Thursday, December 9, 2010

I Want My Obscure Fandom Back

I'm a little tired of my favorite fandoms going mainstream. It's destroying my geek cred.

Firefly used to be that awesome show that was cut down in its prime and yet rose from the ashes due to its strong cult following.

Cult following.

Now you can't swing a dead chinook without hitting a Browncoat. Now every geek clothing manufacturer in the nation has no fewer than three t-shirts with something said by Jayne Cobb. Now everyone is a leaf on the wind.

Firefly and Serenity used to be our little secret, the kind of show we watched over and over because we kept sharing it with our friends who'd never heard of it. And it got better every time. Now this elegantly crafted universe has been reduced to a bunch of catch phrases and funny slang terms.

Star Trek used to carry some serious weight as a dork. Granted, most people have seen a few shows with Kirk and Spock, that movie with the whales, or half an episode of Scott Bakula Steers a Spaceship while flipping through channels. Watching one series didn't make you a nerd. Watching two or more of them, combined with owning Spock ears, a model Borg cube, a phaser, some action figures, and a college bumper sticker proclaiming "FERENGI SCHOOL OF BUSINESS" totally did make you a nerd.

Then Star Trek hit theaters in 2009. Spock ears were suddenly acceptable attire for that awesome Halloween party at the frat house. Owning a Borg cube was suddenly about as square as owning a James Bond car. Star Trek was hip, accessible to the masses, and no more arcane and enigmatic than American Idol. All my love and knowledge of Star Trek was reduced to the equivalent of a degree in grocery shopping. I liked being abnormal.

Mega Man was once a video game institution, an elite club for gamers with the skill and persistence to conquer some of the most rock-hard games in existence. Then Mega Man Powered Up and Mega Man 10 swept in with an Easy Mode that gave away free memberships to absolutely anyone with thumbs. Can I get an honorary degree from Harvard if I do an overnight tour?

One by one, I'm losing my all-time favorite fandoms to the mainstream. I relish the chance to introduce an interest of mine to the uninitiated, but I'm quickly running out of people to initiate. I enjoy geeking out with friends and family about a mutual fandom, but there's a special bond that's diminished when it's everyone's fandom. Saying you're a Beatles fan doesn't mean anything unless you've got scary amounts of evidence to prove it. In contrast, you don't have anything to prove if you say you're a Blue Beetle fan; that's instant geek cred right there.

You know what it's like when your favorite unknown vacation spot suddenly becomes popular so that it's everyone's favorite vacation spot? I'm happy that so many people are discovering my favorite fandoms, but frankly, it's getting a little crowded. I wonder if Battlestar Galactica has any vacancies...


A Philosophical Nerd said...

I know exactly how you feel. On the one hand, geekdoms becoming popular will ensure that the franchises continue. On the other hand, this is a double-edged sword because by making a geekdom appealing to the masses you have to compromise and cause the geekdom to lose what made it special in the first place. If Firefly had been this popular when it was first airing it wouldn't have been canceled. It's just too bad it took so long for people to find it (myself included) and fall in love with the show. There are only fourteen episodes and one feature film; that's criminally short for such a brilliant series.

zharth said...

You must regret having exfanded all of your favorite fandoms by now. :p

Flashman85 said...

APN: Agreed.

zharth: That's just the thing--I had nothing to do with it! It's not that the masses tried out Star Trek and liked it; it's that Star Trek was transformed into something the masses would like.

Same deal with Mega Man--one or two games in just one or two games, a fundamental property of the series was changed to appeal to the masses more.

It's the difference between liking someone because you've gotten to know them, and liking someone because they've changed their personality for you.

zharth said...

I see what you mean.

Unknown said...

I also see what you mean Nathaniel. But, I don't really see these as losses. I appreciate seeing the growth in the population of people who can understand my references and want to share these passions/hobbies with me.

Furthermore, I think we have to take into account the younger generation. While we might remember certain qualities of shows/games like Star Trek, Star Wars, and Mega Man with great nostalgia, we have to bear in mind that a generation is growing up who will not have that view point because they are all seeing this stuff for the first time. My point is that it would be highly selfish of us to try to keep the nostalgia in games when there is a generation below us which will neither understand nor be inclined to do so.

A silver lining in this is that since these new iterations of our culture is appealing to the younger generation, we will get a chance to experience the great nostalgia we associate with our fandoms with our future kids. Imagine how great it would be to have your future kid bring up Mega Man to you on his/her own, and you would get the privilege of introducing him/her to the ORIGINAL. Epic.

Flashman85 said...

Chris: Along the lines of what I was saying to zharth, I don't mind that there are more people who understand and appreciate my favorite fandoms. What bothers me is that this new crop of fans is due to the fandoms themselves trying to cater to people who otherwise wouldn't be interested.

Nostalgia isn't the issue for me--I recognize that fandoms grow and change over the years, and if a brand-new installment is what gets someone involved in my decades-old favorite fandom, that's awesome.

However, extreme difficulty is a hallmark of the Mega Man series--suddenly offering an Easy Mode solely to attract more fans is like offering booze and showgirls to get people to go to church. It's antithetical to the basic principles of the fandom, and not a logical evolution of the series. I'm excited about new people following the fandoms I like, but I want them here for the right reasons.