I, Felicia: Ms. Day overshares (but in a good way)
I’m driving south from the Bay Area down I-5 through what has to be the epicenter of nothingness wondering how to write a review of “You’re never weird on the Internet (almost)” Ugh, how to begin? The blank page stretches out in front of me like the miles of flat, dry land stretching out toward the foothills that separate the San Joaquin Valley from the Pacific. I stare at the page for a long moment, gathering my thoughts about this funny, touching memoir. I should probably mention at this point that I’m not actually driving, so that first line was misleading. But I am passengering.
I started Felicia Day’s new book without any particular expectations. I find her funny and disarming but honestly I am not a huge megafan who knows her entire career (I am talking to you Will & Marshall.) I loved The Guild (of course) and I am aware of Geek & Sundry. See, I’m A Huge Nerd to many of my friends because I like Star Wars and I play a Star Wars video game like it’s a source of income (what up, SWTOR?) But as far as geeky things go, that’s it, really. I don’t follow anything else nerdy except for those two things. I guess I may be a bit of a Geek philistine.
But The Guild was really awesome, maybe because it reminded me of my own (mildly dysfunctional?) online family in my MMORPG of choice. I found Felicia’s character to be extremely easy to relate to and I could tell that she was the driving force behind the show’s success. So I liked her. I thought she made a good role model for girls (and boys) and plus she loves video games IRL–so that’s double cool! I had some vague impression that Felicia was a somewhat neurotic but highly driven woman who never lets anyone push her around cause she’s fearless and a total badass.
I was partly right. After reading her memoir I can say that I was dead-on about her being neurotic and highly-driven and definitely correct about her being a total badass. But she’s not fearless, she’s even better than that. Sometimes she’s scared sideways but still she pushes on. Even though she doubts herself in small ways and gets anxious and OCD about the process, deep down she believes in herself and in her inner vision. She doesn’t doubt the big things. At least not for too long. Maybe just sometimes, for a minute, at 4:30 a.m.
The book keeps a good pace, starting with her childhood, most of which she spent being homeschooled “for hippie reasons, not God reasons.” She talks about learning to play the violin and how she liked to pretend that her congenitally short thumb ligament was a romantic anomaly like Anne Boleyn’s extra finger. (Early Tudor references, FTW!)
She wins extra affection points from me when she mentions my absolute childhood I-wanna-be-this-girl heroine–Trixie Belden.
The narrative glides along amusingly through Felicia’s teens and her early admission to college where she double majored in math and music. She tried hard to make herself disappear in those early university days until a breakdown during a master class violin performance shattered the glass bubble she had put herself in. Throughout college, Felicia felt compelled to do perfectly. At everything, thank you very much. Nothing less than straight As. She measured her self-worth by her grades and how she was perceived by others. She talks about her early days on the Internet, the religious experience of discovering her first web browser, what it meant to her be connected to others online after a childhood of relative isolation and how she took her gaming to the point where it became an unhealthy addiction for her.
Through earnest and funny stories of misadventures she tells how she moved to Hollywood to act and created a path for herself that has led her through her own palpitation-inducing anxieties, physical illness, maddening fear of rejection and worse (see the frank and sobering Gamergate section for the worst.) Each chapter is filled with laughs and occasional surprise tears. She is a clear and clever writer, and her narration of the audiobook version is natural and adds to the overall experience of the book.
“I met Patrick Stewart one time, and when he started directing words toward my head, I became so light- headed I almost fainted. I kept repeating, ‘Would you like my chair? Would you like my chair?’ until a volunteer came to extract him.”
Throughout her autobiography, Felicia does her best to show us her true self. Like everyone else, she is complex and inconsistent. She is weird and quirky but she’s herself. She is one-part shy, insecure, homeschooled kid and one-part vivacious, unstoppable egoist who wants to be the brightest star in the sky.
She is certainly one of the brightest stars online. But Felicia does not particularly identify with the title Queen of the Geeks. And anyway, she’s less like a queen and more like a leader who rose out of everyday people to help her fellows and herself achieve new and dizzying heights. Like an Information Age Norma Rae. You know, the woman who unionized her textile factory sweatshop? There was a movie… with Sally Field? Yeah, I’m old. Moving on…
The best thing about Never Weird is that as Felicia shares her own fears, frustrations and fascinations, she continuously urges us to be ourselves. Our own funky, fabulous selves.
Your qualification for finding a place to belong is enthusiasm and passion, and I think that’s a beautiful thing. No one should feel lonely or embarrassed about liking something. Except for illegal sex picture stuff. And murder and dogfighting . . . I’ll make a list. It’ll be pretty long, now that I think about it. But you get the gist.
Signed, Codex Dragon
Checkmate, Felicia Day.