DISCLAIMER: I rarely begin a blog entry with one of these. Usually I wait until I’m thoroughly ensconced in the writing of it to insert one. But today is different. When I first began writing this late, yesterday afternoon the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” was still a handful of hours away and anticipation for it was understandably very, very high. In the time since then a horrific tragedy has occurred in Aurora, Colorado. As you have likely heard, a lone gunman named James Holmes opened fire in a crowded movie theater and killed 12 people/wounded 59 during a screening of the movie early this morning. My heart goes out to the victims and the families of the victims affected by this tragedy. They are all in my thoughts and my prayers and WERE, even as I strove to complete this composition, today. Now that it’s done? Well, I feel that I should be upfront with you. “TDKR” features as a topic in this blog entry albeit not a prominent one. If you are uncomfortable with me or anyone referencing it at the present time PLEASE do not read this, now. I promise that it will be here at a later date.
Thank you, all. Sincerely, F.
Good morning, afternoon, evening or night, friends. I hope that everything is well in your own, subjective universes. Things in mine? Well, they could be better but they could also be worse… a lot worse, and I consider myself fortunate that the worstthat I have to deal with in this day and age is a rebellious three year old and a seven week old. If that’s the worst that my worst is going to get then I’m a very, very lucky man. That said, I have now used the word “worse” or a derivative thereof (see, “worst”) seven times in less then a paragraph. Rather than risk being called redundant (like that’s ever happened) I’m going to leave my worst behind me and focus on my best. At least the best that I can do on limited sleep. ‘Kinda a common theme for ‘ye ‘ole pal the Madchronicler, these days.
Eight “worsts” and two “bests.” 8/2. 80/20. The same winnings split that my Fantasy Football League is employing this season. FYI fellow managers (I’m looking at you, Nicole, alias “I Just Tebowed” and you Chuck, alias “Cuff And Link”), “Mennonite Mafia” is taking the lion’s share of the prize money home with him this year. Any time that I employ a team name that draws upon the PA Dutch community as inspiration I’m invincible. Best just concede now before you embarrass yourselves. And with that little revelation I have, for the first time, added smack talk to my blog. It’s a momentous day! And there was much rejoicing…
In truth? It is not just a momentous day but it is a momentous time for people with certain sensibilities like my own. What sensibilities you may be wondering? In case you did not know or have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, tonight at midnight, arguably the most anticipated movie of the year will premiere in multiplexes across the country. Illegal torrent streams will begin appearing on the internet shortly after 3:00 AM… reviews will begin posting on Youtube and on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB… critics that hate it will be demonized or “trolled” and those that love it will be glorified and raised to the highest level of esteem that they can achieve along the shoulder of the ever growing, ever evolving information superhighway. I speak, of course, of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the final chapter in Writer/Director Christopher Nolan’s visionary re-telling of the Bruce Wayne/Batman mythos. His rebooted franchise–which began with “Batman Begins” and continued with “The Dark Knight”–has redefined the superhero movie.
Whether you’re a fan of his Batman movies or not you can not deny that he really has redefined the genre. Who’d have ‘thunk, 10 years ago, that a superhero movie could make an insane amount of money and also be considered one of the best pictures of the year? (see: “The Dark Knight”). Earlier this afternoon, I was stumbling around the internet in a sleepy stupor when I came upon someone who was, in preparation for seeing “The Dark Knight Rises,” re-watching every Batman movie ever made and reviewing them. I’m not just talking about Tim Burton’s “Batman” and “Batman Returns,” not to mention Nolan’s two outings, either. I’m talking about the original, Adam West camp-fest “Batman: The Movie” from the 1960s, the highly underrated, animated “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm” from the mid-1990s, the eminently forgettable, “Batman Forever” and… CRINGE… “Batman And Robin.” BTW, guys, if you’ve never seen the last one that I mentioned please: Don’t. The universal disdain for that movie is legendary. Believe me when I tell you that everything that you have heard about it–from the nipple suit to ‘Ahnold’s portrayal of Mister Freeze–is 100% accurate. I remember going to see it in the theater with my friends and feeling, within 10 minutes of when it had started, that Joel Schumacher had decided, sometime after “Forever” was a box office smash to sh*t upon the respective childhoods of people with sensibilities like mine.
What sensibilities you may be asking again? Geek sensibilities, guys. I have been, and always will be a geek. That classification–which I wear like a badge of honor and have worn for the better part of my late-teen and early adult life–is the reason why I am writing this little piece of mental flatulence this evening. I’ve never hidden what I am from anyone. At least not for a while. But my existence… my geekdom if you will wasn’t always this public. Once upon a time…
‘Cause all good stories begin as such…
Being a geek was not as chic as it is presently. Movies like “The Dark Knight Returns”–the soundtrack of which I amlistening to right now via Spotify despite the fact that I have not seen the movie yet and likely won’t see it for another week or two–were considerably less popular. Growing up, being a geek was not something that you publicized. Generally you would not be able to tell a geek from a jock in public because we hid our sensibilities beneath our overpriced sports jerseys, our sweat pants and our Nike Air sneakers. We didn’t want our “friends” to know what we really were. We wanted to save ourselves a beating or three. We wanted to fit in and we did everything in our power to do so.
Maybe this doesn’t apply to you and perhaps I should not generalize. After all, I can only speak from personalexperience and anyone who has known me for more than a decade knows that many of my experiences growing up were unsavory at best. Some of them were downright horrific. But sometime around my sophomore year in high school I met a group of people like me that convinced me that it was okay to be… well sh*t, to be me. Rather than hide my obsession with a galaxy far, far away, my innermost desire to wear a brown, leather jacket and a fedora and to shout “1.21 JIGAWATTS!” at the top of my lungs they taught me to embrace it. That group of people? They were the first real friends that I had in my life and I am thankful… nay downright blessedto still have a relationship with many of them to this day. Thanks to them I found my niche and was allowed, at last, to be me. Not some sad-sack hiding in his room after midnight on a Friday night watching his old, VHS copy of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” until the reels squeaked. Me. Bonafide and certified, baby. And there was much rejoicing…
Even then geek was still not chic despite my own, personal acceptance of what I was. I graduated high school, went to college and took up with a whole new group of friends that had like interests to mine. I spent four, phenomenal years with those people and again, I am blessed to maintain relationships with many of them,along with my high school friendsto this day. While I was attending Penn State, however, things began to change. Not just in my life but in the world at large.
I can postulate about what caused this change to occur. Perhaps it was the crossover appeal of a show like “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” the first, syndicated show to ever be nominated for a Best Drama Emmy. Perhaps it was a little movie that came out in the summer of 1993 called “Jurassic Park” that portrayed intellectual heroes as opposed to the brawny, ‘Ahnold-esque ones of my childhood. Maybe it was a little video game called “Final Fantasy VII” that shattered every previous, video game sales record despite its fantastical, anime background. Whatever the case, geekdom began, much like the Dark Knight, to riseout of obscurity and in to the mainstream. And while I was still a member of a minority I was far from an outcast. It continued to grow… continued to evolve long after I had graduated college in 1997 until at last, in the early 2000s, geek finallybecame…
You guessed it: Chic. Am I being redundant again? Probably. I can’t help myself: It just ‘kinda rolls of the tongue. Geek… chic… it’s like the two words were meant for each other.
And here we are. It’s 11:10 PM on July 19th, 2012 and in approximately 50 minutes, theater doors up and down the east coast will open to the throngs of people gathered outside, awaiting their first… and sadly last glimpse of Nolan’s Batman. Reports are already popping up across my social media feed.
“Someone shined the Batsignal, so I’m filing in and answering the call.”
“In line to see the epic movie event of the year.”
“This is gonna be the best three hours of my life.”
“At a midnight screening. I will be let down if it’s not also an allegorical defense of Bush era anti-terrorism policy…”
Okay. Maybe not that last one…
As of right now, #TheDarkKnightRises and #TDKR are both trending on Twitter and Get Glue already has over 13,600 check-ins… and the damn movie hasn’t even premiered yet! Why? How the hell can this be? How did an adaption of something that I was once mocked by my peers for enjoying–a comic book–become the “epic movie event of the year?” Well, guys and gals? That’s why I’m here, today: To hash ‘er out.
First? Movies. If you look at a list of the highest grossing movies of all time, worldwide you see a surprising trend in the top 10. They are, in descending order:
10. Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace (1999)
9. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
8. Toy Story 3 (2010)
7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part Two (2011)
3. The Avengers (2012)
2. Titanic (1997)
1. Avatar (2009)
See what I mean? Of the top 10, highest grossing movies of all time not adjusted for inflation, eight out of 10 (highlighted) are movies that would have once been considered “Geek Movies,” i.e. fantasy, superhero or science fiction movies. The remaining two movies are not and while I understand “Toy Story 3’s” inclusion on this list I will never, EVER as long as I am alive understand “Titanic’s” (sorry, Mister Cameron. I’ve enjoyed every one of your movies save for that one, and while I understand that it was a labor of love come on: You went from the sheer and utter awesomeness of “True Lies” to a sappy melodrama). Furthermore, seven of the eight movies highlighted above have appeared in the last 10 years. The trend becomes even more palpable the further down the list that you proceed. In all, 20 of the top 25, highest grossing movies of all time, worldwide fall in to the category of once-Geek Movies and most have appeared in the last 15 years.
So why the sudden change? How did we go from a society that embraced movies like “Love Story” and “The Godfather” to one that embraces movies like “Independence Day” and “Armageddon?” I’m not entirely sure that there is a single, set answer to that question but the same trend can be seen across other forms of media. Media Mediums if you will.
Por ejemplo? Television (a quick, parenthetical aside: I’m sorry about the emergence of the occasional Spanish word or phrase in my writing, lately, but I’ve been watching “Dora the Explorer” with Cara and… well, that sh*t rubs off on you!). It is much more difficult to work up a list of the most popular television shows on presently since Nielsen ranks pay TV (alias cable) differently than basic TV. But I did find an interesting list on IMDB of the top rated television shows of 2011 per a combination of critical and audience appeal. They are, in descending order:
1. Game of Thrones (9.4/10)
2. Breaking Bad (9.4/10)
3. Suits (8.8/10)
4. The Walking Dead (8.7/10)
5 (TIE). The Big Bang Theory (8.6/10)
5 (TIE). How I Met Your Mother (8.6/10)
7. White Collar (8.4/10)
8 (TIE). True Blood (8.1/10)
8 (TIE). Pretty Little Liars (8.1/10)
10. The Mentalist (8/10)
What jumps out at you? Perhaps the trend here is not as glaring as it was in the movie section of this composition. Four out of 10 of the highest rated shows from 2011 (highlighted) would have, once upon a time, been considered “Geek Television.” But three of the top five shows are unmistakably Geek TV. The top rated show from 2011 is an adaption of a best selling fantasy book series. The fourth highest rated television show is an adaption of a comic book series and the fifth? Well sh*t. It’s a TV show about… you guessed it: Geeks! Follow the list down a little bit further and you see the prevalence of other shows that fit the same mold: “Falling Skies” is about an alien invasion of earth; “The Vampire Diaries” is about…. well, vampires; “Once Upon A Time” is a retelling of virtually every fairy tale ever written and amazingly enough… rolling in at number 23 despite the fact that it hasn’t been on first run television in a few years? “Lost.” Normally I would stop at number 25 but I would be remiss in my duties as a self-proclaimed geek if I didn’t mention that number 29 is occupied by, historically, one of the geekiest shows on television and one of my personal, all-time favorites despite it’s camp factor, “Doctor Who.” It’s damn nice to see people showing their love for one of the most inventive, longest running shows on television. And there was much rejoicing by the Tennant-ites and the Smith-ites that once secretly, and now publicly populate the Whovian community…
Why? Again, I don’t know. In both of the cases that I have cited there is a counter-argument, one that I am sure the vehement, non-geeks of the world will employ if they somehow stumble across this blog entry: Who is more likely to go and see a movie on a Friday or a Saturday night, a geek or a non-geek? Who is more likely to watch television, go online and rate the shows that they watch, a geek or a non-geek? I’ll not deny that the sample size is, in both cases, likely skewed in favor of the geek but any non-geek (I used to call them “Ogre’s” when I was a kid, after the character of the same name from the “Revenge of the Nerds” movies) can go and see a movie. Any non-geek can watch television. Most do though I’d wager with absolutely no factual basis whatsoever that non-geeks watch more unintellectual fare on both the big screen and the small, thus explaining why Adam Sandler movies and Reality TV continue to thrive alongside the Marvel and DC Multiverses. Regardless of the purity of the sample size that I am citing here it is all that I currently have to go on, so please let me say to my detractors with the utmost respect: Until such time as you compose your own, counter-blog entry to mine, “I FART in your general direction! Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries. Now LEAVE or I will taunt you a second time. Ttthhhpppttt!!!”
Perhaps someone should conduct a study of geeks and non-geeks and their media medium viewing habits. I’d volunteer the Mythbusters but the Ogre’s of the world would likely veto that proposal. After all, the Mythbusters are geeks themselves. I am open to ideas if anyone would like to offer them.
But the viewing habits of the geek and the non-geek are not really the crux of this little piece of mental flatulence. The basic question of this essay/blog entry/whateveryou want to call it is this: How has the geek been so successfully rebooted in the last decade or two? How has being a geek become trendy or… chic? You may have your own answers to that question and I’d loveto hear them. Really, I would. I fancy a good debate and I rarely get to have one nowadays between diaper changes, birthday parties, baptisms, bottle feedings and “Dora the Explorer.” I have shown you what I feel is proof that this shift has happened and is happening, presently. Now I’d like to answer the fundamental question posed by this composition. How has the geek been so successfully rebooted in the last decade or two? How has being a geek become trendy or… chic?
In a word? Technology, friends. We as a society exist now in a world comprised primarily of Gigabytes (still working on the Jigawatt) and HTML. Everything that we are… everything that we do on a daily basis we do with some variation of a computer, be that variation a PC, a desktop, a laptop, a Mac, an e-reader, a tablet or a smart phone. And the people that have the technology? The people that have the brain power to create and improve it? Those people are primarily cut from the same mold that Iam. Many, if not all of them are well ensconced and established in their own, personal and communal geekdoms. They were reared, like me, on the promises of tricorders and phasers, communicators and EMHs (emergency medical holograms), warp drives and alternate universes… and they will stop at nothing now that they are adults to make those promises, little more than technological pipe dreams when they were children, a reality.
Think I’m exaggerating? Hmm. Okay, then. Here, in ascending order, is Forbes’ 2012 list of the 10 richest men and/or women in the world, the industries which they serve and their estimated, 2012 net worth:
1. Carlos Slim Helu and his Family: Telecommunications. 74 billion
2. Bill Gates: Computers. 56 billion
3. Warren Buffett: Telecommunication. 50 billion
4. Bernard Arnault: Luxury Goods. 41 billion
5. Larry Ellison: Computer Software. 39.5 billion
6. Laksmi Mittal: Steel. 31.2 billion (incidentally, his company–Arcelor Mittal–is one of my company’s best customers)
7. Amancio Ortega: Fashion. 31 billion
8. Eike Batista: Oil and Mining. 30 billion
9. Mukesh Ambani: Oil and Gas. 27 billion
10. Christy Walton and her Family: Retail. 26.5 billion
Notice anything interesting? Four of the top five richest people in the world (highlighted, baby) currently are in technological industries, thus contributing to my postulation that the technology-infatuated geek really has taken over the world, or at least a lot of the world’s money. That postulation assumes, of course, that the people highlighted above played Dungeons and Dragons, Risk and Settlers of Catan growing up like I did and watched “Mystery Science Theater 3000” which, for all I know, they did not.
Perhaps it is wrong of me to link technology and geekdom. Perhaps in doing so I am invariably generalizing my fellow geeks as little more than science fiction obsessed dreamers. That was and is not my intention. But compare much of what you may or may not have seen on… say, “Star Trek” with what you see on a daily basis now: Touch screen computers, tablets and phones, holograms of Tupac Shakur, communicators in the form of two-way radios, phasers in the form of the Taser and tricorders in the form of NASA’s “LOCAD.” Not to mention Apple’s SIRI and Android’s imitators, but SIRI especially which sounds distinctly like a a first generation, Enterprise computer (voiced by Majel Rodenberry, Gene’s wife for anyone that didn’t know and would like a little piece of pointless trivia to wow your peers with at your next office party, sarcasm fully intended). So many of the innovations that technology has brought us in the last few years seem to be lifted directly out of an episode of one of the many incarnations of “Star Trek.” Is it wrong of me to assume, then, that the creators of said innovations were inspired by what they viewed on the big screen and the small screen voyages of the Starship Enterprise?
No. I don’t think so though you may believe otherwise. Perhaps the next next generation–the one that my two daughters belong to and that many of your children belong to–will take these innovations a step further. Who knows? Perhaps I will see a sonic screwdriver in my lifetime just like I always dreamed I would. Perhaps not. I’d rather not speculate on what will or won’t happen in the next few decades. Had you told me a decade ago that people would be lauded and not ridiculed for dressing up like their favorite movie or comic book characters and attending an event like “San Diego Comic Con” once a year by the tens of hundreds of thousands I would have called you a crackpot. But low and behold, it now happens once a year.
The Geek truly has been rebooted, friends. He or she has risen from virtual obscurity 20 years ago to societal dominance of not only industry, but entertainment in the year 2012. And because of that, friends? There is much rejoicing…