Subjected for generations to a ceaseless battery of abuse and humiliation at the hands of jocks, upperclassmen, and just ordinary fucking people scornful of their oily complexions, too-short pants, and penchant for carrying ink pens in their shirt pockets, nerds understandably seek the refuge of the internet. Here they can make themselves over in whatever image they choose; they can be cool and hip and funny, more easily navigate the waters of romance, and take out their lifetime of pent-up raging aggression on lesser nerds and (sweetest of all) non-nerds who wander through their digital domains.
But ruling the virtual reality of the web for so long has made some nerds cocky, swaggering — too big for their suspender-supported polyester britches, if you want the goddamn truth. Having devoted significant portions of their lives and energies to learning everything there is to learn about some obscure piece of pop culture esoterica — Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, let’s say, or mid-90s Ted Shackelford vehicle Space Precinct — they claim the exclusive right to offer informed opinions on such things, and they get awfully testy when faced with disagreement.
Case-in-point, the Watchmen film. I first read Watchmen in 2000, and I loved it. I find it a brilliant work, one of the best comics I’ve ever read, easily up there in the top two or three superhero stories ever written. I also loved the film. I found it imperfect, sure — the level of carnage in fight scenes goes wildly overboard, to cite the biggest of my few gripes — but I found it brilliant, too. I’ll need to see it again, probably a few more times, before I can sort out my opinion of it, but right now I’d put it at the top of my list of best superhero films. Even with its problems, it’s that fucking good.
Lots of Watchmen nerds disagree with me about this. But odds are at least a few of them also disagree with me on Batman Begins being a huge piece of shit, so that doesn’t really bother me. What does bother me is how they go about expressing their disagreement, and how they regard others of differing opinions. Have not the swirlies and wedgies you have long endured taught you the least bit of humility, nerds? Evidently not.
So, considering all that, it’s not hard to see why I loved the fuck out of this blog post from Patton Oswalt:
You’re all going to go see it, you resentful nerd mafiosi. And you’ll walk in rolling your eyes and you’ll walk out whistling sadly through your teeth because the fuel of the Nerd Mafia is disappointment and exclusion.
Tell you what — before you go and see THE WATCHMEN, plunk down and watch CATWOMAN, GHOST RIDER and DAREDEVIL. And use those seven hours (and don’t pretend like you don’t have seven free hours in your day) to get out all of your disgust and the-world-owes-me-my-daydreams-made-real attitude you strut around with.
Because Zack Snyder STEPPED UP, motherfuckers. THE WATCHMEN was going to get made, one way or another. And instead of bleating on his Facebook status updates or Tweeting about how shitty the upcoming adaptation’s going to be, he TOOK THE BULLET and tried to do it right. . . . Zack delivered a 2 1/2 hour, honest attempt, and broke his ass cranking out tons of free extras. Hell, he even animated The Tales of The Black Freighter for you chumps. . . . He’s the best friend the Nerd Mafia’s had since Joss Whedon and Brian Michael Bendis, so everyone please crack the tab on a frosty can of Go Fuck Yourself and go see the movie version of THE WATCHMEN.
Nicely said, and doubly stinging coming from Oswalt, a well-known lover of a myriad of nerdly things who has somehow managed to avoid becoming a socially crippled loser.
But the Watchmen reception isn’t the ugliest the nerds have gotten lately. Though it’s gotten a lot more attention, the self-satisfied dismissal of the Watchmen film is nothing next to how the nerds have been giving it to Roger Ebert lately.
Ebert invited the wrath of nerd nation by publishing a review of Fanboys, a film depicting a group of Star Wars geeks in 1999 plotting to burglarize Skywalker Ranch to steal a print of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace before anyone else has seen it, in which he writes
Extreme fandom may serve as a security blanket for the socially inept, who use its extreme structure as a substitute for social skills. If you are Luke Skywalker and she is Princess Leia, you already know what to say to each other, which is so much safer than having to ad-lib it. Your fannish obsession is your beard. If you know absolutely all the trivia about your cubbyhole of pop culture, it saves you from having to know anything about anything else. That’s why it’s excruciatingly boring to talk to such people: They’re always asking you questions they know the answer to.
Ebert also writes that the most serious flaw of Fanboys “is that it’s not critical. It is a celebration of an idiotic lifestyle, and I don’t think it knows it.” Oh no you did not! This provoked an avalanche of negative feedback from wounded and betrayed World of Warcraft players, including a letter from Jimmy Mac, which Ebert gamely posted to his website. Jimmy, who identifies himself early on as co-host of The Force-Cast, “the most-downloaded Star Wars podcast on the net,” is about as upset at the Fanboys review as you might expect. He spends most of the letter offering various apologies and justifications for Star Wars fandom, even relating the suspiciously generic story of a construction worker struggling in “these hard economic times” who watches the films with his kids on Friday nights, finding that “Star Wars is the one thing that can bring a family together.”
All of which is hilarious. But the really telling line from Jimmy Mac is this one: “when you and the late, great Gene Siskel did a week of radio talk shows that I produced at The Loop in Chicago back in 1992, you ordered 3 pizzas, offered Gene a slice, and offered me nothing.”
There we have it. Belittling a nerd’s chosen obsession is one thing; withholding pizza, however, is unforgivable. How could you, Roger? No wonder Jimmy closes his letter with a threat to kick Ebert’s enfeebled, cancer-surviving 66-year-old ass should they ever meet again in person.
You might think that Jimmy Mac’s petulant, pitiful, inadvertently self-revelatory response is as bad as it gets. If that were the case, you would be so, so fucking wrong. This post from Jason Kerouac over at Panels on Pages takes the cake:
Now let me go on record as saying I hate the term “fanboy.” Like many other nicknames used to describe subsets of humanity, I believe it is the kind of word that should only be used good naturedly among members of said group.
Like the n-word. He’s comparing being called a “fanboy” to being called a “nigger.”
Whenever someone uses the word fanboy as an obviously derogatory slur, it angries up my blood.
See? Now let’s see what Jason — very sensitive to derogatory language used to describe other people, he — has to say about Roger Ebert.
Seriously, you’ve turned sitting on your ass, watching movies, and bitching about them into a lucrative lifelong career, and you have the gall to suggest that among others, extreme fandom is a sign of some sort of sical [sic] deficiency? How dare you deny the rest of us our shot at living the dream?
Now, I’m sure I don’t need to point out to ya’ll that Roger Ebert is one of the most insightful and influential voices in the history of film criticism, a longtime champion of overlooked and independent films, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. He teaches (or taught, up until his tracheotomy a few years ago) on the movies at college and universities, is a frequent attendee of film festivals all over the world, and the founder of his own annual Overlooked Film Festival in Chicago. He also writes one of the best blogs I’ve ever read. His notion of “living the dream” likely does not include camping out in front of a theater for days on end in order to see a shitty over-hyped movie a few hours before the rest of the country.
In other words, Jason, you thin-skinned, bitchy little twerp (and I say this only because I know Roger is too classy to say so himself in the first place, and too busy to have read your article in the second place), fuck you.
That rebuke sounds a little too off-the-shelf, actually. I’ll let Ed Ferrusquia, another letter-writer published on Ebert’s website, say it better than I can. He’s responding to Jimmy Mac, but this goes for you, too, Jason:
[L]et me let you in on a little secret — it IS an idiotic lifestyle. You may not think it, but knowing who the Secret Apprentice is and actually CARING is idiotic. Subscribing to a “Force-Cast” dedicated to all things Star Wars is idiotic. Camping out for weeks on end, missing work, school, sex, just so you can say you saw The Phantom Menace before anybody else is idiotic. Doing all these things in a Boba Fett costume stretches the limits of human dignity itself.
Ed, I owe you a high-five. Jimmy Mac and Jason, you guys each have one motherfucker of an atomic wedgie coming. I’m not sayin’ I’m the guy to do it. I’m just sayin’ . . .
Oh, and just to tie this all together — if you’re interested, Ebert gave Watchmen four stars.