The joke being, hahaha, “geeks” [whatever that term even means anymore] don’t like sports! Not only do they not like sports, they don’t understand them! The concept of other people being excited about people physically competing against each other is completely illogical in their minds. Moss of The IT Crowd is a man who beat every record on the British gameshow Countdown and here is how he views [European] football:
“There is nothing new in art except talent,” words by Anton Chekhov that I was forced to look up because I’ve already cited Ecclesiastes in a prior post. They’re also words that I feel forced to grasp firmly on to as I’m faced with the deluge of television spin-offs soon to flood your televisions and my laptop with more and more of the same. With that being the worst case scenario, of course.
That being said, I’m going to try my best to take the stance I typically take on these sorts of things, which is that ultimately execution trumps everything else. Chances are that you wouldn’t have thought that a movie about a guy with his arm trapped under a rock would be able to hold your attention, but 127 Hours is great. The premise of a work of art does not damn it, though it certainly colours how audiences choose to approach and experience that work. Continue reading →
EVAN: To start this off by ignoring our readership and addressing you, this week’s topic is a weird sort of continuation of the various posts on culture you’ve written, such as “manly culture,”“science culture,” etc. And similar to these other groups of people, “nerd culture” is a pretty nebulous sort of thing to define.
GORDON: No argument there. After all, even the “nerds” insist on calling out “fake nerds”- especially in regards to women/girls. But what is a nerd anyways?
EVAN: See, now I’m torn, because we do need to define it, but you’ve also directly referenced an issue I wanted to discuss in depth this week.
GORDON: How about we abandon our previous track record, and just plunge recklessly ahead and hope the issue resolves itself?
EVAN: Well, let me throw this image out there:
And then hope that suffices for now.
GORDON: Works for me. So what was it that you wanted to address specifically?
To break it down further, these are women who dress up as superheroes and what have you without knowing about the actual characters themselves. He is upset because, to quote him:
BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW SH-T ABOUT COMICS, BEYOND WHATEVER GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH YOU DID TO GET REF ON THE MOST MAINSTREAM CHARACTER WITH THE MOST REVEALING COSTUME EVER.
Also that they attend to essentially just tease the regular con-goers and are actually not even hot, just “con-hot.” So yeah, he said a lot.
GORDON: Ah yes, I recall reading about this. And while I think we can all agree Harris went too far, is a bit hypocritical (seeing how most comic women ain’t exactly average looking), and probably getting too emotional, I can’t help but wonder if he has, somewhere in there, a point.
I mean, imagine if all of a sudden, something that you had been stigmatized for became popular, and people started trying to co-opt your identity knowing nearly nothing about it. I’d be ticked off too.
EVAN: That’s definitely something I’ve read people write about, that this used to be an exclusive club and that it took years to build up this knowledge and become, well, a nerd, and here are these noobs and they want in and it’s not that easy.
And I can see where they’re coming from as well.
But if you really love something, shouldn’t you want others to as well? The Avengers has an enormous following on tumblr these days [because of the movie], and these are people who are actually going out and starting to buy comics. They are helping sales, aiding the industry, etc.
GORDON: That’s true, and something I’ve considered, but there’s probably also an argument to be made for the other side. That something precious to you is being watered down and diluted for profit. I don’t believe that nerds (comic book nerds, anyways) can necessarily make this argument, but the line of logic is there.
Let’s try to come up with an example of this happening somewhere else, especially in regards to persecution.
EVAN: Mmk, go ahead-
GORDON: “Black culture” (or what was passed off as black culture) might be an example. Can you state that you’re not driven nuts by wealthy, comfortable suburban kids fronting like they’re from the streets of Oakland?
EVAN: Yeah, people are upset about it, sure, but there’s not this immense outcry over it. There are comic-con enthusiasts that are genuinely incensed that all of this is happening-
I doubt that an actual thug or gangbanger or whatever these rich White kids are playing at imitating is going to start freaking out that he’s getting ripped off. He’s going to laugh or shrug it off, because it hardly matters.
GORDON: I’d argue that the reason for this has more to do with the change in venue. It’s easy for the major players of the comic book industry to voice their opinions than, say, a Wu-Tang Clan fan in the late 90s. But maybe I’m wrong.
EVAN: For the most part, I see this as a mindset that is the foundation or core of hipsterism, and that we all feel to some extent, however minor. That we found something and we love it and there is a pride in joy in being one of the original fans.
And this outpouring of others somehow cheapens things. And all of a sudden we’re trying to assert how we’re better than them in some way.
“You chose to dress up as Spider-Woman? Do you even know who her alter-ego is, or what her powers are? Etc.”
GORDON: Again, do we not sympathize? Do we not feel frustrated with people who have more or less jumped on the bandwagon now that it’s all safe and socially acceptable to do so? Heck, just imagine if someone tried listing themselves as a fan of fine cooking, having only eaten sushi once- would you be ticked?
EVAN: If I equated sushi with fine cooking I guess I would, yeah. But just because we can understand someone’s anger and frustration doesn’t make it logical.
GORDON: I wouldn’t say that there’s not a logic to it. I mean, a major part of being a nerd is, and always has been, the social pariah element. All of the sudden you have these people trying to claim to be on the fringes of society? It’s condescending and insulting.
EVAN: I think that’s the issue- They’re not trying to “claim to be on the fringes of society.”
GORDON: I disagree- I feel this is a coward’s way of feigning rebelliousness and all that.
EVAN: Sometimes people who haven’t been exposed to comics for much of their lives see a movie, or read a trade, and go to a con. Maybe they wear a costume. That doesn’t mean they’re going into this thinking, in any way, that they’re suddenly a part of this group of outcasts.
Comics are popular now. I mean, more than they’ve ever been. To say “I like comics” is no longer the sort of thing that’s going to get you shunned. People are going to raise their eyebrows and wonder why you think that’s a big deal.
GORDON: Comics yes, no one is gonna argue that. The title of “nerd” however, that’s different. And after all, “nerd” is a much larger term. It applies to gamers, to film, and so on.
EVAN: So how does one become a “fake nerd”?
GORDON: Therein lies the rub- there’s always gonna be more obsessive nerds out there. People higher up and lower down the hierarchy. But for the most part, I think we can agree that a “false” nerd is one who does not meet the criteria in that diagram you posted.
The “social ineptitude”, the “obsessiveness”- if it’s not actually there (no matter how much the person or persons might insist otherwise) then that person is a “fake” nerd.
EVAN: So am I a “fake nerd”?
GORDON: Do you call yourself a nerd?
EVAN: I don’t really call myself anything. But I’d also say that many of the girls who go to cons and find themselves attacked by Harris don’t refer to themselves as anything in particular either.
GORDON: Then no, I wouldn’t define you or them as fitting this category. Like I said- Harris went overboard.
EVAN: I just don’t think social ineptitude needs to be a requirement in this. I think you could be a nerd and still have friends, and achieve some level of popularity. The diagram above really shoehorns the definition. I mean, what if I did call myself a nerd?
I’m fairly smart, about 80% of the time I’m thinking about comics, or comics-related media. At the same time, I’m a fairly social guy. What does that mean?
GORDON: You think about comics 80% of the time?
EVAN: I think about comics a lot.
GORDON: 80% of your waking thoughts is a craaaaaazy lot, though I’d say your self-identification as a nerd is flawed. Serial-killer in the making would be more accurate. But we begin to split hairs at this point.
GORDON: Hugh Laurie can do whatever the **** he wants. As does anyone. With everything he does, can he identify himself first and foremost as a blues musician? Not really. At least, that ain’t how we’re all gonna think of him, or remember him.
EVAN: Does it matter that it’s what you identify as first and foremost? I am positive that at some level, yes, he does identify as a blues musician.
GORDON: It does matter how you identify yourself first and foremost. I’ve eaten bugs on multiple occasions- I don’t declare myself “Gordon Brown: Bug Eater.” The rest of the stuff I do outweighs it by far.
EVAN: You’re missing my point. You’ve eaten bugs, so on some level you can identify as a bug-eater.
If he identifies as a blues artist less than he does as an actor, that doesn’t negate the fact that he identifies as a blues artist, and what we’re talking about is people being able to say that they can and do relate to a culture, and that doesn’t make them fake adherents of that.
GORDON: Let me offer another example: I’ve been camping, and I occasionally read survivalist pamphlets. For me to call myself a “survivalist” would nevertheless be inaccurate and misleading. That’s the crux of the matter, I believe.
A nerd is someone who is in this for the long haul- a person who enjoys The Avengers or Nolan’s Batman trilogy isn’t. At least, not necessarily.
EVAN: I’m not saying that a person who enjoyed The Avengers equates being a nerd. That’s like, half the Earth’s population, if the box office is any indicator.
I’m saying that a person who saw The Avengers, and then heads over to their local comics store to check some out, and gets really into it, has the potential to become a “comics nerd” of sorts. And people who see them and scorn them for not being there from the beginning should be ashamed of themselves.
If we’re sticking with the example of film and comics and so-on.
GORDON: And I agree- those people should not be viewed with derision. But that’s not who we’re talking about here.
We’re talking about ****ing hipsters, about people who have just enough knowledge of a culture to give themselves the veneer or adopting it. People who wear glasses as a ****ing fashion statement. You know the kind.
It’s about motives. The noob who is just now getting into the culture isn’t a “false” nerd- just a young one. The person who call himself or herself a nerd to co-opt the social stigma (now that it’s all but gone) deserves contempt.
EVAN: I honestly don’t think that what these people are trying to co-opt is the social stigma.
GORDON: My poor choice of words. I mean the false sense of rebellion. Like people who post pro-gay Facebook statements simply to draw attention and applause to themselves. Fake-rebels. Fair-weather activists.
EVAN: That’s fine, and I agree that these people are not to be applauded.
I just think that for the most part, people are realizing that there is a lot in the “nerd culture” that they find interesting and accessible, and are gravitating towards it. Not out of some misguided attempt to be on the edge of society, but because they legitimately enjoy whatever it is they’re trying to engage with.
GORDON: I agree- I simply don’t think it’s these people most old-guard nerds are angry at.
EVAN: But how can they differentiate? That’s a huge issue. It’s this reaction of the community against anyone that’s not legit, but without any way of truly being able to tell how people feel-
GORDON:That in and of itself is another issue. If I showed up to the social justice convention dressed as Che Guevara you’d best believe I’d better know a thing or two about the guy who I’m completely dressed up as- but we’re moving off track.
EVAN: But the point of social justice conventions isn’t to dress up as your favourite revolutionary- that’s entirely besides the point. I bring it up because it’s completely cogent to our topic, because it’s exactly what Tony Harris was railing against.
GORDON: Tony Harris ran his mouth and made a fool of himself, I ain’t trying to defend a word of what he said or wrote, only the general perspective he seems to be coming from.
EVAN: What I’m saying, without negating your points is this, and I’m going to try to wrap up since we’re 15 minutes past our cut-off, is this:
I’m someone says “LOL im such a nerd” and they wear glasses with big frames and have a Green Lantern patch on their backpack, yeah, I’d say that’s not okay. But a large issue is being able to, as a community, acknowledge when “outsiders” try to access what it is that we love so dearly.
We like comic books and Star Trek and Dungeons and Dragons, and if other people might as well, that’s fine. Just because others weren’t always welcoming of us in the past doesn’t mean we should do the same to others. Especially when there’s some likelihood, even a little, that they could one day be as big a fan as you [as hard as that may be to believe].
GORDON: Well put. Be sure to stop by next time for our discussion of . . .
EVAN: Of . . . uh . . . I threw out this topic last week, what’ve you got?
GORDON: Let’s address the portrayal of drugs- weed in particular- in media and popular culture.
EVAN: That’s a pretty contemporary topic too, because of the legalization in Washington and all that. Sounds good to me.
GORDON: Let it be so then. Merry Wednesday to all, and to all a good night!
And now back to the subject of the night: Is there artistic merit in Adventure Time?
EVAN: Whoa. You’re gonna shameless-plug your friend and then let me discuss the topic? Say something about it, haha.
GORDON: Is there artistic merit in beloved Cartoon Network show Adventure Time? Well, let’s break down what we mean by “artistic merit.” Evan?
EVAN: Is it worthy or deserving of being called art? Alternatively, does the show have the admirable qualities or attribute that art has? I guess a question to answer your question is: What is art?
GORDON: Well, let’s not try defining “art”. We’ve been trying to do that ever since we first started scratching pictures of fat ponies onto cave walls, and I doubt we’re gonna solve it in the next half hour or so. Let’s instead focus on the “merit”- what is it that makes ANY show good?
EVAN: Here’s a factor that relates directly to Adventure Time: Accessibility. How accessible does a show have to be to be good? Does it have to be accessible to be good?
GORDON: Are we talking about mass appeal here?
EVAN: Eh, sure, why not.
GORDON: Well, we gotta address that then. I mean, Twilight and the work of Michael Bay are popular, but they aren’t good. At the same time, you can’t just have a show that only you find funny, and then still call it good, right?
EVAN: You’re right. So is there a magic number of people we have to reach when it comes to a show being good? I shudder to remember Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and how much our one friend used to love it.
GORDON: What’s worse is that my dad is into that show for some unfathomable reason. But the point is, a good thing ought to be popular to some degree, but popularity can’t be the sole element.
EVAN: Okay, so how about execution? How well the show pulls off whatever it’s supposed to be doing. Adventure Time is a show about a boy and his magical dog that is also his brother adventuring in a colourful post-apocalyptic fantasy world, but it works. They pull it off. I personally think this has a little something to do with its easy-to-digest ten minute segments.
GORDON: And there’s really no way of arguing with that- the story-telling is spot-on, but there’s gotta be more than that. The same can be said (and this is gonna give Evan an aneurysm), to some degree, of the copy-paste work of Seth McFarlane.
GORDON: What I’m saying is that McFarlane’s shows are both popular and (for what they are) well-executed, and yet we can both agree that his shows aren’t really “good,” at least, not anymore than a bag of chips is “good” food.
Therefore, there’s got to be another element at play, right?
EVAN: Ugh. I can’t even look at the chat window I’m so offended you would say something like that. I wish he would be “well-executed.” Share your other element if you must.
GORDON: Uniqueness. The show has to be unique. It’s not enough to go through the motions (as McFarlane’s shows do), you have to actually be able to make your show something that can’t be seen anywhere else.
EVAN: Something to make your stuff stand out of the crowd, okay, that’s fair. So I guess we can see how Adventure Time stands up to the criteria we’ve come up with.
Accessible? Eh, I’d say so, for its demographic and older.
Popular? Yeah, again for who I’ve stated.
You want to let these nice people know if it’s unique?
GORDON: Soooo Unique. If you can find anything remotely similar to it made in the past decade, I will slap Evan on the ears and vote for taxing the homeless.
EVAN: I mean, like I said: Boy. Magical Dog. Colourful fantasy world that is also post-apocalyptic.
EVAN: What more could you want?
GORDON: Vampire rocker girls?
EVAN: I would not mind.
GORDON: Oh wait, we’ve got that too.
You want D&D references spliced in with Science Fiction and elements of Gothic Horror?
EVAN: I think we could go for some.
GORDON: WELL WE’VE GOT IT!
EVAN: I think it’s clear that we think Adventure Time is a good show, but one thing that’s been painfully clear with this entry of E> is how much trouble it’s been doing this. Might I suggest a little something?
GORDON: Go for it.
EVAN: Let’s just choose our own topics for a little while, just to really get back into the swing of things. Keep things casual, going back and forth, avoid the heavy questions. And then we can ease our way back into all this.
GORDON: I am inclined to agree with you on this one.
EVAN: Yeah? Awesome. Anything in particular you wanted to casually discourse about next time?
GORDON: Well, I don’t think my suggestion about the Disney takeover of the Star Wars franchise was all that bad, even if Adventure Time did win by a landslide…
EVAN: I kinda wanted to talk about Deadliest Warrior.
GORDON: That would be likewise awesome. Let’s do that.
EVAN: Yes. Awesome. I’m going to post this because we are men true to our word and we promise an E> every Wednesday. We shall discuss Deadliest Warrior in a week. Or this weekend, maybe, just to get ahead. I mean, whatever.
GORDON: Good night, everyone.
EVAN: Yep, sorry this wasn’t as awesome or decent as usual. But we will be back! With a vengeance. And remember:
EVAN: Last week you all voted for us to talk about the popularity of kung fu movies, so that is what we’re doing. The question that’s been on my mind being, why aren’t they popular anymore?
GORDON: See, I’m gonna have to butt heads with you right out of the gate. I just don’t think that kung fu movies are unpopular- at least, not anymore than at the supposed height of their glory…
EVAN: But there’s definite evidence of a time when they were all the rage. There were the dubbed martial arts films in the 70s and 80s, as well as the immense popularity of actors like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and now Jet Li.
GORDON: No argument there.
EVAN: Recently, all that really comes to mind is Li’s role in The Expendables 2. Which is by no means a large one, considering the immensity of its cast.
GORDON: Well, that’s part of the problem- movies have developed since the 70s and 80s- none perhaps more dramatically than the action flick. Take The Matrix, for example.
EVAN: Definitely a revolutionary flick.
GORDON: Amazing stunts, choreography, and so on- and all hugely influenced by kung fu movies. In fact, Wikipedia goes right ahead and lists it as a “King Fu” movie.
Now look at an action film from the 60s or 70s. At the very best, you get Dirty Harry pistol-whipping some thug, and more often than not, you get Captain Kirk doing some weird slap-fight with a man in green spandex.
EVAN: Hey, that man in green spandex had it coming.
GORDON: This is true. What I’m driving at here, I guess, is that kung fu movies haven’t gone away- they’ve been incorporated into every major action flick made since the 80s.
Just look at fight scenes in a modern action movie- that’s Judo, or Jui Jitsu, or Karate, or Muay Thai, and so on and so forth.
EVAN: Okay, let me come at this from a different angle. Would you say that at this point in time, Jet Li is the go-to guy as an Asian actor who specializes in martial arts?
GORDON: More or less, sure.
EVAN: How many [Western] movies has the guy been in compared to Jason Statham?
GORDON: Couldn’t say. I’m guessing Statham’s got him beat, though.
EVAN: Why is it that more often than not, whenever martial arts are depicted in a movie they’re performed by a white guy?
GORDON: Oof- where to begin? Tacit racism, hiring ease, translation, and so on.
EVAN: I’m just saying that there was a time, mid to late 90s and early 00s where Asian actors could still headline these films. You’ve got the Rush Hour films and Shanghai Noon and its sequel, to name some Jackie Chan vehicles. And you had stuff like Romeo Must Die with Jet Li.
As far as Wikipedia can tell me, all the martial arts films starring Asians in the last few years were made in Asia.
GORDON: And are nevertheless seen by Western audiences. Take The Raid, an Indonesian film, or The Man With the Iron Fists, which people are pretty psyched for, or Tony Jaa’s work.
EVAN: Yes. Tony Jaa.
GORDON: As there did before. I mean, barring certain movies, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Rush Hour, how much appeal did kung fu movies have anyways? I’m not knocking them or anything, but it seems that with certain exceptions for major pieces, kung fu movies (in the West) have always been mostly popular as a sugenre with fans of said subgenre. Much like the monster movie, or the sci-fi horror.
EVAN: At some point they epitomized the action genre, so I’d say they had a lot of appeal. I mean, it rode the trend of dojos and whatnot opening up all over North America.
GORDON: Wasn’t that with the 80s stupid action flick, though? I mean, c’mon. It was the 80s. Get some Aryan guy to face-kick a bunch of minorities, slap on an over-the-top title and you’ve got a hit.
EVAN: I was mostly referring to the fact that Asian martial arts films became so popular that they started creating them in Hollywood, using Asian actors.
GORDON: So the issue here isn’t kung fu- it’s Asians in media…
EVAN: We can concentrate on the genre and its popularity before we follow that train of thought. Why do you think it’s lessened so much? And if it has, what has replaced it?
GORDON: I think that the rise in awareness of martial arts in the West is responsible for that. Suddenly, you can get all the amazing choreographed fights without them being (necessarily) rooted in Asian culture.
The equivalent would probably be the Western/Cop flick and it’s influence on Hong Kong action movies.
EVAN: So what you’re saying is that Western culture has realized that this isn’t a genre that solely the East can lay claim to.
GORDON: Not entirely, anyways. Depends on how you define a “Kung Fu Movie.” I was just going with a movie that’s heavily rooted in martial arts.
EVAN: I mean, I’d say that it’s because the Asian actors that we [Westerners] can relate to are getting old. Jackie Chan is 58. Jet Li is 49. No one has really stepped up [or has been able to] and taken their places.
GORDON: Well- no argument there. Barring perhaps Tony Jaa. Who will **** you up if you so much as look at his elephant the wrong way.
EVAN: ช้าง อยู่ ไหน [chang yuu nai]?! If you saw the movie, you’d get it.
GORDON: Go see the movie. Now.
EVAN: Watch it please. Tom Yum Goong as it was released in Thailand, but retitled The Protector for an American release.
GORDON: Also, eat tom yum goong. It is the best thing ever.
EVAN: Anyway. I just think it’s interesting, the fact that there’s clearly still an interest in Asian martial arts.
Using two panda-related examples, Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda movies, and Blizzard’s upcoming expansion for World of WarCraft, Mists of Pandaria.
GORDON: This is true.
EVAN: Pandarens had existed in WarCraft for years before those movies, by the way. Just for everyone who’s saying that Blizzard ripped the concept of anthropomorphic martial arts fighting pandas from a Jack Black movie.
GORDON: And with that, we’re out of time.
EVAN: Don’t we have ten more minutes? We started at ten past.
GORDON: Oh. I thought we started on the hour.
EVAN: Nay. And we’re keeping all of this dialogue.
GORDON: To assure our readers that we too are flawed mortals?
EVAN: Well, that one of us is.
Back on the subject- let’s not forget that thanks to Netflix and piracy, it’s easier and easier to get movies from out of the country anyways. Just look at Red Cliff.
EVAN: Red Cliff?
GORDON: Epic action movie. Based on ancient Chinese history, and a text called “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” if I recall correctly. Some sort of an Eastern equivalent to “swords and sandals” flicks. Which are awesome, by the way.
EVAN: Yes. We do love our “swords and sandals” movies.
GORDON: Go watch Ironclad. Watch it now.
EVAN: If only to watch Paul Giamatti’s veins pop out on his neck as an angry King John.
GORDON: Words cannot describe how irritated he is in that movie. It defies logic. Also, a man gets beaten to death with his own arm.
EVAN: Actually, I am fairly sure the severed arm belonged to a different guy.
Back on topic one last, time, before we run out of it- It seems that Asian cinema continues to chug on, producing martial arts movies even if Western Cinema has since moved past that. In a way, what was popular for a period of time in Hollywood never stopped in Asia. Though those movies still changed the action genre in a huge way.
GORDON: Absolutely. From The Bourne Identity to Batman Begins, the blood of Kung Fu movies still pumps strong. And with that, we’re out of time. Be sure to swing in next week for our discussion on the upcoming season of Community.
EVAN: Nooooooooo. That’s next-next week. The day before the new season starts.
GORDON: Why must you make a fool of me?
EVAN: Why must you make a fool of yourself.
GORDON: Anyways. Be sure to vote for our discussion topic next week.