By David Nilsen
I first became aware of Felicia Day (as did almost everyone else) shortly after she released The Guild on the internet in 2007 and became a geek celebrity. The Guild tells the story of a group of gamers who play an online roleplaying game (a thinly disguised World of Warcraft), and focuses especially on Codex, Day’s character. The show is funny, awkward, obsessive, charming, and weird; in short, it is a fair reflection of the mind of its creator. Day wrote the series when she was at a low point in her life. She had just kicked a full-scale addiction to World of Warcraft that had left the rest of her life in tatters, her acting career was going nowhere, she wasn’t using either of her college degrees (more on those in a bit), and she felt pretty lost. At the encouragement of some friends she wrote the pilot for a series based on her own experience of obsessive gaming, and began pitching it to networks. None of them bit, so her friends told her to make it herself and release it on a new website called Youtube. The Guild was born.
Between The Guild, her role in Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog alongside Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion, and her Youtube-based production company Geek & Sundry, as well as roles on a number of television shows like Eureka, Supernatural, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Felicia Day has ascended to the ranks of geek royalty. Her new book You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) lets us know how she got there.
The book, in form and content, is total Felicia. Her quirky, caffeinated, and often self-deprecating humor is on every page, as are her insecurities, her obsessions, her anxieties, her bewilderment, her formidable intelligence. She loves making visual gags with Photoshop, and those are here, and most of them are pretty silly. They would almost annoy me a little bit if I wasn’t so stinking happy this book was left alone to be completely hers.
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) tells us Day’s story from early childhood, and what a childhood it was to tell. Her mother took issue with a presentation made in Day’s second-grade classroom and pulled her out of school…for good. Felicia and her brother were homeschooled for the remainder of their compulsory education, but this “education” was not conventional even by homeschooling standards.
“For the record, I was homeschooled for hippie reasons, not God reasons. And it wasn’t even full hippie.” – page 13
They were basically allowed to read as much as they wanted and were enrolled in any locally-offered artistic activity–music, dance, etc.–they wished to partake in. Felicia reached her sixteenth birthday with a dazzling wealth of knowledge on a few very specific topics and a complete and total lack of social skills. She was also a violin prodigy. Accepted to Juilliard, Day instead chose to attend the University of Texas at Austin on a full scholarship for violin. Her private violin teacher was a music professor there, and she’s still not sure how he got her in since she had no actual high school transcripts or diploma (and still doesn’t). She was offered the scholarship at fifteen, started college at sixteen, and graduated with a 4.0 at nineteen in possession of two degrees–music performance and, just to have something practical to appease her dad and grandfather, mathematics. What she didn’t have was any actual idea what she wanted to do with her life. During college, she had been the youngest person ever accepted to play with the Austin Symphony Orchestra, but she didn’t want to play violin anymore. She moved to Los Angeles to act.
“You’d think a girl whose mom drove her to college every day wouldn’t exactly have a hoppin’ collegiate social life. And you would be correct.” – page 73
The majority of the book is taken up with Day’s pursuit of a creative career, and her failures and successes along the way. Two passages stood out to me as particularly interesting. Day spends a good deal of time talking about her mental health, looking at her struggles with depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety. She also devotes an entire chapter to #GamerGate, the misogynist hatefest that took over the internet in 2014. She provides an ample explanation of the origins of GamerGate in the book, so I won’t take the time to unpack that here. I had not realized the extent of the personal attacks she suffered, however, and that section of the book was heartbreaking. It’s frustrating we aren’t past this kind of childishness in 2015.
Felicia Day is awesome, and not because she doesn’t care what people say about her. She does care. She’s wracked with anxieties and insecurities and fears. But she still chooses to do her own thing. To be strong is not to be impervious. We need more Felicia Days. Check out You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) and find out what I mean.
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is available now at Greenville Public Library.