators within the geek community who know their business both as enthusiasts and as critics and would do a much better job presenting informed media review. It’s the outlets that have embraced the geek – like MTV and CNN to name two- that understand just how much cultural capitol geekdom has right now and find ways to welcome rather than alienate, to include rather than ridicule.
This week saw news outlets reporting on a major casting choice for the upcoming television season. No, it wasn’t who was going to be on the next Bachelorette, or the replacement of someone on CSI. This was an announcement as big as the fanfare over who will be the next Bond, and came from the same part of the world. It was the fantastically geeky Doctor Who announcement of Peter Capaldi as the Doctor and it rocked news outlets everywhere. If a single one of those outlets had a reviewer going “God, this is so nerdy!” they’d be laughed out of their britches by the number of Whovians across the world and the power of a single fandom. Media outlets instead recognized the cultural capitol at work here and offered it the respect that power is due. And you know what? That’s the way it should be.
The time of snarky, dismissive reviews of nerddom are over and those who don’t get geek culture better grab some internet time on Tumblr or Buzzfeed to catch up or risk finding themselves extinct. Because nerds can do their job better, folks, and we’ll do it without being insulting.