Sometimes it feels like I go around and around on a topic so many times, from so many angles, that I am living in a strange sort of time loop and am not really getting anywhere. But it’s not that I am not getting anywhere, people are the ones not getting anywhere. The people in this case being geeks.
Geeks are a funny breed. For years and years geeks, we who show a sometimes obsessive passion for something for the things they love, no matter how niche, were outcasts. We were made fun of for the things we loved, we were the butts of jokes from the street corner to the late night monologue. We were singled out for our attention to things ‘weird’ and arcane. Sure, you could know the stats of a baseball player from the 1950s by heart but that made you a FAN, or maybe OLD SCHOOL. You could make a mental date to catch every episode of a television show but again, that just made you part of the cultural norm. No, it wasn’t until the norm shifted that being a geek became less cumbersome. Sure, the same lame jokes exist, the same lazy comments are out there, but if you look at the cultural landscape you’ll see that things have shifted. For now at least, the geeks have inherited the earth, well, maybe just pop culture.
And maybe, maybe that wasn’t such a good thing.
Oh, I like that some of the stupid things people would say has diminished – listening to people groan over how interested someone is in a topic that the speaker doesn’t understand, ergo making said fan a loser, got old when I was a kid – but with the shift in the cultural landscape there has come a shift in the geek landscape as well.
Somewhere, somehow geeks became not the stereotypes people claimed they were but the wanna be alphas that always made fun of them.
I can’t tell you if so many of our interests going mainstream emboldened us or embittered us or if it’s a mix of the two but the ugliness in the geek culture, however deep down it used to be hidden is wide out in the open now.
The most egregious of all of this comes in the form of the ugliness that has been spilling out of the gaming forums for the last year and change. The strange inbred backwaters of gaming spilled out as if Hell itself had cracked open to show just how misogynistic and angry many of them were when several women within the gaming industry or who wrote about it began to question why so much of gaming catered to men and belittled women. Sure, there were ‘big issues’ that came forward that were little more than window dressing talking/message board points to give the appearance that all of the anger from the male gamers came from a place of protection of the industry they loved but it was nothing more than a smokescreen to hide behind when people tried to drag them all out into the sunlight of modern gaming culture. Your reasoning and debate falls apart when it begins to embrace threats of rape, murder, and the invasion of someone’s life. The fervor with which these gamer geeks were willing to fight, the lengths they were willing to go to to torment the women that symbolized what should have been no more than a heated debate and discussion, becomes chilling when you realize that the men behind these keyboards are going to war over their hobby. That’s scary. I love a lot of things, and I would hate to have someone tell me how to enjoy those things or that I can’t enjoy them, but I really can’t see myself going as far as these people to protect my hobby. Maybe that makes me a sell-out. I just think it means that I have higher priorities for my outrage.
It’s strange to me anymore to see the bile that comes out on forums regarding the geeky films we are getting in such abundance anymore. It wasn’t that long ago that summer was filled with action movies, indie movies, and the occasional war film. Once in a while a big budget sci-fi film would roll out but it was very rare. The summer landscape has changed. In fact the landscape of television and films year ‘round have changed. Now we get superhero tv shows and movies. We get sci-fi shows and movies, large and small. We are getting a re-birth of horror with some filmmakers not happy to do a re-make or revision of something else but wanting to forge their own path. Huge film series’ that we held dear are seeing their own re-births. For geeks this is a brief golden age that will pass and many of us are too busy complaining to enjoy it. The heck of it is that the complaints aren’t even necessarily of quality because of some of the bitterest vitriol you’ll see comes from people complaining about films that are not even done shooting. It has become somewhat of a joke where these supposed fans just troll certain sites to talk crap and complain. Now, not every movie that comes out or television that comes out is good. Even as forgiving as I generally am I can see that. And everyone’s taste are vastly different. Boy though, to read the forums you’d think Hollywood was stealing geek babies. Anyone who expects Hollywood to release EXACTING adaptations of anything, and to be completely true to source material is out of their head and doesn’t understand the industry. Filmmaking/show making is a collaborative effort and also a financial effort. That means you’re going to get an army of cooks in the kitchen and several dozen suits with their thumbs in the pie wanting the most generic and profitable product possible. It is what it is. We can either have no one adapt the movies and games and comics we love or we can hope that once in a while they get things more right that wrong. Either way we DON’T HAVE TO SUPPORT THESE EFFORTS. That’s what kills me. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. That isn’t enough though. Without the ability to not just say – this doesn’t look good – but to run properties through the mud on every social media site you can as well as forums is just a bit much. People invest themselves wholly in their utter hatred. And yeah, again these are beloved properties. I understand. People feel connected to Superman and Batman and so on and when an adaptation is made that seems to fly in the face of the version of the character that you held dear then it can be disappointing, and in a relative way upsetting but these are characters, characters that have evolved and changed over time. Fans are so tied to the past that any sort of changes to anything seem blasphemous yet heaven forbid the story and ideas become too familiar. So creators in any medium have to walk the line of echoing the past but creating surprises as well. I don’t envy these folks. Change it too much and you’re spitting in the face of fans. Change it too little and you’re simply remaking something that’s been done before. Change a character’s core make-up – from man to woman, black to white, this to that – then you are a monster and should never work again. Then you have to contend with the army of spoilers that live to track down every piece of intel on a film and to release it to the world, sometimes with the socially polite Spoiler warning and many times without. By god if they hate a property, or deeply love it they will make sure everyone knows everything about those properties. Heaven help you if you try to keep some mystery to your work because then you are labelled as not fan friendly or that your project is a disaster. Yeesh. We’ve lost our ability to carp about something peacefully without flying into some weird rage about it.
Lately what has been bothering me personally is the constant bashing of conventions. As someone who attended, vended at, and put on a convention this is a topic a lot closer to my heart. Now, I started going to cons pretty regularly in 1994 but my first two shows were in 1990 and 1991 and they were Weekend of Horrors shows they did near Detroit. Over the years I have been very critical of how shows are managed, how stars are paid, and how vendors and fans act. I think that’s fair. Keeping a discussion as germane and reasoned as possible is what’s fair. Fans tend to get a little too passionate about the minutiae of things that often don’t ruin an experience but which still bother them. Again, believe me, I have been going to and doing shows for a long time so I get the frustration. It was seeing how another show ran their event that inspired me to do things the way we did them here in Flint. The thing is that I understood in every case that the promoters, event managers, celebrities, and vendors – save for maybe the wildcard weirdo in each category – were not trying to ruin anyone’s experience, not really. We tend to forget that a convention is a very large, complicated thing and that there are about a hundred moving parts that are always in need of attention. And here’s the thing, promoters would love to give fans the shows they want, the shows they are begging for but unfortunately it’s never possible. You can do your best but in the end what a fan wants now and what a fan gets are rarely ever close. Fans have developed an ‘over it’ attitude of self-fulfilling frustration where they never feel like they get their money’s worth. All the conventions ‘suck’ and the celebrities charge too much, and it’s always the same vendors, and there’s not enough to do, and why wasn’t THIS there or why wasn’t THAT there and heaven forbid you’re behind the event and you read the comments about the show. It’s enough to make you want to shut it down for good. Fans have demands that just cannot be met. They want the biggest stars, but want them not to charge much. They want the most amount of celebrities possible, but also want the big names. They want all new vendors at every show, despite the fact that the show can only take the vendors it gets – unless it’s a show big enough to take the risk to only let certain vendors in but even still you’ll always get someone who is unhappy about it. The fans want tons of events but want to make sure they can get into all of them and that they won’t clash with other plans the fan may have. The fans want huge cons that feel intimate. It’s a laundry list of things that are not possible. You can’t put a show together assuming everyone coming has been to it before. You also can’t assume that everyone coming is new. You have to try to bring in the things that work, the vendors, the events, and the guests, while peppering it with enough new things to keep people interested and invested in the show. You can never get every guest the fans want, and most of the time that YOU want. Schedules and money are the two hurdles that you have to clear and you can’t always clear them both. And then if you do get a guest you have to wait to see if something will come up in their schedule or they’ll end up doing a show in your region before yours, lessening their draw. It’s great to get new blood in the vendor’s area but frankly there are a finite amount of folks that vend. All you can do is hope that those folks bring something new and put some effort into the show. Very few con creators ‘live’ off of their show. You’re just lucky if you walk away with enough to even do another show at all. This isn’t to say that cons don’t need to keep working hard to make their shows fun and relevant because they do. But you just cannot please everyone. I remember a criticism we got for our show from someone upset that 1. We didn’t decorate (as if we were a haunted house or something I guess) and 2. That we had too many comic vendors (which, at that show I think we may have had three or four vendors that dealt in comics out of 30 vendors). Sometimes it is what it is.
None of this is to say that all fans/geeks do this stuff. Most of us are reasonable and can roll with things. We will get mad, and frustrated, and petty but we most of us don’t get nasty and we don’t get ridiculous. Sure, we’ll rant to one another, and we’ll rant online once in a while but we don’t try to ruin people or films or games or cons because we can. We’re passionate but we don’t feel entitled.
And that entitlement is the issue. Geeks have suddenly felt that they are entitled to get everything they want the way they when they want without excuses. We’ve developed a childishness that we’re proud to have. We act as if only we understand our geeky passions and that everyone else is just a tourist. It’s an infuriating attitude and it doesn’t help our cause. We worked so hard, all of us, to get to a place where geek culture wasn’t always the butt of the joke and where we had more variety out there to enjoy. Now that we have so much available to us, hundreds of games, movies and television shows, websites dedicated to our pursuits, books and comics by the dozen, and the ability to meet so many of the people who make the things that make us happy we are becoming spoiled brats. Nothing is good enough now. The movies all suck. The comics all ruined our favorite characters. The games are catering to an agenda. The conventions are all lame. We are what we hated – the Over-It scenester that can never be satisfied. So many of us are so angry that outsiders are falling in love with the things we have loved for years and years that we’re embittered that we have to share what was once ours. We’re better than that. We’re poisoning the well. It has to be clear that Hollywood and everyone else will move along when the furor over geek culture dies down but why can’t we enjoy it while it lasts and welcome others into the club? Who cares if the newbies came because they like Marvel movies, or because they like a television show, or whatever? We all had to find something to get us into this stuff.
Ease up, you geeks!
If we don’t take our feet off the Rage Gas, if we don’t learn to loosen up and accept that nothing is perfect, nothing will ever fully please us, and that that is ok, we’ll forever be seen as the angry introverts sitting in the proverbial corner. Geekdom is so fun, and so special that we need to remember that, need to hold tight to that, and to stop being such stuck up prigs about everything. We don’t have to like everything and you know what, we don’t have to be catered to. No one owes us anything so relax a little and just love the things you love, carp about the things you don’t, and stop acting as if the world needs to suit you. It doesn’t. Get over yourself. We need to learn that we don’t need to go to, to watch, to read, to DO things we don’t have an interest in. It’s OK. It’s good to take a break from conventions. It’s fine not to watch movies we don’t care about. It’s OK to tune out on comic runs. It’s fine to play older games that reflect our beliefs or interests. We need to calm down about things. If you don’t, if WE don’t, we’ll be back to where we started, in the proverbial basement watching old movies by ourselves and angry that there isn’t more variety. If we keep this up, we’ll inherit our miserable selves, and we’ll deserve us.