Comedian/actor/sometime comics writer Patton Oswalt expresses clearly the vague feeling we’ve often haphazardly batted about here: as Geek Culture becomes the norm, it is itself dying. Oswalt pegs the phenomenon of “Etewaf: Everything That Ever Was—Available Forever” as part of the problem, as the instantaneous availability of once-arcane knowledge devalues the feeling of achievement from attaining that same knowledge:
Here’s the danger: That creates weak otakus. Etewaf doesn’t produce a new generation of artists—just an army of sated consumers. Why create anything new when there’s a mountain of freshly excavated pop culture to recut, repurpose, and manipulate on your iMovie? The Shining can be remade into a comedy trailer. Both movie versions of the Joker can be sent to battle each another. The Dude is in The Matrix.
The coming decades—the 21st-century’s ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s—have the potential to be one long, unbroken, recut spoof in which everything in Avatar farts while Keyboard Cat plays eerily in the background.
But Harry Knowles, himself the Hannibal of the Geek Invasion, says it is not so, in a rambling essay that proves definitively that Patton Oswalt is a better writer than Harry Knowles. Basically, Knowles says geek culture is fine because Ray Bradbury was a geek and now Knowles can name check anything he likes on the internet all day:
Pop Culture has always had it’s success and failures. That’s one of the reasons I love AMADEUS so much… F. Murray’s Salieri is such an awesome Mozart geek. It is very much about the feelings of critics versus the popularity of a genius ahead of his time. You know… just like everyone that recognizes the genius of Edgar Wright’s SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD. We’ll be proven correct in time. Of this I have zero doubt.
GEEK CULTURE is fine, I say this because the same folks that didn’t love TRON for the past 28 years – are the leaders of the minority vocal opinion on the film. I know this to be the case because we bitch at each other till the wee hours of the night about it. We call each other names and we feign hating each other for each others’ estimation of the film, and then we laugh about the argument and just how crazy we get about it. This is as it should be.
In other words, Oswalt is absolutely right and we’re all going to turn into Harry Knowles. In the grip of ETEWAF, we become gluttons for the things we like, diving into them like a seal, swimming around in them like a dolphin and throwing them into the air and letting them hit us on the head. And we’ll die happy and sated, our ashes encased in a replica of the Slave I autographed by Daniel Logan.
Photos; Top: Forrest J. Ackerman, who was to the Nerd Life what Hugh Hefner was to breasts.
Below: a photo from the 1974 San Diego Comic-Con.
BTW: Oswalt does have a solution to the problem, but you may not like it.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.