Why It's Totally Awesome When Things I Like "Go Mainstream."

A guy I knew in a past life makes a comic called Our Valued Customers, about the people that he deals with on a day-to-day basis at the comic store where he works. It's single-panel, one real-life "character" a day relaying something that my friend has actually heard spoken in the shop. As someone who used to frequent the place, I can verify that nothing he's posted is beyond plausibility, as sad as that is.

One of the recurring themes that these people touch upon is anger at the neophytes into their culture. For instance, all of the people who became fans of Iron Man or Green Lantern or Thor when the movies came out. A discussion broke out under one of these comics about whether or not the person's anger was valid or not. I wrote my response, and posted it, and then realized:

A: It was roughly the length of a blog post in its own right, and
B: I finally hit upon some of the reasons that point of view upsets me so much.

I've cleaned up a bit, but the tone is still a bit more conversational than usual. (Since it was part of a conversation, after all.) As follows:

I am definitely cool with more people getting into the things that I'm into. In fact, I'm excited that I can talk about these things and receive a little more understanding than I used to. At the same time, I can understand the frustration that sets in when the trappings of a culture become widespread.

You see someone with a Superman shirt, that doesn't mean a whole lot, right? It's a widespread, well-known thing. You see someone with a Green Lantern shirt, that's just a touch more off the beaten path. You identify this person immediately as someone with a common interest, one that probably runs about as deep as yours, and whether you're correct or not, you imagine that you have found a compatriot.

With Green Lantern, Thor, Iron Man, and other less-popular (read: Not Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man) characters getting flicks, people feel less certain about who they can truly commune with culturally, and who's just kind of along for the ride.

Ultimately, though, I have to wave my B.S. flag on that. There's no reason to get upset when more people hop on. When the trappings of the hippie culture were bought and sold in the mainstream market, their sense of loss was understandable - something pure and idealistic (at least, in their minds) was suddenly about selling posters and t-shirts. Conversely, our subculture has ALWAYS been about selling posters and t-shirts.

We have, collectively, generated a lot of beautiful artistic expression, but consider: the hippies, the punks, and other counter-culture movements that were co-opted by the mainstream had this angst over their youth-in-revolt ideals being swallowed up by The Man. Whether they were right or not, they had this sense that all of their esoterica, these symbols and totems that held deep importance to them, were being stripped of value and sold to people who couldn't care less, all to fuel the materialist machine they struggled against. On the flip side of that, our culture is inherently materialistic. We shell out for sequels, and "Collector's Editions," and maquettes, whatever the hell those are. There's nothing to sell out, because our culture, much as I love it, is built around buying and selling. It may mean more than that to us, but it's not like we're some cultural revolution that's being undermined.

So what are we? That's harder to nail down. For my part, I'm someone who is eager to see the superb in the midst of the mundane. I'm someone who sees the rejuvenating power of the action stories comics draw so heavily from. Perhaps most of all, I'm a person who has realized that my childhood toys kick ass and refuses to get rid of them.

And on that note, I personally welcome anyone to my sandbox who wants to check it out. I've totally got the Technodrome over here; it's awesome. And if you don't know what the Technodrome is, or why it's awesome, I'm happy to share that with you - not resent you, not make you feel like an idiot, not tell you you're an ass for not already knowing - I will share these things with you because they are fun, dammit. And they are worth sharing.

1 comment:

Chris McGonagle said...

Loved this! I actually read it the other day but forgot to comment. You definitely have a talent for writing.

Thank you for the link too, useful site, might have to check out the book.