Good news, Internet! Nerds are in charge of everything! And we have been for at least two-thirds of a decade, since one of these headlines is from 2009:
Nerd movies aren't just No. 1 at the box office, they're every movie at the box office. The biggest TV shows in the world are either fantasies or shows about being a nerd. We have a sitting president who got excited about watching Star Wars with us, and presidential candidates who compared their own candidacy to the Rebel Alliance. We are in charge. Everybody high-fi- nah, fuck it. Everybody Vulcan Salute; say, "May the Force be with you"; and then make a Pokemon joke or something, because it's fine to come out of the Nerd-Closet and frolic through the meadows of relevance while bathing yourself in the warm light of cultural acceptance. For now.
Because this won't last forever. Soon, some other cultural entity will overtake us, and everything we love -- the superheroes, the movies based on video games, the gritty reboots of cartoons based on our favorite action heroes -- will fall from favor to niche, then from niche to myth, and then finally fade from existence just like Bing Bong does in Inside Out.
Sorry to make you cry like that.
Then future generations will look back on us, and what will they say? What will the legacy of the Era of the Nerd be? I don't know, but I know if we want to be remembered fondly, there are a few things we have to realize. Things like ...
#6. We Have The "Stop Politicizing Everything!" Argument Exactly Backwards
The Internet hates when you "politicize" their Favorite Thing. Here at Cracked, people get so angry whenever we connect pop culture to the real world that we had to run an article explaining what's up with that. "Keep politics out of video games" is also something I've heard screamed a few times, usually by frothing maniacs. Except the truth is, nobody politicized pop culture -- we pop culturized politics. To say otherwise is like saying that Peter Parker should give the Venom Symbiote more personal space.
Ugh, you're so clingy, Pete.
While it's true that there are more articles and social issues showing up in video game and movie blogs, it's also true that video games, movies, and comic books are now major topics for political websites as well: Mother Jones (named after an early 20th century union activist) covers movies from their leftist view, The Wall Street Journal (named after the street with the all the banks) talks about films with their conservative slant, and Breitbart tackles video games from the all-important Moon-Nazi perspective.
Meaningless buzzword + vaguely anti-Semitic gibberish = Breitbart headline.
The reason this happened is simple: We're a generation of people who never had to leave behind our kiddie bullshit, because our kiddie bullshit grew up with us. This month, my recreation time has been split between a sequel to a video game I first played when I was 12 years old and a sequel to a movie I first watched with my dad at age 8. Next year I get to see a sequel to the first show that ever gave me nightmares. All of pop culture is trying to remind me what it's like to be a little kid, so it's irritating when someone tries to make something ugly of it. I don't want to be mature and thoughtful, I just want some escapism. "Why are you bringing up race relations?" my brain asks indignantly, "I'm only 8, and I'm trying to watch a movie about laser swords. Go fuck yourself."
Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images
I was a very precious child when it came to "fuck" words.
But the reality is that this is the price we pay for pop culture superiority. It's a simple trade: If you want to see the highest-paid actor in Hollywood punching a robot in a scene from your favorite childhood comic book, then you have to listen to someone analyze that scene from a political perspective. That seems like a good deal to me, because Avengers: Age Of Ultron is fucking sweet, you guys. I'd rather watch that movie and hear people point out the weird way it treated Black Widow than get neither. Because hearing someone else's perspective on something I like is the price of what I like mattering. To put it another way: With great power comes a lot of think-pieces you might disagree with.
#5. Nerd Culture Isn't Actually In Charge; It's Just The Easiest Group To Sell Things To
The "Nerds Rule The World" headlines I just threw at you are the worst things you can possibly hear. It's a bold-faced lie about what nerd-dom actually means. "Nerd" is essentially just a word for "fan," and as fans we're in an automatically subservient role. We consume what other people make. Then we tweet about it or Facebook post about it and draw others into the fold. We are extraordinarily easy to make money off of: Just do what we want. And we will tell you what we want -- good God, will we tell you what we want. You won't be able to get away from what we fucking want. But that doesn't mean we're in charge, because they still decide what we get.
That's what Simon Pegg was talking about earlier this year when he criticized modern nerd culture for being obsessed with kid stuff. And he was right: Some people are very happy that a lot of us care more about Star Wars and Captain America than Freddie Gray and ISIS and the presidential primary debates. Because we're distracted by the bright colors and sexy people. By gorging on what we want, we might be starving ourselves of what we need.
This isn't a criticism of you, but of us. Hell, if nerd culture is bad for society, I'm more complicit than most of you. My entire job is predicated on you having the plotline of all six Star Wars movies memorized. I don't know the answers to these questions. But I know that if we want The Era of the Nerd to be remembered positively, we need to be aware of the things happening outside the bubble of our Very Favorite Thing.
#4. We Need To Get Better At Noticing When We're Being Used
A couple days before The Force Awakens came out (don't worry -- I'm not going to spoil anything), Gawker published this article:
This is what happens when you take the two things I was talking about in the last entry and smash them together. Now, I have no idea how Gawker's editorial system works, but I can guarantee that nobody involved with that article believes in what they're saying. Think about what has to have happened:
"People who have seen Star Wars are saying this simple, easily proven thing," said the writer, "but I, a person who has not seen the new Star Wars, think they're probably wrong, and I have no evidence to back up this delusional opinion."
"Yes," the other actual, thinking, breathing human being replied, "that's a good point. We should publish that on the website we work for because it is a thing worth saying that other human beings should hear."
I'm sorry, but I just don't think people are that stupid. Instead, what I'm sure happened is:
Gawker Person 1: "Hey, if I claim that there's no way that the new Star Wars movie passes the Bechdel Test and base it on absolutely no evidence, I bet people will get mad and hate-share it a lot."
Gawker Person 2: "That terrible idea is a good idea. We should exploit the anger of the nerds, because it is literally the easiest thing in the world to exploit, and make money off of it. You know what? Don't even bother making the article longer than, oh, four or five paragraphs."
Gawker Person 1: "Should I put any effort into making this piece well-written or clever?"
Gawker Person 2: "Why bother? No one's going to read past the headline anyway. Put a picture of Admiral Ackbar in there so we can claim it's satire later, after it's become one of our biggest hits of the day."
The most frustrating part of this for me isn't that Gawker has been pulling this same shit since the very beginning of their existence. The most frustrating part is that we're the nerds, dammit. We should be scoffing at these weak-minded attempts at manipulation, not falling for them. We should be the Jedi of the Internet, not the witless Stormtroopers!
"This isn't the article we're looking for!"
But we are. We're the Stormtroopers, agents of a great evil, whenever we get the chance. Especially when we don't ...