Fangasm: Unreality and the Devaluation of Geek Cultural Currency
By Andy Khouri
Fangasm is a SyFy reality show which employs the standard “bunch of strangers forced to live in a house for a few weeks” format. It’s produced by 495 Productions, the creators of MTV’s exploitation hit Jersey Shore, but instead of “guidos” Fangasm is about “geeks” — which is to say in the simplest way possible, passionate individuals drawn to a deeper understanding of creative works like comic books, video games, science fiction, fantasy and related genre entertainment. The six-part series has been hyped by the network and its associated principals as this really real… thing about geeks and our culture.
In reality (no pun intended), what we casually refer to as “geek culture” has in the last 10+ years ascended from a derided subculture to a massive consumer class actively serviced by virtually every commercial sector in America, a fact that’s put an existential challenge to the nature of “geekdom,” particularly its claim to underdog status. ThatFangasm exists at all speaks to this notion of cultural currency, but unfortunately it’s the literal currency that is the most basic and base element of the entire Fangasm enterprise, which we discover is even faker than the kinds of series — to use the reality show parlance — it throws under the bus.
However, it is through Fangasm’s breathtakingly brazen expression of unreality and exploitation that we ultimately see the truth of how geek culture is understood by those to whom geeks pledge their once hard-earned allegiance, and perhaps by a generation of geeks themselves.