I have to begin by thanking everyone for the good feedback on last week’s column. It means a lot, and I’m glad people are enjoying it’s slow evolution. I apologize for not having it on a steady schedule — it was supposed to be a Wednesday thing, but then I moved it to Thursday, but I waved that deadline goodbye too. (Actually, I woke up fully dressed in my bed, desk lights a-blazing, and realized it was now Friday. So it was less waving, more self-loathing. It’s gross to sleep in your clothes. Movies make springing up in jeans and a hoodie seem much cooler.)
Now, onto an actual discussion…
Over the short years I’ve been opining in long form, I’ve constantly flogged the idea of gateways — movies, video games, comic books, filmmakers, actors, and conventions — all leading into a wider and more delightful world of genre appreciation. Twilight fans will wander the floors of the San Diego Convention Center and discover Dark Horse books. Red Dead Redemption players will pick up Clint Eastwood Collections and Jonah Hex. Those who are Watchmen virgins will discover the delight of graphic novels, The Dark Knight fans will discover the world of DC Comics, and so on.
Does it ever actually happen?
I ask, because I truly want to know. I want success stories. My experience has been pathetic and paltry. It’s also probably a very limited experience, given my location and the amount of people I know, who range from “Well Rounded” to “Happily Ignorant.”
I’ve flogged the idea in my writing; I’ve acted on it for real. Hearing someone say they were a fan of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, and kinda liked the X-Men movies, I shoved Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men into their hands. “Try this! It’s a really good X-Men run for a beginner, and Whedon’s style is all over it. I can recommend other X-Men comics if you like it.”
They read it. They returned it. They gave me a polite “It was good” but they didn’t ask for more.
Last week, the release of Rango spurred a shocking and delightful interest in Sergio Leone and spaghetti westerns in my tiny circle. “Ok, I have to see more Westerns!” said one voice, and I said “Oh, I’ve got them all, you can totally watch them. The only catch is that I want to watch them with you!”
And so one night, they raced in to watch A Fistful of Dollars , and I had that delightful rush of seeing it through new eyes. The camera angles. The squint. The dirt. The sardonic gleam in the eyes of Gian Maria Volonte. The final gunfight.
I could tell that the enthusiasm was fairly one-sided (i.e., all mine) but it was late, my DVD copy has muddy audio, and A Fistful of Dollars might be underwhelming after so much hype.
They expressed interest in seeing more, and I waxed enthusiastically about Django, The Great Silence, and the hours we’d have to set aside for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. In the back of my mind, I knew we’d never get to these, but I still fantasized about another thundering race to the television.
It didn’t happen. It hasn’t happened. And I know it won’t. I can tell the topic is now settled into dusty disinterest, exactly as it was before, with no further curiosity or appreciation.
If it was the one failure I’d experienced, I would brush it off, but the truth is that I’ve never actually had a success story beyond getting my sister into Jonah Hex and Fables.
As I look around ComicCon, I don’t exactly see new faces brought in by Twilight. They came for Twilight, they’ve returned for Twilight, but I haven’t seen them branching out into other areas of genre and geek thanks to their convention exposure. The geek girls I know have always been geek girls, and the flag-waving we’ve done just doesn’t seem to convert those that only like Harry Potter or Twilight. And why should it? You like what you like, and just because it exists in the same sphere of promotion (a Green Lantern display next to the Horcruxes) doesn’t mean you’ll go exploring.
I won’t ever give up, obviously. It’s what I do. It’s what we all do. Those of us fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on who is reading) enough to have a platform will constantly enthuse about this or that property being “a gateway” because it’s a tidy way to namedrop a bunch of stuff we love. But I’m not so sure such a thing really exists. As Blondie himself would say, there’s two kinds of people in this world — and the enthusiastic, all-consuming kind doesn’t really need a gateway (though they might hitch onto it to give their own journey an angle). They get to it all eventually. Those that we outline gateways for — “Look, kids, it’s the same thing as Rango!” — aren’t the ones who will take them. If they were, they would be unlocking it themselves, especially in these Wiki-makes-it-easy times.
Am I wrong? I hope so. If you’ve got any success stories, lay them all on me.