“Things are bad.”
Olive’s opening line immediately demanded attention from the students attending the early morning preview performance of “Fake Nerd Girl” Thursday, Feb. 22.
“The world needs a hero with an excellent cat suit, a practical utility belt, and gold goggles,” Olive (Chloe Payne) continued, swiftly developing the sole character in her one-woman show.
The show begins with a trip back through time, to Olive’s adolescence, bringing us to the real beginning of the story.
The grades 10-12 students from St. Kevin’s Social Justice Group were quickly glued to the plotline, their adolescent years not a distant memory, like mine or Payne’s.
Chloe Payne truthfully showcases the scary underside of a seemingly light-hearted world of fantasy. Choosing not to censor these quotes for her somewhat younger audiences, she is driving home a hard point, and any attempt to sugarcoat this ongoing calamity is a disservice to her audiences.
With scenes segued with shadow play on a rear lit projector screen, we are transported to a classroom. Teenage Olive is falling asleep mid-lesson, dreaming of Captain Picard and the Starship Enterprise, awaking to laughter from her peers.
This “geeky exploit” would mark the beginning of Olive’s “journey into badassery” — internet trolls, look out.
“Fake Nerd Girl” explores the unfortunately ingrained sexism and misogyny within “geeky” subcultures, like cosplay, role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, videogames, and more.
Using snippets of dialogue gleaned from forums, comment sections, and social media, Payne presents the darker side of the “nerd” world, in which women are frequently viewed as objects, not equals, and often face intense ridicule and mockery from men when participating in these male-dominated subcultures.
As Olive fights dragons with her D&D clan, plays multiplayer video games online, and cosplays as one of her favourite female comic book characters, she continuously clashes with the patriarchy, while trying to simply enjoy and engage in a common interest.
The constantly hurled insults and remarks she endures are presented to the audience as a loud, overlapping barrage of intended pain.
By using verbatim quotes, Payne truthfully showcases the scary underside of a seemingly light-hearted world of fantasy. Choosing not to censor these quotes for her somewhat younger audiences, she is driving home a hard point, and any attempt to sugarcoat this ongoing calamity is a disservice to her audiences.
While endless abuse may deter some women from this turbulent territory, it has lit a fire within Olive. She’s angry, and she wants justice — for herself, and for all nerdy girls.
In seeking equality, Olive develops a persona named Dark Nerd Girl, a play on the insulting term “fake nerd girl.”
Creating a computer virus titled “fake_nerd_girl_nudes.jpg,” she literally shuts down thousands of online users, and in doing so, gains respect from thousands more who applaud her actions.
The ensuing outpouring of support shows Olive that she is not alone, as her army of “nerd girls” grows.
This positive message resounded with the attending audience, especially the girls, who shared their own stories about being ostracized in “geeky” communities, and how they continue to push for their right to play games with their pals.
“Things are bad, but justice has been served,” Olive said in closing. “Things are bad, but it’s not just me out there.”
I’m standing behind you, Dark Nerd Girls, and I’m ready to fight with you.
“Fake Nerd Girl” runs from February 22-24 at the LSPU Hall.