Sunday, November 23, 2014

Junk Sick Love: Geek culture's never-ending need for nostalgia

All the world's a sequel

Posted by Chris Haire on Sun, Nov 23, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Several years ago, my wife and I lived in Hawaii, and once every quarter or so, either friends or family would come to visit us. Since we both had full-time jobs, we'd hand over the keys to our car and tell them to go exploring. They could drive into the tourist heart of Waikiki. They could drive up the Pali, across the mountains, and over to the windward side of the island. They could cruise on up to Haleiwa Town on the North Shore and watch the surfers. We didn't care what they did. We just wanted them to experience a little bit of what we experienced every day. And everybody did just that — except for one guy.

Instead of snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, swimming at Ala Moana Park, or hiking along the Makiki Valley Trail, he stayed in our apartment and read comic books.

It's important to note that he didn't bring those books with him. Nope. He had googled the nearest comic book shop on Oahu and took a taxi there on his first full day in Honolulu.

There was nothing particularly special about this comic shop, mind you. There weren't any rare Japanese imports there — whether it was manga, memorabilia, or some then-hard-to-find movie like Battle Royale. It was just a tiny old shop with the same-old Marvel and DC shit you're going to find at any mainland shop — the latest 14 issues in whatever crossover event that was currently hobbling their regular lineup, hardback "absolute" editions of pivotal comic-book arcs, and busty, bum-floss sculptures of Psylocke, Vampirella, and She-Hulk. And for the next three or four days our friend read his comics from the time we left in the morning to when we returned in the evening. 

Even worse, on his next to last full day in Hawaii, he stopped off at another shop and bought a Spider-Man video game for the Playstation. What was particularly perplexing about this was the fact that we only had a Wii. 

Let that sink in for a second. He bought a Spider-Man game — probably at a higher price than he would have paid back home or at least online — that he couldn't even play while he was sitting inside our apartment waiting for us to come home, all because he suffered from a condition that far too many geeks have: a need to surround himself with the accoutrements of geekery at all times. Sadly, he's not alone. 

Truth be told, the nerd world is filled with these junk-sick ciphers, and they're destroying fandom for the rest of us. To make matters worse, their fanaticism is detrimental to the next generation of fan boys and geek girls.

See, it's one thing to own a Threadless T-shirt featuring Darth Vader trimming an ornamental plant into the shape of the Death Star, and it's another thing to own the Star Wars trilogy in every single video format, in every single iteration, in every single remastering — all the while complaining about having to buy yet another copy of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi because Lucasfilm has added some brand-spanking new feature that only amounts to five minutes of screen time — but at least it comes in a shiny new box that looks like Emperor Palpatine's puckering dark side.

There is a stark difference between being pleasantly reminded of your love of a particular work or character and being imprisoned by the need for a never-ending nostalgia fix that takes you back to the first time you heard John Williams' epic theme song and read that signature Star Wars opening crawl. 

For the full extent that these junk-sick fiends are destroying geekdom, look no further than Legos. There was a time and place when Legos were the domain of children, a simple brick-by-brick medium that allowed them to unleash their unbridled imaginations, and, yes, sometimes those imaginations were fueled by movies like Star Wars.

But today, Legos are geared not toward children but to aging fanboys who crave nothing more than pre-designed playsets — whether it is a replica of Jabba the Hutt's lair, complete with slave girl Leia, or the mighty Millennium Falcon itself. Or as Wired's Angry Nerd writes, "Toys are now made to be cubicle tchotchkes first and children's playthings second."

Unfortunately, far too many geeks simply don't realize how true those words are. For them, these toys amount to a kind of sad talisman that protects them from the pangs of adulthood, that shields them from the disappointments that they are sure to experience, that blinds them to the lives they've never lived. They seek comfort in the familiarity of these objects. They seek a rehashed happiness in their obsessions. They seek an ever-scrolling sequence of been-there, done-that moments in time. For them, all the world's a sequel and we are all just consumers waiting for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to hit the big screen.

And judging by last week’s teaser trailer, that day just can’t get here fast enough. I mean, that three-pronged light saber was badass — impractical, but badass.

Chris Haire is the editor of the Charleston City Paper and the author of TOMBSTONED, a lo-fi, sci-fi, film noir, comic book, porno parody about lo-fi, sci-fi, film noir, comic book, porno parodies. 

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