Denial is the Supermeh

Harrison Ford in costume as Indiana Jones

Look at me, at my blog, at my life and work and self-identity, and it may surprise you to learn that I feel like a fake geek. It’s because I have something to hide. I liked Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — I almost certainly liked it more than many geeks or nerds will say they did — and you know what? Fuck you for making me feel bad about it.

This isn’t about seriously disavowing serious topics for serious reasons. This about denying the existence of sequels you didn’t like. This is about the ultimate dismissal of an artist’s work because you don’t want to process it. Vanity. Pretend a food doesn’t exist because you’re allergic — not because you don’t like it or don’t know how to chew it.

This is like saying “meh” on a grand scale. John Hodgman described meh as “the essence of blinkered Internet malcontentism. And a rejection of joy.” As Hodgman put it, “It’s part of the toxic Internet art of constant callous one upsmanship.”

Denial is the supermeh.

Denying movies doesn’t make them go away but it does sometimes make me go away. It tells me to shut the hell up, to fall into line with the geek consensus or risk having my card revoked. It makes me feel deeply unwelcome.

“We” hate the prequels, “we” hate Alien 3, “we” hate the end of Battlestar Galactica. All to the point of not looking at them? These are imperfect works with foibles and flaws, great and small … so never shall we discuss any part of them ever? Really?

This is fandom through hatred, which is a form of bullshit. Hating something doesn’t emphasize or validate your fandom of something else. Hating a part of something doesn’t mean you love the other part harder or truer or better. These are perpendicular things. You can dislike one thing and like another thing even within the same film.

Haven’t “we” learned that we don’t have to love — or reject — works only as wholes and hyperbole? We can rally for better depictions of women and people of color in works we love and still love them and still want them to change because we contain multitudes. We can disavow parts of a movie and like other parts of it.

Watch this: I will now simultaneously think nuking the fridge is a bad gag while enjoying  Harrison Ford’s performance as Indiana Jones in Crystal Skull. I am doing it right now. It’s happening. It is not a big deal.

Saying one hates the prequels has become a tribal signifier, a signal of belonging, rather than a critical statement or an opinion on those films as films, as creative works. The meta-message is “I’m like you.” For me, being a geek was never just a team to join.

For me, all this time, the greek tribe wasn’t about the fact that we all loved Star Trek or Star Wars or Marvel or DC. It was about the fact that we could think critically and genuinely about works that might not get serious analysis or discussion from other sectors. Does Tolkien warrant serious study as a mythopoeic writer and world-builder? How does John Williams’ musical score signal the deceit in Jaws? How does the scale and style of editing and action change between Episode I and Episode II of the Star Wars saga? 

You don’t have to like ancient astronauts or mystical fighter pilots or heart transplants in the wild … but can we at least talk about these things?

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comments ( 6 )

  • ReplyCam Banks 26 Mar 2014

    I liked Crystal Skull because I “got” it. It was as much a love letter to the 1950s era cinema as Raiders was to the 1940s. It had all the tropes, in all the right places. It wasn’t the same “genre” so to speak as the previous films; Indy was older, the times had moved on, but so too had the antagonists, the themes, the fantastical elements. Aliens! Greasers! Communists! It knew exactly what it was doing, and for that reason alone, I applaud it.

    Also, I 100% agree with this post. I don’t like Babylon 5 even though every other geek in the universe does, but I don’t deny its existence. And I liked the Matrix sequels, because I’m allowed to. :)

  • ReplyTim Rodriguez 26 Mar 2014

    YES! Everything that Cam said. And much of the opposite too — I’ve lost track of how many people cannot even fathom that I don’t watch Dr. Who.

    Thank you Will, for putting such elegant language to such a big problem!

  • ReplyCarl Klutzke 26 Mar 2014

    The Avatar: The Last Airbender movie was a terrible disappointment to me, and I try not to talk about it because I have a hard time being civil about it. When I find people that enjoyed it, I try to convince them to watch the animated series, because it was so much better. But I won’t dis them for liking what they like: that’s just stupid. People have the right to like what they like. (And Tim, I don’t like Dr. Who either. I want to, but I don’t. Except for “Blink”, which was amazing.)

    Geek exclusionism is sad. Too often it looks like “Hey, world that rejects me, haha, I now reject you!” But maybe that’s unfair. Ultimately I suspect it has its roots in our frustratingly powerful tribal instincts, which continually insist on labeling part of the world as THEM so that we can feel good about being US.

  • ReplyGuy LeCharles Gonzalez 26 Mar 2014

    I’m apparently one of the few who loved Alien3 (some days, more than the original), and have numerous examples of underrated and despised movies I’ve appreciated parts of (eg: John Carter; Oblivion; everything Michael Bay has done), but I’ve also been guilty of the kind of exclusionary hate you mention, and hadn’t ever thought of it in this context. Thanks!

  • ReplyCarl Klutzke 26 Mar 2014

    I _liked_ John Carter. It was a marketing disaster, but I enjoyed the movie.

  • ReplyJames Orr 7 Apr 2014

    I think that the older that I get, the more tolerant I get of what a younger me might have called bad opinion.

    I realized at some point that there’s no such thing as a bad opinion. I had a coworker tell me the other day that he thought that Speed was the greatest movie of all time. Another one confessed that he’d never seen the original Star Wars trilogy. It was like some strange glut of divulgence that I wasn’t sure how to cope with.

    Then I reminded myself that what one person enjoys, is really their own business. You enjoy watching Speed? Superb. I’m glad that you have a movie that you enjoy. It will probably color any recommendations that you make to me from this point on and I’ll have to keep this in mind, but I appreciate your appreciation of something.

    And it applies everywhere for me. My daughter loves broccoli, and I’ve gained a new found appreciation of it. Brussels sprouts, it turns out, can be cooked to where they don’t taste like rotten eggs smell. This, of course, doesn’t apply everywhere. But just because I’m not willing to try odori don, or kiviaq (I don’t suggest googling them if you don’t know what they are…) doesn’t mean that I don’t have a feel good moment that you say you enjoy them. And it’s all going in my mental notebook to shape my image of you, whether you like weird food, or Speed, the movie.