Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Self-indulgence gone mad!

One more reprinted post, just as an introduction, of sorts. Originally appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

More revenge for nerds: They're now trendsetters

Remember the Star Trek juror, the Arkansas woman who wore a Starfleet uniform during the Whitewater trial? Yes, we all had a good laugh at her expense. Little did we know that within five years she'd be among Hollywood's prized demographic. Without warning, a confederacy of geeks has taken over the popular culture.

"The Matrix." "X-Men." The latest chapter in the trolls and elves trilogy. This is cinema for the "Dungeons and Dragons" set. Who put the Society for Creative Anachronism (that group you may recall from college, jousting on the lawn in medieval garb shouting "zounds" at each other as they drank from faux goblets) in charge of programming?

Once we mocked nerds. It was tradition. Now we (filmgoers, the flock mentality media) follow their lead.

Check out the passion spouted by one local man in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution just before the opening of that hobbit movie: "There is a vague sense in my mind that this is the last time in my life I'm going to have this experience. Nothing else is going to generate this excitement."

I should've seen this coming. On my first day as a film schooler out West, we were asked which writer or director had inspired us most. I feared my response would be sneered at as pedestrian or, even worse, domestic!

But then I heard the name James Cameron. More than once. Same with George Lucas. No Ashbys or Wilders or Peckinpahs or Hustons.

Even now, having switched coasts a second time, I can't avoid the "other world" acolytes. An editor recently encouraged me to hook an article about police corruption to the struggle for the ring. When I displayed ignorance at his reference to Gollum, he gave me the kind of look once reserved for people who couldn't tell you the name of the vice president.

Such sentiments were formerly restricted to online chat rooms and sci-fi conventions, a few of which I covered (we had slow news days back then). I watched people nearly trample each other in their rush to fill an auditorium where Marc "The Beastmaster" Singer was set to muse. I observed adults bid thousands of dollars on an autographed copy of Leonard Nimoy's biography.

Little wonder I would always leave those events with unprecedented conviction that I was the coolest guy in the room.

Nerd mainstreaming was inevitable, I guess. It happened to rednecks (auto racing and wrestling have never been more popular). Are you really prepared for a pocket protector version of comic Jeff Foxworthy: You might be a dork if . . . ?

So the need for reaction is clear. It's time someone stood up against geek chic. Back to your parents' basement, I say.

As for everyone else, step back and reflect on the security of the schoolyard pecking order. Remember when the kid with the Star Trek Trapper Keeper was all that stood between you and the bottom social rung? Fight these otherworldly powers or, 10 years on, face the prospect of water cooler chatter about "Dungeons and Dragons 4: Back from the Maze."

Christian Boone is a writer living in Atlanta.

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