I'm not a pleasant person to be around. I mean, I'm mostly OK on the outside, but it sometimes seems like the person who lives in my brain and presses the buttons that make me do things is just trying to see how far he can push the envelope before society exiles me to a desert island with nothing but a few years' worth of snacks and a solar-powered laptop so I can play Fallout 2.
I'm basically just like any other sociopathic nerd, and I'm guilty of every one of the behaviors I'm about to explain. What's worse, I don't have even a suggestion of a solution for any of them. So we're going to have to figure it out together, because this whole "nerds are awesome" phase isn't going to last forever. And when it collapses, we're all going to be hanging from flagpoles by our underwear.
#4. We Feel Like We're Owed Our Favorite Things ... Forever
Here's an awful truth: We may love the stuff our favorite artists create, but we don't give two shits about them as people. When we're introduced to a new awesome game, or song, or movie, our first impulse isn't to thank the people who created it, it's to demand that they keep doing that forever, no matter the cost.
There's no better example of this than the Star Wars prequels. Objectively, those are some nightmarishly bad movies, provided your nightmares involve cartoon sidekicks and underacting Natalie Portmans, but people got very angry about them, and really, does anyone know why? What was it, exactly, that Lucas did to deserve anger? Short of the prequels being six hours of him having sex with all of our moms, there's no reason for it.
Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hastily typed forum posts and a meaningless life.
You get angry when someone does something to hurt you or someone/something you care about, not when someone fails to keep doing something you like. And the prequels don't actually hurt the original films. We didn't love Star Wars because we thought it was the beginning of a six-movie arc; we loved it because George "You're all clear, kid, now let's blow this thing and go home" Lucas was a young, energetic guy who, with a combination of luck and creativity, touched the hearts of literally millions of people across the world -- something that 99.99 percent of people never even come close to accomplishing. And our response is to get angry when he fails to do it a fourth time? What kind of borderline psychopathic bullshit is that? Even porn can't produce a boner every time, and that's basically considered to be a blue chip medium.
Modern cinema as we know it would not exist without him, but on the other hand, he screwed up later.
I'm not above this at all. As a kid I was a Resident Evil fanboy -- so naturally I was horrified when Resident Evil 4 came out and I discovered that they were doing away with the fixed cameras and outdated control schemes in order to make it "just another run-and-gun shooter." I felt betrayed, and probably went online to complain about how Capcom was abandoning their roots or "destroying the series" (the go-to nerd complaint). I'm sure my rage-logic was flawless and Capcom instantly regretted creating the game.
"I demand two ... no, three acts of seppuku for this bullshit!"
Again, this makes no sense. Video games change with technology more than any other medium, and in 2005 the Resident Evil gameplay was hopelessly outdated and not selling anymore because it had been totally done to death. Also Resident Evil 4 turned out to kick ass. But I didn't care, I wanted more of the same, and I was convinced they had betrayed me, as if I had some personal say in its design. Someone had given me something I liked, and I was mad that they had failed to keep doing that over and over, forever. They owed me, goddammit.
Because I'm an asshole. And then I realized ...
#3. We Secretly Hope Our Favorite Artists Aren't Successful
Theo Wargo/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
You're probably just as dismissive of the term "sellout" and the self-important pop-culture junkies who use it as I am -- but what you may not realize is that we're all those self-important junkies. And, no, I'm not talking about the "let's bash hipsters" bandwagon here. I'm talking about normal, everyday people who don't regularly get rocks thrown at them.
As a culture, we feel like our art is ruined if the people creating it make any money. You can see it in every medium, at every level: It's why it's harder for big-budget films to get nominated for Academy Awards. It's why, when Metallica was starting out, they (allegedly) said that they would never make a music video because doing so would compromise their artistry, even though what does that have to do with anything, Metallica, what are you talking about? Is it Lars? Did Lars say that? Because I could totally see him saying that.
Well, they were talking to their fans, and their fans listened:
"Because you admitted you like money, you can't have any of mine!"
What we refuse to accept is that getting paid for doing what you love doesn't always make you suck. Nirvana made their two best albums (MTV Unplugged and In Utero) after it had been made clear that no one in that band would ever need to work again. Yet even during those times, there was still a large group of fans who would have preferred them to have never left their days of surviving on nothing but gas station corn dogs.
Again, I'm not immune. My favorite band is Coheed and Cambria, at least partially because they wrote this song, which is like a standard pop-rock song if you ran it through a wood chipper and Scotch Taped it back together while drunk. But then they had kind of a hit with this track, and they started writing more songs like that, and now more people have heard of them and ... I dunno, I just occasionally catch myself coming up with reasons to be mad about that, like it makes any fucking difference in my life at all. By any sane metric, I should be happy that those guys get to have some financial security in their lives, because they wrote some of my favorite songs. But I'm not. My gut instinct is to say "Fuck their happiness, I just want them to make albums like The Second Stage Turbine Blade again. And I want to touch that big ol' fluffy hair so bad."
Integrity means only having one jacket to share on rainy days.
Why? What's wrong with me? What's wrong with us? Well, I know at least part of the answer, and it's not pretty ...