On Famous Women in Fandoms

Mary Elizabeth Williams has a recent article at Salon* bemoaning the number of Hollywood starlets who also happen to have some geeky interests.** For Williams, being a famous, conventionally attractive woman and attending Comic Con, watching Star Wars of your own volition, or playing World of Warcraft are mutually exclusive; she accuses women such as Mila Kunis and Rosario Dawson who admit to being part of these fandoms of pandering to men who are real fans.

I’m not sure where to begin with this. Women (or video game players perceived to be women) in fandoms are frequently subjected to harassment or assault by male members of those fandoms; despite what Williams implies in her article, it really is brave to actively participate in, and to try to change the misogynist character of, certain fandoms. This is aside from Williams’ assumption that all Hollywood actresses were it-girls in high school, and her implication that women and girls aren’t seriously interested in gaming, watching Star Trek, or reading comic books.

The assumption that all of these women are complicit in branding themselves geeks who are also sexy is problematic. The lives of the women discussed in this article are examined in minute detail by the media every day, and they don’t talk to the media only about their love of their respective fandoms. The fact that Williams sees the nerdy Hollywood starlet as a trend suggests to me that, in many instances, these women are not constructing themselves as “sexy nerds”; other people are doing the constructing. For example, this was the second result in a Google search for “Mila Kunis World of Warcraft” — it’s a post on WoW Insider that goes out of its way to mention how awesome it is that they get to post a photo of a hot chick who also knows a lot about WoW.

I think the idea that famous women shouldn’t show off how well-rounded they are is what gets under my skin. Being a woman does not exclude one from enjoying the activities discussed in this post; I wish I could be astonished at the idea that it does, but sadly, I am not.


*For more of Williams’ hard-hitting (where hard-hitting means “so oblivious about body image, varying rates of metabolism, eating disorders, and how women’s bodies are used to sell food that it makes me want to barf”) journalism, see “Hollywood’s obsession with tiny women, big meals.”

**I found this article via a post Maura Kelly’s blog, which is, if anything, even more depressing (at the end, she asks if you would fake an interest in sci-fi/fantasy to further a romantic attachment). Ironically, the post is illustrated with a photo of Zoe Saldana as Uhura, a character from Star Trek who is very good at languages.

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