Geek girls often feel left out of or actively barred from certain corners of nerd-dom. There’s a common misconception that they’re new to the party compared to their male counterparts, or just jumping on a bandwagon for attention. The fact is, geek girls have been here the whole time. In fact, in some instances they’ve been their first. Frankenstein, which is considered to be the first ever piece of science fiction, was written by a woman, as were the first American crime and mystery novels. You also wouldn’t be able to read this article right now if hadn’t have been for the pioneering influence of Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer.
Ada probably wouldn’t be too happy to learn that her legacy is used these days to spread memes about “fake geek girls,” harass gamer girls and chase female creators off of social media. (She’d probably be cool with all the cat videos though.) Although it’s not exclusive to them, fangirls are synonymous with the desire to be actively involved in a fandom — creating fan art, fan fiction, cosplay and shipping characters together. This desire is often unfortunately met with sneering judgement from those who aren’t, which is why nerdy women create their own communities and share their own comics and memes to express what it means to be a geek girl.
20. FICTIONAL HOLIDAYS
Who hasn’t dreamed of vacationing in a fictional place? Becoming a student at Hogwarts, riding across the rich fields of Middle Earth, drifting through space on the Enterprise like an intergalactic cruise ship or taking your first steps towards becoming a master trainer in one of the Pokemon regions… even the coolest holiday spots in the real world just can’t compare.
Of course, there are plenty of other fictional places you wouldn’t dream of wanting to go to. No-one is likely to want to spend Christmas north of the Wall with Game of Thrones’ Whitewalkers; most of The Hunger Games’ Panem is a wasteland of poverty and squalor and the blackened plains of Mordor wouldn’t be the ideal place to go camping. Also, you might want to look into the student safety record at Hogwarts before you jump on the Express.
19. BIKINIS ARE NOT ARMOR
This comic from artist Irene Martini hilariously illustrates a problem that a lot of female gamers encounter when selecting ready made characters to play as. While most male characters are given a realistic amount of clothing and protection from all the shooting and slaying they’ll be doing, female characters are often not afforded the same consideration.
This isn’t an issue exclusive to video games. Comic books and many other forms of entertainment that are primarily geared towards a male audience are also guilty of caring more about sex appeal than practicality when it comes to female costumes. Just to underline the double standard, Irene reverses the gender inequality in costume design at the end. After all — male or female — would you really want to go dungeon crawling in a metal bikini?
18. THERE’S SOMETHING FISHY HERE
Mermaids are traditionally depicted as beguiling, fishy women who are as much figures of romantic fantasies as they are just plain fantastical. This is despite their existence in mythology likely having been inspired by the slightly less erotically appealing manatee — or, to make them sound even more alluring: “sea cows.”
The Little Mermaid is a beloved Disney classic and Princess Ariel is probably the first thing we think of when we hear the word “mermaid.” It’s pretty much love at first sight for her and the dashing Prince Eric when she washes up outside his castle in the film. In fact, cartoonist Adam Ellis thinks their love is so strong, Eric would have put a ring on it no matter what she looked like.
17. STUPID HAWT SUPERMAN
The impractical female character costume debate has been raging hotter than ever before in the past few years. There was Scarlett Johansson’s potrouding butt on an Avengers Assemble poster, the infamous Spider-Woman #1 butt cover drawn by Milo Manara and the general way that female character’s clothes seem to cling to them in ways that defy the laws of physics and fabric — particularly around the chest area.
“The Hawkeye Initiative” is an art project begun in 2012 with the aim to “fix every Strong Female Character pose in superhero comics” by “replac[ing] the character with Hawkeye doing the same thing.” Others have also jumped onto this bandwagon, like artist Anna with these redesigns. “Not trying to start a war here, just wanted to poke a bit of fun,” she captions them with. “So, here you go menfolk, welcome to being a girl who likes comics.”
16. MEAN AVENGERS
If the Internet has proved anything, it’s that — since 2004 — there’s almost nothing that a quote from Mean Girls can’t be applied to. The scene this great little crossover comic is referencing comes from the psychological detox that Tina Fey’s Mrs. Norbury and Tim Meadows’ Principal Duvall have the stressed and angry female student body go through after revelations from the Burn Book incite chaos in “girl world.”
One student gets particularly emotional during the confessional trust falls, before Damien outs her as not actually being a student at the school. This crossover with the MCU plays on Spider-Man’s introduction to the universe, though at the point he appeared in Captain America: Civil War, he’d yet to receive an official invite to join the Avengers, hence Hawkeye quoting Damien’s line calling him out as an outsider.
15. I WILL GO DOWN WITH THIS SHIP
The fan phenomenon known as “shipping” (short for relationship) dates all the way back to the original Star Trek series, when OG fanboys and girls would create their own zines and stories predominantly pairing Kirk and Spock together. But, the actual name “shipping” was born online in the The X-Files fan community, used by those who were desperate for Mulder and Scully to hook up (i.e., the entire X-Files fan community.)
Being a shipper can be super rewarding or super frustrating depending on whether you’re basing that ship on concrete evidence or something more subtextual. The #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend campaign that took off on Twitter after fans read into the googly eyes he and Bucky were giving each other in The Winter Soldier seems sadly unlikely to come to fruition. Link and Zelda is a much safer bet… or so you’d think.
14. WHAT WOMEN REALLY WANT
Women are mysterious creatures whose wants and needs are so complicated and hard to pinpoint that they themselves struggle to do it. Or, maybe they’re just human beings with human needs. Human needs like thousands of words worth of Harry Potter fan fiction where Sirius Black and Remus Lupin get happily married, an endless supply of pizza and pictures of celebrities that you shouldn’t have a crush on but do anyway.
Is that too much to ask for? You could, of course, develop telepathic abilities after taking a tumble into a bathtub with a hairdryer — as Mel Gibson’s character experiences in What Women Want — to figure out how to empathize with the opposite sex. A less life-threatening solution might just be to, you know, actually listening to them in the first place.
13. ANOTHER WHOLESOME DISNEY MORAL
These “Honest Posters” for Disney movies created by Christine Gritmon hilariously skewer the morally dubious or just plain offensive messages that some of the company’s best-loved films actually subconsciously teach us. In this example, we’re reminded that under the mushy romance, Cinderella proves that you can only bag the man of your dreams by pretending to be someone else.
Other hilarious examples include “Arab Stereotypes And Outdated Pop Culture References” for Aladdin; “Stockholm Syndrome” for Beauty and the Beast; “Change For Your Man” for The Little Mermaid; “Please Spay And Neuter Your Pets” for 101 Dalmatians; “Nice Guys Finishes Last” for The Hunchback of Notre Dame and “Hamlet With Animals” for The Lion King. She also manages to sum up Cars in just one line: “Doc Hollywood meets Nascar.”
12. ONE TRUE PAIRING
There are some truly weird corners of any and every fandom if you dare to dig deep enough. But, what you have to remember is that one fan’s trash is another fan’s treasure (although, more often than not these two things are one and the same). This comic by illustrator Adam Ellis perfectly captures the joy of revelling in a truly trashy delight.
That person gazing lovingly at the screen of their phone on the bus might not be looking at a cute picture of their significant other, but instead flicking through FanFiction.net, tumblr or reddit to mine the guiltiest of pleasures to sustain their interest in a niche love. Incidentally, Sonic the Hedgehog attracts some particularly weird fan-created content, which is maybe what inspired this comic in the first place.
Pokemon games only seem to get better and better with time, and, apparently — so do Pokemon professors. Sure, Professor Oak will always be our true No.1, not only for nostalgic reasons, but he was that kindly, eccentric guide who was with us (and Ash) as we took our first steps into the world of pocket monster catching. (And, if you re-watch the anime, he totally hooked up with Ash’s mom, right?)
Pokemon professors remained on the older, parental side until the release of X and Y versions that introduced us to the young and swoon-worthy Professor Sycamore. Given that Kalos was based on France, he probably also came with a French accent — even more swoon-worthy. Pokemon fans’ thirst levels only increased when with the introduction of Sun and Moon versions’ shirtless Professor Kukui, as illustrated here by thegreyzen.
10. CONVENTIONS VS. NORMAL LIFE
A lot of card-carrying geeks are also self-professed introverts, much preferring a day spent curled up with a fantasy novel, comic book or video game than a day spent soaking up that vitamin D outside or being forced into dull or nerve-wracking social situations. People can be exhausting, after all. But, despite the high crowd concentration, conventions are different.
Conventions are both safe spaces where you can geek-out, free from judgement and places where you can interact with people in real life who actually get all of your obscure, nerdy references. Often, it’s as simple as complimenting someone’s cosplay or just seeing someone in a t-shirt inspired by a long-forgotten property that you thought no-one else knew existed. This joy is effortlessly captured in this comic from artist hPolawBear.
9. MARIO IS SO EXTRA
Mario, the titular plumbing star of Nintendo’s long running series of games — and probably the company’s most recognizable mascot — isn’t exactly known for his fabulousness. He’s short and stout with a bushy moustache and has a profession that requires him to wear overalls and get his hands dirty. His side-hustle — rescuing princesses and squishing creatures — isn’t much more glamorous.
But, cartoonist Adam Ellis draws our attention here to qualities we might have overlooked in the Italian guy who loves to jump. Like most classic video game characters, Mario can’t help but stop and celebrate his power ups — no matter how deep he is into dangerous, enemy-filled territory. What’s the point in grabbing a Fire Flower if you can’t show-off about it? Peach’s exasperation is a great touch, too.
8. THE PROBLEM WITH STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS
A “Strong Female Character” is a stock character that is essentially the polar opposite of a “Damsel In Distress” (or “DID” according to Phil in Hercules.) Whereas a DID is a passive plot device used to motivate and/or reward a male character’s valor, an SFC is an active participant who can save herself, thank you very much.
While generally providing a positive role model for women in storytelling, this meme points out that the trope doesn’t come without flaws. Sticking a bow and arrow in a heroine’s hands shouldn’t be a stand-in for a personality, or be her only trait, in the same way that just being female shouldn’t be either. A strong character is one that’s as compelling, believable and complicated as real person.
7. DISNEY HAS NO POWER OVER ME…
…okay, maybe it does. It’s hard not to let the stuff we grew up watching as kids have an impact on our tastes and interests as adults. For a lot of us, that meant a childhood worshipping at the altar of Disney. Mufasa was our picture of the ideal dad; Mulan was our poster girl for feminism and Princes Aladdin and Eric were our future boyfriend goals.
As much as artist Irene Martini tries to deny it in this comic, the influence of the Disney diet on her system clearly (and hilariously) looms large in her subconscious. And let’s face it, we still crush pretty hard on animated characters when we’re way past our formative years. In fact, probably even more so. Damn it, Disney!
6. GIRL TALK
Stereotyping dictates that women love nothing more than chit chatting about clothes, make-up, crushes, rivalries and what they can and can’t eat this month. While there is a grain of truth in there somewhere, the private conversations women actually have with one another are just as diverse in subject as ones that men have. And really, this stereotype in pop culture is one that originates and is perpetuated by male writers.
For geek girls, a good 90% of that conversation is likely taken up by discussing fictional people and places that don’t exist in the same in-depth manner as discussions on those that do. That’s exactly what this meme illustrates. Though this version shows two gamer girls secretly nerding out about video games, another (possibly the original) depicts them as closeted My Little Pony fans instead.
5. FAKE GEEK GIRLS ARE FAKE
It’s pretty self-aggrandizing to assume that women would go to such huge lengths — like pouring hundreds of hours and dollars into crafting an amazing cosplay or splashing out on a PS4 so they can post a sexy selfie with it — in order to trick “real” geeks (i.e. men) into thinking they’re legit fans just to… Well, just to what? The “fake geek girl” phenomenon doesn’t have a logical reason to exist because it doesn’t exist.
Sure, the rise in acceptability of geek culture in the mainstream has bred a lot of what you could call “casual” fans, but these fans are made up of men and women in equal measure. They don’t deserve the flack they get, either, because the money they fork out on movie tickets and merchandise is just as good as any hardcore fan’s. Geekdom doesn’t benefit from gatekeeping of any kind.
4. THERE CAN’T JUST BE ONE
What you might call annoying fangirl thirst, others would prefer to call a healthy expression of female sexuality (…that sometimes borders on the unhealthy.) Usually when the subject of hottest animated characters comes up, names like Jessica Rabbit, The Little Mermaid‘s Ariel or the oversexualized female bunny from Space Jam are top of the list. (Side note: just what is it about rabbits we find so strangely appealing?)
There are plenty of cartoon characters that set fangirls’ hearts a flutter. Mulan wasn’t the only one to raise an eyebrow at Captain Shang’s de-robing moment in Mulan; we fell in love with Anastasia‘s rogue with a heart of gold, Dimitri long before Anya did; and Kim Possible‘s Shego was the awakening that practically every queer girl watching the Disney channel in the ’00s experienced. As Irene Martini shows in this illustration, how can we ever pick just one, though?
3. I’LL SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD
Just…one…more…chapter… Accidentally wiling away the night hours playing a video game, reading a book or binging a show on Netflix is something most nerds have experienced at one point or another. But, fan fiction addiction is very real and very dangerous for your health, as this Lord of the Rings-themed meme warns us. What makes fan fiction so addicting?
Well, it’s a form of fan adoration that plays on all the stuff we wish had been in our favorite property. What if those two characters had gotten together instead? What if that particular scene played out differently? What if the worlds of Frozen and Legend of the Guardians could cross over so that Jack Frost could make Elsa a little less lonely? It’s no slight to a creator, just a fun and very appealing way for fans to riff on their favorite stories.
2. HERSTORY LESSON
The conception that certain things are the “property” of one particular group is a frustrating one, especially when it’s applied to fandoms that supposedly cater to and are populated by men more than women. As this meme points out, things we see as being traditionally male interests like the genre of masked vigilantes was actually pioneered by women, specifically: “The Scarlet Pimpernel” by Baroness Emma Orczy.
As the commenters under this historically accurate meme add, the first American mystery and crime novels had female authors, too. Ironically, female crime writers today often hide their gender by using initials rather than forenames for fear of putting readers off. Pointing these facts out isn’t intended to detract from male creators’ contributions, it’s an attempt to undo the erasure of these trailblazing women from history and make women feel more welcome in fandoms that they helped build.
1. WHO’S THE “FAKE GEEK” NOW?
This mighty takedown of a cosplay shamer on tumblr is something of an Internet legend now within the cosplay community. The level of vitriolic dismissiveness that some have of cosplay is hard to understand considering the art form has been a staple of conventions since they first began, dating all the way back the early 20th century. It also encourages active, creative participation in fandom.
The original meme on the left seems to have been created by someone annoyed at the lengths that some fans go to to create the most unique cosplay possible. But, as the commenter on the right points out, their insult reveals their ignorance. Rather than dressing up as “gender-bent, steampunk Joker,” this girl is actually dressed as Joker’s Daughter, Duela Dent. You might want to check your facts before dishing it out.
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