Politics and Geekdom – Fantasy is NOT an “Oasis” from Reality
We see this situation all too often: Someone brings up something social or political in a geek forum, only to have someone criticize them. “This is a place to escape the real world,” they say, “and you’re ruining it by bringing that stuff up.”
Apparently, geekdom is supposed to be a sanctuary from politics, world events, and social issues. Some people believe that to bring up any of those topics is to ruin the utopia they’re hiding in.
Guess what? Those people are wrong.
Politics and social issues have always been a part of science-fiction and fantasy.
- In 1818, a mad scientist encountered themes of social justice and the cruelty of modern society.
- In 1870, the captain of a submarine sailed through topics like libertarianism and the militarization of the world.
- In 1949, a dystopian future presented themes of authoritarian regimes and historical revisionism that echo today.
- In 1966, a ship with a multicultural crew explored new worlds with their own social and political issues.
- In 1998, a young wizard navigated the problems of adolescence while fighting supremacists and a complicit government.
- In 2010, a multiracial sorceress quested through a land filled with racism and misogyny.
The worlds we live in are reflected in our fiction, and vice versa, and thus our fandoms arise around books, shows, and movies that inherently have social and political themes.
Mary Shelley came from an era where women and those who looked different were treated differently. Gene Roddenberry was a product of multiple wars, the Red Scare, and the Civil Rights movement. Nnedi Okorafor grew up, and still lives, in a society where black people suffer injustice.
All of these creators used political and social themes in their work. Comic writers as well have always been open about covering social and political issues.
You can’t remove the politics and social issues from science-fiction and fantasy any more than you can take the TARDIS out of Doctor Who – and you shouldn’t.
Politics and social issues affect geeks just as much as the rest of the world.
You think sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. doesn’t make its way into geekdom?
If that were true, we wouldn’t have to remind people that “cosplay isn’t consent” or “my skin is not a costume.” Or social movements who harass and doxx women who dare to speak their minds about games. Or people who complain that a show about an African-American superhero in an African-American neighborhood is “too black.”
We wouldn’t have the originator of roleplaying games making misogynistic statements like,
“It is apparent to me that by and large females do not derive the same inner satisfaction from playing games as a hobby that males do. It isn’t that females can’t play games well, it is just that it isn’t a compelling activity to them as is the case for males.” – Gary Gygax Q&A (Part V, page 7), ENWorld
Bigotry and politics are rife throughout geekdom; it’s just many people are ignorant of the problem. There are articles, convention panels, and entire books dedicated to these topics, so they apparently exist. Even Stan Lee has been talking about this for decades.
If they’re real, then why deny them?
Politics and social issues make some people uncomfortable.
This behavior isn’t a geek-specific issue – it’s a legitimate social and psychological phenomenon, the discomfort that occurs when presented with racism, sexism, etc. When confronted by something uncomfortable, what do people do?
They react… and often poorly. Dismissal, denial, projection, intellectualization. The defense mechanisms for cognitive dissonance are numerous, and many a geek falls victim to them.
Politics and social issues are part of geekdom, whether you like it or not.
Telling others not to invade the “oasis” of fantasy with politics is not only ignorant, but it’s also outright unreasonable. Maybe some don’t like these issues in fandom, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that they’re not important. Obviously, they’re significant enough that people write or speak about them, and conventions often focus on the topic.
Not to mention, I’d bet real money it’s not that these people don’t like to talk about politics, society, or world events… they just don’t like to talk about those issues. You know, the ones that they can’t relate to or that make them feel uncomfortable.
Which is really what it’s all about – comfort. You see, fantasy and reality are intertwined and always have been. Only, now those issues aren’t just what Cishet White Males care about, they include the perspectives of women, PoCs, LGBT, etc.
And that’s what people are protesting – not politics in geekdom, but those politics in geekdom.
As so many like to say, “get over it”, “move on”, or “don’t be a sensitive snowflake.”
The real world is part of geekdom, and that includes its diversity and problems. This intersection has been true since the earliest authors and remains fact well into the 21st century.
Next time you see something political being brought up, you can certainly bury your head in the sand and move on. Or maybe you’ll whine about the matter or attack others with fallacious arguments, looking like an ignorant ass.
Or better yet, how about you listen and learn. Join the rest of us and don’t just dismiss things because you’re uncomfortable. We’d prefer you here, as geekdom celebrates diversity.
But tell us we can’t talk about our issues? That you don’t want politics in your fandom?