I’ve never done this editorializing thing before, so I figured what the hell – I’ll give it a shot. And while most people usually take to the word processors to wax insightful about specific films or trends in cinema and pop culture or some other such, I wanted to take a minute to address you guys.
So while I’m not necessarily new to the world of nerdery (both online and off), I definitely got a late start and during my acclimation process I’ve learned a couple of things. One, nerds are super, super passionate about the things they love. I dig that. But I’ve also learned that the one thing they’re more passionate about than that are the things they hate.
Now, I’m gonna dial back the broad strokes just a bit because I’m well aware that nerd culture as an all-encompassing whole is peppered with manchildren and misogynists and anime-fueled rape-monsters. But if we focus on those of us who frequent CHUD and other places like it, there’s an almost overwhelming number of us who are extremely open-minded, logical and reasonable in a socio-political sense. And that sort of open-mindedness carries over to our enjoyment of art…to a point. I mean there is a certain level of sophistication required to be able to enjoy some of the art that we do and discuss it in the ways that we discuss it – after all, it’s not like we’re on IMDb – but for a lot of people that’s where it ends. Because once some of these guys realize that a certain piece of work – be it a movie or a TV Show or music or what have you – doesn’t fit into this rigid little box that they’ve constructed to define what’s good, they don’t simply say “Nah, that’s not for me” and go on about their day. That would require ignoring something and a lot of nerds are far too passionate for that sort of nonsense. No, instead they go on the offensive.
Of course the level or degree of offense changes from nerd to nerd. Some of them will decide sight-unseen that Property A doesn’t fit into their box (and that’s SOMETIMES a valid thing to do, admittedly *cough*anythingwithkevinjames*cough*), but THEN they take every single opportunity they can to let everybody know that they’re not going to waste their time with Property A. We’ll see this a LOT with Transformers Sequels or remakes in general (another recent example is Twilight, but we’ll touch on that a bit more later). “Man I can’t WAIT to ignore this.” They wear it like a badge of honor and that’s their only contribution to any discussion about said property. Hi-fives and smug superiority complexes all around. This is extra fun as a spectator, however, when they do wind up watching it 8 months later (and for the record, this outcome is far more preferable than hearing them boast 8 months later that they still haven’t watched it. Sorry fella’, but nobody cares).
But at the end of the day that’s all just snarky internet fellowship and even though it can be kind of irritating it’s harmless and has an often-capitalized-upon potential for humor. But sometimes it’ll go a step further. Not content to just tell the world how much they dislike (or are disinterested in) Property A, they actively target the people who do like it (or dislike it, depending on the property). Now sometimes it’s good-natured heckling among friends, but usually it’s pretty judgy. Oh, you didn’t get the ending of No Country? You’re an idiot. Oh, you like Katy Perry? Your taste is shit. Oh, you don’t like subtitled movies? YOU’RE LAZY AND STUPID (okay, sometimes that IS because of laziness – but not always!). Again, I know we’re dealing with standard-issue internet hyperbole, but it’s all just a touch on the wrong side of angry and I find it interesting.
To go back to what I said earlier about the fact that the majority of us here are, for all intents and purposes, hardcore artfag treehugger hippie feminist liberals, it’s fascinating to me that some of these guys’ natural reaction is to get so…well…Republican about this shit. Just to get a touch anecdotal, my Facebook feed is full of pretty rad people who will post something like this…
And then turn around and post this…
Now, I know – we’re dealing with two wildly different things in terms of relevance and importance (and relative sincerity), and if you’re going to be reasonable about only one of those two things, the former is definitely the way to go. I also understand internet snarkiness and take the latter with the requisite grain of salt. But still – THAT’S what’s wrong with the world? Getthefuckouttaherewiththat. It’s all rather indicative of a sort of otherwise out-of-character closed-mindedness. To keep with the anecdotes, I went and saw Drive with a buddy of mine and given the movie you almost have to expect people not to appreciate it. It’s not for everybody, as they say. And, as such, when the credits rolled and we all exited the theater, my buddy overheard a random dude voicing his negative opinion. And they were the opinions of a dude who obviously doesn’t really look at film as anything more than superficial entertainment. What surprised me was that my buddy got irritated to the point of angry at this guy for daring to not like something that he thought was brilliant. Not just incredulous, but visibly upset. Granted, it was short-lived and he got over it in the span of a minute or two, but it still happened and, more importantly, it’s not unique to him. A lot of nerds have this sort of insular demand that everything be catered specifically to them. And if it isn’t catered to them and they can’t find any personal value in it, then in most cases they’re gonna deem it worthless. And if you happen to like and are vocal about something they deem worthless then guess what – you’re part of the problem. A bit condescending, no? Just wait! It gets worse.
See, if enough people start to REALLY like something that they’ve deemed worthless, then they’re gonna take it a step further and deem it harmful. Sometimes it’s harmful to art itself. Katy Perry, Ke$ha, the endless stream of prebootquels, The Big Bang Theory – they all signaled the downfall of art and civilization itself at one point or another, simply because a lot of people liked them. This rides the line between annoyingly self-righteous and kind of cute, honestly. The former because get the fuck over yourself and the latter because they seem to casually forget that there’s ALWAYS been shitty art that was wildly popular for five minutes and then disappeared into the ether. Oh, Katy Perry won a Grammy? So did Milli Vanilli. Relax.
But there’s still one more step to take in the nerd offensive, and that happens when the property in question is so bad that it isn’t just harmful to art, it’s harmful to the public at large. It doesn’t happen that often and, in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen it happen once. Of course I’m talking about Twilight. Ohhhh nothing got the nerds worked into a frenzy like Twilight. Now, we all know that it’s objectively bad in both its literary and cinematic incarnations – lots of other folks far more eloquent and insightful than I have already broken down why this is, so I’m not going to cover that ground again. But, objectively bad or not, women of all ages couldn’t get enough. And that pissed people off. And here’s where it gets fuzzy and frustrating – there’s validity to what these people are saying (using the present tense because this whole discussion’s gonna happen again once the last movie comes out). Twilight does send some incredibly fucked up messages and idealizes a lot of dangerous shit. Trufax, no doubt about it. So, using that as their platform, the nerds set off to declare Twilight toxic and dangerous and very angrily lament the fact that it’s damaging an entire generation of young girls.
In other words – they turned into a bunch of hypocrites.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. When I say hypocrite, I mean it in a couple of different ways. First, there’s the surface level – sorry folks, but you can’t play the “harmful to women” card and then turn around and call Stephanie Meyer a dumb bitch (among other things) and mercilessly mock and deride the Twilight Moms and every other subset of the female fandom. I mentioned self-righteous earlier, but hooooboy.
But that’s just the surface. The hypocrisy goes a bit deeper. But before I get into that I’m gonna veer off for a minute – I mentioned at the very beginning that we nerds are very, very passionate about the things we love. So much so that we don’t hesitate to defend them when *ahem* they come under attack from people who try to claim they’re dangerous. Heavy metal, horror movies, violent video games, people have been trying for decades to claim that these things are harmful and are to blame for all manner of tragic shit. And we don’t hesitate to call that out as bullshit because – and this is the important part – it is. We’ve all made the arguments that if someone goes off and does something fucked up it’s not because a video game made them do it – it’s because they already had problems that weren’t being addressed. We qualify this by saying “I’ve been watching/listening to/playing these things my entire life and I’ve never done anything like that.” And maybe that is a touch short-sighted, but it doesn’t make it any less valid, especially given the number of us that say it. We’re constantly being threatened with legislation that tries to control or censor the things that we love simply because somebody else can’t (or won’t) see the value in it that we do. And it’s not always high art that we’re defending. Grand Theft Auto? Please.
SO – back on track – it actually pisses me off to see people who will be the first to stand up for their beloved forms of entertainment in this way turn around and go all PMRC on shit like Twilight. I say this with love, but who the hell do you think you are? Just take a minute to consider that there just might be something legitimately appealing in it all, even if you can’t see it. The girls don’t need you to save them from themselves, ya know? Especially when – in most cases – it’s not genuine and is only really coming from the simple fact that you’re only trying to save them from it because they REALLY like it and it doesn’t fit in your box.
And, really, that’s what it all comes back around to if we’re being honest. And hey, don’t get me wrong – this isn’t some long-winded finger wag or a big ole “J’ACCUSE.” Universe knows I’ve been guilty of nearly all of this shit at one point or another (nearly all because fuck that last one, seriously) and one of the main catalysts for this whole thing is the fact that I keep seeing people I legitimately like do this stuff over and over – it just comes with the territory and none of us are immune to it. But whether I love ya or not, there comes a point where you just kinda gotta sit back and say “Hey, this ain’t for me but y’all go ahead.” I dig that cynicism and hyperbole is fun (and funny) and it’s an inherent part of the nerd experience but at the end of the day too much of it is a pain in the ass – your own, included. Mainly because before you know it, what starts off as a little bit of fun, snarky fellowship can turn you into, for lack of a better phrase, an art Republican.
So spend a little less time and energy “ignoring” the things you hate and, ya know, actually ignore them. Focus on the things you love and preach THAT from the mountaintops. Don’t go on and on about how Jack & Jill or Jersey Shore makes you sad about the current state of entertainment and culture, go on and on about how Attack the Block and Parks & Rec make you excited about it. And hell, while you’re at it, take a minute and actually pay a little extra attention to the things you hate. I was one of those who got all “What the fuck happened to music!?” when “Tik Tok” exploded across the FMs…turns out it’s a pretty great song and I dig a lot of her stuff. Not all of it, and I’ll never hold it up as anything more than empty calories with catchy hooks, but there is a certain value to that. All I had to do was lighten up and stop taking everything so seriously. There’s room for a little junk food in every diet, after all. And hey, even if you wanna go full gourmet 100% of the time (and nobody can blame you for it if you do), just remember – as much as we pride ourselves on this passion of ours, at the end of the day a person’s worth as, well, a person, isn’t defined by their taste in art. No matter how good or bad those tastes may be. Because let’s face it – we all know some pretty rad people who have some really shitty taste. And that’s okay, because the fact of the matter is, their taste isn’t shitty – they just don’t have the same priorities that we do and their expectations, wants and needs when it comes to art and entertainment are different. And that’s okay too.
Also, just for giggles, consider this as well: sometimes your little crusade to combat the evils of shitty art blows up in your faces. After all, who do you think made Rebecca Black famous?