Old stereotypes die hard. You may think you already know that fanboy culture includes a heck of a lot of girls. But the fact that we even still use a catch-all term like “fan-boy” exerts its own pesky, prejudicial influence. It makes it sounds as if all those girl geeks are somehow, you know, interlopers — mere guests at the party instead of equal-time hosts.
Now, though, there’s an eye-opening new study, released yesterday by the Online Testing Exchange, that takes the conventional image of the fanboy and locks it away in the archaic-cliché box where it belongs. According to the study, which is called “Fanboy FAQ!,” not only are fanboys often not boys anymore. They’re also not loners, geeks, misfits, or, for that matter, people in their teens and 20s.
Okay, okay. A lot of you will probably read that and say, “So what else is new?” But the popular image of the fanboy as obsessive teen-dude drooler squirreled away in his Internet bunker, surrounded by piles of graphic novels and empty pizza boxes, dies hard. That image has been an undeniable influence on what gets made to entertain us in America. If the image isn’t accurate, then the marketplace isn’t truly being served.
I remember when I first had my eyes opened on this particular issue. Back in 2000, I went to a Saturday matinee showing of The Cell, that terrifically gory and twisted — and, to me, spellbinding — horror movie about a psychologist (Jennifer Lopez) who enters the mind of a serial killer (Vincent D’Onofrio). During one of the film’s flesh-ripping, vein-poppingly baroque psycho-surreal fantasy sequences, what was happening was so horrific that I momentarily turned away from the screen — and when I did, I noticed that half the audience was made up of young women. Maybe they were there to see Jennifer Lopez (not yet widely known as J. Lo), but whatever the reason, they were there. Sitting through a movie that Hollywood, at the time, thought of as a quintessential propsect for guy-demo targeting. Mark my words: Women would not have made up half that audience a few years before. And if they were now turning out for graphically disturbing horror movies, you could bet that they’d be there for propulsive videogame action, comic-book superhero jaunts, and Lord of the Rings.
So what do you think? Is it time we retired the term “fanboy” altogether? And if the stereotype is indeed out of date, then what does Hollywood need to do to catch up?