Roundtable on Geek Culture

Karen Burnham

Karen Joy Fowler points out this clip from a recent, controversial Andrew O’Hehir review of the Avengers:

At what point is the triumph of comic-book culture sufficient? Those one-time comic-book pariahs are now the dominant force in pop-culture entertainment, and their works are deemed to be not just big but also relevant and important…. It’s a neat little postmodern trick, actually, to simultaneously position this movie as the most central pop-culture event of 2012 and insist on some kind of edgy, outsider status that renders any and all detractors as pipe-smoking William F. Buckley squares, defending a nonexistent Establishment.

And this is from a discussion on Balloon Juice of the same review:

Predictably, some of O’Hehir’s commenters take great offense to his review, and equally predictably one calls for his firing. I expect passionate disagreement, and I look forward to reading some in the comments. But I do think that there’s a huge tension between the commercial dominance of comic books, sci-fi, and video games and the continued efforts of fans to assert that they are an oppressed minority…. One of the virtues of O’Hehir’s review is that he demonstrates how this notion of “bias” against these genres (which is another way to say “different tastes”) actually results in worse media for genre fans; the bar is set so low, in order to appease the all-powerful comic book fanbase, that mediocrity gets celebrated like it’s greatness.

When I look at the broad culture of “fandom”—sci-fi fans, video game fans, comic book fans, etc.—I see a disturbing familiarity with the Tea Party. Both groups enjoy great power and cultural prominence; both commonly make complaints about oppression that simply cannot withstand scrutiny; and crucially, both seem far more invested in being recognized as marginalized and oppressed than in being freed from their supposed marginalization and oppression.

This also put me in mind of Nick Mamatas’ call for An End to Geek Pride, excerpt:

A subculture is not a counterculture. A consumer culture is not a subculture. We are not all in this together. Your social Laws (Godwin’s, etc.) are as insipid as any aphorism your grandmother might have cross-stitched and put on display two generations ago. What you think is cool is not cool. What you decide is uncool is also uncool. Your counter-snobbery is snobbery. Your snobbery is snobbery. You do not rule the world. Obama flashing a Vulcan salute does not mean that you rule the world.

What do you think?

As always, this discussion is broken up into multiple pages for ease of reading. If you’d like to read it all on a single page, select ‘View All’ from the drop down menu above. If you don’t see the drop down menu, please click here.

F. Brett Cox

Global dominance doesn’t necessarily yield local happiness. No longer having to explain one’s self doesn’t necessarily lead to acceptance. Everyone knows what Comic-Con is, but when you return to work, they still roll their eyes when you’re not looking (or maybe when you are), and you still don’t understand the significance of her punctuating your earnest, driven conversation by checking her watch. The political is not personal.

Jeffrey Ford

The whole Geek-culture thing seems to me just a bunch of trumped up bullshit — a big ol label slapped on a diverse demographic. Something for the media to drone on about when they’re not busy not reporting the news. I know I’m in the minority, but I thought The Avengers was a pretty ho-hum flick. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but really, the cultural event of 2012? A lot of CGI, which was cool, but by now, I’ve seen cool CGI. The characters weren’t any better than they were in the comics when I was a kid (I am a comics fan but give me Robert Crumb or Kim Deitch of Joe Coleman any time over the pathetic storylines and characters of the men in tights genre. Can’t deal with another villain who laughs maniacally.), the story was predictable, and the dialogue was, at times, embarrassing. There are those who will say that I’m asking too much of it and should appreciate it on its own terms. Fair enough. But come on, as far as movies go, we’ve done the comic book thing to death. Let’s move on to something else. As far as the term “Geek Culture” goes, it so vague it’s meaningless.

Terry Bisson

Didn’t Nick say it all? And with such cruel elegance. He’s our Gail Collins. The only thing duller than geek culture (!) is talking about it.

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