Can black nerd (blerd) media survive in the era of Donald Trump? Well, it’s complicated, but it’s a question I’ve been ruminating on since November.
Donald Trump may not be an extinction level event for humanity (for now), but he might be for other media… Not just traditional mediums.
When I first started GeekMundo in 2011 it seemed like, three years into President Barack Obama’s first term as POTUS, that there was plenty of time to begin tackling diversity and representation in comics, books, television, and film. Now, I’m not sure that any of that will matter anymore.
If you’ve read this site for any amount of time or follow me on Twitter, you know that I am a politics and history nerd. It’s hard to look at who this country elected as POTUS and VPOTUS and not feel like one is on the precipice of something that could mean life as one knows it is over. Though I plan to do my part to resist any tyranny that comes out of this incoming administration of supervillains, it doesn’t assuage the feeling that a change is going to come, but most likely not for the best.
Blerd (an awfully obnoxious portmanteau of the term “black nerd”) media has been around for quite some time. Groups and blogs were formed on Tumblr, MySpace groups and forums, and eventually blogging platforms to cater to nerdy, geeky black folks who wanted, needed, and deserved representation via diverse characters and story arcs. Over time, several sites became as popular as mainstream, traditionally white male-skewing geek sites. Throw in monetization, social media, and the advent of geek culture as a zeitgeist and you’ve got a few power players in the game.
In a world with Barack Obama as POTUS, it makes perfect sense to bring attention to the lack of diversity and/or outright racism, sexism, and/or homophobia in a medium that should be free of that shit. However, that world as we know it ends officially on January 20th, 2017 and a new one will materialise.
I’ve read critiques from certain corners of Black Twitter about how privileged one would have to be in order to spend as much capital on comic books, weekly (or even daily) movie outings, books, and travelling to comic cons. I absolutely agree that there is a degree of privilege in being able to fund these geeky pursuits. So, while the economy is doing pretty darn well at the moment, that probably won’t be the case the case around this time next year. If that’s the case, and we have a repeat of 2008-2009 economically, we’re going to be seeing fewer people worrying about which comics to read or which black actress was snubbed.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that this will happen for sure. I’m pretty sure it is going to happen, though. I lived through Bill Clinton’s term and George W. Bush’s horrifyingly criminal presidency. Call me a pessimist or even cynical, but there will be serious repercussions for electing Trump POTUS because we’re seeing history repeat itself right in front of our eyes. If my expectations–not my hopes, mind you–are confirmed and correct, we may see a serious change in what people prioritise.
To be honest, I’ve wondered what a Trump presidency will do to indirectly affect this little corner of the internet. Lately, I find movie and entertainment news trite and vapid. I mean, I love movies, music, TV, and pop culture but I just don’t care to read about the shit at the moment. I’m coping by reading about activism and current events. The outlook is so utterly dire that I can’t muster the motivation to care about the latest casting or featurette. And that’s before Trump takes office. Imagine when this crazy freaking train finally takes off…
When despots and demagogues take the reins in leading a country, those considered by the outgoing regime to be poor and disenfranchised always suffer first, hardest and longest. During the last recession, people of colour were dealt an even more severe blow when the economy tanked. Blerd media primarily caters to black nerds. If the latter end up getting hosed by disastrous policies that undermine and effectively gut the American economy and infrastructure, then there will be far more pressing issues to address that may monopolise people’s time.
I hope to God that I’m being reactionary and myopic in my forecast, but I’ve seen this happen before. Black-owned sites and blogs that were popular when celebrity and pop culture blogging was at its zenith are no longer around, with their writers often absorbed as writers for other sites with less focus on blerd culture. Other times, writers had to pivot to writing about other, less saturated subjects.
Maybe I am being overly cynical but it’s not like I don’t have reason to be. A change is going to come whether we want it to or not. Can blerd media ultimately survive? It certainly can, but only if it can adapt accordingly. Its very survival depends on it.
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