Geek Girls @ Fantasia

001When it comes to documentary films sometimes the best subjects are those that people aren’t aware of or are hidden. Hidden aptly describes females in the areas of gaming, anime, manga or cosplay. For her first feature-length film Montreal based but Hungary born Gina Hara turns to a subject which interests her largely because she is a part of it.

Growing up in Hungary, Gina was not the type to play with dolls rather she played with Legos, built mobile planes, read comics, while dreaming of playing video games. Girls (or guys, for that matter) who are interested in things like that are called nerds or geeks here. When Gina grew up there is not even a word for geek or nerd, so she grew up not really aware of the whole culture. It is only when she moved to Canada and began to explore the worlds of comics and video games did she discover the underbelly.

I called it an underbelly not because it is a niche because now things like Marvel heroes and Comic-con are huge. Geek culture is en vogue right now. Big business and quite popular. It is the female participation in these areas which is ripe with abuse, harassment, ridicule, and even abuse. In regards to the media, very little attention has been paid to females participating in it. This should not come as a shock to anyone as it took until 2017 for the first Wonder Woman film to be made. Filmmaker (and self-described geek) Gina Hana tries to shed some light on women in video gaming, cosplay, comics, and other parts of geek culture.

Part of the film is the director’s own struggle with her identity. Meaning she does not know if she is a geek or if she fits into the community. Everything is new to her. We are discovering it alongside her. She takes us on that voyage. As such the film has a rather personal side you might not have expected.

Fabricating the backbone of the film are a series of informal styled interviews with women within geek culture. The issues of being sexually harassed, not being able to be “out” about your passion for gaming, etc., having to remain fairly anonymous for fear of physical danger, and being brutally cyber bullied or even enduring death threats are subjects that are brought out during the interviews.

Gina even travels to the home of geek culture, Japan, to find out how women in this world are doing there. What she encountered there as well as in North America was a reluctance by women to agree to go on camera for interviews. They feared for their safety. In Japan precious few would talk to Gina for fear of being ostracized.

It showed another front in which feminism has to wage a battle. Even though originally geek culture resided firmly on the fringes which meant its members were considered outsiders, this band of outsiders were mostly male and want it to remain this way. Males wanted to retain their power and control of geek culture. Even the fringes of society do not seem accessible or welcoming to women. The only time you would see women here is as an object of desire not as an active participant. When women started coming out of the shadows and saying that they enjoyed video games, anime, cosplay or comics they faced plenty of abuse. 2014 was a horrible year for this with the gaming industry being really vocal about women not being welcome.

The documentary was a real eye opening experience for me. I know nothing really about geek culture and as such did not know about its problems. Though finding out that it is not exactly welcoming to women or people of colour was sadly not that shocking.

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