The Time I Met a "Fake Nerd Boy"
Photo by Joshua Polman
As guests become finalized and folks gear up for the upcoming Comicpalooza this May (Four days long this year...pity your intrepid geek reporter's feet and back!), I would like to relay to you a story from last year's convention and what it tells us about the concept of the "fake nerd girl."
In case you're unfamiliar with this concept, here's the gist. A certain meatheaded segment of the geek population makes several erroneous assumptions.
1. That females are not inherently interested in comic books, video games, tabletop, etc.
2. That since geek culture is insanely popular right now, the interest that females do seem to share is nothing more than a shallow, faddish desire to be "cool."
3. And that the final goal of this feminine interest is an attempt to "steal" geek culture from its rightful male owners through enticing them then withholding sex.
Every one of these assumptions, from the idiotic idea that anyone "owns" comics to this bizarre theory that a man's desire to have his boner touched is a worthwhile currency, is wrong. They lead to a fairly uncomfortable convention experience for many women who find that they often are called upon to prove their credentials in whatever their chosen hobby is.
Now, let me tell you about the man I met who built a Dalek.
His name was Joshua Polman, and like a lot of people he'd grown up in the '70s and '80s watching Tom Baker drag his ridiculously long scarf all over time and space on Doctor Who. When the series revived and became popular again, Polman decided to hand-build himself a Dalek to lug around to places like Comicpalooza so he could let people take pictures with it. He also has a K-9.
Each Dalek costs Polman around $1,000 in material and hundreds of hours in construction. Still, he loves it. He loves the reactions that everyone from little kids to 80-year-old grown people gets from it.
I briefly interviewed Polman while my wife posed as Rose Tyler taking pictures with the Dalek, and in doing so I noticed he had some rather strange remarks on the show. He thought, for instance, that Matt Smith was the Twelfth Doctor instead of the Eleventh, and he referred to the Ninth Doctor as David Eccleston instead of Christopher Eccleston. There were other minor inconsistencies, but those two were the ones that stood out most.
For a moment I thought it was odd that someone dedicated enough to create a Dalek would be fuzzy on the current numbering of the Doctors. How big a fan could he be? Oh, that's right, big enough TO BUILD A BLOODY DALEK!
I can't help but picture how things would have been different if Joshua Polman had been Jessica Polman, though, and I think that you can find a parallel in how cosplayers are treated.
Women often go to insane lengths to craft elaborate re-creations of various geek characters. Of course men do as well, but I have literally never seen a man grilled on his knowledge of a series by a woman or another man because of it. Sure, there's some "I know more than you"-ing going on, but that's just nerds being nerds. Sports nuts do the same thing. What's lacking is this vicious quizzing to determine the worth of the fandom currently strutting about in her Batgirl get-up.
So imagine if you will Jessica Polman who built a Dalek and takes it around to conventions. Maybe she puts on an Amy Pond costume to help sell it; maybe she just wears jeans and a cute Tee Fury shirt or something. Then, while some male Whovian is taking pictures, she slips up and refers to Matt Smith as the Twelfth Doctor or gets Eccleston's name wrong.
Don't try to tell me that that wouldn't have resulted in a typical mansplaining verbal beatdown about how she was just another fake nerd girl out to rip off true fans who actually care about Doctor Who or sci-fi in general or whatever. I've been covering this convention since it was founded, and it totally would have. Not because Comipalooza is more sexist or misogynistic than other conventions, but because this weird trope of the geek-hating female pretending otherwise is a very powerful personal fantasy for geeks with woman issues.
Hell, I get a pass all the time for messing up minor points of Whovian fandom or comic books in articles. People correct me, with fiendish glee sometimes, but no one ever tells me that I need to get out and go do some more manly hobby.
There's no one right way to be a fan of something. I'm not less of a Whovian because I can't build a Dalek any more than Polman is less of a Whovian because he doesn't have my encyclopedic knowledge of the Eighth Doctor's adventures in the divergent universe. Likewise, a woman who spends time and money crafting the perfect Zatanna outfit or an Arkham Asylum-era Harley Quinn costume is clearly someone who likes DC Comics. Maybe not the way you do, and maybe you don't appreciate the way she expresses her love, but you can't take it away from her just because she fails to answer a pop quiz.
There's no such thing as a fake nerd. The only thing false about loving a geeky show or book is if you presume to decide who can love it besides you, and that's not love; it's jealousy.
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