Fangasm, the reality show about nerds and their amazing lives, ended its run this week with a two hour season finale. I have to confess I’ve only seen the first two episodes because life has been so hectic and we had to catch up with the Ultimate Fighter first. I’ll have a marathon at some point. But watching a third of the show gave me some idea about how I feel about the negative press the show received. Andy Khouri has a brutal beatdown at Comics Alliance that I’m sure you’ve all read by now.
I won’t join in any beatdowns, because the real problem with the show, as a reality show, is that everyone on it is so obviously a nice person. Geeks, or nerds, or smart people, or fans or whatever you want to call them, are generally nicer, smarter people than the people who were on the Jersey Shore, and smart people are way less entertaining than dumb people. So that was a fail from the start. I think what’s more interesting is the semiotics of it. Khouri, in addition to having various problems with the show’s relationship to Comikaze, the LA based pop culture convention, also dismissed the marketing of the supposed “geek tribe.”
In reality (no pun intended), what we casually refer to as “geek culture” has in the last 10+ years ascended from a derided subculture to a massive consumer class actively serviced by virtually every commercial sector in America, a fact that’s put an existential challenge to the nature of “geekdom,” particularly its claim to underdog status. That Fangasm exists at all speaks to this notion of cultural currency, but unfortunately it’s the literal currency that is the most basic and base element of the entire Fangasm enterprise, which we discover is even faker than the kinds of series — to use the reality show parlance – it throws under the bus.
Brian Hanson at Topless Robot (is that still around???) has similar thoughts and also questioned the premise.
And that’s a question I’ve been wondering since the premiere. While Heroes of Cosplay infuriated me from the get-go because of its massive misconceptions about its core concept, I’ve spent the past several weeks in a confused state of disarm just wondering what the hell Fangasm exists for, besides a Comikaze commercial. The cast themselves reminds me of nerds I knew or would hang out with when I was 24, which isn’t really a good thing. The older you get, the more you realize that having friends who can do more than simply re-enact The Trouble With Tribbles has its own benefits. And just by gauging the interest online, Fangasm hasn’t really been connecting with anyone.
Valerie D’orazio, making a welcome return to blogging, has a more nuanced take called Geek Will Eat Itself, where she nails the cycle coming to a close:
As I predicted on this blog several times over, the mainstream “Geek/Nerd Chic” aesthetic is going the way of the dodo. There has been an increasing “death warrant” for such entities over the last year; just another niche that was adopted by the mainstream media, squeezed of every last bit of “value,” and dumped on the pavement.
BTW, I never watched Heroes of Cosplay, although I hear it was horrid. The word on the street is that Fangasm’s ratings haven’t been awesome, so it’s questionable whether it will be coming back. At any rate, the somewhat subdued reaction to it has, as Valerie suggests, put a dot at the end of this whole inane idea of the “nerd” as a specific tribe or (god help us) a racial group. It’s an idea dreamed up in marketing hell, not on someone’s dream achievement list. As I’ve often noted in my own Unified Field Theory of Fandom, certain kinds of people like certain kinds of material; it is not the material that creates these personalities. It’s why idealistic young men want to be Jedi Knights, and young women puzzling over social acceptance like manga.
And finally, Chris Hardwick has his own game show now, and it’s on Comedy Central, not some channel for Nerds. The Era of The Geekist is over and only the stories and toys and movies and art that real people make and real people cry and sigh at remains. Long Live The King!