Nobody in show business has stronger nerd credentials than Patton Oswalt. I mean, this is a guy who regularly played D&D with the proprietor of this very website. So when Patton writes a column for Wired saying that geek culture has to die to be saved, it’s worth noting. “Wake Up, Geek Culture, Time to Die” is what it’s called; it’s about how what was once the culture of cults of nerds is now part of the mainstream, and how he’s not happy about that. It’s the complaint of those who are angry that the things they felt were theirs — known to only the chosen few, beloved by the cognoscenti while the masses embraced Madonna and sitcoms — are now popular. That, he feels, means that the obsessiveness of the real fans, and the creativity that it engenders, is in danger of being washed away in a sea of disposable spoof mashups.
“Boba Fett’s helmet emblazoned on sleeveless T-shirts worn by gym douches hefting dumbbells,” Oswalt writes. “The Glee kids performing the songs from The Rocky Horror Picture Show…. 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 column proposes Oswalt’s solution, accelerating the arrival of what he calls “Etewaf: Everything That Ever Was —- Available Forever,” leading to a total wipeout and reboot of popular culture. The village, he says in effect, has to be destroyed to save it.
It’s an interesting take, and while I’ll leave the analysis to you in the comments here and at Wired, I’ll just say that the feeling of betrayal when something you caught onto first goes mainstream is hardly new. Yet I understand that feeling and the emptiness that accompanies the rapid deployment of memes to the point where it seems like there’s nothing you can call your own, and nothing that makes you want to go out and create your own magic.