Behind “The Guild”: Felicia Day discusses dysfunctional characters and geek culture
“Dear reporters,” Felicia Day tweeted this summer, “getting a bit tired of being held up as an ‘authentic’ geek as you write posts against women who ‘exploit’ geek culture.”
Day is clearly an unusual position. As an actress, her work has placed her squarely within niche geek culture: first as Penny on Joss Whedon’s Web musical phenomenon Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, and then on her own hit show, The Guild, a warm-hearted parody of geek culture about a girl who joins a misfit group of gamers. Her work landed her the role of Holly Marten on kooky Syfy series Eureka, a part written just for her.
As such, Day is frequently touted as geek culture’s go-to girl, its answer to recurring claims of widespread misogyny and sexism. But turning Day into the poster girl for “real” geeks is one more example of the undue expectations placed on women in geek culture—and no one knows this better than Day herself.
Last spring, the 33-year-old Day made the risky decision to move The Guild under the umbrella of her new premium YouTube channel, Geek & Sundry. In April, Forbes predicted Day’s channel “could help blaze a trail for the future of network television” by proving “that programming designed for niche audiences makes more sense—and more money—on the web than on cable.” No pressure, right?
Six months later, The Guild is entering its sixth season, and Geek & Sundry has over 350,000 subscribers. Day talked to the Daily Dot about authenticity, geek culture, and being a Web media guru.
DD: On The Flog [Day’s personal vlog] you seem to be making the point that geek culture doesn’t have to be expressed in stereotypically masculine or nerdy ways in order to be fun or have a mass appeal. Is that a part of Geek & Sundry’s overall mission, or just your personal vlogging style?
A main part of Geek & Sundry is encouraging community and enriching lives with our videos, so if we can introduce geeky subjects to people in different ways, make people reconsider subjects they might have decided were “not for them,” that’s a big win for us. Every show on the channel reflects my personal style, and the Flog is the most personal of the shows, so I guess the eclectic nature is reflective most of who I am.
DD: At the Dragon*Con panel for The Guild, most of the cast members said that Season 5 (where the group goes to a gaming conference) was their favorite. Why do you think that is?
As fun as it is to watch the scenes where The Guild members are in their offices talking over the Internet with one another, as an actor they’re probably the least satisfying, because you are acting in a vacuum; the other actors aren’t WITH you when you deliver lines. Season 5 was shot like a movie as well, and on location, so it felt most like a mainstream TV shoot to date.
DD: Do members of The Guild cast collectively identify with geek culture, or were some aspects of it new to some of you?
Personally I’ve discovered things like Steampunk only through my going to conventions with the show. I don’t think geek culture should be pigeonholed as one thing; it’s whatever people are enthusiastic about, and enthusiastic about sharing with other enthusiastic people. As a whole, The Guild reflects my personal interests, but I’ve certainly had my horizons broadened during the show.