So Jaded

« November 2007 »

Memo to nerds: YOU CAN'T, CAN YOU?

One of the somewhat buried premises behind the Be A Better Nerd series here has been hope. Hope that through education, example, and heaps of good-natured spiteful ribbing, nerds could gradually abandon their obnoxious and self-destructive tendencies.

But it ain't gonna happen, is it? You can't be better. And even if a small fraction of you manage to make progress toward a Nerd Utopia where I am almost never pissed off by nerd antics, new young cauldrons of bubbling toxic insecurity will invariably rise up to fill and swell the Bad Nerd ranks. This is the ultimate lesson of the Jade Raymond Incident.

Here is your ten-second summary. Jade Raymond is a woman. Jade Raymond makes video games. She is the producer of Assassin's Creed, one of the highest-profile games of 2007. Some webcomics tool made a comic about Jade Raymond in which she was nearly naked, stupid, and giving blowjobs to fanboys. Ubisoft, the game's publisher, started sending cease and desist letters to sites hosting the comic. And then the nerds weighed in.

Now, Ubisoft bungled in trying to get the stupid off the Internet. That's like trying to get kudzu off a kudzu farm. Counterproductive, and ultimately futile. But the comic itself is indefensible on all but the strictest free-speech grounds. Mainly because it's so damn symptomatic of the freakish, immature attraction/repulsion thing boynerds get for any girl who dares invade their tree fort. Some women like games. Some women make games. That makes them women who like games, not the ideal vessel to be blessed with your rarely-shared nerdspunk.

Needless to say, the logic hoops a lot of game nerds jumped through to justify the comic's existence would make Cirque de Soleil shit their leotards. Enjoy these representative examples:

"As vile as a porn comic about Jade Raymond is, it's also valid commentary on how Ubisoft trots a cute girl in front of gamers instead of focusing on the game itself."

This was the most lucid expression of this workdview, most notable for its lack of the word "pimped". No, really, the comic was actually DEFENDING Raymond, who was just trying to do her job when Ubisoft threw her to the wolves. Which is an argument that could gain a lot more traction if the person the comic was "defending" wasn't covered in jizz at the end of it.

"by the way isnt there alot of devs (male) that people make fun of (in compromising positions) and nothing happens?"

No. There really aren't. I can't think of a single instance of a male game developer being slapped into a porn context for purposes of comedy or commentary. Which is, again, part of the problem. Why is it, when it comes time to make fun of a woman, nerds' first instinct is always sexual humiliation? Female comics writers got to deal with this same shit, too. If I somehow found it necessary to mock Jade Raymond, odds are I could do it in an entirely gangbang-free manner.

"This isnt degrading women and this doesnt represent an attitude toward them, this is just degrading her. Just because it envolves a woman and is negatvie doesnt mean something is 'degrading women.' All the killing in Saving Private Ryan is done my men, does that mean it 'degrades men' or that 'men shouldnt be portrayed that way.'"

There's no larger sociopolitical comment to make here. I just needed to highlight this mind-numbingly clueless attempt at false equivalency. Apparently shooting a Nazi is just like sucking a nerd. We learn something new every day.

"I mean if they didn't put her in 90% of all the trailers and interviews maybe that wouldn't have happen."

This is the most common argument. That by talking about the game she's producing, Raymond has invited, or even earned, pornographic ridicule. That the only reason she's being allowed to speak in the first place is because she has nice hair.

Let's assume, for the moment, that the ninety percent figure isn't the deranged fantasy of a netnerd with subject-verb agreement issues. That Ubisoft picked the team member with an eye for public relations. So? She's the producer, and even in the wild and wooly world of video game credits, that's at or near the top. They didn't pull some model in, give her a halter top and a name badge, and send her over to the G4 studios.

I know a little something about deciding whether someone is fair game for ridicule. I've had to make that call on a daily basis for the past four years. And at the end of the day, what it all comes down to is the balance between two things. The amount of harm the person does (or the amount of harm from their policies or beliefs) versus how mean you're actually being to them. And by that metric, this comic is wretched, and its defenders are delusional.

But that's nerds for you. Taking the primordial "fuck it or kill it" instinct and building an elaborate structure of rationalization around it so that it looks fancy and civilized. But at the core, it's still just a pissed off monkey with a rock in one hand, and its tiny erection in the other.