#2. Militant Sects of Pop Culture Nerds
Minutes after finishing the latest book in the series that spawned HBO's Game of Thrones, I bathed myself in long-awaited fan theories and general discussion in the A Song of Ice and Fire subreddit. Once there, I noticed that the book readers tend to look down upon what they derogatorily call "show watchers," a title that has all the vague ominousness of a faction from the series. Once Game of Thrones became a hit, the Game of Thrones subreddit was filled with Faction A, people who are only watching the show, and Faction B, people who are watching the show and have read the books. Faction B people were spoiling everything, so the subreddit split off in two -- one for the show, one for the books. There are now two factions of nerds who share a common bond yet decided to give up trying to work together as a united nerd collective, instead choosing segregation.
Pictured: A direct, one-to-one comparison that is in no way hyperbolic.
Nerd civil war; a recursive loop of marginalized people marginalizing each other -- that's modern fandom. It's especially prevalent in the video game community. Want to start an Internet riot? Go into an IGN.com comment section and say that X console is better than Y. Post an anti-Call of Duty or anti-Electronic Arts image macro into r/gaming and watch your hate turn into commenter love like some kind of fucked up nerd alchemy.
With the mainstream success of comic book movies, sci-fi, video games, and the like, the pop culture nerds have won the culture war yet feel like there's still some fighting to be done. So they cannibalize each other in an effort to justify their amped-up defenses. No matter how much we have in common, we're always going to find something we can all agree to hate each other over. It takes some of the fun out of being a fan and makes it almost shameful.
Dozens died this summer due to old Trek/new Trek violence alone.
But why does anything I've talked about so far even happen in the first place?
#1. Pop Culture Peer Pressure
You know the Bible story about the Tower of Babel? In short, all of mankind spoke one language. We were so great at communicating with each other that we worked together to build a tower so tall, it could touch heaven. God looked upon the tower and said, with an amused, contemptuous eye roll, "Pfft! Yeah. OK ..." and made us all speak different languages, resulting in horribly translated movie subtitles.
New Line Cinema
Everything in the world of pop culture has its own built-in language filled with references, shorthand, gestures loaded with meaning -- all that stuff. Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding. Did you understand what I said there? If you did, it means you are fluent in Breaking Bad. Maybe you speak Firefly fluently ("Big damn heroes, sir"). Or BioShock ("Would you kindly ..."). Or Michael Bay movies (explosion sound).
That's where pop culture peer pressure stems from. If you want to understand your friends' conversations for the next couple weeks, you need to be able to keep up with whatever morsels of pop culture they've recently taken in. Their conversations about things you haven't seen yet will sound like the gibberish of someone about to have a stroke. Or they'll go the other way. You'll be the child the parents need to speak in cryptic code around. Friends will act conspiratorial around you, giving each other knowing nods and glances. They'll speak in short, vague sentences to not ruin anything for you. Maybe they'll even walk away from you to speak in secret like a bunch of dicks. All you want is to talk to people, but they don't want to talk; they might spoil something. If they do talk, you're a pop cultural foreign exchange student who never quite knows what the fuck everyone is laughing at.
It's easier navigating Mexico speaking only Level 1 Spanish
than navigating a house party speaking only Season 1 Game of Thrones.
If all of this is making pop culture a pain in the ass to enjoy, there's a simple solution: Walk away from it. Walk so far away that you end up outside of your home. Stay there a bit. While there, do things that have nothing to do with saturating your brain with the stories other people tell. Make your own stories. Maybe one day you can write them down so some other media-saturated fools can fry out their brains with them.