The Death of Nerd Culture | The Death of all Culture
I don’t actually hate Star Wars, I hate what it’s doing to “nerd culture,” and I see a lot of danger in that.
But first, Star Wars:
I never did like Star Wars. I think it’s because my dad didn’t like Star Wars, so I wasn’t shown the movies as a child. That might be the same reason I was never much interested in watching sportsball. My first memories of the franchise were some toys and a poster in the room of one of my grade school age rotational best friends. The toys sat next to cooler looking Alien toys.
The poster showed Luke Skywalker with his hands clasped together and a beam shooting upwards and out to the sides. I didn’t know what it was depicting, a light saber, and figured it was something I was familiar with like an energy power similar to what some X-Men had. Princess Leia was to his side, and the aspects of Darth Vader and the Empire loomed dark behind.
Neither the toys nor the poster inspired me to seek out the films.
I finally saw the movies as an early teen, when they were rereleased with digitally remastered sound and enhanced effects. I didn’t get it at all. Even at that age, a story of good vs. evil seemed cartoonish in its simplicity.
Wasn’t the job of a writer, at a minimum, to dress up good and evil with metaphor? In Star Wars, the good guys are called the “light” and the bad guys are called the “dark side.”
At age 13 or 14, my first thought was that a child of 6 could have written this. In this tale of light and dark, grey pops up here and there in the form of swarthy rogues and disinterested businessmen. The real moral action is at the extremes.
Walking next to my friend’s dad on our way back to the car, I asked him “what do people like so much about Star Wars?” As a fan and theatergoer of the originals, he would know. His answer was that, back then, the special effects were really something special. It was a kind of grand scope cinematic experience. The effects, even with digital enhancement, weren’t so special anymore, but it was nostalgic for many people.
I always remembered that explanation from a man who was around for the original movies, and unconsciously compare it too the slavering praise given the franchise today by those too young to have been around for Episode I, let alone Episode IV.
The politics of Star Wars episodes IV-VI can be summed up like this: political power must be wrested from the hands of Bad People who do Bad Things and given to Good People who will use it for Good Things. That is all there is to know about the politics of Star Wars.
Matters progressed. Episodes I-III were roundly condemned as inferior to the originals. They were a grand cinematic event, however, bringing in star (no pun intended) power and top-of-the-line Computer Graphics.
Many people sum up their disappointment in two words:
For me, I didn’t think these movies were any worse than the originals. Young Anakin was a bad actor and his scenes were corny, but so were most of Luke Skywalker’s from the originals.
Many of the actors, stymied by poor writing and direction, delivered performances considerably below their abilities. Ewan McGregor was ok, whereas he is normally very good. The acting of Hayden Christenson and Natalie Portman was distractingly robotic and detached.
Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Ian McDiarmid as Senator/Emperor Palpatine stood alone in transcending the talent-sucking morass. Jackson in particular seemed almost apart from the movies, thrown in as an afterthought:
“Samuel L. Jackson as Samuel L. Jackson as a Jedi.”
He will strike down with great vengeance and furious anger, all those who attempt to poison and destroy his Jedi brothers, and he’s sick of these motherfucking Sith on this motherfucking planet.
As usual, some of the most popular parts struck me as the most awful. In Yoda’s boss battle with Count Dooku, he pointlessly flips around and bounces off of walls, seemingly for the sole purpose of demonstrating the capabilities of the Computer Graphics team.
In addition to the dreadful aesthetics, I would think a Star Wars fan would take offense to this character abuse. In a minute or so, the stoic and serene mastery of Yoda, built over long decades of careful presentation and a supremely iconic mutated speech syntax, was sacrificed for the cheapest action hokum this side of Michael Bay.
The whole disturbing scene was reminiscent of Lord of the Rings fans cheering on Gimli’s self-immolation at the Battle at Helmsdeep. The proud dwarf warrior was degraded into short, pudgy comic relief, lurching clumsily around the field of battle and trying vainly to catch up in kill count to his taller, more graceful compatriot Legolas. Much funny, very laughs.
Once a stylized character breaks their mold, there is no coming back. If Episode II has preceded Episodes IV-VI in release as in chronological fact, Yoda’s sage-like aspect would have been compromised from the start.
There are only really two things to like about Episodes I-III, the politics and Darth Maul.
The Galactic Republic, then Empire, is a clear allusion to Rome.
As in Rome, the federated “Republic” functions as a reasonably “free” democracy until a strong, warlike personality (Palpatine/Caesar) usurps control and creates the monolithic “Empire.” To me this is boring democracy-posting, as the Republic and Empire are presented as a false dichotomy with which the inhabited planets of the galaxy must choose to engage in one or be ruled by the other.
Omnipotent statism is presupposed as an underlying feature of the universe. Next.
Episodes I-III are really a fictionalization of the ineffectiveness, even contra-effectiveness, of supra-national bodies such as the United Nations. The Galactic Republic is completely impotent vis a vis the blockade and invasion of Naboo.
This is actually a rather ballsy allusion, it seems to me, to the invasion of Iraq by America in the early and mid aughts when these movies were being released.
After the Persian Gulf War, America pursued a series of sanctions on Iraq, preventing supplies that led to an estimated 500,000 otherwise preventable deaths of children. Not sated, the American state initiated a full-scale ground invasion on the obviously false pretense of “weapons of mass destruction.”
In Star Wars, the Trade Federation is the group engaged in blockade and later invasion of Naboo. They present false testimony on the Republic floor, filibustering a potential Republic response through engagement with its tedious bureaucracy. In secret, they are working with the Sith in an effort to maintain the petro-dollar global trade order. The crisis produced by this wanton military action leads to what it always leads to, a cry for more centralized power rather than less, and the Empire is born through this and further steps in episodes II and III.
Darth Maul is the perfect evil foot soldier. His single-minded ferocity is animalistic, bestial, an effect aided by his inhuman appearance. Stern in silence, one never does know to what extent he shares human feelings, leaving one with a disturbing unsuredness as to his nature.
Adding to that, his modified light saber, unlike the goofy one in Episode VII wielded by Emo Ren, is intimidating yet sensible. The two “blades” foreshadow his 1 on 2 fight with Qui Gon Jinn and Obi Wan.
It is with true terror that I imagine being in Obi Wan’s shoes, staring through a temporary energy barrier at the sinister Maul, pacing and murderous. How Obi Wan engages him, fearless in the face of the “man” who just dispatched his Master and mentor, inculcated in me a deep respect for his character.
In Star Wars, Obi Wan Kenobi is da real MVP, and he achieved that status through fighting Darth Maul.
This thing was God-awful.
A hilarious criticism was published at, of all places, the Huffington Post, called “40 Unforgiveable Plots Holes in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Never deep sci-fi, this version of Star Wars eschews all sense of consistency in world building in favor of ad hoc action to further a plot seemingly written on the fly to incorporate their inclusive cast. Girls kick butt!
Echoing my own feelings, Harrison Ford’s Han Solo seems anxious to get run through by his son’s retarded light saber so he can gtfo out this thing.
The part that is truly astounding is how expensive the project was. With over $300 million, the final product is barely on the serious side of movies like Starship Troopers (which is itself a masterpiece of campy science fiction).
You could put literally anything on screen, call it Star Wars, and “nerds” would glance around nervously while pretending to love it. I wonder if this kind of forced fandom could be seen in brain scans as mild trauma.
Star Wars Episode VII is exactly the same as episode IV. Bad People are taking power from Good People, and Bad Things are going to happen. That must be prevented, through the Resistance.
Not the Rebellion, the Resistance.
The HuffPo article sums up the inanity of the politics succinctly in plot holes #9 and 10:
What is all this nonsense about the First Order only wanting to destroy the Republic because the Republic is supporting the Resistance?
First of all, isn’t the Resistance part of the Republic, not a separate operation?
And if it is separate, why has the First Order only just now discovered the not-very-well-hidden fact that the Republic is supporting the Resistance?
And if the Resistance is in fact a part of the Republic, why didn’t Starkiller Base destroy the Republic’s planets and moons much, much earlier?
In other words, what is the status of the war between the Republic and the First Order at the beginning of The Force Awakens, such that this precise moment is when General Hux decides to simply press a button and destroy the Republic?
And another thing: if the Republic is in power, why is the Resistance the “Resistance”?
What are they resisting?
Isn’t the First Order the “Resistance,” as they’re resisting the hegemony of the Republic?
It’s like someone on-set said “the Rebels need a new name,” without realizing that the political situation in the Galaxy had totally changed since the events of the previous films.
I suspect that the overarching purpose of these 3 movies is going to be a story about balance in the force, and that all other considerations like plot and character development and internal consistentency within the world will be entirely subservient to this theme. Expect Clintonian-style realpolitik with a healthy dose of Progressive gender, race, economic, and possibly sexual orientation/gender identity themes.
Alas, Nerd Culture
Star Wars is a Trojan Horse, pregnant with the soldiers of mass marketing and mainstreamification, brought through the Mnemonic Wall of nerd culture.
“You just don’t like things just because they are popular, you hipster.”
No. Popularity in this case is a symptom of a deeper problem, one of homogeneity. Nerd culture used to be about social outcasts coming together over their love of content created by other social outcasts. Comic books, Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering cards, video games.
Now it’s a fashion statement.
A marketing demographic neutered and controlled through careful focus-grouping. As they say, when something is made “for everyone,” it’s not really made for anyone. The popularity isn’t the problem, it’s the use of bland, homogeneous, cookie cutter reskins of safe tropes to achieve that popularity that causes damage.
Twenty years ago, nerds were guys who couldn’t make the sportsball team or get a date, meeting up to let off steam over vidya or board games. It was socially awkward youths reading stories for them in the pages of Marvel comics.
Today, nerd culture is a hot girl on Snapchat using those atrocious Harry Potter filters, saying she’s “kinda a nerd lmao going to see STAR WARS tonight!!!”
People that self identify as nerds through Star Wars or Harry Potter fandom are no more nerds than people who identify as scientists through Neil deGrasse Tyson or Michio Kaku. The essence of niche has been boiled out, and the palatable dregs eaten up by a public seemingly primed to do so.
Like the son in Psycho, who loves his mother more in death than in life, these nouveau nerds proclaim a louder fandom as the corpse of nerd culture ripens in the sun. The stench attracts more normies. This is the point of mainstreamification, to dissolve away essences.
Why does it matter?
The aesthetic and the political. Aesthetically, it’s simply cringy af to watch jocks and thots call themselves nerds, shot gunning pregame beers before the midnight screening of whatever-the-fuck-they-were-told-to-like. As the market dictates the content created for it, ongoing loss of ground by real nerds to these people has and will continue to produce a degradation. This can even be seen in Star Wars, as the newer films are clearly more milquetoast and focus-grouped than the originals.
The second, more serious reason is that this degradation and homogenization represents the fate of all cultures under modern Progressivism. The process of removing essence to make accessible to everyone robs cultures of their ability to produce narratives in opposition to the dominant. For Progressives, the perfect restaurant would be fusion everything, where you couldn’t distinguish between the burger and the sushi.
Progressives won’t be happy until there is no bastion of bigotry, sexism, or non-inclusiveness left in the world. And by that, they mean nothing they don’t approve of. Like Prohibitionists and other busybodies before them, modern Progressives are aghast that someone might enjoy something they don’t find appropriate. Protected from anything actually bad ever happening in their lives, these (mostly) women decry violence against women in video games, while at the same time demanding equality of representation for women in video games.
How do you resolve this?
You don’t, the point is to destroy the culture through contradictory and impossible demands. The real demand is esoteric, a whispered “go away, we’re taking this from you now.”
Star Wars has credentials. It’s old-school, and most “nerds” worth their salty snacks have always loved Star Wars. Star Wars Star Wars Star Wars. In that sense, I’m a bit outside the nerd culture myself, and that’s ok! Star Wars is the perfect inoffensive and beloved vehicle to ram Progressive values down the gullet of nerd culture.
Is Episode VII anything more than Episode IV with girl power, where the protagonist is female and the antagonist “old powers” are male?
How much time could that script have taken to write?
When Rey finishes dismantling the patriarchy (the force?) will she retire with her black ex-janitor boyfriend, or does she not need a man? Boy I can’t wait to find out.
I haven’t seen Rogue One yet, and I wasn’t planning on seeing Episode VIII unless a friend invited me, but now I have to. I’ll watch them and report back. I can hear it calling to me already:
“Nerds of the Old Republic, this world isn’t for you, it’s for everyone. It’s for no one. You’ll like it, you’ll see. We will achieve perfect diversity when everything is identically diverse. Goodbye now, and thanks for all the Star Wars.”
For the history you didn’t learn in school, check out Liberty Classroom: