Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Patton Oswalt Says Geek Culture Has To Die To Be Reborn

I'm reading this article written by the comedian Patton Oswalt and I'm thinking to myself that this guy has gotten it all wrong. Sure, a lot of the things that us geeks loved as kids, teenagers and young adults back in the 70's and 80's are now becoming mainstream, but that's not current geek culture. That's the foundation on which geek culture was built. 

To use Oswalt's vernacular from his article, us 'otaku' from the past that continued to follow geek culture after others (Oswalt included, as he says in his article) left it, have changed it. We don't hang on to Star Wars with a death grip (especially after Lucas raped it the way he has), and frankly Dungeons & Dragons went out with the 8 track especially when you could build your own maps online. Geek culture evolved past that point that Oswalt (and Hollywood) are stuck in. I mean, have you been to Comic Con lately? 

Hell, even forgetting Comic Con, if you look cosplay conventions, and just the thousands of variety of online chat rooms devoted to any and every sci-fi, fantasy, comic, etc. out there, you'd have to be nuts to say that geek culture needs a reboot. Pop culture...or more to the point, mainstream pop culture may need a reboot, but geek culture is doing fine on its own despite the best attempts by Hollywood and commercialization to warp it into something else. 

The point is, the longer that something is around, the more of a chance that it has to be appropriated by commercial media and either homogenized (example: Star War prequels), or accepted warts and all by the general populace. That's the nature of our society, and it's rather naive to think that this thing you (and quite a large number of other people) loved in your past is going to stay exclusively yours. It doesn't work that way.

One of my favorite quotes on the matter is taken from The Simpsons. Grandpa Simpson is explaining to Homer that one day he too will be out of the loop on what is cool and popular. 
"I used to be with 'it'. But then they changed what 'it' was. Now what I'm with isn't 'it', and what's 'it' seems scary and weird. It'll happen to you." 
 Of course, Homer disagrees. Grandpa's viewpoint is the way I view both geek and pop culture. The two will rarely meet at the same point in time, as pop culture tends to lag about a decade or two behind geek culture. Oswalt has just been out of geek culture for so long he's forgotten about this, and his article sounds reactionary. It sounds like an old man that suddenly realizes he is old and can't remember how he got there. 

So geek culture, or more accurately, subculture, is still alive and well and thriving like never before. It's evolving and changing so rapidly that new subsets pop up all the time. Some have a brief existence that never see the light of day, some live in obscurity known only to a few, and others break on through and with time become a part of the fabric of the everyday. Enjoy it while you can kids, because eventually everything popular becomes co-opted into the great collective of humanity. 

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