Author: George Takei
Publisher: Oh Myyy! Ltd
When I was a little girl, I wanted to marry an Asian man with a Russian accent. “Why?” you ask. Because I was raised by Trekkie parents, and, to my young self, Sulu and Chekov were the bomb. I could take or leave Kirk, and Spock’s taciturn reluctance wasn’t a challenge I sought, but the two junior officers sitting in front of them had it all. Imagine my delight when George Takei started popping up on every social network, making me feel as if I had a window into the mind of “my favourite gay uncle” (his words, not mine).
Cheekily subtitled “There Goes the Internet”, Takei’s 2012 memoir, Oh Myyy!, turns out just that: a small window into the mind of a 75-year-old man who discovered he could exploit the sudden social media phenomenon to build a new fan base and then use the latter to advocate for political and cultural change. His wisdom lies in keeping things upbeat and amusing without ever diminishing his acute social awareness.
Oh Myyy! goes into how Takei ended up a major presence in the Twitterverse and subsequently on Facebook, explaining why he stayed on and hinting at what he plans to do with the power he’s accruing. His focus is on the commonality of geeks everywhere, be they of the sci-fi, fantasy, techie, or bacon variety. He revels in our shared worship of Yoda’s wisdom and in the near universal desire to transcend the “Mugglehood” of our existence and embrace our own epic sagas. By the same token, the author reviles the horrible grammar prevalent in online culture, the propagation of misinformation, and the Twilight universe, but I digress.
The book certainly satisfies my more voyeuristic tendencies and enhances the illusion of intimacy that comes from following a celebrity in cyberspace. If nothing else, the many references to his partner, Brad, and how the latter helps him manage his life and career heightened my affection for a childhood icon. They also left me frustrated by the couple’s inability to marry. That, along with promoting awareness of the Japanese internment in World War II, constitutes the lion’s share of Takei’s Web agenda: to counter homophobia in all its forms with
humour, logic, and grace, preventing the “intellectual laziness” that feeds stereotypes in our culture by exposing “Internet bugs” and “watching them wriggle”.
The other part of Oh Myyy! that I find fascinating is its close examination of how the Web, and indeed the Web experience, is evolving. Takei offers insight into the way Facebook ranks posts and what he has to do to get his messages out to the largest possible share of his followers. The author also makes it clear how seriously he approaches his role as cultural advocate, acutely aware of the fine line between his obligation to verify the veracity of the content he shares and the need to get it out there in a timely manner to maximize its impact. The fact that he is tickled to be in personal contact with Facebook developers speaks to just how much of a geek this man remains, just like the rest of us.
That’s my favourite aspect of Oh Myyy! George Takei is part of one of the first and largest fan phenomena in the world, yet he doesn’t traffic in the zeitgeist so much as uses it to point out how our shared cultural experiences unite us as humans. In this union, he hopes that we can find a voice for change, as he has, and that the different “geek faiths” everywhere can gather against their common threats: stereotypes, apathy, prejudice, and the death of imagination. He’s just an average guy who uses his past fortune to benefit the future, and we love him for it.