Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Geek Hypocrisy: When It's Okay To Take The Piss
Bless the magic of Google Alerts – the other day, they turned up this.
It’s genius – pure comic book nostalgia and it made me laugh my arse off. But it also got me thinking – why is that funny, while the reaction of geek culture to Ms. Laverne showed nothing but outrage?
The answer turned up on The Box Room podcast, an episode in which I guested a couple of weeks ago, though the input (sadly!) wasn’t mine. The sharp insight came from @ourobouros54, talking about how any sub-culture is perceived from the outside.
When I look at Reality TV, I see the breakdown of popular culture. Programmes like Big Brother elevate to national heroism people who are actively encouraged to betray and backstab members of their – albeit artificial – community. Their audience is baying for them to bitch, to manipulate, to cause each other emotional trauma and breakdown, to ostracise and victimise. Will Self compared such behaviour to the Gladiatorial Arena and I absolutely agree – with one exception. If we armed these people with nets and tridents and loosed a few large predators, hell, at least it would be fucking honest. Instead, we have a system that actively rewards dishonourable, community-damaging behaviour. I can’t express how much I loathe it.
This is a sub-culture I witness from the outside. Much as I would love to give them all the Charlie Brooker treatment, the original Big Brother was a wonderful concept – ground-breaking, dream-fulfilling, inspiring a generation. It promotes the idea of public involvement – a democratic vote in which everyone (apparently!) has a fair say. The BBC even went as far as to ponder whether it could pull young people out of their political apathy.
I’m rambling (sorry, this is a bugbear of mine); the point is: when you’re outside a particular sub-culture, you see it in its worst light. If you’re not a geek, then all you see are the clichés - sweaty comic book fans and badly dressed cosplayers – and the media will play to that perception (Ourobouros called it ‘The Lunatic Fringe’) to gain sensation and elevate reading/viewing figures through mass appeal. It’s only when you’re on the inside that the culture opens out and you can see so much more.
Coming full-circle, then, the picture of Torquemada outside FP Denmark Street is funny because it’s self-referential – it’s a cliquey, insider-knowledge comment, lampoon-humour born from affection - and we can laugh because we know it's made with grains of both love and truth. We know our own culture, thank you.
But if an outsider makes a gag like that? It's made from a lack of awareness and understanding - and watch how the geeks close ranks.
And I ask: does that make us hypocritical?