Judging by the responses, geeks are a touch angry about the opinion that geek culture needs to lie fallow for awhile in order for it to return to maximum efficiency. Maybe it's a generational thing, because the geeks/nerds who grew up with readily available videos and DVDs and Internet shopping just come at this from a different mindset. But when you talk about the pervasiveness of geek culture, you really need to understand where this attitude is coming from, even if you wind up having a completely different opinion.
For me, it's not just that geek culture has become pop culture. It's the way it happened. Comic Con is the perfect example. The corporations jumped on Comic Con like a Biggest Loser contestant scrambles for a donut. They put their ad people and marketing departments and accountants on the case, and the job was to deconstruct geek culture. Figure out what makes the people who love this weird shit tick, then give them what they sort-of want but also make it as mainstream as possible. Knock off the interesting bits so it can be mass-produced and distributed and consumed by the largest number of people. This is what a corporation DOES. It takes something quirky and individual and turns it into a cynical bowl of shit.
A lot of people do not notice this, but some people DO and that's why both of these essays resonated with me. We are so inundated with geek culture that we're drowning, and this makes it impossible for anyone to truly be inspired by anything. There's no surprise anymore. Fans know what's coming out, when it's coming out, who's in it, who made it, how it looks. They follow writers, actors and directors on the Twitter and get text updates. They have the books, the games and the action figures before the marketing tool is even released. Because let's be honest here: The movies and TV shows and books are just marketing tools for the product.
It didn't always used to be backwards. At least if it was, it was hidden better. More innocent, maybe, even if being more innocent means you're a sucker. I just don't know if today's geeks get the same rush from seeking out the obscure. And maybe it doesn't matter to them. Maybe it IS a generational thing, and those of us who felt that rush are just fucking old assholes who don't have a place in the new world order. But I'm less concerned with the people who consume and love this stuff than I am with the people who are going to become the creators. If everything is readily, instantly available... if there is no need to seek out information... if there are no secrets and no mystery... if interpretation is something given to you by a studio marketing department... then where, exactly, is the inspiration supposed to come from?
It just seems like there used to be moments where time stops. Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek. Moments that could be separated out from all the rest of the shit. And no matter how people feel about our geek cultural touchstones, you have to admit that they rose like a tower from the landscape. I have no doubt that a lot of you hate these touchstones for that very reason. What makes time stop now? Are there people sitting in the Transformers movie who are completely mesmerized? Those adjusting their 3D glasses in Toy Story 3? We're in a perpetual feedback loop of geekformation. We're being bombarded with it. When everything is self-referential and time moves so quickly, is it even possible for something with an original voice to rise out of the muck?
If the media that people are consuming is simply a pale imitation of what inspired the heroes of THOSE creators, then who are the heroes for today? Can anything be surprising or astonishing or mind-blowing anymore? Maybe it's not necessary. Could be that OUR inspiration isn't THEIR inspiration, and they're going to be just as creative anyway. Or maybe creativity is just so different now that it's alien to us. But I don't think so. It's impossible to keep up with everything, of course. And yes, life DOES move more quickly now. We are instant consumers. But we are also instant creators, making parodies on YouTube and Funny Or Die. Short, funny parodies are the best vehicle for the Internet. Hell, YouTube made it easy by limiting the length of a clip. It seems like we consume, delete, consume, delete, etc. While previously, we consumed, digested, reflected and searched. But did we do that because there was no other option? Is there no real difference between the two? I wonder if our ability to adjust to whatever consumer culture does is actually a detriment. We don't fight for anything. We just let ourselves be dictated to.
Americans, in particular, are bred to consume and we are AWESOME at it. The pervasiveness of collectibles that are mass-produced by the billions... I'm not sure it exists simply because of corporate greed. George Lucas owns Marin County because he had the foresight to get his Star Wars toy money, when companies didn't think the merchandising would be worth anything. Now, of course, merchandising drives movies. But if the consumers didn't demand the toys, the corporations wouldn't have bothered. So is it up to us to stop it? Is the temporary rejection of geek culture necessary for US to find a way to survive, to get back to roots that weren't so fucking obviously materialistic?
This is a delicate balancing act because like a good sociopath, the corporations have overdone it. They know how to market the product to us because we've basically told them how. They understand the geek mind, and it's THAT which has made geek culture mainstream. So is it up to the geeks to forge ahead and create something surprising? It had better be, because the corporations won't do it. They won't take a chance. Somehow, the creators need to find a way to manipulate the system to get their voice out there. People forget that Star Wars was an uphill battle. And yes, it's incredibly sad that George Lucas is re-engineering and spackling his creation like it's Michael Jackson's face. But if anyone earned the right to do that, it's Lucas. It would be great if someone else would come along and earn the right to rape their creation.
Conversely, Joss Whedon can't stop the rights-holders from rebooting Buffy and if there's one King of the High Geeks, it's Whedon.
So maybe the lesson there is that creators need to find ways to see into that future, to hold onto their creations. And maybe it's not so much about geek culture dying, but rather that those who are aware of the oversaturation and long for the days of discovery actually create something new. Surprising. Unexpected. Not derivative of other things, but inspired by them. There is a fine line between derivation and inspiration and I think both Patton and Javi have given voice to that. There's awareness now, even if people misunderstand or disagree. So someone has to do this. Somebody has to find the ingenuity with which to steer the ship.
So what are we waiting for?
*If you haven't heard of it, the Omega Point is a term devised by the French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It's supposedly the moment prior to the singularity and it denotes the organized complexity towards which the universe is moving. He goes into a lot of philosophy that winds up being somewhat dualistic -- the universe is divided into matter and love, kind of a Pushme-Pullyu of complexity. Taken in the context of geek culture, my interpretation is that there's always a push towards the world being created. The world of geeks is the convention, the gathering, the assembling of like-minded citizens. Geeks gathered with their mimeographed Star Trek fanfic, with their fan clubs, on the Well. And one facet of geekdom is the love of world-building. Chardin says that the pieces of the world seek each other out through the forces of love, which is a perfect description for what geeks DO. And then, of course, there must be the wars -- the great Shipper wars of the X-Files world, the Spike Redemptionist battles of the Buffyverse, the myriad skirmishes within the Star Trek universe.
This seems to happen when the world becomes too large and too complex, forcing geeks to huddle in even smaller groups within that larger world. Is that what's happening now? Our geek world is so huge that there isn't even a small corner in which to settle. So maybe razing it to the ground and starting over is a logical way to go.
One might say that, by virtue of human reflection (both individual and collective), evolution, overflowing the physico-chemical organisation of bodies, turns back upon itself and thereby reinforces itself with a new organising power vastly concentric to the first — the cognitive organisation of the universe. To think the world (as physics is beginning to realise) is not merely to register it but to confer upon it a form of unity it would otherwise (i.e. without being thought) be without.-- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man
Happy new year, everyone!