The Appropriation of Nerd Culture
The Internet Age is the best of times to be a pop culture nerd and the worst of times to be a pop culture nerd (That will be my one and only literary nerd reference, I promise). Once upon a time, nerds used to have to sit alone in their dark basement dwellings, screaming to their Worf action figure about how X-Files should have ended after Mulder left the series (Dogget, my ass!). That all changed with the invention of the Internet. Now nerds can sit in their dark basements on their computers and yell at millions of other nerds online about nerd things that enrage nerds way more than they should. With such passion (obsession?), nerd things are more popular than ever.
That’s the good part.
The bad part is that the nerd things we love so much are being taken from us at an alarming rate.
This past week it was announced that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was coming back with…(drum roll)…a BLACK BUFFY! Buffy fans did not approve. Not because Buffy was going to be played by an African-American but because a beloved character was once again being taken and recycled for mass consumption. Buffy Summers wasn’t black; she was a blonde, white girl who fought vampires…and also fell in love with them. That’s who she was, that’s the character so many people fell in love with. So why change Buffy’s race? Easy. So black people will watch the show. Let’s be honest: There weren’t too many people of color living in Sunnydale. The Buffy fanbase will return but making Buffy black will bring in the black demographic. That’s what it’s about: Demographics. It’s not about making the show good (which is why it was so beloved in the first place); it’s about mass market appeal.
The best example of the hijacking of a beloved nerd franchise is Star Wars. The Last Jedi received glowing reviews from most movie critics but every Star Wars fanatic I know despised it. Why? Because it’s not for Star Wars fans. It’s for everyone else. It’s a paint-by-numbers Star Wars flick. It’s the shadow of a Star Wars film. It was the first Star Wars movie I didn’t see in the theaters. I was almost a Star Wars nerd, but Anakin whining about how much he hates sand in Episode II took care of that. But when I read the comments on social media, I knew the truth. Star Wars had betrayed the nerds who made it popular in the first place. Instead, I watched The Last Jedi in the comfort of my own home with Rifftrax (I’d explain what this is, but I don’t want it to become too popular and get ruined like Star Wars).
It’s the ultimate Catch-22 of nerdom. If you love something too much for too long you’ll live long enough to see it taken away from you and transformed into something you despise.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I learned this lesson on opening night of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It was the only midnight showing I’ve ever been to. I wore my fedora. Then I watched Shia Ladouche swing from vines with shitty CGI monkeys. And that was it for me. As a kid, I watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on VHS every single day for close to a year and Last Crusade is still one of my favorite movies of all time. But as I watched Old Indy fart around the screen with stupid-looking aliens (Sorry, cross-dimensional beings...), something inside me died. My inner nerd knew it could be harmed that day, that what I loved as a child could be harmed as an adult.
And that’s the point. We don’t own any of these characters or these franchises. Disney does (in most cases). I was obsessed with Ghostbusters as a kid. Had all the toys, watched the cartoon, wore out the tape in the VHS’s. So everyone assumed I’d be enraged when Girlbusters was announced. The truth was, I wasn’t. Because I knew the new movie wasn’t FOR me; it was for everyone else. I kept my money and my memories of the original.
So make Buffy Summers black. Make Luke Skywalker a bitter old emo dude. Fart out another Indiana Jones elderly adventure. Do as you will. I will hang onto my memories, and I encourage all nerds to do the same. It will save you pain in the future and keep your Internet rage in check.
Just remember: There is no Dana…ONLY ZUUL!