Recently, I managed to get into the Cracked.com Comedy Workshop and spent about two hours knocking around pitch ideas with fellow blogger David DeMar and generally asking ourselves why we still watch The Big Bang Theory…
And during that discussion the only thing I could think of was how tired I was of seeing the same things pushed by Geek Culture today that are already wearing a little thin, even if they’re well-loved. Back in the day when I still read magazines, Game Informer had (and still does, I assume) an annual feature article called the Sacred Cow Barbecue, where the most unassailable games of the past year or so would be skewered on their own faults. The point of it was akin to letting air out of an overinflated balloon, that fans had reached the point where they couldn’t even acknowledge the flaws and would vehemently defend the whole of the work to the death.
So, it’s with that in mind that I’d like to bring a few things to your attention.
It’s for your own good.
Let’s start with an easy target.
6. Putting Zombies Into… Everything.
Remember when these guys were only found in direct-to-video C-movies populated with drunk college students who didn’t need a lot of make-up to get into the role? When the only thing that made zombies so groan-worthy (pardon the pun) was seeing what setting the Disciples of Romero could possibly zombify next? When if you really wanted to find some zombie paraphernalia, you usually had to go to a convention in Pittsburgh? When if you had a friend who said he was preparing for the “zombie apocalypse” you would just smile and nod and then make up an excuse to leave before you ended up hanging from meathooks in his woodshed?
And that crazy bastard turned out to be right. Zombies are now everywhere. They’ve progressed from largely ignored cheap horror villains to lazy tongue-in-cheek commentary to total infestation. At first, it was largely video games. You had Left 4 Dead and you could see how you and 3 of your friends would face off against a wet dream of George Romero. Then the Call of Duty series tossed out a Zombie level. Then suddenly practically every big budget game was trying to find some way to work in zombies. On a mission to redefine the Epic Fantasy Game? Zombies! Want to add to an already morally complex and visually stunning Western? Zombies!
Do me a favor, go to Amazon.com right now and run a search for “zombie children’s books”. It’s okay, I can wait.
Quite a few, don’t you think?
Seriously, when the CDC is telling us to start preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse, and multimillion dollar homes are advertised as “zombie-proof”, it’s time to stop. The meme has officially reached oversaturation, and we all know how to deal with it. Aim for the head.
5. Casting Geek Stars in the Same Roles.
Ah Felicia Day. So talented, so well-read, so friendly in real life.
In case you’ve been living under a rock or just aren’t that into geek culture, Felicia Day is mostly known for being a “geek princess” and likely the inspiration for the coining of the term “adorkable”. Her break-out role was in her independently produced web series The Guild where she plays an adorable and socially awkward gamer known largely by her handle “Codex”. She also had a long guest stint on Eureka where she played an adorable and socially awkward physicist. And there was a much hyped guest spot on Supernatural where she played an… uh… adorable and socially awkward gamer. Well, there was her turn in Dr. Horrible where she played a…
See where I’m going?
And here’s the thing, I don’t want to hop on the “let’s hate Felicia Day!” wagon that seems to be gaining steam for some reason. I respect Ms. Day both as an actress and as a reader and reviewer of the fantasy genre (Hey Felicia, I actually write that stuff… hint, hint.) And she’s shown she’s perfectly capable of kicking ass in voicing a wisecracking thief, a girl who punches people to death, and oh yeah, playing a girl who hunts werewolves for a living. The woman has range, so let’s let her use it, okay guys?
But at least we let Felicia Day occasionally play something else. At least John DeLancie got to play something other than an omnipotent trickster in Breaking Bad. Actors who play The Doctor get to bow out so they’ll at least be able to play other roles in their lifetime. But there’s someone I don’t think Geek Culture will ever let free from their grasp: Wil Wheaton.
Most of us remember Wil Wheaton from Star Trek: TNG as everyone’s favorite fanfiction rape victim, Wesley Crusher, and seeing the show force the character on us so much there’s even a TV trope named for him now. Me? I remember him largely as Gordie from Stand By Me and holding a gun on Kiefer Sutherland and calmly telling Ace and his goons that he’s not going to shoot everyone, just Ace.
But since then, what has he been known for playing? Evil Wil Wheaton. That’s it. Leverage? Chaos, pretty much an evil version of Wil Wheaton. Eureka? That’s Doctor Evil Wil Wheaton to you. And The Big Bang Theory? He’s literally called Evil Wil Wheaton.
Again, I’m not asking for a Wil Wheaton hate train. I respect Mr. Wheaton both as an actor and especially as a writer, so c’mon guys, why can’t you let him show us what he can do?
4. Turning Every Comic-Book Movie Into a Reference Machine
Did you see The Avengers? Of course you did. Iron Man? The Incredible Hulk? Captain America? The Dark Knight? Did you see any of these with a comic-book fan? Or know one who called you immediately after the midnight showing to prattle on until 3am about all the awesome stuff they managed to wedge in? Even though the movie’s a reboot? Of a reboot? And the last reboot was only five years before?
An excellent example of this is the much-maligned Hulk, which starred Eric Bana and was directed by the same guy who gave us Sense and Sensibility and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It’s often derided for being overwritten, pretentious, and trying to find the emotional resonance in a rather one-note superhero when all the audience wanted to hear was “Puny human” and “Hulk smash!” Then a few years later a friend of mine went to see The Incredible Hulk and proceeded to tell me every single reference they made to the comics, the original TV show, and how they were setting up for The Avengers. Didn’t hear anything about, y’know, the plot, but hey! Bill Bixby appears on a TV screen for a couple seconds!
Comic-Book movies are starting to become less about telling a story and more giving geeks reason to pat themselves on the back. You have to admit there’s a mini-high when you get an inside joke or reference that the uninitiated will otherwise shrug at, but more often than not now references are being plugged into scripts when the lines would be otherwise useless. Sure, it feels great, but guys, we’ve been down this road before. Remember the all-day marathons of I Love the 60’s? Then I Love The 70’s? 80’s? 90’s? There’s even an I Love The 00’s. It’s 2012. Time to let this go, guys, before the next superhero movie references comics from last week and we have to do our homework before we buy a ticket.
3. Clinging To Lost Causes
Even this one I have some trouble doing, but if there’s one thing we geeks are good at, it’s desperately hoping that some long-dead cult-favorite will make a triumphant return to television and world peace will finally be achieved. I’m talking, of course, about Firefly, a much-beloved (and rightly so) space western that didn’t even get to complete a full season before it was yanked off the air. There was much clamoring by its still-growing fanbase to bring it back, which partially succeeded in the Firefly movie Serenity where Joss Whedon proceeded to wrap up the series plot and kill a few characters. Thanks largely to syndication, DVDs, and Netflix, anybody can watch Firefly now and wonder “what if?”, but let’s face it, that’s all we’re ever going to get. But don’t let the Browncoats hear you say that.
While this surely isn’t exclusive to Firefly fans, it’s definitely an aspect of geek culture. We’re like the clingy half of a long distance relationship, over-reading into everything our lover says to convince ourselves there’s truly still a chance that we’ll be 2gether 4ever, when in fact, the relationship ended months ago and it hasn’t quite penetrated our crazy yet. Case in point? On Feb. 17, 2011 Nathan Fillion joked that if he won the California Lottery he’d buy the rights to Firefly and distribute it on the Internet. Within days there were thousands of Browncoats lining up screaming “Shut up and take my money!”, so much so that Nathan Fillion himself had to tell them to stop.
I hate to be the one to do this, guys, but we need to have The Talk.
1) It’s been 10 years since Firefly, and everyone’s moved on to other projects. Not to mention they’re all 10 years older.
2) I know Futurama came back from the dead, but there’s a big difference between dropping in to do some voice work and doing a live-action series when you’re working on other projects. Also, Futurama wasn’t off the air for 10 years and even its return was completely unprecedented. I know we love Nathan Fillion, but he’s only one guy. You can’t have him playing Rick Castle, the Green Lantern, Nathan Drake AND Mal Reynolds.
3) Joss killed off 2 major characters and tied off a bunch of plot threads in Serenity. Would you really accept anyone other than Wash or Book? Given that they’ll all be 10 years older you can’t exactly say this all happened before the movie.
4) You’re their fans. They love you too, they appreciate all you’ve done, but in the end, they’re placating you. Of course they’ll say they’d do Firefly again, but even they know it’s not going to happen. Much like that distant lover, they’ll lead you on a little longer while they come up with a way to let you down easy.
2. Hating on Twilight, The Hunger Games, and anything else YA.
God damn, do we love to hate Twilight. And why shouldn’t we, right? It’s badly written, badly plotted, and the protagonist is practically a spit in the face to women’s lib. HatingTwilight is pretty much Internet 101, right? Of course it is!
And we need to stop.
Twilight is by no means a well-written book. It’s a mediocre book that the author constructed and styled, let’s face it, kind of brilliantly. The prose is simple, so anyone can read it. The protagonist is devoid of any real personality, allowing the reader to insert herself into the role and thus, considering the genre, feel as if the romantic lead is pursuing her. The romantic scenes are done in a Harlequin/Mills and Boon style in that it’s erotic, only without the actual erotic content to preserve that YA-rating. And most importantly, it was one of those “right book at the right time” releases. Don’t believe me? Start talking about Harry Potter around someone who was hardcore into YA fantasy in the 80s and 90s and I guarantee they’ll bring up Diane Duane’s The Young Wizards.
The irony is that we’re hating books that aren’t even targeted at us. Does it really make sense to bitch about a book’s simple prose when it’s intended to be read by a girl with an 8th grade education and (hopefully) zero sexual experience? The plot is simple and contrived? Of course it is, it’s aimed at high school freshmen. Young Adult is just a way of saying “teenager” now. And when you tell a teenager not to read something, what exactly do you think they’re going to do?
So why did I include The Hunger Games? Because the second the movie came out, my god, the storm of hate that descended upon that series because of a little movie called Battle Royale.
Guys, if it weren’t for Quentin Tarantino you likely wouldn’t even know that movie existed. Both movies as well as The Most Dangerous Game all fall on similar themes. To paraphrase a quote, “You think you’re being cultured, but you’re really just being an asshole.” Smugness really doesn’t make anybody look good, and it’s best to tackle the epidemic a little at a time. So c’mon, let’s lay off The Hunger Games, there are so many other things more worthy of our indignant rage. Besides, it’s not like we’ve never ripped off Japanese cinema before.
1. The Unbridled Worship of Bacon
Might as well close out the list with the High Blasphemy.
I like bacon, it’s essential for my cheeseburgers, and I enjoy it when I have time to cook breakfast instead of grabbing a bowl of cereal. That’s the way it is for most people, actually. But Geek Culture, sweet God, has somehow turned bacon into a lifestyle choice.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take you through an all-bacon day, shall we?
You wake up, lifting your head from your bacon pillow, snuggled under your bacon blanket and head into the bathroom, pull back the bacon shower curtain and wash yourself down with some bacon soap and dry yourself off with a bacon towel before brushing your teeth with some bacon toothpaste and making use of your bacon floss. Once that’s done you put on your bacon underwear, socks, pants, and shirt, pop a few bacon mints and head out to face your day, but only once you’ve confirmed that the bacon air freshener in your car still works.
Y’know, I can’t do this, because this eventually leads to a bacon date with bacon candles , getting drunk on some bacon vodka, puckering up to apply some bacon lip balm, and eventually breaking out the bacon-flavored lubricant and slipping on a bacon-flavored condom. You read that right. Geeks are so committed to their obsession with bacon they have to be able to fuck it now.
So what’s the problem with all that? Replace “bacon” with “whiskey”, just for S&G. What kind of person comes to mind right now? If you had a friend who made Jack Daniels that much a part of his daily life, you’d be calling rehab and staging an intervention PDQ. I’m not saying to give up bacon, just… tone it back, okay guys?