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There is a class of per­son in the mod­ern world who is mere­ly famous for being famous. As a cul­ture it’s become almost a cliché to crit­i­cize the­se peo­ple for soak­ing up the spot­light whilst not actu­al­ly con­tribut­ing any­thing. These celebri­ties are also inex­plic­a­bly influ­en­tial; with peo­ple tak­ing their advice and views on sub­jects they are gen­er­al­ly less qual­i­fied to speak on than your aver­age Joe. The same is true for the con­vo­lut­ed mess of pop-culture that is the new com­mer­cial con­cept of Geek.

There are peo­ple mere­ly famous for being Geeks and Nerds, and trade sole­ly on that fact. There isn’t much tan­gi­ble val­ue in being sim­ply an arche­type or stereo­type, but the­se traits are now seen as saleable. So the “Geek Icon” who doesn’t actu­al­ly do much of any­thing was born. Worse still, the­se “famous pure­ly for being a geek” per­son­al­i­ties are attempt­ing to lever­age that B-list inter­net fame to take swings at com­mu­ni­ties or ideas they per­son­al­ly dis­ap­prove of.

Two lead­ing exam­ples I want to men­tion first are Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day; two peo­ple whose opin­ions are con­stant­ly ref­er­enced, and who are parad­ed out as the pin­na­cle of Geek Culture. I spoke in apre­vi­ous arti­cle about how the con­cept of “Geek Culture” is being used to strong-arm ideas and opin­ions not in agree­ment with the pre­vail­ing group­think out of the pub­lic dis­course. There is also the fact that both Wil and Felica haven’t exact­ly had par­tic­u­lar­ly stel­lar careers. This is why they exem­pli­fy the new wave of inter­net celebri­ties attempt­ing to make a liv­ing out of noth­ing but their “geek cred.”

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Presenting the kind of web con­tent that has become the remit of geek celebri­ties could be done just as well by the hun­dreds inter­change­able YouTube per­son­al­i­ties that are spat out by part­ner chan­nels at an alarm­ing rate. Most of what they do is coast on name recog­ni­tion; they are more well known as “The Geek Chick and that guy who used to be in Star Trek.” That is the sum total of what ele­vates them to noto­ri­ety. For years I was told I was sup­posed to love the­se peo­ple as a “geek,” despite them hav­ing no dis­cernible spe­cial tal­ents. I used to think there was some­thing wrong with me for not lik­ing them but now I real­ize I sim­ply rec­og­nize there isn’t much there of mer­it to like. I am sim­ply told the­se peo­ple are geek icons instead of being shown the work that got them to that sta­tus. If you are an icon it should be self evi­dent.

Of course many gen­uine celebri­ties like to chime in on aspects of “Geek Culture” they don’t have any knowl­edge of: Joss Whedon was a prime exam­ple with his “Gamers=KKK” com­ments. This again demon­strates the unwel­come effect of bundling of issues into one big “Geek” cat­e­go­ry. A man who makes TV shows and comic book films is seen as an expert on the video games indus­try and the com­mu­ni­ty around it due to his “Geek cred” alone — despite know­ing pre­cise­ly dick all about it beyond his own male sav­iour fem­i­nist com­plex. A lot of celebri­ties have chimed into debates about polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness in oth­er areas sim­ply because they have a plat­form and an agen­da to push.

The rea­son the media trots out celebri­ty names, whether they have any spe­cial knowl­edge or even pass­ing famil­iar­i­ty with the sub­ject at hand or not, is to avoid engag­ing with ideas. Fame is an instant trump card that gets cer­tain fans to agree with­out exam­in­ing the argu­ments. The press loves using celebri­ty to push agen­das; jour­nal­ists and celebri­ties have one big thing in com­mon: they can pre­tend to speak with author­i­ty on a sub­ject whilst being com­plete­ly igno­rant of it, and peo­ple will lis­ten because they have a plat­form and a pro­file. Their vision of the online com­mu­ni­ty is top down, like a lord dic­tat­ing to their peas­ants. They live in the manor house, and we are the serfs expect­ed to accept what is told to us.

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This makes the laugh­able “Queen of the Geeks” label applied to Felicia “I Cross the Street When I see a Gamer” Day have a deep and fit­ting lev­el of irony. Yes she is a Queen, placed there by her auto­crat­ic peers. Unelected, priv­i­leged, and entire­ly out of touch with her sup­posed sub­jects. Monarchs placed on the throne with­out the sup­port or con­sent of the peo­ple rarely last very long, and per­haps this explains why so many in the com­mu­ni­ty are react­ing with such dis­taste to their edicts. We are shit­lords by roy­al decree it seems, but did they real­ly think by sim­ply say­ing some­thing they could make it so? Have some people’s egos real­ly become so out of con­trol?

Their vision is top down, my vision is bot­tom up. I refer to them as par­a­sites because they are feed­ing off the com­mu­ni­ty below them, the com­mu­ni­ty that they wouldn’t exist with­out. What does hav­ing act­ed in a TV series mean you know about what’s best for game design­ers? There is a faulty idea that mere­ly being a low tier online celebri­ty is some­how a con­tri­bu­tion. They take, and they take, but when it comes time to give back they say you should have been grate­ful to pay for their auto­graph at a con­ven­tion and lis­ten to them prat­tle on about their per­son­al bias­es.

Having bare­ly famous peo­ple dic­tate to you what your own thoughts should be is a large part of why I don’t buy into the idea of Geek Culture in the first place. Celebrities have a long his­to­ry of turn­ing into obnox­ious ves­sels for fur­ther­ing their pol­i­tics along with their prod­ucts, and a lot of “Geek Culture” ego­ma­ni­ac celebri­ties have begun to buy into their own hype and think their fleet­ing rel­e­vance makes them able to change the world on a whim.

celeb side 1Some of the­se celebri­ties think they are owed some­thing, and in recent years we keep see­ing the­se unpleas­ant, con­ceit­ed celebri­ties come out of the wood-work to demand the entire inter­net change to bet­ter fit their cur­rent mood. This is naked author­i­tar­i­an­ism when the inter­net is based on free­dom of expres­sion. What exact­ly does grand-standing on social media cre­ate? If you have a high-profile you are sup­posed to earn it.

There are many celebri­ties that loud­ly and vis­i­bly do work that ben­e­fit hunger char­i­ties, com­bat cli­mate change, and help chil­dren. This is well and good, but the­se efforts are oft times turned into a vehi­cle to show off just how amaz­ing they are, whist doing min­i­mal actu­al work. Now that lazy, fop­pish faux-altruism has been tak­en up by e-celebrities com­bat­ing e-problems with their e-protests in a des­per­ate attempt to pump-up their flac­cid, wrin­kling e-careers.

Combating online harass­ment has become the new famine appeal, the new cause of the mon­th, the new thing to make a lot of noise about whilst not know­ing what the core issues actu­al­ly are. This new breed isn’t even much of celebri­ties any­more — not out­side their inner cir­cle and rabid fan­dom.

I sup­pose we can put that down to youth­ful hubris, but despite being upwards of forty some­one like Wil Wheton has yet to regain any TV or Film trac­tion that isn’t either play­ing him­self or a riff on his Star Trek work. He went from film and TV to web con­tent, and recent­ly had a show he host­ed on SyFy can­celled after a sin­gle sea­son. His career tra­jec­to­ry has been cir­cling the drain in slow motion for twen­ty years. Felicia Day has done sim­i­lar work, most­ly online con­tent and “per­son­al­i­ty” gigs, but hasn’t real­ly gained a foothold in main­stream act­ing. Mostly because, frankly, she can’t act beyond look­ing con­fused and doe-eyed. If I asked 50 peo­ple when they walked by whom Felicia Day was most would strug­gle to give a cor­rect answer.

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That’s the prob­lem with the online echo-chamber; peo­ple think they are more impor­tant and famous than they real­ly are. That goes ten­fold for B-list e-celebrities like Anita Sarkeesian or any­one still cling­ing onto the wreck­age of Channel Awesome/TGWTG. Their sense of self-importance back­fires, and when some­one you’ve nev­er heard of crowns them­selves the Queen of the world and starts bark­ing orders your first instinct is to laugh at how delu­sion­al they are. I don’t care what web-series you were on, the vast major­i­ty of the online world has no idea you exist. The only pow­er the­se peo­ple have is with­in their own circle-jerk. They wall them­selves off from any crit­i­cism and bathe in adu­la­tion from their rel­a­tive­ly small num­ber of fans. Those attempt­ing to steer the “geek” ship into a par­tic­u­lar ide­o­log­i­cal or polit­i­cal direc­tion are coast­ing on their past achieve­ments and using up what recog­ni­tion they have left.

Again we see the idea of “Geek Culture” used as a crutch for per­son­al gain, and the­se hang­ers on use it as a means of income suck­ing up every last pen­ny they can from the con­ven­tion cir­cuit and squeez­ing every last drop of good will out of work they’ve been coast­ing off for years. This is also why some of them have tried to manip­u­late who can and can’t be at con­ven­tions and turn it into a closed shop. I have no doubt deny­ing polit­i­cal rivals also make their own chance of book­ing gigs rise.

They wave their fin­ger and scold their fans, in many cas­es lit­er­al­ly say­ing if you believe some­thing I don’t you can’t be a fan of “geek” things as if they con­trol who can and can’t like some­thing. There is no argu­ment, and no facts. Just an attempt to use name recog­ni­tion to shame peo­ple into sub­mis­sion and mobi­lize their fan­base for a self­ish polit­i­cal cause. It’s about using num­bers to shout peo­ple down.

I think many who trade on their insid­er sta­tus, or cred­i­bil­i­ty as a geek, sup­port polices of exclu­sion and polit­i­cal uni­for­mi­ty because it helps entrench their posi­tion. As we’re see­ing with the #PerformanceMatters hash­tag and SAG-AFRA strike, once peo­ple get some­where they want to do their best to burn the lad­der behind them. They are enti­tled to try all they like, but they are not enti­tled to pre­tend their self-serving pos­tur­ing is ben­e­fit­ing any­one but them­selves. For a good dose of per­spec­tive check out our inter­view with vet­er­an voice actress Lani Minella; she takes quite a dis­mal view of those push­ing them­selves as rock-star videogame voice actors. If you stop pro­duc­ing good con­tent, if you out stay your wel­come, then peo­ple don’t dis­like you because you are a wom­an or because you are “fight­ing for inclu­sive­ly and social jus­tice” or any of those thin cov­ers.

People begin dis­like you because they real­ize that you are mere­ly scram­bling to per­pet­u­ate your celebri­ty. People on the bot­tom rung of inter­net fame like the unhinged Arthur Chu, or the ter­mi­nal­ly irrel­e­vant Brianna Wu, are push­ing the idea of a cri­sis with­in geek­dom sim­ply because they have lit­tle else they are known for and few out­lets to get atten­tion from. You’re very good at phras­ing things as a ques­tion. Big whoop. Some peo­ple actu­al­ly make the­se games, movies, and comics; we need to be lis­ten­ing to those who actu­al­ly cre­ate things of excep­tion­al qual­i­ty today and not tal­ent­less pre­tenders or those with fad­ed glo­ry.

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There is noth­ing sad­der than the likes of some­one like Tim Schafer still soak­ing up adu­la­tion for games he made decades ago. He is the Adam Sandler of the video game world. People like him, but when you ask why they bring up the hand­ful of old high­lights and make mum­bled excus­es for cur­rent fail­ures. He will forever be “Mr. Shitface” to me, hold­ing a sock-puppet on stage and mock­ing those who made him what he is today. Conventions and var­i­ous indus­try bod­ies are made up of dozens of fig­ures like him; peo­ple cling­ing to their fame by their fin­ger­tips and kiss­ing the right rings to do so.

The next time some­one claims to speak for “geeks,” or claims to be famous for their con­tri­bu­tions to “Geek Culture,” look at their real achieve­ments and weigh them on those. Once again, we find our­selves pre­sent­ed with a class of peo­ple ter­ri­fied of mer­i­toc­ra­cy, and of hav­ing their opin­ions chal­lenged. At the end of the day, inter­net fame is like a fog; clear­ly vis­able but lack­ing sub­stance — and some­thing that oft times clouds the view of crit­i­cal things. Once the game is up, and their cred­i­bil­i­ty ques­tioned, peo­ple stop going to them for their “expert” opin­ion. You deserve noth­ing in this world that you don’t earn, and your opin­ion is only as rel­e­vant as the facts that back it up, no mat­ter who you are.

https://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Celeb-Header-.jpghttps://supernerdland.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Celeb-Header – 150x150.jpgJohn SweeneyCultureOpinionCelebrity,Culture War,Felicia Day,Geek culture,Wil WheatonThere is a class of per­son in the mod­ern world who is mere­ly famous for being famous. As a cul­ture it’s become almost a cliché to crit­i­cize the­se peo­ple for soak­ing up the spot­light whilst not actu­al­ly con­tribut­ing any­thing. These celebri­ties are also inex­plic­a­bly influ­en­tial; with peo­ple tak­ing their…
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John Sweeney
John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in engi­neer­ing. He writes long-form edi­to­ri­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games media and inter­net cul­ture. He also does the occa­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly column about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our inter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven media and sus­pi­cious of unac­cou­table author­i­ty but always hope­ful for change.