I want to preface this by saying that Ready Player One is my favorite book. It's not flawless. It's not the absolute best structural or poetic prose I've encountered, but it is decent, and it is stuffed full of nerdy, geeky references and callbacks to 80s pop culture. It hits some most stealthily obscure corners of nerdom and ties it all back into the search for gaming Easter Eggs, one of my favorite concepts in gaming. The idea is that instead of physical prowess or athletic skill, the more nerd knowledge and gaming skill you have nets you a much better chance of finding this egg, that will make you a billionaire and grant you ownership of the world running MMORPG, the Oasis.
To me, this was amazing. I read the book a little after when it first came out and since read it two more times, in which I caught other little fun references. I don't know them all, of course, but it's given me the opportunity to look some of it up and check it out. The fact that it was set in the 80s also granted a sense of profound nostalgia that reminded me of local pizza joints and arcades. People were praised for their nerd knowledge instead of shunned for it. Throughout the book I was trying to understand the hints and clues as much as Wade, AKA Parzival. From a writing perspective, the stakes remained high and conflict after conflict introduced itself. It lagged at points and Wade wasn't the most relatable character himself but Art3mis made up for it. I wish she was the main protagonist.
A few days ago, the trailer for Ready Player One hit and an explosion of hate erupted with it. My thoughts were naturally and conversely excitement because my favorite book would be on screen. Then I realized how Hollywood tends to muck things up and take away from the splendor of the original prose. I'm hoping that doesn't happen, but I know it's possible. I'm a reader and several of my books have been screwed up before.
I realized that I was subjective due to knowing the plot and to some, especially those that haven't read the book and don't care about the references, may think it looks bad. Admittedly it wasn't quite what I expected, and I feel it may lose it's 80's magic (in favor of some present-day stuff). The trailer itself, without knowing, the story looks like it may be only about the references. My hope is that that was just them showing relatable things to get people interested.
My issue? The backlash against the book. There were a few articles on the book before, some bad but mostly good. I hate the when people jump on the bandwagon of what’s popular to bash. All of a sudden, when the trailer drops, an influx of negative reviews on the book are dropping, and the number one critique is that the book has too many references, and isn't for woman nerds.
Gatekeeping is a problem. It is hyper masculine in that guys want to claim it all and believe that it is all theirs. On a large-scale, women are questioned on their nerd cred on a regular basis in an skeptical, condescending manner. It could be in a local comic shop, or a Gamestop, or because she's wearing a Superman shirt or a Jean Grey cosplay at a convention. Women, especially women of color, are constantly tested on what they know and called on their "validity" of being a fan. This is 100% wrong, and it needs to stop.
People are entitled to be fans no matter what sex, race, background, etc, and at no matter what level they like whatever fandom. People like what they like, and they are allowed to like it at the level that they do. The sexist and racist gatekeeping will always be wrong. Note Kate’s post below:
Like is geek culture exclusionary and hypermasculine? Yes. It has been. But one of the reasons shitty fanboys gatekeep is bc they see their things as boy things. And I'm like, no. They aren't. I want a delorean too. If that makes sense
— ⛄KATE FROST❄ (@OhMyMithrandir) December 12, 2017
On the Backlash
Ready Player One is not gatekeeping. The idea that it is simply preposterous. As nerds we are berated for liking things that we like, and being knowledgeable about it. We get a book in which it is cool to like this stuff, but now there are too many nerdy references? I’m at a loss here. I believe that is the purpose of the story. What is more frustrating is the narrative that it caters only to white men. Writer Kayleigh Donaldson stated in an article titled “Ready Player One is Everything Wrong with Geek Culture” that "what Ready Player One does is create a ring of prestige and exclusivity around the biggest demographic in pop culture: 40 something white dudes."
I disagree. This statement implies that women can’t enjoy a DeLorean reference or the idea of playing Zork or Joust, Pacman etc. To me this says that women don’t like Gundams or Star Wars, or a million of the other things referenced in the book. I can’t think of anything the book that is gender specific. I can’t think of anything in the book that my wife, or several of my woman friends would dislike because “it’s for 40-year-old white men.”
I could have gone for the main character being something other than a white male, if I’m honest. Art3mis would have even been an amazing main character. She is a far more interesting and personable character than Wade. But this doesn’t make book itself inherently problematic and Ernie isn’t wrong for having a white male protagonist. There are several critiques that can be made about the book, and others that I would agree with, but this one does not sit well with me.
I am not speaking out against Kayleigh personally, but based on other’s comments, tweets, etc. I know that many share this sentiment and I simply do not agree. The nerd references don’t cater to any gender. It caters to nerds. X-Wings and DeLereons don’t have genders or sexes. Funny I see that no one mentioned the extensive talk between Aech and Parzival about Ladyhawke or that 2 of the 3 main characters are women.
The Real Problem is Systematic
There is an undeniable problem in all media in general that caters to white men. I’m not blind to it, and for anyone that follows me and my discussions. I talk about it all the time. Media in general, in a large part caters to white men. It’s built into branding, production, and the foundation of the country. I am not arguing that at all. I note again that before the trailer (the recent one and the one from Comic Con), these articles didn’t exist. Look them up and check the dates. There are issues in the book, and I've read and offered many great critiques. All I’m saying is that Ready Player One isn’t the thing to bash, it’s simply the popular thing to bash right now.
You can watch the Ready Player One Trailer Below.