“Pow! Bam! Zap! Wham! Thud!… Decapitation?!”
Minus the last one I threw in there to see if you were paying attention, all of the above exclamations hark back to a time when violence was hidden behind colorful comic book cartoon graphics and overly exaggerated sound effects to match.
In today’s world, nothing is hidden behind graphic overlays, in fact it is enhanced by computer graphics in an effort to make the general movie going audience regurgitate their 74 pound servings of popcorn back onto themselves in a buttery, albeit easy to clean mess.
It goes without saying that sex sells, well, because it’s sex. That in and of itself is understandable when it comes to a demographic of people that dress up as characters such as Yoda several times a year because, and I quote, “they like to talk funny while wearing a robe”.
Keeping with that theme, it’s self-evident from the buckets of money that the most popular shows and movies rake in, violence does more than its fair share of business. This is slightly more of a conundrum when you actually stop to think about it.
Considering the general disdain society has for actual violence, such as the recent marathon bombing and mass shootings that have taken place over the past year, we are still more than happy to relax after a hard day of work with the latest James Bond flick or a new episode of CSI. The argument is of course, most of us are smart enough to know that these are works of fiction. That is however beside the point, and believe it or not, I do have a point.
Be it books, comics, video games, movies or television; no matter what the medium, I think most geeks and nerds would agree that the entertainment we have absorbed over the past decade or so has grown increasingly more violent not just in quantity, but also quality.
With greater technology, comes greater degree of realism and with more competition for your eyeballs (not literally… yet) from just about every source imaginable, the need to out shock-value one another has resulted in some of the most intense stomach turning visuals one could imagine. (See Walking Dead and the Saw film franchise as direct examples).
That’s not to say violence didn’t exist back in the early days of television and film, but it’s hard not to notice the extra gore and out right violence depicted in today’s media creations. Hollywood itself has come under fire (no pun intended) for what some may feel is getting a bit out of hand.
I bring up this topic because the topic has brought itself up recently with the increased emphasis on violence reported by our Johnny-on-the-spot news media. I purposely don’t use the phrase increase in violent crime only because in reality the frequency in violent crimes in general is actually decreasing. (As is gun violence.) Nonetheless, because we are now so connected with the internet and accustom to instant news, we are just hearing more about incidents that wouldn’t normally make it out of their local news radius.
All of this brings me to one simple question; one that I’ve never really heard asked: “Does being a geek or nerd require one to enjoy violence in one form or another?”
I first asked myself this profoundly deep question and came up with a thought provoking and meaningful answer; “Uhhh, I think so?”
My difficulty with the English language aside, after thinking about all of the entertainment I’ve absorbed recently over the past few years, I can’t think of much that doesn’t incorporate some sort of physically violent altercation or event. Running through a short list of some of my most loved properties like Fringe, Walking Dead, Transformers, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man, The Hobbit, Iron Man and the Avengers, I realized that all contain some level of violence within the core of their existence. Hell, even cartoons like The Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy resort to violent imagery when the joke calls for it.
Before you start tweeting or twittering what a tree-humping hippie Geek Outlaw is, understand this: I’m not saying it’s bad a thing, I’m just saying that it’s a thing.
Yes, I know you could cherry pick some real innocent stuff like My Little Pony or the Care Bears, but for every one war free property, there are about 7,500 that contain some sort of violent altercation.
That’s not to say there aren’t shows like Chuck that try to push the more intelligent alternative as being the most attractive and efficient way to resolve a conflict. Even under than concept, there was still a healthy dose of ass-kicking in Chuck every week that achieved positive story outcomes in order to keep the masses happy as well.
That in turn brings me to the why, and the why is the masses. More specifically, masses of humanity. While I’m no psychologist (yet), it’s a pretty forgone conclusion that humans have a tendency to be a somewhat violent species. That has much to do with being a complex class of biology with an intelligent consciousness that, in most cases, abides by the societal understanding of good versus evil. When there is an evil in the world that can’t be dealt with over a spot of tea and crumpets, humans will resort to the use of physical force to make sure that good prevails; whether that be in Star Wars II or World War II.
I understand without a doubt that sometimes a physical response is required as most ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ in our own world often resorts to physical harm before all else. As Bill Murray appropriately quoted in the sequel to my favorite film ever, “Kitten, I think what I’m saying, is that sometimes, shit happens, someone has to deal with it, and who ya gonna call?”
In that vein, physical combat is usually deemed as a last ditch effort to save the day, thus that is my reckoning for what makes violence a necessary and fascinating element of today’s geeky pop-culture. (That, and the fact most childhood nerds like to live vicariously through the fictional underdog who kicks gluteus-maximus in much the same why they would like to teach Billy-Bob a lesson for stealing the down-payment for a new car’s worth of lunch money over a four year period.
Take for example one of my favorite nerdy sci-fi masterpieces of all-time, Back to the Future. One of the major ongoing themes of the film (and series) is that of Marty McFly’s inability to say no to a round of fist-a-cuffs when someone calls him chicken. On the flip-side, one of the climactic scenes of the movie has the young version of his father laying out big-bad-Biff with one well-placed uppercut to the jaw, which is used as a resolution that has positive repercussions for Marty’s existence and future.
I could go on all day with these types of examples, but I’m sure you’d find a way to shut my site down before I could. Thus, getting back to the question at hand, I would honestly have to answer yes, enjoying a violent altercation every now and again is something intertwined into the DNA of most self-proclaimed geeks and nerds. Again, it’s not a negative assuming one is sane enough to know the difference between using a plastic controller on ones couch to hi-jack computer generated vehicles on their Xbox versus deciding to go on a violent car stealing rampage with your uncle Jeb’s shot-gun.
For as long as I can remember I’ve always dreamed of being Spider-Man, swinging from web like vines and saving the world from insane poorly-dressed villains. It’s fun to think about, but when push comes to shove, I was blessed to be raised by a family that helped me to understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction, and that when it comes to taking physical action, there is a time and place for everything.
That, and I also don’t look so hot in a unitard.