Writing this from a convention in Las Vegas. So gambling terms are on my mind.
I’ve had a lot of discussions lately with people of a nerdy persuasion, and it’s encouraging to see the turning tide of positivity take over what once maybe was, and could have easily become a steaming cess pool of negativity. People have begun to take nerdy and geeky media for what it is: entertainment. And yes, entertainment can have meaningful, emotional significance to all of us. And yes, I do believe that pop culture and stuff like comics and TV can actually change your life, in small to very big ways. But at the end of the day, it’s all entertainment. It’s distraction from the important things in life. It’s supposed to be “fun.”
So when someone tells you they love something that you hate, or vice versa, it’s completely understandable to have strong emotions about what these things are. It’s easy to lose sight of that concept that, this is all supposed to be fun. That when you were little, and something wasn’t “fun,” you just… walk away from it. You move on to something else. You don’t sit and play, and try desperately to blow it all up from the inside simply because it wasn’t fun for you; or that it was fun for others. You moved on and found the things that you found fun, and shared it with people that agreed. It’s one of the reasons we’re nerds. We liked things that the majority of people, at least we thought so, didn’t love. So we had to find communities at comic stores, we had to hide inside and play table top games and relate to each other in movie quotes that no one else got. And then the internet came, and well… game over. We dwelled in message boards, on websites and found others who loved what we loved.
As technology took over culture (and by proxy, big bussiness to a degree), those of us who could navigate the landscape and speak the language rose to power. They greenlit movies and TV shows, they signed book deals, the put people in power who loved what we loved, and they took care to infuse everything they touched with what they loved. Everything started to grow familiar. For a while, everything was great. And then, as predictably as rain when the critical mass of clouds gather, the naysayers and cynics came. The HATERS came. Then canon wasn’t followed. Then prices rose. Then tshirts started appearing. Then Diablo III commercials played during the Super Bowl. Then Superman broke a dude’s neck.
We longed for those quieter days, hidden away in rooms and our insular circles where we knew who we were dealing with. Where there was safety. Only now, all the real estate had been taken. All the Venn diagram bubbles were filled. Where else did we have to go? To hide? When Big Bang Theory was making jokes about D&D, and Wal-Mart sold Captain America tshirts, and Mountain Dew made Halo cups? Where were we supposed to go, when we had spent a lifetime of curating interests, of passions, of obsessions. These aren’t the things you can manufacture. Love just doesn’t work like that (ask my ex-girlfriends, ayoo, but serously folks). And so all we could do was grow bitter. Scoff at the things that once gave us so much happiness, talk about how everything and everyone had ruined it. The only safe haven we ever had, and maybe would ever know.
This is the way of the world. The numbers always swing back to center. The house ALWAYS wins. It’s something maybe we didn’t understand earlier in life, why money swayed everything. Why stock prices and bottom line revenue would always trump creative interests. Why our obsessions and passions would always get exploited. We didn’t know it, but we were all time bombs. Waiting for the the corporate universe to descend, at the exact confluence of low cost manufacturing and maximized disposable income. Studies, focus groups, analyses, they were always waiting there, in that little black dossier, sitting in a safe, waiting for when the dark, shadowy figures that sit around mahogany conference tables gave the go ahead. And all of a sudden, there was just too much stuff. We had to have it all. And by trying to have it all, we ended up feeling like we had nothing. A handful of pebbles sitting in front of a mountain of boulders.
The only hope is that as we get older, as fires burn a little less brighter to have that new, shiny thing, as anger subsides and gives way to the real worries of the world – like mortgages, like children, like jobs, like psychological health and sanity – the only is that we go back to the idea of “fun.” That embedded inside of each of these things, around the crispy, crunchy outer shell of profit, market share, ratings, box office, somewhere down there that love is still there. There was still a person who loved something so much, this love that they had nurtured since they were little, they took every spare moment to infuse this behemoth in front of them with at tiny sliver of that love. That once in a while, that light can wash over you and make you smile, make you feel something, remind you what it was like to be scared, to be alone, to find comfort in something that others would tell you is silly or insignificant. Isn’t that one of the true beauties of life? When you can find beauty in the darkness, when you can find meaning in the seemingly meaningless? Isn’t that the magic of the universe, right there in a nutshell?
So together, we can say, “I liked it.” That it made life a tiny bit better than it was before, and in some circumstances, it can make life sing if even for the few moments you leave a movie theater, or you put down a book, or you click that power button and sit there for a second, taking in what you’ve just experienced. Others may say, “but it’s not THIS” or “it’s not THAT,” and of course, it’s not. Isn’t it the sign of maturity and growth that of course, it never will be.
The house always wins. You can sit down at the table and have dreams of walking away rich beyond your wildest dreams; and sure, once in a while, someone hits the jackpot. But it’s a rule of gambling that you don’t play unless you know that the game was always rigged. That you’re almost SURELY going to lose. Did you have fun? Did it make life a bit more exciting while you were doing it? Was it time and money well spent?
Then who says that we can’t win too. And when others don’t understand the smile on your face or why you liked something that they think is utter crap, tell them that the house always wins.
Doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun in the process.