January 25, 2018

GENRE | 'Geek Girls' Documents Hidden Female Fandom

"That comes out of just being a hot-blooded girl in a boy's world."
Gina Hara | Geek Girls Documentary

Even with the explosion of geek culture going mainstream in recent years, there's no doubt the role of women and girls has been lost as an afterthought despite their equally enthusiastic dedication to every corner of nerdy properties. This is the basic premise around Montreal-based, Canadian-Hungarian filmmaker Gina Hara's first feature-length documentary, Geek Girls, exploring the hidden side of female fandom.

"Geeks" are typically defined by their deep enthusiasm and obsessive devotion over something (otaku in Japanese), most commonly the endlessly different aspects of popular culture. In the shadow of the many Gamergate controversies and scandals involving male-dominated entertainment industries, Hara's thoughtful dissection of various elements of female interest in arenas traditionally and specifically catered to male tastes or fantasies is welcome and often illuminating.

Geek Girls explores the strange misunderstandings around female involvement in gaming, tech, conventions, and beyond through extended interviews with a diverse group of women deeply involved in their own corners of subcultures and expressed in their own words. What Hara does is provide the space and room for other geeky women to tell their own stories of their interests and redefine what it is to be a so-called fan of something.

Gina Hara | Geek Girls Documentary

Largely dominated by men both inside and out, there's one aspect of fandom that's predominantly female-focused, cosplaying. It's not surprising the popular act of costume play and dressing up as your favourite character is one of the only segments of this culture that's more focused on women. It's a lone unicorn of women in power (with its own perils) in this world and one part of the many stories and interviews Hara weaves together.

When Hara sets out to contextualize the hidden half of nerd culture, she struggles through unexpected resistance. She delves into a rather intense world of elaborate costumes, professional gamers, and rampant sexism. Further, there's some interesting ironies about the geek community discussed in how they essentially replicated the isolation that defined them by acting out the same exclusion they faced in society, as outcasts united themselves, through the serial harassment of women in these communities.

Geek interests and fandom involves so many subcultures, both mainstream and niche, where diving deeper reveals layers of vulnerability and humanity (both good and bad). Geek Girls lets other women redefine conceptions of their own cultural interests outside of traditionally male-driven perceptions. It shows how geekdom can still be a source of confidence and empowerment when others find those like them, share interests, and bond over common enthusiasm while also revealing the troubling, often toxic nature behind it.
"All of us are geeks for something in some small way."
Geek Girls premieres in Vancouver at The Cinematheque theatre and screens until the end of the month.


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