This post originally ran as the first part of the Identity Series on DethPaw.com
Back in the day, in the dark ages before the internet, I lived in fear of being called a “poser” by my peer group(s). There was nothing worse than being seen as a poser. Lepers in the Old Testament had a higher acceptance rate than a poser. Not even other posers wanted to know a poser.
It was bad.
It was the “I was into [insert show/brand/band/product here] before it was cool.” mindset before that mindset was cool (how meta!). But, that was the dark times. Surely, now that I’m a middle-aged man, such things are forgotten relics of times gone by, right?
Not a chance in hell.
By day I’m a software developer. A common discussion topic in those circles is how often we all seem to struggle with some form of “Impostor Syndrome”. The industry, particularly my little slice of it (web development), moves so rapidly that it can be hard to keep up. It’s very easy to feel overrun by the next big thing.
Expanding beyond the world of code, here’s a short list of other topics that often leave proverbial tire tracks on my face:
- Music (Various strains of punk and metal in particular)
- Comics/Graphic Novels (Which “must read” book from the Super Awesome Author was just released?)
- Films (Did I miss out on Some Great Movie by Brilliant Director – starring Benedict Cumberbatch – because I chose to be the millionth person to see Summer Blockbuster IV?)
- Art (Which artist’s resurgence in popularity waned 6 months ago?)
- Books (Which series by Awesome Author should I start with??)
Which brings me back around to the topic of cosplay. To quote myself from the other day:
What I can’t shake is the feeling that this response seems like an extension of the “fake geek girl” meme. The subtext to this being that expressing fandom always looks a certain way, and any deviation from that is somehow seen as a threat. – http://dethpaw.com/cosplayersarefans/
Back in the dark times, you could usually combat being called a poser by demonstrating some level of knowledge about a subject to the satisfaction of your peer group. There was always a gauntlet you could run in order to prove your fandom was real. There was a “look” you could adopt to make sure you weren’t seen as a threat. If you wanted to be in with the “punkers” you could try wearing a beat up pair of Doc Martens and owning a worn out cassette (preferably an import) of London Calling. Often, just doing that would be sufficient to impress the average 12 year-old gatekeeper of your school’s lunch table. Then, to remain in the group, all you had to do was hide the copy of Hangin’ Tough that Grandma got you for Christmas that one time (which you secretly rocked out to when no one was looking).
At this point I highly encourage you to go back and read the previous paragraph again. It’s ridiculous. There is very little there that makes any sense. Lunch tables? Old cassettes?? Who goes to that kind of trouble, and why??? Yet, I would bet that any self-proclaimed “geek/nerd/fan/etc…” has a similar experience they could share. I agree, everything about that story is absurd. Even while writing it – and keep in mind that it’s based on actual life experience – it struck me as dumb. But, at 12, that kind of acceptance was the biggest thing in the universe. It was important, it carried weight. Most of all, it meant that I mattered and my involvement had value. When you’re 12 you don’t understand that two people of value means more value. You’re too busy being worried that their value is going to diminish your value. At 12, that kind of binary thinking is normal. Unfortunately, there are some folks who never seem to grow out of binary thinking.
As a result we have comics professionals denigrating cosplayers. TV shows like The Big Bang Theory, whose fame was made on the backs of geeks, become yet another vehicle to make geeks into a sideshow. Women and girls feel like they need to defend their “cred” for fear of being labeled “fake geek girl.” Young boys fear being ostracized because they like My Little Pony and girls are embarrassed by their desires to become a Jedi. All of these things happen simply because someone decided that they would be the gatekeeper of some fandom, and it would be their duty to cry from the heavens when someone they deemed irrelevant dared stray into their land.
I don’t know if it’s insecurity, ignorance, or malice. But I do know that it’s silly. You like what you like, and I will like what I like. It doesn’t make you or me a “poser.” It makes us individual people with individual tastes, and that, simply put, makes all of us awesome.