Friday, December 30, 2011

Year of the Horse

I am a creature of habit. I toss out phrases like "regular feature" and "annual tradition" a lot around here, and that's because these things, in their own weird little way, give me hope. The fact that this blog has been around long enough for me to have go-to pieces reminds me of how fortunate I am to still be able to do this.

I don't write full-time, I haven't yet arrived at that ultimate blessing/curse of doing what I love to do as my for-real employment, but Hipster, please! and, to a greater extent, my work at GeekDad has allowed me to supplement my income by actually doing something I dig. And I have you to thank for that.

'Cause it's what I do. I'm a thanker.

It's also *ahem* tradition that in this year-end wrap-up I thank longtime backers like Jason, Matt and Church (AKA: The Shadow Council), faithful supporters like Larry and Chris and Jarod, and new-found homies like Euge and kHill.

Which I guess I kinda just did.

It's also required that I hem and haw over what were the standout releases of the year, and this time around that's even more problematic than usual. I mean, I reckon I have my top spot reserved for either Kirby Krackle's Super Powered Love or Supercommuter's Products of Science depending on which way the wind blows at any given moment. But with stiff competition from (aforementioned homeboys) Adam WarRock and Mikal kHill, The Bossfights' phenomenal debut full-length, Illbotz hilarious Pudding is Delicious, that brilliant Weird Al tribute album and significant major label showings from old favorites like Anthrax, there really are no losers in this race.

But what I do most in this little year-ender is spotlight one particular geek that set the tone for the previous 12 months. Sometimes I single out a long-established musical innovator. Other times I point toward the future of our tribe. Mostly, though, I cheap out and pick a whole group of people as my "nerd of the year."

Which I'm about to do now.

As nerd culture becomes pop culture, fandom, long our secret, hidden shame, becomes our currency. Whether in a bar or at the supermarket, I'm just as likely to hear cats rattling off baseball stats as passionately discussing Galactica, and that's an interesting paradigm shift. But, lest you fear that this wholesale adoption of nerddom will somehow sour your loser-makes-good victory of brains over bros, let me point out that 2011's most potent, virulent and widely remarked upon flavor of fandom came from a very unlikely source.

Over the past several months, as the brony ranks have continued to swell, I've heard their little enclave often damned and even more so observed with a sort of stunned journalistic silence. But while I can't claim to be one of them – my casual association with the property likely paints me more as at most a "brony sympathizer" – I am here to say that they are no more confounding (or annoying) than any group of motivated Trekkies, Browncoats, Wrock kids, Juggalos or Volunteers fans. They merely represent a new breed of fanboys that are less afraid to let their geek flag fly, even when it does so in the face of the traditional trappings of masculinity.

In a culture where gender roles are so ingrained that we almost refuse to think about them, the idea of men in their 20s and 30s latching onto a "girl's TV show" for no other reason than they recognize its artistic merits gives me renewed hope. Sure, nerd life has long existing in a space that often avoids some common masculine pursuits – sports, to use one stereotypical example – but the idea of men willfully embracing a series aimed at females represents a small but significant shift.

If nerdism stands for anything, it's the dogged refusal to put away childish things. It's a willingness to cling to the joys and wonder of youth even as we feel ourselves getting older. We are eternal adolescents, reminders that one can grow old without ever growing up. This is personally liberating, but the larger specter of gender disparity stills haunts us as a group.

If we are ever to get past not only our own culturally propagated sexism but that of the greater world around us, we must learn to avoid our own long-laid traps. If we're to raise our daughters to understand that chemistry and coding and Call of Duty are as much within their realm as that of their brothers, then we need to set examples. Even minuscule ones. If we're ever to make the words "geek girls" – surely as buzz-worthy a phrase as "steampunk" or "dubstep" was in 2011 – an obsolete relic of our divided past, then we have to change the way we allow our culture to be defined, from within as much as from without.

A violently promiscuous new Catwoman or a line of fem-LEGOs don't represent steps forward for our nerd sisters; they stand out as further examples of our general miscalculation of what the women, young and old, in our midst both desire and deserve. And if a group of a dozen dudes getting together and combing the hair manes of their pony dolls while talking about the symbolic importance of The Wonderbolts can ever so slightly nudge us in the direction of a community that's somehow a little less dependent on bullshit gender identification – many bronies even refuse to differentiate between male and female members, eschewing the designation of "pegasister" altogether – and a bit more welcoming to nerds of all genders, backgrounds or orientations, then I say go the fuck on, bronies.

You go the fuck on.

In 2011 bronies made news and music and memes and, yes, waves, and they did it all for the love of a cartoon. And if that ain't nerdcore, then I don't know what is.


Stevie D said...

Love you Z!! So thankful for this blog and for everything you do!! Wish you lived closer so we could share pudding and eggrolls and talk about Bushwick Bill and Kris Kross!! Happy new year brobocop!!

Z. said...

Much love to you and the Illbotz crew as well, my brother! I really gotta pack the kids and head up to Dinosaur Kingdom sometime in 2012.

Anonymous said...

Thoughtful and insightful post, agreed on all points.

alienbobz said...

Very well said Z! Even if you don't consider yourself to be a brony, I do think of you as a honorary brony.

Even though I have been a brony for six months, I consider it to be the best fandom I have been a part of. Sure we have some weirdos but every big group has those. I am just constantly amazed on how awesome this group is and how much fan work that we produce. We have so many talented people in this herd. I have met some of the best people ever in this group and I can't wait to see what the next years hold for us. I do think this movement will slowly help break down the gender roles that society has put on us.

Thanks for linking my interview. It may not be the best piece but I think I tried my best to represent myself as a brony. Brohoof and Happy New Year!

Church said...

The fact that you're not a full-on brony continues to mystify me. I'd have lost money on that bet.

Jimi said...

Well done on a great year for H,P and RFH, Z!

Also, well done on a good year to the bronies. They're certainly making us moonies (Sailor Moon fans, not cultists) look half-arsed!

Happy new year!

Z. said...

Thank you, anonymous stranger. Always nice when folks actually agree with me. :)

And it was my pleasure, Jarod. I'd say the creative output of the brony community at present rivals that of any great contemporary fandom (like Wizard Rock.) You guys are doing great things, and I am proud to support them in my own little way.

I'd say the main reason, Church, stems from The Hub network being removed from my satellite package. I know I can watch eps online, but it's a bit harder to really keep up. The secondary reason is likely that those epic We Love Fine hoodies are so fucking expensive! ;)

Z. said...

Tis true, Jimi; those bronies make it difficult for other fandoms to even keep up.