MeToo

Chris Hardwick is the co-founder of the Nerdist company, which over the years has grown from a podcast to one of the foundational sites for nerd culture. It would not be too far off to claim, that Hardwick along with people like Felicia Day, Whil Wheton, and many others founded the new wave of nerdism that populates our current pop culture mindset. That is why it is so disturbing to read the article written by Chloe Dykstra on Medium, that details his emotional and sexual abuse of her throughout their three year relationship. She does not mention Chris Hardwick by name, but the time periods match up and it has been confirmed by other sources who knew Hardwick away from the cameras. We need to remember that as nerds, we are not immune to the lessons of the MeToo movement.

Its a Hardwick Life for Nerd Girls
Chris Hardwick’s actions are indefensible, but in the name of journalistic integrity we must mention that he does deny the allegations. However, that has not stopped Nerdist from scrubbing all mention of him from their sites. Because of this truth coming out his star is already falling and the nerd community will move on without him, doing the same awesome, fun, and childishly entertaining things we have always done. Yet, there is also a deeper lesson to be talked about here. We cannot escape the fact that nerd culture -especially convention culture and video game culture– is pervasively anti-woman. Now do not get us wrong. The past few years have seen nerd culture come a long way, with many positive depictions of women, and even more so than with mainstream culture. As an entertainment industry we have always had our fair share of Ridleys, Dana Scullies, and Wonder Women, but as an inclusive and accepting movement, we still have a ways to go.

Nerd culture has a shameful history of machismo -or whatever is the geekier version of it- which has existed since its inception. Women are valued as characters, but undervalued as members of the culture. Nerd girls are seen as something less, or as imposters or invaders. Part of this -undoubtedly- comes from the insecurity of many geek men, but the larger and meaner part stems from a pervasive feeling of superiority and exclusion. There is a very tangible belief that something cannot be special unless people are excluded from it, and women are the easiest targets. After all, we are taught by society that women are supposed to be pretty and interested in hair and nails, while nerds are supposed to be ugly and weird. That is a hurtful stereotype, but also one we internalize.

That means nerd culture embraces the weirdness but treats women as outsiders, or just cosplayers looking for attention. This has led to GamerGate, harassment, intimidation, and threats made against women in the nerd community. When women are allowed into the club they are often reduced to their scantily clad body bits, and treated as objects for the men in the room. This is the part of the culture that Hardwick embodied, a place where offers of inclusion are merely meant as lip service made in front of a camera or microphone. Behind closed doors he was a controlling boyfriend who treated his girlfriend as nothing but a possession, an action figure he could bend and break at will. After all, Dykstra was a professional cosplayer, so to many in our culture she really was nothing more than eye candy with a cape.

R2-MeToo
We can do better as a community and as individuals. Now is the time where Hollywood, Washington, and all the rest are really beginning to wake up to the pervasiveness of sexual misconduct among the powerful, but we cannot forget about the misconduct of the not-so-powerful too. Nerd culture has been ruled by men since its inception and it is rife with the sort of problems that the MeToo movement is bringing to light. Chris Hardwick may just be the tip of a larger iceberg, and we have to remember to support those that come forward, no matter who it is on the other side of the accusation.

Last Year, Joss Whedon, was accused by his ex-wife of emotional abuse and cheating. It was a news story for about a week and then it blew away. This truth of Whedon seems to run counter to everything he has publicly preached for years, and yet not many people pounced on the story. Maybe 2017 was a different time. Maybe the MeToo movement had not yet fully taken hold. Maybe Whedon’s actions didn’t cross the imaginary line of outrage. Maybe we had other things to worry about at the moment, but for whatever the reason, there were no real professional repercussions for Joss. At least the same cannot be said for Hardwick. At least someone is being held responsible, but we need more of that. We need to show the women of our community and the mainstream culture at large that we are serious about inclusion and treating every member, regardless of gender/race/sexuality with the same value and respect that we show the fictional people of our culture. We should not treat Spock and Chewbacca, better than we treat Tina who works at the Ubisoft booth.

Closing Disclosure
Full disclosure: the person writing this article is a white cis male, as is the majority of the people here at The NYRD, so maybe we cannot exactly talk to this issue with the nuance and investment that many women can. We apologize if we have over simplified any of the issues, but we also feel that it is our duty to point this out. Nerd men need to hold other men just as accountable as the nerd women do. Despite all he has done -and also because of it- Chris Hardwick is not above any woman or man or Hobbit. MeToo should be an issue for all people who claim to love a culture that includes heroes like Captain America, Superman, and Optimus Prime. Our fictional heroes would advocate respect and accountability, so how can we do anything less?

As of the publishing of this article, 854,312 people have “disliked” the first trailer for the new Ghostbusters reboot. In comparison the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot trailer only received 20,223 dislikes, and that was a movie shot in grey tones solely for the enjoyment of the executives at Fox who were only interested in keeping the rights out of Marvel’s hands. We’re not saying that everyone hates the new Ghostbusters solely because the entire cast has “Ghost Traps,” compared to “Proton Guns,” -if you get our meaning- but we cannot deny that there is an element of our Internet culture that seems aggressively obsessed with hating anything that doesn’t discharge positively charged ions while standing up. However, the real question is where does that leave this movie, and what should the rest of us believe? Is it good? Is it bad? is it just another chance for a studio to cash in on 80’s nostalgia? We can’t tell you, because we haven’t seen it yet, but we can at least try to break down some of the arguments in this incredibly disheartening debate.

Slimer? I Don’t Even Know Her…
Let’s start off by saying we are all Ghostbusters fans. We have all seen the movies 2.3 million times. We quote lines daily. We all owned at least one action figure, and one of us may own the box set of the old Saturday Morning Cartoon show. So let’s start with people’s legitimate complaints. The remake of any classic “near-holy” movie franchise is going to raise some ire. In fact, the first trailer even goes out of its way to make allusions to the old movies, as if they were afraid that the Internet forgot they existed. It very much is a big sort of, “Hey remember this thing you love? Here it is again. Give us money.”  The real problem with defending the reboot -which we promise we will eventually try to do- is that from everything we have seen this new movie is designed to be pretty look like a retelling of the original. There are four Ghostbusters, three of which are scientists, and one is a poor black working stiff. In the first trailer we see them in a library, we see Slimer, we see someone get slimed, and we see a trailer goes out of its way to hit every familiar beat we know from the originals. Granted this is only information gathered from the trailer, but it does leave us legitimately wondering if we are going to see anything new this time around. We mean aside from the cast and director, and that has people concerned as well.

You see, some fans are worried because the movie was handed over to Paul Feig and notably Melissa McCarthy. They have both made some good movies and some bad, but if all we are getting is a retold Ghostbusters with the comedy styling of Bridesmaids, there might be a legitimacy to some of the fears out there. Those two things are a questionable mix. After all, the original movie and its sequel were the products of a very specific time in the 80’s and very specific comedic minds. There has always been something off putting about remaking the franchise, mostly because Murray, Ramis, Hudson, and Akryod, were epitomized for a generation with those movies. Their faces are as much the Ghostbusters as Harrison Ford is Han Solo, or Indiana Jones, or the President that one time. Objectively, it is going to be hard to see a movie without them in it. However, -and Michael Bay aside- we are also not saying 80’s nostalgia remakes are all bad. There has been plenty of remakes, reboots, and sequels that sit proudly on our DVD shelves along with their originals, -Well, we don’t really own DVD’s anymore but you get our meaning- but it is a hard formula to replicate.

There is No Dana,… Only Internet Trolls
Let’s be honest, though, the reason this movie has become so divisive is not really because it is a remake of some “holy cow” of our childhoods. It is very definitely because it is a remake of a “free-floating full-body holy cow,” being remade with women. The entire cast is made up of “Gatekeepers,” instead of “Keymasters,” -if you get out meaning, again- and the anti-feminists of the world are hoping mad about it. “Women are just incapable of being funny. What a terrible idea,” “Did this just become a chick flick?” “Feminists ruin the world,” “Shouldn’t they be in the kitchen?” “All-female, I think, would be a bad idea. I don’t think the fans want to see that.” The last quote is from Ernie Hudson, by the way, but put all of this together and you start to see a clearer picture of what is really going on here. This movie is facing a 30-story unstoppable thought-form specter made of anti-feminism and spewing sexism, like some sort of Stay Puft Marshmallow Woman-Hater. This is also not a new problem, but it is one that seems to have become crystallized by this movie.

Over the past decade there has been a movement that has formed -largely because of the Internet- which has been labeled as a Men’s Rights movement. This group of individuals -some of which are not actually men- see the rising equality of women not for what it is, but instead take it as an affront to their own manhood. They see it as the feminizing of our culture, as if raising up women somehow negates their worth. It is the kind of backlash movement that you see with anything. After all, white supremacists don’t go around shouting that they hate black men -well sometimes they do- instead they go around talking about “white pride,” or “preserving the white race,” or “White Lives Matter.” No hate group actually frames their message in hate. They couch it in a subversive pride, as if somehow making another group equal means demeaning their own group. These Men’s Rights activists don’t look at the new Ghostbusters and think, “Hmm… I suppose we can give women this, considering the majority of all other movies -especially in the action/comedy genre- so often cast women as vapid sex objects or MacGuffin-like prizes to be pursued and won by male leads.” No, they look at this very narrow and rare type of gender reversal and somehow feel it is a threat to them and their way of life. They have to focus on this one example so vehemently, because if they expanded their worldview even a little their argument falls apart.

Compare this to the classic movies, where even Dana Barrett a strong and capable woman still ends up being nothing more than Venkman’s love interest and the person the Ghosbusters need to rescue… twice. Janine Melnitz is the secretary who basically throws herself at Egon, only to be comically rebuffed by the otherwise distracted scientist. That is the majority of the women roles in the old Ghostbusters, and many similar 80’s and 90’s movies. Even Marvel -the wildly successful comic company- has never had a female lead, after nearly a decade of movies. The other problem is that the women selected for these roles are not “Hollywood Hot.” They are comedians, -all of which, by the way, are funnier than the majority of the current male cast members of SNL- but even in 2016 women in movies are meant to be eye candy. At least in comparison to men who can look like Jonah Hill or Seth Rogan and still pull in the crowds. There is an undeniable double-standard in Hollywood, and the new Ghostbusters, has knowingly and willingly stepped into it. At the very least, no matter how bad the movie may actually be, that is something worth applauding.

Don’t Cross the Memes
Here is the thing, if anti-feminists want a movie to watch there are literally thousands of them to choose from. We recommend 50 Shades of Grey, mostly because that movie spouts the same sort of abusive, untouchable, masculine power crap that most Men’s Rights activists would find appealing. In comparison, the new Ghostbusters is doing something to help break boundaries, and it is causing us to have this conversation. Those are both good things, and as fans of the Ghostbusters franchise we feel that is actually a pretty worthwhile addition to the history of these movies. Yet, the real problem with this whole containment breach of a conversation is that we may never actually know how bad or good this movie will be. There will be people who will hate it for no reason and others who will love it for the very same “no reasons.” This movie will never be judged based solely on its merits as a movie, and that is a shame.

As we said previously, we have not seen it yet, but we will. Hopefully, we will be able to be fair and objective in our like or dislike of this newest installment in the world of busting ghosts, but we are not always hopeful. After all, to hate it will mean that we are anti-feminists, but to love it may be disingenuous. This peripheral ectoplasam that we are all stepping in does nothing to enhance the conversation of whether or not this will be a good and a bad movie, and really isn’t that what it should really be about in the end? In a world that is truly equal it shouldn’t matter if the lead is a woman or a man or a green blob of free-floating goo. The fans are the ones that have kept this franchise alive for over three decades and that is something special. All the rest is just a bunch of bull… slime, but that’s only one opinion.