We Just Might Have To Avenge Something

The Avengers was awesome, but you already know that. Although I personally thought the 3D sucked, but that’s just me.

When the credits rolled in the theater at 2:30 AM almost a week and a half ago, there was a sinking feeling in my gut. It tugged away as I drove out of the parking lot in AMC Loews on Route 1 (Shameless pandering! Jersey 4 Life!). What I’m about to say is going to piss on the hopes and dreams of every filmmaker, every entertainment journalist, every film critic, and anyone who ever considered themselves a “nerd” and suffered ridicule throughout high school, and everyone else not mentioned. For that, I’d like to pre-emptively apologize. But like CM Punk to Chris Brown, this just needs to be said.

The Avengers, which just Hulk-smashed its way to a billion dollars and effectively raised the bar for the superhero genre, may have just killed the popular nerd culture.

What’s Next?

That’s exactly what I thought to myself when I pulled into my driveway.

In the immediate future, there is one other Marvel superhero film waiting to heat up the summer and that’s The Amazing Spider-Man. I still think five years is way too short to hit the refresh button, even if Spider-Man 3 left a bad taste in my mouth. But despite my admiration for the previous installments, I am kind of excited for the movie. Unfortunately, Spidey will not be mingling with any of the Avengers.

So really, what is next? In 2013 comes Iron Man 3, which has found itself a new director and is poised to begin the “next phase” of Marvel movies. Soon to follow are, of course, Thor 2, Captain America 2, Hulk 2, and there are rumors of additional, potentially S.H.I.E.L.D.-centric films. Everything is up in the air, but after the rousing success of Avengers it’s only a matter of time before we find out.

Now, Is Anyone Else Getting Tired?

Because I am. I’m slowly growing weary of this onslaught. And I’m slowly growing weary of the nerd culture.

I saw this on my Facebook feed from a friend of mine.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the superhero genre. Although I fear the pendulum will swing the other way by the time I get my opportunity to direct my own superhero flick, I can at least say these were the movies I grew up with. I genuinely believe the superhero film is the genre of our generation, a whirlwind of nostalgia and the need for larger-than-life characters to believe in as we fear the big, scary, post-9/11 world. And although nerd culture doesn’t necessarily mean superheroes, they’re kind of intertwined it’s hard not to talk about them as one in the same.

Back at the New York Comic-Con I saw some hardcore DC Comics fans protesting against The New 52 initiative. These guys were, let’s be honest, not exactly lookers: They were aging, thinning hair, rotund, and had pit stains on what looked like brand new t-shirts (they had “DOWN WITH THE NEW 52!” written on them). I didn’t get a chance to speak with them to see if they were serious, but in the five minutes I heard them preach in the corner, blocking people’s walking space on the convention floor, they sounded legit.

My best friend didn’t know much about the situation and asked what was up. After I explained, he gave me a confused look. “Why? Do they not want their stuff to be successful and open for everyone?”

It’s a classic story of “selling out.”

The Success of Selling Out

Have we reached the top of the mountain? Is this the dream “geeks” had when they were stuffed into lockers back in the 80’s and 90’s? That we can bring up just one word, “Avengers,” and anyone will know what is being discussed?

Do the words “geek” or “nerd” even mean anything today?

A few months ago, Rutgers University had a campus-wide festival dedicated to geek culture entitled “Geek Week,” which consisted of nerd raves, D&D games, video game marathons… and a panel, focused on women (college students and industry interns/professionals alike) who prided themselves as geeks. “What, girls are geeks too?!” Yes, and they have been for several years now. And it’s gotten past the point of makeshift Halloween costume with horn-rimmed glasses.

This is what they look like all the time, right?

But does the mere fact that people with fun bags are now being more open about being “geeks” necessarily mean the culture has reached mainstream acceptance? I don’t know how or why that became the paradigm, but it has. But so what? What is so bad about being the cool thing? Does being a geek mean we have to be outsiders?

Stay Gold, Fanboy

Throughout most of the culture’s history, yes, it has. It was the social outcasting that lit a fire under people like Joss Whedon’s ass to be the creative juggernauts they are now. And it’s not like geeks still aren’t being socially shunned. Out of my own experience, I’ve seen know-it-all, smart, socially awkward individuals still laughed at behind their backs by people who prided themselves as, you guessed it, geeks. The culture has become so prevalent that some geeks are making fun of geeks for being geeks. It’s bullying by bullies who got bullied.

I’ve been laughed at for being a Power Rangers fan by people who play World Of Warcraft.

It seems regressive to discuss this on a blog that has “Fanboy” in its title, I know, but if I can’t put the magnifying glass on a mirror then everything I’ve prided myself over was meant for nothing.

There was an excellent article from Devin Faraci of Badass Digest that concerned itself with this very phenomenon. To summarize, in this franchise-driven culture that we have inadvertently boxed ourselves in, there are still ways to embody the true spirit of being a “nerd.” Like art, not an intellectual property. Like something progressive. Be open. Like something different.

That’s what attracted — good God, I actually hate to use this term to describe a group of people, but — nerds/geeks to the things they love today in the first place. They loved art and progressive, different things than what pop culture at the time dictated them to like. Maybe that’s what we should do. I’m not saying you should dump all your Batman comics and X-Men figures, but we should be liberal about our cultural tastes buds. Maybe we could try something that isn’t liked by mainstream society. It may be well-known, but not everyone actually likes it. Something that people downright ridicule, and outcast the people who embrace it.

Maybe we should…

No, NO! I TAKE IT ALL BACK! Danger, DANGER!

This is what I thought about as I laid to sleep the night The Avengers premiered. My room oozes geek, and right now it’s chic. But in ten years? Fifteen years? How about just five? As people champion the nerds who have exacted revenge for penetrating the mainstream consciousness, I fear the culture’s death — a death that already has occurred, or will in the coming years when superhero movies increase and ticket sales decline. I don’t mean to come off as a lunatic in the street corner prophesying doom, but eventually the next big thing comes along. “Nerds” will be cast out again and the culture will exhale its last breath.

And when that time comes, we’re gonna have to avenge it.

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One comment

  1. Phil Moses Garcia · · Reply

    Eric, I have to say, I highly enjoyed this article (particularly the part about being made fun of for liking Power Rangers by World of Warcraft players). It’s exceptionally written and it makes alot of sense, but personally I think there is a strong difference between a “geek” and a fan of super hero movies. I’ll use my job at Dunkin Donuts as an example. I can explain to my friends how Captain America’s shield was made, how it’s been broken, the fact that it has Adamantium, Vibranium, and Uru (the metal that Mjolnir (Thor’s Hammer) iss made of), and a bunch of other random things. Most of my friends there are the standard “He can throw the shield and it comes back” person who has no idea what the heck they’re really talking about. I think the geeks are the people who understand the stories, the mindset, the themes of the culture, and who embrace it happily with an enthusiasm. It gives an opening to compare the comics to the movies, and how the stories flow as a whole in their respective universes. Then again, this is all my opinion, and I felt as though I should throw it out there!

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