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Your Hisses Are Wasted On Me

Dear geeks,

Congratulations!  It is my understanding that you have taken over mainstream culture recently, and while this has caused consternation in certain quarters, I am the magnanimous sort, and besides, whenever someone says the words “culture war”, my eyes glaze over like a Honey Baked Ham.

It has, however, come to my attention that you’re messing everything up.  This is nothing to be ashamed of and is in fact as inevitable as crashing your car within six months of ‘learning to drive’, or vomiting out two bottles of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill at your first ‘apartment-warming’ party.  Being in charge is new and fun and it’s easy to go too far.  But at some point, you have to take some responsibility and start driving on the right-hand side of the road like everybody else.

Thus this quiz, the taking of which will help you determine if you are the harmless, pleasant kind of geek who is just happy that you’re no longer young enough to have to take constant shower-beatings, or the toxic, aggressive kind of geek who has created a climate in which people who don’t know or care who their senator is will write long, angry letters to media outlets if they misidentify the jersey number of a backup defensive lineman.  (Please note:  this entry is meant as a companion piece to this episode of the triumphantly returned Wasted Words podcast, which tackles the same subject with considerably less curiously personal hostility.)

1.  When encountering anything at all — person, place, thing, current event, philosophical concept, anything at all — is your first reaction to wonder how it could be turned into a Star Wars reference?

(a)  Yes.

(b)  No.

(c)  Which chapter of Star Wars?

(d)  My first reaction is to wonder how it could be turned into a Star Trek reference.

2.  What minor celebrity must express an an opinion about a social or political issue before you can be bothered to give a shit about it?

(a)  Neil Gaiman.

(b)  George Takei.

(c)  The guy who played Wash on Firefly.

(d)  I cannot answer this question because I am too busy writing you an angry e-mail for pretending that you don’t know that the guy who played Wash on Firefly is named Alan Tudyk.

3.  Do you believe that how defensive someone gets about being a Harry Potter fanatic is in an inversely direct ratio to how much literature they read that is not intended for children?

(a)  Yes.

(b)  No.

(c)  “Inversely direct ratio”?  That sounds like math.  I’m a geek, not a nerd.

(d)  Harry Potter is not ‘for children’.  Allow me to explain…

4.  Do you hate people who can’t go more than five minutes without mentioning Jesus, but you yourself can’t go more than three minutes without mentioning Green Lantern?

(a)  Yes.

(b)  No.

(c)  Not if you mean the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, duh.

(d)  I find the love of Green Lantern perfectly compatible with the love of Jesus.

5.  Do you dislike most mainstream popular culture, but find yourself reflexively defending it just so you won’t seem like an elitist snob to some total stranger who doesn’t give a shit about you or your opinions?

(a)  Yes.

(b)  No.

(c)  I do the opposite:  I reflexively despise anything that comes from mainstream popular culture, even if I don’t know anything about it.  Is that better or worse?

(d)  Seriously, fuck you so much if you do this.

6.  Which of the following things do you consider yourself a ‘geek’ for enjoying?

(a)  Science fiction, even though it comprises the most successful movie franchises in the history of the medium.

(b)  Comic books, even though sixteen of the top ten biggest-grossing movies for the last ten years have been based on comic books.

(c)  Video games, even though they routinely outsell blockbuster movies.

(d)  Biting the heads off of live chickens.

7.  Why is Ian McKellen a bigger gay rights icon than Quentin Crisp?

(a)  He is alive.

(b)  He’s not, you know, gay gay.

(c)  Quentin Crisp did not play Gandalf or Magneto.

(d)  Who the fuck is Quentin Crisp?

8.  From where do you get the majority of your tech and science news?

(a)  Wil Wheaton.

(b)  Felicia Day.

(c)  They Might Be Giants.

(d)  I don’t understand the question.

9.  Who most influenced your views on feminism?

(a)  Simone de Beauvoir.

(b)  Phyllis Schlafly.

(c)  Power Girl.

(d)  Joss Whedon.

10.  What was your reaction to the possibility of Donald Glover playing Spider-Man on film?

(a)  Rage.  Spider-Man is white, damn it.

(b)  Relief.  The more black nerds there are, the less white guilt I feel.

(c)  Confusion.  The last time I saw Donald Glover was on Smallville, and he seemed way too old to play Spider-Man.*

(d)  Indifference.  I only read DC Comics.

*:  If you get this joke, I hate you.



Dec. 1st, 2011 07:34 pm (UTC)
Your reaction to 10)c is:

(a) That's John Glover.

(b) I don't get it either.

(c) Wait, wasn't he the dad in Back to the Future? He's definitely too old!

(d) Smallville sucks so hard I can't believe you're daring to mention it, even in jest.
Dec. 1st, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
11. Recently the 20th anniversary of Nevermind inspired a number of mostly male writers in their 30s and 40s to bemoan the death of pop music, rock rebellion and, no shit, dominant monoculture. These laments managed to be wrong about both how these concepts existed in the past and how they don't exist now, and were clearly just guys who decided pop culture ended the moment they got old enough to be too self-conscious to tolerate unbridled enthusiasm and emotion over essentially trivial culture. This relates to the recent "nerds ruin everything" meme in that:

A. Damn kids taking political cues from Neil Gaiman, back in my day we got inspiration from such deep sources as Mtv's Rock The Vote.

B. How is one supposed to enjoy one's own interest in pop culture knowing there are people participating without the proper distancing and background? It's just so common.

C. Look I didn't want to go to their stupid party anyway because it's stupid and they don't even understand where the word party comes from.

D. Fuck you, that's how.

12. Comparing religious evangelists (who do things like pass legislation and drive people to suicide) to a stereotype of annoying nerds with no taste (whom one will only encounter if one engages in completely optional, and easily avoided, social interactions) is:

A. Is itself a prime example of the sort of hyperbolic nerd mindset which is ruining culture, or more specifically, nerd culture.

B. Still better than calling them Nazis.

C. Perfectly sensible if one ignores all the shitty detective shows, reality programming, romance movies, etc. and the entire history of pop culture crap to hold nerds totally responsible for degraded state of entertainment today.

13. A mob of mostly white students at a Penn State destroyed a news fan while protesting the firing of a coach was the highest paid state government employee, was retiring anyway and had helped cover up child rape. Earlier this year, a mostly white crowd rioted in downtown Vancouver after their hockey team lost.

Meanwhile, some of the most notable physical manifestation of nerd discontent was when a few cosplayers protested the DC reboot, which was overshadowed when a female fan confronted and shamed DC executives into issuing a response to allegations of sexism - also when anger over the sexism inspired a new anthology promoting women cartoonists.

A. Look, okay, you've made your point, just let us have fun with the geeks ruin everything meme.

B. Maybe at its worst geek culture is still more benign and provides more space to critique dominant culture than sports, but geeks ruin everything.

C. Okay, in addition to not rioting, nerd culture doesn't involve a million dollar corporate entertainment business with a parasitic relationship to academic and municipal tax structures, but all those tumblr blogs with Muppet/Lord of the Rings mashups are offensive because those people could do something better with their time.

D. Fuck you.

Edited at 2011-12-01 08:36 pm (UTC)
Dec. 1st, 2011 09:13 pm (UTC)
Were you attempting to prove that nerds don't ruin things? Because ... you've ruined this, nerd.
Dec. 1st, 2011 09:48 pm (UTC)
1. Are you arguing that, unlike fans of Nevermind, nerd-culture triumphalists are not mostly male and in their 30s and 40s? Because if you are, I direct you to my first link, for a necessary corrective.

2. Are you further arguing that nerd culture, unlike what came before, does not form a dominant monoculture? Because if you are, here's a fun, completely random list of items: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring; Jurassic Park III; Planet of the Apes; Spider-Man; The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers; Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; Men in Black II; The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl; The Matrix Reloaded; X2: X-Men United; Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines; The Matrix Revolutions; Spider-Man 2; The Incredibles; Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban; Star Wars: Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith; The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; War of the Worlds; King Kong; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Batman Begins; Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest; X-Men: The Last Stand; Superman Returns; Spider-Man 3; Transformers; Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; I Am Legend; 300; The Dark Knight; Iron Man; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; Hancock; Twilight; Avatar; Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; The Twilight Saga: New Moon; Star Trek; Iron Man 2; The Twilight Saga: Eclipse; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2; Transformers: Dark of the Moon; Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides; The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1; Thor; Captain America: The First Avenger; and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Oh, wait! That's not a totally random list of unrelated things. It is a list of geek-culture icons that are also the highest-grossing films on the planet over the last ten years. We can also play this game with video games, TV, books, whatever you like.

3. Are you arguing that geek culture, because you think it is less obnoxious than, say, sports culture or rock culture, doesn't deserve to get made fun of? Isn't that a kind of massive degree of special pleading? Not to mention super-defensive?

4. If question #12's premise is accurate, how is it that I encounter far more annoying nerds in a typical day than I do annoying religious evangelists?

4a. Are you seriously arguing that "annoying nerds with no taste" are not a real thing, but merely a stereotype? I submit as counter-evidence the entire Internet.

5. Did you miss my making fun of sports culture above, or was it just not vociferous enough? Or do you think that no one is allowed to make fun of nerds until sports stops being obnoxious?

5a. I'm totally positive that you're not arguing that, unlike sports, "nerd culture doesn't involve a million-dollar corporate entertainment business with a parasitic relationship to academic and municipal tax structures", because I know you've heard of Hollywood.
Dec. 2nd, 2011 12:11 am (UTC)
I think he's arguing that nerds don't riot. And thats all duh. Because rioting involves going outside. You know for something other than LARPing...
Dec. 3rd, 2011 08:04 pm (UTC)
I'll take "Things a dominant monoculture would say to its detractors", Alex.
Out of all this, my favorite part is:

"...a stereotype of annoying nerds with no taste* (whom one will only encounter if one engages in completely optional, and easily avoided, social interactions) is:"

Yes! Nerd culture is incredibly easy to avoid as long as you don't go sticking your nose into their small arena of influence - inconsequential, arcane environments like television, film, music, books, news, video games, board games, card games, groceries and clothing! Outside of that, you never see the nerd influence on modern culture, except everywhere else.

*Said by a nerd whose essential defense appears to be "at least nerds don't rape children". TASTEFUL!
Dec. 1st, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
Pass the oreos.


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Leonard Pierce is a freelance writer wandering around Texas with no sleep or sense of direction. If you give him money he will write something for you. If you are nice to him he may come to your house and get drunk.

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