I’ve had some issue with Bob “MovieBob” Chipman for a while. Or perhaps it has been a growing issue. I went from being a big fan of the man to having a love/hate relationship, and now it is a great struggle to enjoy any content he produces. I cannot tell you for sure if it’s just my own personal bias or impression or not, but it has felt to me that, over time, he has spoken with more and more certainty about his opinions rather than providing genuine arguments or information.
There’s an air of smugness about it, I’d say. He lacks humility. The only time I come to enjoy his videos are when he’s doing an episode of The Big Picture where he’s going over factual data rather than giving his opinion. For example, his overview of the Clone Saga of Spiderman comic continuity.
Still, I want to be fair and to give the man a fair chance. It’s just a bit rough to do so when he’s churning out material claiming geeks and nerds are in control of the mainstream (Blogger’s note: My brother has since taken this rant down as he didn’t want to deal with the backlash of calling out MovieBob, especially when potential employers could then see it and the response to it. Sorry!).
Alright, that’s a horrible paraphrase, but the general idea is that, because so many hobbies and properties have entered the mainstream consciousness, geeks and nerds have somehow “won”.
Now, before I begin, I would like to refer you to my brother’s own counter-argument, some of his points I’ll be repeating here. On the whole, however, we tackle MovieBob’s content differently.
My brother, MovieBob and I are all in agreement on the fact that we should be more welcoming of other “demographics”, potential outcasts, and loners. Be it the homosexual getting beat up, the black girl being ridiculed, or the Indian boy feeling alone in a foreign land. However, the problem is that MovieBob is identifying nerds and geeks on such superficial levels they fit right in on an episode of The Big Bang Theory.
My major issue with MovieBob’s video is that he is defining a geek/nerd by two things. Their interests, and the concept that they were an outcast because of those interests.
He brings up video games as a once geeky piece of pop culture that is now mainstream as an example. The assumption, then, is that there was once a time when video games were unpopular. This is not true. Before Call of Duty there was Counter-Strike, and before Counter-Strike there was Mortal Kombat. Before that there were players competing for high scores on arcade cabinets like Space Invaders and Pac-Man, leaving behind such clever initials as “ASS” and “DIK” on the scoreboard.
Similarly, before books like Harry Potter there was Goosebumps, The Babysitter’s Club and The Hardy Boys. Yet the existence of these books did not validate anyone caught reading a copy of The Lord of the Rings or I, Robot. They were books written with the intention of being easy reads that didn’t challenge the reader.
Geeks and nerds don’t simply like books, they enjoy certain kinds of books. They don’t simply play video games, they play certain kinds of video games.
What MovieBob misses, oddly enough, is what the film Chronicle, which I recently discussed, nailed spot on. Nerds and geeks were only marked as such because they were different. They thought differently, analyzed the world differently, and had different perspectives. These traits typically seemed strange and are what marked them as outsiders.
As I’ve progressed through life I’ve actually learned to reign in my opinionated nature. I love pop culture media. I love film, I love video games, and I really like a variety of television, books, and music. Yet instead of using these media to simply escape, I’m busy analyzing, dissecting, and learning from them. I want to know why and how they function. I want to understand how all this media can elicit the emotions that they manage.
Yet if I’m going to sit down with a group of co-workers or acquaintances from Church and explain why I felt Peter Jackson’s rendition of The Hobbit was disappointing, I’m going to need to simplify my thoughts and preamble it with “I’m a pretentious bastard”. Your average joe or jane doesn’t care why I felt Peter Jackson was no longer the right man for the material. It’s beyond their interest level. All they care about is whether it made them smile and laugh or bored them to tears.
To put it another way, if I tried to learn to play guitar in high school it would have been cool. That is, as long as I was learning to play Blink 182’s What’s My Age Again?. It’s a simple song with simple lyrics that any teenager at the time could have listened to and thought “Oh hey, I can relate to that”. The band members were young looking and generically attractive. Oh, isn’t it silly how they’re all running around naked? Ha ha! So rebellious, yet so perfectly marketable.
I, on the other hand, would have preferred learning something like Rhapsody’s Holy Thunderforce. Over the top, complex riffs and harmonies, with older, less attractive band members. Not to mention the subject matter. Who wants to party down to music about goblins and medieval warfare? What is this, a Renaissance Faire?
Everyone likes music. For teenagers, it is a way to unite groups with something in common. You boil it all down in a simple manner to what the different subgroups care about. This is why most music is about stuff as simple as being thug, being crunk, falling in love, partying, and getting laid. So when your music has more in common with Dungeons & Dragons than the average life of the American teenager, what does that say about you?
It says you’re strange. You’re different. You’re an outsider with different values.
I was fortunate enough to go to a large high school that had people that I could relate to, though. Not many, and part of that was my own fault due to latching on to silly notions. It wasn’t video games, Dungeons & Dragons, or fantasy novels that made me a geek or nerd, though.
It was the fact that I just didn’t understand anyone else.
Yes, I believe our entertainment media needs to be targeted to more than the middle-class white male. I also believe, however, that our notions of geeks and nerds are highly inaccurate. What draws the outsider to these media is wide and varied. Some people fall into programming or computer hardware because it follows laws, rules, and logic. Emotion and intuition has nothing to do with it. Others fall into entertainment because it provides not only a fascinating escape, but a method of sharing your perspective, your outlook, with the world in a unique way.
Yet your average person is still the average person, and if it required Hollywood to strip Star Trek of all of its sincerity, philosophy, and intelligence in order to make it appeal to the average joe, then one must wonder if it is truly the triumph of geek and nerdy culture, or the bastardization of why nerds and geeks fell in love with it in the first place.
Just because you wear a t-shirt with the Konami Code doesn’t make you, like, oh my Gawd, such a dork. It’s the fascination with the video games that the Konami Code was spawned from.
Geek and nerd culture hasn’t gone mainstream. It’s just the latest fashion statement.