At Phoenix Comicon this year, I had the pleasure to meet and interview Christian Beranek and Kelci Crawford, the creator and artist behind the amazing Validation web comic.
The strict definition of the word “validation” is “to give official sanction, confirmation, or approval” and also “to make valid, substantiate, confirm.”
That’s what Validation is about.
Validation follows the life of Ally, a transgender girl who struggles with a multitude of issues important to our culture today. These issues include the concepts of the “fake fan,” as well as a variety of issues of being transgender.
(Co-oincidentally, I asked writer Christan Beranek if the name “Ally” was an allusion to the idea of a LGBTQ ‘ally’ and she explained it was a happy accident.)
The comic helps highlight that a number of issues that women face in nerd culture are highly similar to the issues of transgender people.
There is a common issue that I have noticed in nerd-culture rhetoric lately, that of the “Fake Whovian Girl” or the “fake nerd.”
The ‘Fake Whovian girl” concept, which was very broad and loud shortly after last year’s announcement that Peter Capaldi was going to take over as the 12th Doctor, is perhaps highly insulting.
The sexist part of this argument is that the word that frequently follows the phrase “fake whovian” is almost always …..
(wait for it)
Fake Whovian Girls.
For those who think this is a high problem, let me cite something I encountered at Space City Con, 2014 in Galveston:
I met an entire group of girls, dressed in classic Dr Who companion cosplay: CLASSIC doctor cosplay. Some of them were dressed as companions this blogger has only heard of but never seen in action.
Because of the fake Whovian stereotype, many female Whovians, of all ages, find they must validate their fandom.
What does that have to do with the comic Validation?
FORCING ANOTHER PERSON TO VALIDATE THEMSELVES IS UNACCEPTABLE!
The hero of Validation does not need to seek it from others, as Ally knows who she is. She is a woman, and she is proud of it. She is a comic book fan, a lover of dinosaurs and “Tiny Unicorn,” (the in-comic world version of “My Little Pony.”)
She is happy with her own identity, the struggle is to find others who accept it as well.
But sometimes, she encounters situations, like going into public restrooms, when she has a loud coughing fit, or meets strangers, where she is looked at oddly.
“I would never want to trap anyone. If you were to catch an animal off guard and cage them, they would go mental, right? And humans are animals.” (Ally)
In cosplay, men who might ordinarily not give her the time of day harass her publicly.
At conventions, cross-play is a highly active and interesting trait. People who ordinarily identify strongly with their own gender may choose to dress as a character from the other gender. Male Daenerys Targaryens, female Jokers, male Harleys, female Spidermen, you can see it all during conventions, when people are cosplaying.
You’d expect Ally would have a bit more acceptance, but instead, she meets with people questioning her fandom.
Here’s the thing about the “fake fan.”
There is no such thing as a fake fan, just a fan that doesn’t know as much as others. it could be a new fan. Or one who just likes the character.
In Ally’s scene, she shows the common theme that female fans must often over-study and know EVERYTHING about a fan world in order to gain acceptance, or validation.
Like the man says:
And Validation is one comic that does a great job of showing these issues.
These are not women’s issues, men’s issues, or necessarily transgender issues. The issues Ally lives with are valid and important to all fans in nerd-dom.
Women aren’t the only ones who get ‘nerd-shamed.’ Men get it as well. My husband has, on more than on occasion, encountered nerds who try to ‘out-nerd’ him in knowledge.
And until he learned better, he’d ‘feed the troll’ and try to out nerd those who tried to do so to him.
Even Bronies, who you would think would be more accepting of people trying to seek information and fandom, can bully those who ‘aren’t Brony enough”
We get bullied enough by those who aren’t cool enough to be nerds. Must we bully one another as well?
The name of the strip is more than adequate for the content as well. Ally, as well as many other transgender The comic strip is great, funny, and educational.
If you want to start reading the Validation web comic, you can find it online at:
Validationcomic.com. (Conveniently linked to the first strip in the series so you can ‘catch up.’)
If you really like it, visit the artist’s shop and spend money to support this awesome little strip.