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Patton Oswalt: How the Internet Has Ruined Geek Culture

Patton Oswalt used to be a sci-fi geek (that is, when he wasn't tormenting them in junior high), but now that you can find Boba Fett's visage on "sleeveless T-shirts worn by gym douches hefting dumbbells," he thinks the tide has turned. In a new editorial for Wired, Oswalt argues that the Internet's easy access to random trivia, useless knowledge, and like-minded pop-culture consumers has invalidated what it means to be a dedicated fan (or an otaku, as the Japanese call it), because now everyone is a super-geek about something. "Wake Up, Geek Culture," he titles the piece. "Time to Die."


When everyone has easy access to their favorite diversions and every diversion comes with a rabbit hole's worth of extra features and deleted scenes and hidden hacks to tumble down and never emerge from, then we're all just adding to an ever-swelling, soon-to-erupt volcano of trivia, re-contextualized and forever rebooted. We're on the brink of Etewaf: Everything That Ever Was — Available Forever.

Sounds terrible, yet also something we would watch 30 seconds of. So what's Oswalt's solution? Speeding up the inanity so it can reach its eventual implosion: "In order to save pop culture future," he posits, "we’ve got to make the present pop culture suck, at least for a little while." Patton, if you just sit on your hands for a little bit, the problem may take care of itself.

Here’s the danger: That creates weak otakus. Etewaf doesn’t produce a new generation of artists — just an army of sated consumers. Why create anything new when there’s a mountain of freshly excavated pop culture to recut, repurpose, and manipulate on your iMovie? The Shining can be remade into a comedy trailer. Both movie versions of the Joker can be sent to battle each another. The Dude is in The Matrix.

The coming decades — the 21st-century’s ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s — have the potential to be one long, unbroken, recut spoof in which everything in Avatar farts while Keyboard Cat plays eerily in the background.

Sounds terrible, yet also something we would watch 30 seconds of. So what's Oswalt's solution? Speeding up the inanity so it can reach its eventual implosion: "In order to save pop culture future," he posits, "we’ve got to make the present pop culture suck, at least for a little while." Patton, if you just sit on your hands for a little bit, the problem may take care of itself.

Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die [Wired via Movieline]

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images