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“Do you still wish to penetrate me? Or is it I who has penetrated you?”

Ron Rosenbaum is going to upset some people. In fact, he already has. The bulk of Sean’s reply to Rosenbaum focuses on Rosenbaum’s perceived anti-white-male prejudice, and Jon Hastings has already pointed out the flaws in Sean’s invocation of race. And Sean has acknowledged the flaws and further claimed that his argument is really mostly against Rosenbaum’s “anti-male, anti-fanboy” prejudice. Which, first of all, being anti-fanboy isn’t the same thing at all as being anti-male, so let’s not obfuscate things. And as for being anti-fanboy—Rosenbaum is that, indeed. Is Rosenbaum talking crazy talk?

Now, most of you reading this blog probably have had some exposure to geek subculture; I’m sure you know what a fanboy is. And you know that there are—um, girl fanboys too, which is a problem for the gender-specificity of the term. Or is it? In the egalitarian twenty-first century, we can all be nerdy ????ber-fans, but who dominates? From where I’m looking, it’s guys, guys, guys. Sean specifically cites Elizabeth Avellan as a producer of Sin City—one of eight, and producers don’t really have creative input in modern filmmaking anyway. He also cites Uma Thurman’s collaboration with Quentin Tarantino on Kill Bill, which I don’t know much about. But that some women have creative roles in these movies doesn’t have a lot of weight against Rosenbaum’s argument, especially because, N.B., how many women direct these fanboy movies? (By the way, Jon makes the good point that Sin City is not referential in the same way Kill Bill is, but I think that’s only a minor flaw in Rosenbaum’s argument. Rosenbaum also mentions Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and I’m inclined to think these movies use different means to reach similar ends.) I don’t know of any. Are there any? But even if there are, let’s face it, the dominant creative source, and the dominant audience destination, of fanboy movies is guys. They’re called fanboys for a reason, after all—it’s silly to claim women aren’t involved in this stuff (not that Rosenbaum actually claimed any such thing, that I see), but it’s equally silly to claim that the stereotypical association of fanboy stuff—manly violence, phallic symbols (swords!), pseudo-feminist “tough-guy women” characters, &c.—with guys is entirely false.

I haven’t seen Sin City and I’m not sure I will, so I don’t really know about that. But Kill Bill is, in its every aspect, fanboyism turned into an aesthetic. Deep morality? Oh ho. Maybe more on this later, or maybe you all have figured out what I think of Kill Bill by now, since I’ve written about it so much. For now, I might as well link back to “Remix Aesthetic in Moulin Rouge and Kill Bill.” Also, consider: a movie which portentously bleeps out the main character’s name, solely to set up two of the dumbest name-based puns in history, is the very definition of deliberately pretentiously stupid.


  1. J.W. Hastings says:


    Good point about anti-fanboy not being anti-male. I don’t think Rosenbaum is that far off-base, but that essay felt thrown together and his argument a little arbitrary, as if he really only wanted to write about Kill Bill, but threw in the stuff about Sin City to make it “up-to-date”.

    Off the top of my head, the only movie/show/comic I can come up with that seems to an audience balanced between fanboys and fangirls is “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, which paired babes-kicking-butt stuff with teenage soap opera, thus satisfying nerds of both genders. “Buffy”’s creator was a guy, but about a quarter of the writing/producing staff were women. (I suppose ABC’s “Alias” has continued this formula).


    — 3 May 2005 at 11:13 pm (Permalink)

  2. Sean T. Collins says:

    Hey Steven–I had a feeling that you’d weigh in on the anti-KB side, but I was surprised to see that you thought “the bulk of Sean????????s reply to Rosenbaum focuses on Rosenbaum????????s perceived anti-white-male prejudice.” I’m really curious as to why you, and J.W., thought that. Was it the RZA comparison? Because honestly, mentally the main thing for me was fanboydom; the race angle was thrown in because, as I said, most fanboys are white. And though I cited Thurman and Avellan (who from my understanding is a pretty equal creative partner with Rodriguez, more so than the average producer) in order to point out how Rosenbaum elided them, my overall point was not that the association of nerd culture with males is FALSE–it was, “So what?” And no, being anti-fanboy is not being anti-male, but I think it’s clear that fanboydom is held up to ridicule because of certain ways in which it is seen to BE male. At any rate, I’m not sure a term that can be used to refer perjoratively, for what appear to be the same reasons, to Kill Bill and Sin City one the one hand and the likes of Identity Crisis on the other, is any use to anyone anyway. I don’t think it is to me, and that’s without stretching it, as Rosenbaum does, to apply to “graphic novels” generally. Anyway, thanks for the reply.

    — 4 May 2005 at 1:14 am (Permalink)

  3. Steven says:

    Hold on, sorry, but I’m not playing along in the pro-/anti- game. I don’t like Kill Bill much, but I think its hyper-fanboy pomo aesthetic is sort of interesting—mostly, admittedly, as a contrast to other movies that I actually like. But I am fascinated by remix art, so Kill Bill was entertaining in that it gave me stuff to think about in relation to that, even if I’m nonplussed by claims as to its deep morality.

    By the way, w/r/t Beatrix’s name being bleeped out—I have no clue what Tarantino was thinking with that, because I have no clue what he was thinking at all in making Kill Bill. (I know what he’s said about what he was thinking, but I don’t believe him.) But, yeah, I think the name is bleeped out to create a sense of impending meaningfulness—ooh, what shocking revelation will there be about her name? And it’s the world’s most unsubtle symbol: her name is bleeped out because she’s having one hell of an identity crisis (hence all the names she gets, hence Bill’s Superman speech). And then Tarantino deftly deflates all the symbolic portentousness with a couple of stupid cute puns. (You see, I think the movie is about building an image of meaningful art and then perversely subverting that image.) Oh, and I suppose the bleeping is probably a reference to some movie. At the least, it’s a parody of the Man With No Name.

    — 4 May 2005 at 7:00 am (Permalink)

  4. Dan Jacobson says:

    — 4 May 2005 at 1:54 pm (Permalink)

  5. Rose says:

    — 5 May 2005 at 4:10 pm (Permalink)

  6. Steven says:

    Dan, I think Rosenbaum is mainly pissed of by a bunch of fairly mainstream critics who sang the praises of Kill Bill. As J.W. pointed out, Rosenbaum is angry because, in fact, the geeks have won, in that geek/fanboy culture has become dominant in U.S. cinema. I don’t think it’s at all inane to say, especially w/r/t as expensive an art form as cinema, that the huge popularity of a certain class of movies will influence the kinds of movies that get made.

    — 5 May 2005 at 4:38 pm (Permalink)