Friday, January 13, 2006

Understanding Fanboys: Nerd Fight!

Isn't it great when life throws you a freebie?

I was debating what to make this entry about right up until today. I had a few good ideas (including one I'm definitely going for next week), but nothing I was sure of. Then I made my morning visit to Comics Should Be Good, and behold, a flamewar!

Well, OK, flamewar might be overdoing it, but "Nerd Fight" is still an apt descriptor. It seems Official Good Buddy Mordechai Luchins wrote a guest entry for CSBG that was basically last Friday's entry and Wednesday's, but better. Here's a quote:

"Except, just like with the first “sort” of comics fan, we end up with a more intense kind. Ones who, for whatever reason, make amazingly strong attachments to these characters. Couple that with rising prices, the death of the drugstore/newsstand market, and television and video games competing for the reader’s dollar, and we end up with modern comics, where all the fans are pretty dedicated and tend to be much older than the original target demographic. This affects content, which in turn turns off the few remaining younger readers (or their parents). So we end up with a limited and rapidly shrinking pool of readers.

You know what happens with a small genepool right?"

The reaction brings to mind an exchange from History of the World, Part I:

"Count de Monet: It is said that the people are revolting.
King Louis XVI: You said it! They stink on ice!"

One thing I neglected to mention in my previous comments about how easily fanboys get their hackles raised is that nothing raises their hackles higher or louder than criticizing them for being fanboys. To get an idea of the reaction: Imagine any career-oriented woman you know. Now imagine a hairy, sweaty, oily guy who bears more than a slight resemblance to Joe Don Baker in "Mitchell" calling her a frigid cunt who needs a good deep-dicking to straighten her out, sqeezing her simultaneously on the breasts and buttocks, and telling her to get in the kitchen and get started on dinner. Take her likely reaction and double it, and that's what you get when you call a fanboy a fanboy.

There was a great hue and cry over Morts's pointing out the elephant in the dealer's room. By far the loudest complainer was CSBG contributor Marionette, which amused me to no end, considering that she's always struck me as about the exact opposite of the kind of fan Morts described. The content of her argument was less interesting to me (I can sum it up as "You’re wrong wrong wrong") than the tone, and how it serves as a textbook example of how nerds get into fights with one another. Here's how it goes:

Nerd A: *disparaging statement about a subset X of group Y*

Nerd B: "I am a member of group Y, but not of subset X. Why did you just insult me, you cocksucking son of a whore?"

I would need an army of naked Madri to count the number of times I have seen this happen. For a while, I felt compelled to put a warning about it in my online signatures: "Did the preceding statement, criticism, or condemnation apply directly to you? Then I wasn't talking about you." I don't know, maybe it's because we've all seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail so many times, we automatically take umbrage at any insult that aimed in our general direction. But gods, we're thin-skinned bastards.

But wait, there's more…

Mordechai also included the following in his post's denouement: "At the end of the day, they’re just fiction."

Oh, Morts, Morts, Morts…

If there's any way to get a fanboy, or even a fan, more pissed off than calling them a fanboy, it's using the word "just" followed by the object of the fan's devotion. Blood feuds have been started by that damned word. It's like throwing chum in the water.

Don't believe me? Here's Marionette's reaction:

"Bull. Shit.

Belittling something by sticking "just" in front of it is cheap and unfair. I see the same attitude in online games when someone behaves badly and then defends themselves by saying "It's only a game."

If something is important to someone then it is important to them, whether it be a band, a TV show, gourmet food, travel, shoes, a celebrity, foreign movies, an online game, stamp collecting, DIY, historical re-enactment, or comic books"

Now, she makes a good point in that last paragraph, and I really don't mean to harp on her so, it's just that she makes an irresistible example. It's like the full moon came out from behind a cloud, and she turned into a were-fanboy or something. Digression over.

This is just what I'm talking about. (There's that word again.) So quick to take insult. I guess it's to be expected, especially from a comics fan; we see our hobby belittled at every turn, we naturally become extra-sensitive to it. But yikes, man. I know Morts, and I know context, and that comment was not at all meant to belittle. It was a simple statement of fact: Comics aren't the most important thing. It's an advocacy of having a sense of proportion (which, really, is the key thing fanboys lack). But there's that thin skin again. Once burned, twice shy; thrice burned, take an axe to anybody who strikes a match.

Plea For Sanity Time, and this time, I blatantly steal from the great Bill Hicks: "Read. Listen. Think. Calm down. Shut the fuck up."

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