Go Get ‘Em! Geek Girls, Documentary Review

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Geek Girls is a documentary by filmmaker Gina Hara (Your Place or Minecraft), chronicling her journey on why life as a female nerd is tough. A brief background about her childhood explains her motivations, and to see her interview other women (11 in total) who have found occupations by keeping true to themselves is inspiring no matter what the gender. This 80-minute production looks at how nerdom is a badge of honour instead of a sign of shame.

Sometimes the gender issue is not always in focus, as nearly every child played with dolls (Barbie, Transformers and GI Joe all belong in the same category), read comics, traded baseball cards or played some kind of video game. The labelling happened when peers in high school knew these secrets. Though back then, etymologists will note the words nerd and geek meant different things. The modern definition is more synonymous, and with this work, looks at these ladies deal against so-called societal norms.

When Hara looks to Japan, the holy mecca of all things geek (with Comiket as nerdvana) this film tries to tackle where girls fit in this realm. With this Montreal filmmaker of Hungarian descent, I wonder if she considered European history and the shifting trends (Shakespeare or Mozart) that defines popular culture. To tackle this aspect is tough when considering not every country in the EU is forward-thinking or had a word for a geek in their native language, like Hara’s.

When considering the past, some people might say the gentlemen from the 17th to 18th Centuries were nerds too. After graduating university, the privileged embarked on a Grand Tour to finish their education and become part of a higher society. They visited art galleries and collected souvenirs more durable than photographs and replica Eiffel Towers instead of t-shirts. Upon coming home, they had crates with paintings, sculptures and fine clothes [1] which is the same as a geek coming home from a convention with tons of goodies. They had stuff to show off their “cred.” For the modern collector, that’s with all the prints, trinkets and garments they love to put on display.

In Nippon, for a female to declare themselves as an otaku is “social suicide.” Many reasons exist to explain why dressing up at home is comfortable or for an event is fun. It’s a type of power armour according to Hara. But for these women to let coworkers know about their personal life outside of the office, the taboo exists. These revelations are fascinating. When considering how this the female body is objectified in manga and anime, these ladies have reason to worry. Hara flips back and forth between how this country views otakus, the uber-nerd, to Western society’s take. Cosplay is not Consent is briefly explored in this work, and when this discourse is not about furthering the cause, it sticks to how these ladies are fighting it.

In addition to Comiket, Hara went to Fan Expo Canada and Montreal events to gather interviews about the misogyny that still exists. Missing is Geek Girl Con in Seattle, Washington. To get perspectives from this event would have been a goldmine for this filmmaker, and she may have been denied media access when finding people to film for this work.

Steph is more than a Geek Girl

To see these individuals stay positive and stay geeky gives hope for the future. This documentary will get viewers talking. The conversation after this local screening suggests certain communities are not as bad as others. When talking about comic books, representation in the workforce are equal. With anime events, observers notice a shift in the status quo. In eSports, as this work has repeatedly shown, competitive gamer Stephanie Harvey has a lot to say about her early years in the arena by touching on the issues which took place then. Jamie Broadnax, from Black Girl Nerds, is vocal when she is a person of colour. NASA Aerospace Engineer Anita Sengupta talks about her childhood and how Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek shaped her outlook. She thinks being that nerd is more about who she is on the inside than looking a certain way. She shows women can succeed in any workplace. Other people include cosplayers and folks aspiring to break the trend. The messages in this work are comparable to how Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean solo. This achievement was not an easy feat in the early part of the 20th century, a time when women’s roles were “defined.”

This documentarian spent four years to put this work together. To make her tale engaging, Hara needed to define the conflict early. Despite months of red tape dealing with companies and scheduling of celebrities willing to talk about this issue, they pulled out last minute. With no story, her shift to a personal outlook makes this piece introspective. To see her reflection against the glass window when she is filming reminds viewers of this fact. This cinematic technique is perfection! To see this film tour beyond film festivals is needed. Perhaps screenings at comic book conventions are the next step to inform new nerds about the issues which still lurk in fandom.

4 Stars out of 5

For more information, please visit the Geek Girls Facebook Page

[1] https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/learn-about-art/paintings-in-depth/the-grand-tour Retrieved 2018-03-14



Author: Ed Sum

I'm a freelance videographer and entertainment journalist (Absolute Underground Magazine, Two Hungry Blokes, and Otaku no Culture) with a wide range of interests. From archaeology to popular culture to paranormal studies, there's no stone unturned. Digging for the past and embracing "The Future" is my mantra.

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