I first came across Felicia Day in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which I loved, and I later picked up a copy of The Guild‘s first season on DVD at a signing, which was nearly a decade ago now. Not having seen the show at that point, I accidentally ignored Sandeep Parikh at the singing table. which is a shame because he was probably my favourite of the cast when I finally got around to watching it. We even all took an awkward photo together, which I made slightly more awkward by absentmindedly referring to myself as a cotton candy lumberjack, due to the bright plaid shirt I was wearing.
I haven’t seen most of her latest television roles, but I do keep an eye on her YouTube empire Geek & Sundry. She has really created something cool there, and it hasn’t been an easy road. She’s had to deal with mental health issues and assholes on the Internet every step of the way.
Because if you can’t be your own weird self on the internet, where can you be? And what would be the point?
This autobiography doesn’t go too much into her acting career, really just focusing on the experiences that relate to her Internet presence, and as much as I’d enjoy hearing stories from the set of Buffy, I think focusing the book in this way makes sense. If you’re going to write an autobiography at a fairly young age, before you’re winning lifetime achievement awards, there needs to be a very specific focus. Her acting career seems solid, but it’s not groundbreaking, whereas she could be seen as a pioneer in successful online media.
An uncredited study she read once said, quote, “Girls become really stupid in science after they get their period, so you’d better learn as much as possible before that happens.” I had such anxiety about this “clearly proven” biological fact that I was studying calculus by the age of twelve. When I finally got my period, I cried, not because I was growing up, but because I had just learned derivatives and really enjoyed doing them.
It begins with her childhood, growing up without many friends, largely due to having been homeschooled by hippy parents. It sounds like her studies were very slack, but something seemed to work out because she managed to get a full university scholarship and graduate with degrees in both music performance and mathematics. Many of the friendships she cultivated were through online games, which kickstarted her love with the Internet. We cover her time with those games, included a very awkward meet-up between the players, her first experiences with the web in university, her addiction to World of Warcraft, the trials of making The Guild and publishing it online, and finally how she managed to create her latest Geek & Sundry YouTube channel.
Throughout this, particularly in the last few years, she struggled with depression and anxiety and developed a fairly severe thyroid issue. When she cut her hair quite short a few years ago, and people on the Internet went crazy the way they do when a celebrity does something like that (which, to be clear, is pathetic and sad), she was actually losing chunks of hair due to being ill. I imagine having legions of idiots commenting on how awful they thought her haircut was probably didn’t help things, but I guess that’s one of the joys of fame.
After finishing the book, she decided to add another chapter on Gamer Gate, which had just sparked up, and I really enjoyed that chapter. Gamer Gate, if you’re lucky enough not to know, was a ridiculously convoluted flame war a couple of years back. From what I understand, the simplest explanation is that it was originally touted as a criticism on the integrity of gaming journalism, but really just became a guise for angry misogynists on the Internet to harass women. This included, but was not limited to, making public the addresses and phone numbers of any women who spoke out and sending them death and rape threats. The chapter was on how she was afraid to get involved, having been doxxed and threatened in the past already, and how she eventually decided to anyway, which resulted in her being immediately doxxed. That whole controversy left a horrible tarnish on the gaming industry, but hopefully it resulted in more people understanding what many women face when they jump into an online game or post a YouTube video, thanks to those who risked speaking out.
This was a fun read, despite the content described above. It’s full of Felicia’s quirky humour, and her narration of the audiobook was great and really added a lot. Joss Whedon also provided a nice foreword, but I found his narration really odd. It felt more like he was breathlessly narrating a harlequin romance novel. Definitely the most sensual introduction to an autobiography I’ve ever heard.
I enjoy reading about people following their passions and having success in personal projects, and I love a little nerdy comedy mixed with some serious issues, so this was a great read for me.