Picture only related for the sake of easy pop culture reference.
For a while, I’ve been seeing commentary about how people are “trying too hard” or how “non-ironic” enthusiasm is “annoying.” I find this type of thing greatly disturbing! I could argue that art is being integrated more and more into our culture, as is an appreciation for it. However, there have been countless arguments that art is worthless and those partaking in it don’t have “real jobs”, whatever those might be. But, I’m not exactly here to talk about art, but culture itself. I’m here to speak about fandom! (I know, a subject I’m prone to mocking a bit myself.) But no matter, this is a rant I’ve been wanting to get out. Hopefully, it sounds coherent enough. More after the jump.
Much of the online culture seems to take pleasure in denouncing someone’s passion for the world around them. To many an internet troll, being actively engaged (perhaps obsessed) labels you an easy target. Granted, many of these targeted interests aren’t within the stereotypical mainstream culture. On the other hand, one could argue that sports fans and those active in the fashion world are just as aggressive. However, when it comes to calling out “nerdy” hobbies, it seems to be nerds demonstrating the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. Sometimes it’s worse than that, for you see only children and fools share their interests with genuine joy. To show this kind of joy makes you a “nerd” and no one wants to be a nerd! So whether it’s popular forums or various blogging sites, it seems perfectly fine to mock the other “nerds” around you.
So, what’s up with this? My best guess is how we’ve cultivated a culture built upon irony. You see, irony by itself is not a bad thing. In the realms of comedy and drama, it has be used to great effect for ages. Then somewhere in the 1980s/1990s, it became a fashionable statement. And thus, the scourge of “hipsters” were reborn in public conscious from the ashes of a dated 1940s term. Now, the culture of irony on the internet is a realm of despair and passive-aggressive intent if I’ve ever seen one. For the blog-savvy hipster, liking anything outside of irony is passe and should be frowned upon. As old cinematic cliches would indicate, it’s not cool to obsess over whatever you’re into, unless you claim you’re not actually into it. So that way, you can get an easy pass from judgmental views about the “evils” of fandom. As mentioned above, this feeds right into this sense of high school cliques, that you’d think people would grow out of.
Some folks might be wondering why I’ve come to greatly dislike the way “irony” has been used and abused within pop culture. Because of irony, we have basically excused mediocrity as a passtime we can all enjoy. That’s not to say that I don’t have a few guilty pleasures myself, as I can admit that I genuinely like bad media (i.e. Ed Wood’s movies, Big Riggs, and more!) What I mean is promotion of schlock like the endless barrage of “INSERT VALUE FOR X Simulator” games which more often than not horribly fail at their job. And sometimes, we’ll get a “Tommy Wiseau Defense” from the creators saying that it’s “ironically bad” or intended as a “dark comedy.” And quite a bit of the time, people will embrace this ironic commentary as fact. As a result, mediocrity is passed off as some fun ironic fad. Now, that’s not to say we all can’t some redeeming factors in awful works (see my love of Ed Wood’s god awful movies), and we shouldn’t have to hide it either. To an extent, this culture is what’s to blame for the return of Chuck Norris. Let’s just say his work was awful and best left for nostalgic critiques (see what I did there) to tear the work apart while lambasting it for all it’s worth. But, thanks to irony pretending to enjoy the dreck of the past, he’s back in action and back in the media to blabber his ignorant opinions. Now, I often disagree with “MovieBob”, but his take on irony’s poisonous nature is more thought out than mine.
So, what to do about this relentless pursuit of hipsterdom? Simply put, just say you enjoy something. No shame, no remorse! Now, that’s not to say you can’t criticize the flaws. As mentioned above, that’s perfectly fine. After all, I could argue it shows a greater sense of devotion if you’re willing to critique what you like and acknowledge that problems exist within. I’m a huge Doctor Who fan myself, but I’m more than willing to examine things within the series that I haven’t enjoyed too much or outright disliked. To an extent, if enough people were comfortable with doing this, it could foster some interesting dialogue and perhaps even help the property they enjoy grow! So, why then are people so inclined to hide their interests if we’re going beyond the bounds of irony? Could it be a clash of judgmental cultures? Perhaps a battle for what’s “hot” and what’s “not”?
Perhaps the realms of irony aren’t the only factor here. We as a humanity are neither an autonomous hivemind nor hyper radical individualists, like a handful of fanatics in the world would like you to believe. As such, we perceive our environments in different ways. Most of the time, these different perspectives help to make the world a unique and fascinating place. And in the end, we can all learn something new from a different perspective. But sometimes, we can take our own perspectives too far and decry someone’s interests and life choices as some besmirching of all we hold dear. Now, is it there fault? Most of the time it’s not. And it’s not always our fault either. But for most causes, it’s a culture clash where we’re too stubborn to step outside of our own little outlook on life. Now, I’m guilty of this sometimes and I’m none too proud to admit it. When ignorance gets in the way of discovery, only bad things can happen. Sometimes, that ignorance motivates absolute maliciousness and stupidity, ignoring the consequences. Hell, it’s probably why some idiot caused a gas leak at that Furrie Convention back a couple days ago. I’ll admit that I don’t get their fandom and as a former-Goon I had a habit of viciously trolling said fandom as well, but attacking a whole fandom at a meet-and-greet event to the extent of bioterrorism goes beyond wrong. Being a troll on the web isn’t okay, unleashing a gas attack on convention goers should land you in prison! This brings me to another point on changing the world. To take from what has been said throughout faith and philosophy for many eons, you have to change yourself willingly before you can change the world.
Is this to say these attitudes are rampant and inescapable? Not really. Sure, folks like Vin Diesel will be criticized for liking the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game (by fellow geeks no less), but there’s tons of celebration too. Granted, you’re comparing a big name to Jane/Joe Average; the everyday person with no real name for themselves. And even then, those who exploit irony or get defensive towards others are probably folks who are so insecure that tearing others down will make them feel mighty. Most bullies are no different, driven by boredom or low self-esteem to ensure they’re the only chipper person around. But, there are certainly ways to get around this ignorance; know your friends, be proud in what you enjoy, and expand your view of the world. In the meantime, rejoice in your interests without irony or some sort of defensive reaction. As long as you’re not attacking someone, damaging something, or awakening things-that-should-not-be from beyond the stars; then it’s all good. Don’t condemn, celebrate!