A friend of mine is a big Superman fan and was outraged when pictures surfaced of the new Superman costume in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel. The costume doesn’t have the iconic red underwear on the outside! He’s been surprisingly civil in his outbursts so far, but I just know that underneath it all simmers a boiling pot of black rage. I, for example, I find it INCONCEIVABLE that any self respecting person would not have read The Hobbit, seen Star Wars or played with LEGO as a child. And yet such people exist, in defiance of my entirely reasonable expectations.
I’ve witnessed similar traits at a convention I went to recently where a model of Saruman’s tower from Lord of the Rings was labelled “Isengard”. A young teenager then came up and began berating the maker of the model because the tower is called Orthanc, Isengard is the name of the compound it sits in. HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY NOT KNOW THAT?!?
The bane of any any fan’s life is when someone else refuses to understand the object of their fandom. When they stare back at you blindly, blinking like an uncomprehending farm animal. Previously restricted to loungerooms, cinema foyers, bookstores and conventions, NerdRage can now be witnessed in almost any online setting.
This type of NerdRage stems from, in part at least, the incredible dissemination of knowledge and culture that the Internet has enabled. It also comes from the fact that the Internet has enabled us to more easily find people interested in the same things, no matter how niche. As a result people are increasingly surrounded by like minded people interested in the same things, be it knitting anime characters, writing erotic Harry Potter fan fiction, swooning over fictional characters, or discussing Voyager books.
People, and I include myself here, therefore are becoming less tolerant of ignorance. Some become just intolerant in general, but I like to think most nerd/geeks are a pretty accepting lot. That said, the very definition of “nerd” or “geek” has broadened to encompass all kinds of specialist knowledge and many now self apply what was in school a derogatory slur. Hell, chunky glasses, once the signifier of visually impaired nerds the world over, are now being worn as lens-less fashion statements by hipster hotties.
Another type of NerdRage comes from when the creative folks decide to change an aspect of our fan-object. Like removing Superman’s underpants ( away with you, filthy minded fanfic writers! ), killing off our favourite character in Book 4, or not including the Scouring of the Shire in the Lord of the Rings movies. In the new hyper-engaged world of teh Interwebz nerd/geek fans have developed a greater voice that the creators of our beloved books, characters, TV shows, movies or toys, are increasingly actually listening to.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think this is a good thing! But it can help foster a sense of entitlement that we don’t always deserve. After all, we didn’t spend months of our lives writing stories and characters, or weeks of 15hr days shooting a TV show. But what is art without someone to witness it? I sometimes wonder that the super-connected world of the 21st century will not allow the idealistic tenant of “art for art’s sake” to exist, because if something new isn’t popular it will be shouted down.
So I guess that’s the conundrum; we both need NerdRage to keep individual voices loud and proud, but that same rage can keep us from embracing anything new or different. End rant.