If Only There Was an Angela Burton Spinoff

While I’m naturally excited about the new Genshiken anime that’s been announced recently, there’s one thing I wish could happen but most likely never will: a spinoff about Ohno’s American friend Angela Burton. I feel like it would be fun to see some of the quirks of American anime fandom accurately and painfully conveyed.

One big element of American fandom that for the most part doesn’t exist in Japan would be the convention scene, with its fan panels, industry Q&A, and AMV competitions, providing a unique venue and experience compared to the chapters about Genshiken‘s Comic Market analogue, Comic Festival, but also giving it a similar treatment concerning scale and impact. The huge otaku that she is, it would be no surprise to see Angela attending multiple conventions as a cosplayer, especially Anime Boston given that she’s from the area.

The Angela spinoff I’m picturing would have the same strong sense of characterization as Genshiken proper, giving the same sort of loving but at times harsh portrayal to the personalities that tend to crop up in college anime clubs in the US. I also see Angela herself making for an interesting main character, despite the fact that she has a fairly minor role in Genshiken because of her forward personality and her undeniable love of anime and manga.

One potentially serious topic could actually be the whole “fake geek girl” thing, as I can imagine Angela being subject to it fairly often. Angela is not only portrayed as extremely attractive to the point of being able to make guys nervous, but also as someone with relatively liberal views on relationships and sex (she doesn’t think one-night stands are that big of a deal) that might cause people who didn’t know her better to accuse her of not being “real.”

Incidentally, in reading Japanese comments about the new anime, it’s clear that the concept of the “fake geek girl” exists in Japan as well. There, it’s tied to the whole Densha Otoko boom and the “mainstreaming” of Akihabara, which at least a few commenters claim the Genshiken manga is reflecting.


The “Fake Geek” in “Fake Geek Girl”

The “Fake Geek Girl” is a topic that has been discussed extensively, mostly in terms of the sexism that arises from the designation and how it’s used. Certainly this criticism and discussion is warranted, but I think that understanding its connotative usages requires to some degree a removal of the “Girl” and a look at just the concept of the “Fake Geek” independent of gender. With that in mind, I’m going to lay out why I think the Fake Geek, or rather the concept of such, seems to engender bitter, defensive stances from those who would label themselves True, Legitimate, No Artificial Flavors Geeks (100% Authentic).

The idea of the Fake Geek (tied to the hipster) is someone who uses their feigned or marginal interest in a topic to gain some sort of advantage. That advantage may be an enhanced reputation or some form of cred, but generally the benefit is characterized as being able to increase one’s social circle, be it in the form of friends or otherwise. While I think that 1) any geek who has ever made good friends through their hobbies cherishes those friendships, and 2) we all to some extent have decided to check something out or keep up with something to a degree for social reasons, and thus I imagine the idea of friendships forged through nerd fires is not unappealing to people who are against “Fake Geeks,” what I believe to be the significant component in the creation of the “Fake Geek” as a symbol of disingenuous behavior has to do with the notion of “sacrifice.”

While geek friendship is more than possible, historically the label of geek came at a price, which is to say that it made friendship less possible with large groups of people instead of more. By being so engrossed in chosen, socially unapproved interests, geeks sacrificed their opportunities for social interactions and the friendships which would have been more likely to occur. When friendships were made through fandom or hobbies, it presumably required people who both (perhaps unconsciously) were aware of what they have given up. When you contrast this with the very idea that I talked about earlier, that the identify of the geek might be considered a clear and obvious way to make friends with others, that it no longer requires a “sacrifice” but may in fact be the opposite—something with socially inherent benefits—it comes across as a contradiction.

Imagine a guy who loves to eat eggs, but was told from the very beginning that eggs are high in cholesterol, bad for his health, and that anyone who ate them often would suffer. Wanting to remain healthy but also wishing to maintain his egg consumption, he adjusted every aspect of his diet, exercise, and daily habits to accommodate. Then, one day a report comes out that says the cholesterol in eggs are perfectly fine, and that everyone can benefit from eating eggs more often. Of course, the guy benefits from this information too, but he looks back and sees everything he gave up for the sake of his love of eggs, and then sees everyone around him now scrambling and poaching without a care in the world. The guy, understandably if also sadly, ends up accusing these newcomers of not being true egg connoisseurs.

Now, if you layer on the strange relationship geek culture has traditionally had with women, one which mixes reverence,  jealousy, and desire, I think you might start to see why the “Fake Geek Girl” is considered especially objectionable by those who decry their presence. A girl, with her “feminine charms,” is supposedly able to bridge the social gaps the old geek cannot, and on top of that is this notion that being a geek is a boon to social interaction instead of a disease, creating what is perceived as an “unfair advantage.” The Fake Geek Girl becomes a reminder of all the geek is not or could not have, and thus a bitter reaction is born from its conceptual existence.