Friday, May 10, 2013

Guest Post: The Mass Marketing of Nerdism and Why I Want to Burn Down Hot Topic by Beth Van D

Hey there, Phantomaniacs!
Today is my birthday. I am thirty-seven years old. It really doesn’t mean all that much except that it’s time for me to start losing a little flab for convention season. I don’t feel older. I do feel a bit wiser.
I have already received several excellent birthday presents – the first is the article you are about to read from Beth Van D. The second is that the horrible annoyance that is my trainee at work is being assigned to another trainer. My managers spoke with me about his progress and I was frank about the fact that the trainee simply does not listen to me and seems to be having difficulty retaining things. I attributed the failure to the both of us and perhaps a lack of communication. But the managers knew full well that this guy was a potential problem. Apparently he had a tough time in the classroom training, as well.
The third gift is that famed local band, Super X-13:
Is playing tonight at Club Famous Pub. I am purely by chance getting a birthday celebration almost custom-made for me. I honestly couldn’t be much happier right now.
           There are some very smart points in the article below. Especially pertaining to Doctor Who. I’m going to be addressing those over the next few weeks; probably mostly on Earth Station Who Beth will be a guest next week, so be sure and check that out.

The last time I was in the dealer room at Dragon Con I remember thinking “I can get that somewhere else cheaper” about most of the things I wanted to buy. Well, I also thought “god it smells like stale sweat and spoiled cheese in here” but that's not relevant right now. Dharma Initiative patches, Jayne Cobb knit hats, Triforce t-shirts. There's a million places you can get them all now. In some ways it's kind of awesome, but in some ways it's kind of not. Despite some joking inferences that have been made to the contrary I am not a nerd elitist. I really don't care when you knew about something cool. We're all pretty kick ass for recognizing that Star Wars is the best thing since blue milk. Who cares when you knew it? Doctor Who wouldn't still be on if lots of people didn't like it so I really can't bitch about how it's changed right?
Well, me being me I can find a way to bitch about almost anything. I think what bugs me is that when things get too big they get diluted – they lose something that made them special. It's like when a band you love goes from playing small clubs to selling out arenas. The music hasn't changed, but the feeling does. You lose the intimacy, and the connection with the people making the music that made it special. It has nothing to do with people jumping on the bandwagon, it's what happens to the wagon once it's overloaded. It has to slow down and change direction to make all the new people comfortable. That's what's happening to Doctor Who and many of the other things I love.
I'll stick with Doctor Who for a little longer since that's one of my big gripes right now. Tom Baker was my first Doctor. The show was silly and campy and charming. The monsters were made of cardboard, and the TARDIS sets looked like you could bust through them Kool-Aid man style. Now it's all slick, and sexified, and the effects are actually special. It's taking itself too seriously, and starting to suffer for it if the current season is going to continue down it's current path. But it's happened with more than just Doctor Who. Let's talk superheroes. The first two X-Men movies were great. I was arguably biased given that it was always my favorite comic growing up, but they had plenty of appeal for everyone. Then they got so super popular that it seemed like they wanted to broaden it even further. And all the hard work the first two movies did was forgotten when we were faced with 90 minutes of explosions featuring characters loosely based on the X-Men. As an aside I guess that they made the Wolverine origins movie to narrow the appeal back down again. That's the only excuse I think of for them ruining the back stories of many good characters. Given that First Class wasn't bad I'm cautiously optimistic about Days of Future Past, but back to the point. The Spider-Man reboot was really boring, Ryan Reynolds should have stuck to playing Deadpool, and the Superman reboot looks like they're just riding Batman's capetails. Superheroes are even more pervasive than Doctor Who since at least you have to go to a mall to get that merch. You used to be able to identify a kindred spirit by an indie/underground t-shirt or similar accessory. “Hey, you must be really into (insert nerdy thing here) to have gone to the trouble to hunt down that super nerdy thing”. Now it just means that they live near a Target store. I found a women's “vintage” Star Wars t-shirt at Old Navy. I totally still bought one, but I was super conflicted about it. I blame that more on the clothing industry ignoring nerd women. If I see something like that in an actual womens' size I will always buy it, but that's a story for another day.
I guess at the end of the day what I really want to say is this: fly your nerd flag high. Like whatever you want to like, wear whatever you want to wear, and shop wherever you want to shop. Just stop once in awhile to consider what nerd pandering might be doing to our various genres. Look what it's done to zombies. My favorite movie monster of all time reduced to a “how to survive the zombie apocalypse” poster at Wal-Mart. The superb Left 4 Dead games forgotten as a game based on The Walking Dead TV series stinks up the place. When everybody likes something they have to make sure that it appeals to everyone, and there are a lot of stupid people in the world to appeal to. Think about it. Do you really want to see every single thing Tolkien ever wrote turned into a 12 hour movie? If your answer is no please, for the love of Zod, burn down Hot Topic.
(the author bears no liability for any Hot Topics that might actually be burned down as a result of this article)
(And that goes double for the editor; but mostly because I actually like Hot Topic)
-Beth Van D


  1. Beth's text is black. I had to highlight it to read it. Happy Birthday Good Sir!

  2. hot topic is just a shell hollow out joke of what it use to be far off in a distant the eye of a crow also HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

  3. In my opinion, nerd culture going mainstream is a good thing. Nerds are no longer as ostracized outside of school. Nerds are embraced and loved for who they are: Smart people who will save the world or invent new ones.