Friday 7 January 2011

The end of nerd culture?

The internet kills nerd culture says Patton Oswalt at Wired.

The problem started, says Oswalt, when Watchmen popularised the idea of geek culture.
Fast-forward to now: Boba Fett’s helmet emblazoned on sleeveless T-shirts worn by gym douches hefting dumbbells. The Glee kids performing the songs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And Toad the Wet Sprocket, a band that took its name from a Monty Python riff, joining the permanent soundtrack of a night out at Bennigan’s. Our below-the-topsoil passions have been rudely dug up and displayed in the noonday sun. The Lord of the Rings used to be ours and only ours simply because of the sheer goddamn thickness of the books. Twenty years later, the entire cast and crew would be trooping onstage at the Oscars to collect their statuettes, and replicas of the One Ring would be sold as bling.

The topsoil has been scraped away, forever, in 2010. In fact, it’s been dug up, thrown into the air, and allowed to rain down and coat everyone in a thin gray-brown mist called the Internet. Everyone considers themselves otaku about something—whether it’s the mythology of Lost or the minor intrigues of Top Chef. American Idol inspires—if not in depth, at least in length and passion—the same number of conversations as does The Wire. There are no more hidden thought-palaces—they’re easily accessed websites, or Facebook pages with thousands of fans. And I’m not going to bore you with the step-by-step specifics of how it happened. In the timeline of the upheaval, part of the graph should be interrupted by the words the Internet. And now here we are.
Eerily reminiscent of critiques of the globalisation of culture: wasn't it cool when you had to go to Korea to get decent Korean food? Now you can get it anywhere, and that makes your special trip to Korea a little less special. And so you're a little less special for having gone there.

Oswalt worries that "everything that ever was, available forever" will produce sated consumers rather than inspired producers. I'd bet against it.


  1. I'll bet Oswalt also hates it when his favourite bands 'sellout' by becoming successful.....

  2. I would be more worried that the domain of 'nerd' would be pushed so far beyond what it was previously, that it becomes seriously unhealthy.

    Consider the people who used to simply pierce their ears. Then they had to pierce their nose. They they had to pierce their lip. Then the ear a dozen times. Then they had to put in those stupid ear discs. Now they have to have sub-dermal implants.

    Translate that to geek culture. First it was ok just to like Star Wars. Then it was knowing the names of all the characters including the ships and droids. Then it was knowing how a light saber was supposed to work, and a working knowledge of the MFs waste disposal system. What next? It cant be healthy.

    Of course, this only applies to those who are 'nerds' for appearances sake. Not the true nerds who just like nerd stuff for itself.

    And it ignores the emergence of the 'new nerds'; people who dont buy Apple's shit.