coverYou know, sometimes it feels like geeks just can’t win. Even when they do win.

The Seattle Times has a piece looking at the current resurgence of geek nostalgia culture, as typified by movies like Pixels and books like Armada. Geeks have won, Todd Martens writes, and now pop culture is pandering to them and he’s grumpy.

Watching and reading “Pixels” and “Armada” felt as if I were being subjected to a cheerleading routine rather than experiencing a work of pop art. Congrats, you remember “Centipede”! Honorary, you know which tattoos grace the characters of “Aliens”!

Still, “Pixels” was near the top of its opening weekend’s soft box office, and “Armada” in all likelihood will follow Cline’s “Ready Player One” to the best-seller list. Their very existence is evidence of a larger pop-cultural problem: the near-relentless pandering to us so-called geeks.

I read over this article and find it hard not to giggle. Really, it’s such a transparent complaint, and it can be summed up in the form of a TVTrope: “It’s Popular, Now It Sucks.”

Whenever anything that might once have been considered niche and nerdy becomes popular, suddenly people who used to be square in the middle of that niche come out of the woodwork to complain about how they’re suddenly getting credibility. I well remember this happening when anime, the sole province of fansub tape traders back when I was in college, was suddenly all over TV and it was the oldest fans who complained the loudest. People like to feel special for being fond of something no one else knows or cares about. Take that obscurity away and they feel deprived.

In a larger sense, it’s simply another manifestation of the same nostalgia trend that is responsible for the passel of remakes and sequels that have been coming out over the last few years. When people hit their midlife years, they instinctively want to relive their childhoods. Hollywood just as instinctively understands this, which is why at any given time there are remakes of 30 to 40 year old properties in the offing, just in time for us children of the eighties. It wasn’t really any different back when we were growing up, either. How many reunion movies for old sixties and seventies shows we never watched (except perhaps on afternoon syndicated TV) did we kids sit through?

It’s not so much that they’re pandering to “geeks”—they’re pandering to our generation. And, really, even non-geeks were able to enjoy a lot of the things that geeks thought were so cool.

The funny thing is that e-books, smartphones, the Internet, and other common cool tools are like something out of science fiction from those days. You could say that we geeks are living the science fiction dream we had then in real life now. And maybe that’s another reason the nostalgia is so effective. It’s like having the best of both worlds.


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