Martha Thomases: Where Are Our New Nerds?
In last Monday’s New York Times Media Watch columns, they ran a list of the ten films released this year that had the highest box office ion their opening weekends. What’s amazing to me is that the top five (Marvel’s The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, Hunger Games, Amazing Spider-Man and Twilight: Breaking Dawn: Part 2) can all be classified in the fantasy genre, or, as I like to call it, nerd stuff.
Of the next five (Skyfall, Brave, Ted, Madagascar 3 and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax), three are aimed primarily at children, and one is a James Bond film, which has its own separate but overlapping geek audience. Only Ted could be considered a movie aimed at what was once the wide, mainstream audience, and even then, because it is an R-rated comedy, that limits the wideness.
When did our beloved nerd culture become so dominant? I was certainly the only girl in my high school (which was all girls) who read superhero comics, and if anyone else read science fiction or fantasy, they were in the closet about it.
Even in the 1980s, when Frank Miller and Alan Moore and Art Spiegelman were publishing work that attracted mainstream media attention, there wasn’t much spillover to the medium of graphic storytelling.
When I first went to work for DC, the most common reaction I encountered when people learned what I did was, “Do they still publish those?”
For that matter, even today, the success of the movies listed above doesn’t do much for comics. There’s a history of tie-in films boosting the sale of books (for example, Gone With the Wind), but that doesn’t always overlap to your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, or comic book store.
Still, I don’t think fans like us can claim to be outsiders anymore. We might not be the cool kids, but we aren’t unwanted loners, either. What are today’s nerds about?
Is it Steampunk? Is it libertarian politics? Are there still obscure rock bands to follow, or has everything been American Idol’d to a bland pap. What distinguishes the kids getting beat up and/or ostracized today?
Besides being queer, I mean.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman and This Week’s New DC