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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, December 17, 2009


On 12-17-09 Heidi McDonald wrote:

“In Nerd Movie Culture, women can never have their own agency — they are bystanders and sidekicks. ALIEN would never star Ripley today.”

And I responded:

"You gotta do better than that.

Frankly I think Nerd Culture (by which I assume you mean not just the Mating–or Non-Mating– Habits of Nerds Themselves but also the genre-products they patronize strongly) has in the past 40 years unleashed a buttload of empowered women when compared to the record of The Majority Culture (my term), whose taste has tended to favor movies that solely featuring male heroes in solo roles (John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Nicholas Cage) or buddy-teams like those of Gibson and Glover."

Since experience suggests that I won't get a substantive response from Heidi on this, I may as well amuse myself by expanding on this conceit here.

I'm not at all sure what Heidi means when she speaks of "Nerd Movie Culture," but since her argument (mostly directed against online nerd-posters who don't think GIRL COMICS is a great idea) references ALIEN and the retrofitted STAR TREK, I'm going to go out on a limb and presume she's talking about fantasy/SF/horror cinema, as opposed to the quasi-realistic cinema favored by the non-nerd Majority Culture in the days before STAR WARS mainstreamed fantastic cinema. Today the Majority Culture will patronize a lot of fantasy-cinema as long as it generally follows the pattern of the Hollywood Blockbuster. Thus maybe one could define Nerd Movie Culture as the segment of cinemaphiles who follows non-blockbuster fantasy-cinema with intense interest.

And if that's the case, then I would have to say that "Nerd Fantasy-Followers" show a lot more interest in "women with agency." Here's a few agents of womanhood whom most nerds will recognize:

Now, Heidi might not like any of these images of womanhood, or the likelihood that most or all of the above were conceived by male creators. But even though the disenfranchisement of women in movies may deserve condemnation, Nerd Movie Culture is not responsible for that.

The four examples above all spring, directly or indirectly, from fantasy-culture predominantly aimed at nerds of various age-groups. In their incarnations as big-budget movies all are aimed at various age-groups, mostly younger, within the Majority Culture, such as the young adults who might go see a GI JOE flick for laughs but would not know (or would never admit knowing) any of the Joes' goofy monickers. But that fact doesn't diminish the fact that all of these fantasy-characters have as much "agency" as Ripley of ALIEN, regardless as to whether one thinks them as good in other departments.

Contrast to that to the amount of "agency" in the films of Nicholas Cage, whom I tossed out in my somewhat-random grouping of Blockbuster Main Attractions. Cage does not, unlike Wayne and Eastwood, symbolize an extreme patriarchal vision of masculinity. And yet, most of the women in his adventure-oriented films generally do end up being "bystanders and sidekicks," unless you want to count the tediously-nasty witches of the WICKER MAN remake.

Summing up, I'm not sure what the vagaries of "Nerd Movie Culture" had to do with the various comics-fans who didn't like GIRL COMICS for one reason or another. So I'll guess I'll have to chalk it up to a generalized *ressentiment* toward Nerd Culture on her part-- which, given that Heidi McDonald acts the part of a nerd-girl on her site, would seem to be a little like (to steal a good Arnold Drake gag) "hating your own shadow, or sending threatening notes to your bathtub ring." (Quote approximate.)


kenmeyerjr said...

Gene, are you getting this? If so, I wonder if you have a few minutes to talk about the fanzines of the 60s-80s for a column I am doing on the subject? I thought of you because right now I am writing about two issues of Woweekazowie, in which you appear. Please let me know if you would!

Gene Phillips said...

Hi, got your message and have sent you an email.

jennifer said...

If you still had those questions about Paranormal Romance novels, we at Rotten Romance (aka The Uncle Walter Team) have just opened the forum that we talked about. We haven't gotten many members yet (lol), but if you'd like we can get some people to answer your questions.
The link is:


Sorry to put this here, but I didn't want to put it waaaaay back in another post.