Who’s that girl?
If you’re not that much into the whole geek thing, or simply out of the US and the UK, Felicia Day‘s name may not spontaneously ring a bell to you. And yet, you’ve probably seen her in TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s season 7, Eureka or Supernatural. And you may have come across Joss Whedon‘s 2009 webseries Dr. Horrible Sing-Along Blog, where she starred with Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion.
But Felicia Day‘s more than just an Hollywood actress: she launched her own webseries on YouTube in 2007, at a time people didn’t fully realize you could actually upload something else than LOL cats or yourself singing that Taylor Swift heartbreaker song online. What’s more, this was a full-blown geek webseries inspired by the World of Warcraft online (WOW for the intimates), packed with undecipherable vocabulary and some jokes better enjoyed when you truly know the game and how an online guild works.
Before using the Internet Plan B (and partly her own money), she first tried to pitch the show to TV producers, who kind of laughed at her, because they were so sure this wouldn’t work. And then Kim Evey, a friend of hers, who then became a longtime collaborator, suggested they release the episodes on YouTube, and it dawned on her the Web was THE most natural place for her project, since the gamers and a lot of the geek community spends actually quite a lot of time online. She didn’t know a thing about how to make a webseries because there wasn’t really a business plan for that yet, but she learned in the process with her team, and the reception was much better than what she’d have dreamed of. To the extent that YouTube even put the show on its homepage and that XBox reached her to fund part of the second season and air it on XBox Live Marketplace.
The Guild went on for six seasons (all of them available online) and she even wrote comics inspired by this universe. By the time she launched the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel with Kim, she was dubbed ‘Queen of the Geeks’, and her Twitter account has now reached 2,96M followers, so it’s quite safe to say she’s an influential personality. Which is kind of the reason why she wrote this memoir of sorts, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) at the age of 35 years old. The book was released in the US in 2015 by Simon & Schuster, and is now translated around the world, and even today in France, as a matter of fact, where she’s not necessarily that famous. So, to answer the very question you may have asked yourself by clicking on this webpage if you’re not familiar with Day: no, it’s not a shallow, marketing-vamped book trying to make profit over the considerable geek wave that has washed over the world these last few years to become a full-grown entertainment empire.
From child prodigy to queen of the geeks
Though the question could be a legitimate one, it fast becomes pretty clear upon reading that behind this catchy title hides a one-of-a-kind 300 pages book. You’re Never Weird… is actually midway between a memoir and a self-help book, but Felicia Day is no guru and she doesn’t try to sell you a method that will turn you into a geek millionnaire, even though she launched her own company with success. Still, the core message is that you can be an outsider and turn this at your advantage, even if you don’t exactly know how to do it in the first place, and even if you experience failure before getting right back to it. An outsider: this is exactly what Felicia Day was before she launched The Guild, a show that she wrote, produced, starred in, and for which she even sent hundreds of Facebook PM to bloggers herself in order to convince them to talk about it and review the webisodes.
Violon and math prodigy home-schooled for ‘hippie reasons’, crazy about the Internet — she started to use it way before everyone else — she left for Los Angeles in order to become an actress after a double degree in college she obtained with the best grades. She played multiple parts in TV shows, but, aside from playing a Potential in Buffy, she was mostly cast as the crazy cat lady secretary who had a single funny line in that episode, and had to resort to TV commercials to pay her rent. So, basically, she was frustrated with her career and developed an hardcore gaming addiction.
Not the sort of gaming that gets you in trouble in casinos, but online gaming, since Felicia Day is passionate about video games since her teenage days. She was part of an online WOW guild and got lost in it before, eventually, managing to write the pilot script for what would become — you got it — the webseries The Guild, heavily inspired by her whole online experience. And even once she became successful at what she did, getting more substantial parts in TV shows while developing her webseries and her own brand, she suffered severe anxiety because she was always afraid the worst would happen if she stopped doing everything at the time, which led her to a full-blown depression in 2013 and numerous health issues. But then again, she got back on her feet and seem to have finally found the right place and right distance inside Geek & Sundry, which represents a considerable amount of work, not only for her, but also all the people involved.
A truly relatable road of trials…
So all these different bits (childhood weirdness and passions, child prodigy drama, acting issues, Internet miracle, addiction and depression) are part of the book to evoke what we could call Felicia Day‘s road of trials. It’s certainly fitting to bring the Joseph Campbell reference up at that point, because there’s definitely a coming-of-age quality that emerges from You’re Never Weird on the Internet. After all, since she was a child, Day was always a pleaser — which is the case of many child prodigies — and often made a lot of effort to be complimented, doubting easily if praises didn’t come fast enough. However, she was also able to hold on to her ideas and not compromise her vision, however hard it was at times. So, from her early years to her mid-thirties, we get to know this funny lady and see her grow and learn to work her way through her insecurities while taking on Hollywood and the Internet with no contacts at all in the first place. This is certainly an inspirational read, mainly because Felicia Day keeps it so real, and even a little bit raw at times, despite the many hilarious moments the book has in store.
People often want to sound cool, but accepting to be vulnerable in public, talking about gaming addiction or something like depression, which tends to make other people suspicious and really uncomfortable, is quite brave, even in our day and age — or maybe even more in our day and age of Instagram cult-perfection. So it’s quite a relief that some actors, creators and personalities of influence dare to show they’re actually real people, and Felicia Day‘s memoir will certainly help many people going through the same kind of ordeal. And it’s inspirational because her strong-willed personality shows you that if you’re an hardworker and a doer, and that you never give-up, you’ll get somewhere in the end, a place that is truly yours.
… and a really funny, inspiring book
Of course, one of the book’s best qualities is its self-deprecating humor, which will make you laugh out loud quite often. The first half, where Felicia Day tells about her unconventional upbringing, is quite hilarious. She kept the diaries she wrote as a child, so the book features a few pics where you can read some of the most funny and cute things she used to write to her only confidant. Like this one: « Do you know what I would like more than anything (except environment and biological stability forever) in the world? I would like to travel in time like in quantum leap. It would be so wonderful! » She also made up a lot of funny GIFS with pictures of her as a child, or simply with what she calls « mug messages »: just the kind of cheesy sentences you want to print on your favorite mug for self-motivation. And, of course, there’s quite a lot about gaming. She joined her first online guild around 15, and these people she only knew virtually became really important for her at the time, and she even met them at one point IRL… which would turn out to be quite awkward in the first place, a little bit like in The Guild‘s first season. Thus, the webseries fans will learn about some of the events that inspired the show’s webisodes, and, even more about how it was made and evolved.
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) is definitely a book that grows on you page after page, even when you’re initially a little bit suspicious about what its content may be. Felicia Day is not only a funny screenwriter and actress, she’s also a pretty honest writer and an inspiring figure who doesn’t try to hide behind her coolness, even though (let’s face it!) she’s pretty cool. The book’s narrative is often self-deprecating, sometimes raw, which makes its author really relatable. Her road of trials —with a positive ‘outcome’, so to speak, since Day’s career will certainly evolve a lot in the following years — and her undying enthusiasm gives you the feeling you can reach for the moon.
So, this is typically the kind of book you want to read if you’re in the middle of a project that could be awesome but that can be long and difficult to achieve ; or if you still didn’t dare to make a move to make your dream come true. It’s also a truly interesting testimony about the Web culture, the geek community and women in the geek and gaming community, but also in the entertainment business, complete with an insider’s peek on the GamersGate phenomenon, which Felicia Day confronted. So, this is definitely a must-read, and not ‘just another geeky book’. Oh! We almost forgot! There’s also a neat Joss Whedon foreword.
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day, Simon & Schuster, paperback edition released on April 19, 2016 (1st edition released in 2015), 304 pages. 5,61$
Nota Bene: Even though I read a few pages of the original edition, this review was written after the French edition released by Bragelonne on May 17, 2017. The French version of this article can be read here. — Cecile Desbrun