Real Talk: Ernest Cline and Problems in Nerdery

TRIGGER WARNING

I seem to be doing a lot more Real Talks recently, and while that’s definitely a format I enjoy writing in, I wanted to shy away from it a bit more in the next few months. After all, this blog is a place to focus on the glitter in the world, and my Real Talk posts have a tendency to be a bit more on the depressing side. Having said that, I saw something in the last few days that it is so, SO important for me to talk about and raise awareness of that I just had to write this.

As many of you will already know, we have a movie adaptation of the book Ready Player One coming out later this year. I have never read Ready Player One, but I was certainly excited about the movie. Who wouldn’t be with all those awesome nerdy references in the trailer alone!?

But then I saw a post in a Facebook group pointing me toward a poem written by the book’s author Ernest Cline. The poster wanted to make sure the broader community knew about it before seeing the film. I checked it out, and it made me vomit a little in my mouth. It was something written in “praise” of nerd girls, but its misogynistic overtones are obvious to anyone who reads or listens to it. I don’t want to republish the poem without Cline’s permission, and to be honest, I wouldn’t want to put it on my blog anyway, but for those curious to read the whole thing it can be found here (and it should be accompanied by a huge trigger warning for objectifying women, graphic sexuality and misogyny).

The poem is entitled “Epic Nerd Girl Porn”.

It contains the line “They’re objects.” in reference to women who don’t fit Cline’s description of “a real woman”, specifically in porn. The whole poem is pretty much in that vein. It’s absolutely disgusting.

There is a dark side of nerd culture which seems to speak about women that way and to be quite frank, it terrifies me. It doesn’t just terrify me for the women that Cline describes as objects though, it terrifies me for all women (and men who have been in similarly vulnerable situations). You see, in a former relationship, I was the “nerd girl” dating a guy who believed the same type of things that Cline is writing about.

To be fair to myself, I didn’t realise that my ex held those opinions when I started dating him. It took a while for them to come out, just as it took a while for him to start getting angry at me for not being what I apparently seemed to be on the packet. In my limited experience, what Cline and my ex actually mean when they talk about “nerd girls” is a fictional perfect woman who, not only looks perfect but agrees with every nerdy opinion they have, and knows everything about every nerdy thing. I, as someone who isn’t particularly academically intelligent, was simply not good enough so my ex would lose his temper with me, talk over me and call me stupid. He seemed to think of all women in this way, almost like a virgin/whore complex, except it was a nerd-girl/slut complex.

That relationship was so bad I seriously considered cutting myself off from all things nerdy (which I had loved long before the relationship) just to get away from him and some of the people associated with him when it ended. It didn’t help that three of his gaming friends came into my workplace on separate occasions to threaten me and make me feel unsafe. I was SO lucky to have a supportive workplace and incredibly workmates at the time so it never went further than that, but I still have nightmares almost two years later. I worried that all nerd culture was tarnished by men like that who thought it was their right to treat women badly, after all, hadn’t women treated them badly in high school?

At the same time, I happened to start reading and watching a bunch of games journalism and I discovered something wonderful. Those awful, awful people weren’t in charge of nerd culture anymore, in fact, they’re becoming a smaller and smaller part of it, thanks to others standing up to them and calling them out on their bullshit. Slowly but surely, nerds are becoming the accepting community that they were always meant to be. But there’s still a ways to go. Giving a man like Ernest Cline the chance to represent us as nerds of all genders is a step backwards. As much as he claims to, he clearly doesn’t have any respect for women, nerdy or otherwise.  There are better writers and there are better nerds.

I’m not going to end this post with a call to boycott Ready Player One, but instead, I will say: keep yourself informed and let yourself make your own decision. Don’t let him get away with this if you feel it’s wrong just because he’s written a nerdy movie. Gamers are better than this. Nerds are better than this. We are better than this.

 

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14 thoughts on “Real Talk: Ernest Cline and Problems in Nerdery

      1. It’s genuinely terrifying how pervasive it is. I’ve had so many people tell me that we don’t need to worry about it anymore, and then something like this comes up… Needless to say they aren’t people I’ve continued to listen to.

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      2. That’s definitely a decision I’ve made in the last couple of years too. It’s so important to stand up and make people aware and fight for equality. There’s so many people who can’t fight for it themselves, so I think it’s really important to do what you can, if you can. Which is pretty much why I wrote this article.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Great read. I’m amazed that the ‘performer’ was aged 45 when doing this. The whole thing says a lot more about him than anything else really. At that age and still harboring such anger and resentment from stereotypical 80’s experiences in high school in an attempt to appeal to an ‘understanding’ nerd crowd: hatred of jocks, flagging the ‘nice-guy’ argument while exclaiming “They’re objects – I can’t get off to that because I respect women too much, even when they’re FUCKING VAPID BITCHES WHO HAVE SEX WITH JOCKS.”. Even his ‘tastes’ in what a girl likes is extremally immature (nostalgic video games and movies?). I’ll see the movie, but I think this guy’s real issue is trying to stay relevant in a world that’s left him behind, if it in fact ever really existed in the first place outside of his angry, stunted mind.

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    1. Thank you! I’m glad you and Marisa have the background on Ernest Cline going into review the film. I’ve been so horrified by the number of reviewers in the States who are already holding Kline up as this amazing creative talent who represents the entire nerd community. So little research has been done by the people singing his praises. As you said, it’s insane that he’s in his mid-forties and whinging over his stereotypical teenage hang-ups which may or may not have ever really existed.

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  2. Pingback: Ten Artistic Women That Deserve Celebration More Than Ernest Cline – Fistful of Glitter

  3. James Nelson Smith

    Sexism and misogyny are a bit like racism. They’re kinda’ easy to disguise if the person is smart and wants to be covert about it. They can couch their language in code-speak and go on oft-times to gather immense followers. And then you have those few that decide they’re going to go off the rails and make sure you know exactly where they’re coming from. I actually appreciate these individuals because it lets me know exactly where I stand with them.

    But they present another dilemma in that it also lets you know where those around you stand as well. Namely how reprehensible does someone have to be before we decide that no matter how talented they may be we no longer support them, even if it means denying ourselves something we might like? In Nerd culture that becomes increasingly vague. Some people get a pass, some don’t. Sometimes we rationalize; especially if the issue doesn’t necessarily touch us directly “Oh they were only talking about ‘that’ group, whew.” While Cline may end up in time-out, I have the feeling the majority of nerdom will probably wait til after Ready Player One has had it’s theater run. And that will send a message as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very, very true. That dilemma of how bad a creator or person in the public eye’s actions can be before we as an audience no longer support them can be difficult. It’s certainly something I struggle with, particularly as some pretty terrible individuals have made some beautiful films.

      Unfortunately, I think you’re absolutely right about Cline as well. IF the media ends up picking up on this story at all, it’s definitely going to be after Ready Player One has finished up in theatres, or even after it’s initial DVD/Blu-Ray sales. It will have to wait until there’s less money at stake and until RP1 and Cline isn’t getting praised by critics for being “so representative of nerd culture” in every movie review. The whole thing is incredibly depressing in many ways.

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