Why Are Nerds So Goddamned Angry?

Illustration for article titled Why Are Nerds So Goddamned Angry?

I got a bunch of big questions this week: What’s next for Star Wars after Episode IX? Why has The Flash TV series gotten so dumb? And what happens when someone points out the Avengers are also probably murderers? Big answers to follow!


Hate Group

Danny D.:

Here’s the thing. I’m old. Old enough to remember standing in line to see Star Wars. When I was growing up as a nerd it wasn’t as socially acceptable to be one. There was no internet where millions of like-minded people could exchange ideas and offer support and encouragement, even if that encouragement was just about learning to like yourself regardless if the things you loved were not considered cool.

But over the years I’ve noticed a depressing trend amongst this group of people who identify as “nerd”, or “geek”, or whatever. A trend of anger, and hate. Some of the remarks under the IO9 Doctor Strange article (for example) were negative enough to deflate my whole mood over the film. It’s coming to a point where I’ll happily read the articles, but avoid the conversation in the comment section.

So, my question to you, my post-apocalyptic post-man, is this: When did we start defining our nerdiness by what we hate, and not by what we love?

Perhaps I’m old enough to remember a time when the next biggest movie coming out wasn’t another superhero blockbuster that I appreciate the time I am living in now. I mean, if you put Agents of Shield in a time machine, and showed it an audience in the 80’s it would blow people’s freaking minds. And AoS isn’t even as good as Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Supergirl, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Arrow, only to name a few...

We are seriously living in a nerd renaissance. So what happened? Did nerds get spoiled?


Nerds are definitely spoiled nowadays. How could we not be, with all the movies and shows and general social acceptance we have now? Sadly, that’s just the way of things. There’s a comedian named Larry Miller who pointed out that everyone complains about how much of a hassle it is to fly, but no one ever thinks about how it’s actually astonishing that we can haul our bodies across the country in only hours. For most of recorded history this trip would have taken months, and you probably would have died of dysentery along the way.

When the wonderful becomes normal, we lose our perspective. But what also messes up our perspective is when Hollywood starts making really good nerd entertainment, we suddenly want all nerd entertainment to be of the same quality. That, in large part, drives the complaining you see (and it’s more or less what I’ve built my career around).

Of course, as you noted, “bitching” becomes “vitriolic hate” too easily and too often, especially online. But I think it existed long pretty much from the beginning of nerd-dom. Please think of how many comics fans wrote into Marvel and DC even all through the 20th century, furious at some small change made to a team line-up or a costume. Think about how many heated arguments have taken place in comic book stores about why so-and-so is awesome and such-and-such sucks ass. Hell, I remember getting furious at the introduction of Cobra-La in the GI Joe cartoon, and I wasn’t even a big GI Joe fan.

Nerds love obsessively, but the flip side of that passion is that they also hate obsessively, too. It’s just that the internet collects that hate, exacerbates it, magnifies it, and then holds it up for everyone to see.


We’d all do well to take a moment now and then to remember, “Hey, there are like nearly a dozen shows based on comic books right now, and that’s incredible.” Or “We’re getting a ton of new Star Wars movies, and they seem like they’re on the right track.” Or even “You know, it may have had some problems, but I still finally got to see Batman and Superman on-screen in a movie together. Life could certainly be worse.”

Illustration for article titled Why Are Nerds So Goddamned Angry?

Turn of Phase

Keith K.:

There will be a Marvel Phase 3 but what will Star Wars Phase 2 look like? Phase 1 as I understand it includes The Sequel Trilogy and three stand alone films: Rogue 1, Young Han Solo and Boba Fett (?). Beyond an Obi Wan Kenobi film have we heard much?


We have not, mainly because Lucasfilm is absolutely keeping an open mind while it sees how Rogue One and the Han Solo film do. I’m sure they have ideas—actually, I’m sure Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy even has a manilla folder labeled Episodes X-XII locked in her desk somewhere—but Han Solo isn’t even going to be out until 2018, so they have time to continue gauging audience interest.

If Rogue One does well, I imagine another side story will follow Episode IX in 2020, and my hunch is that it’ll fall somewhere in between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. If Rogue One doesn’t do well, Disney/Lucasfilm will likely hedge their bets and do another movie about an established character, maybe Obi-Wan, but I’d put my money on Boba Fett. In full disclosure, this may be entirely because I think Obi-Wan is an asshole and I have difficulty imagining any interesting movie-length story about his time hanging out on Tatooine.


Illustration for article titled Why Are Nerds So Goddamned Angry?

Flash in the Pan

Alan C.:

Greetings Postman,

Why is The Flash so bad right now? Did the writers give up or something? Or did they stop caring entirely?


First off, I want you to know I paraphrased Alan C’s letter, in the sense that I deleted about 500 words of very specific questions about the massive plot holes that have filled the recent episodes of The Flash, as well as all the incredibly stupid decisions made by Barry Allen on the show—especially a couple of weeks ago, when he basically gave away his speed powers and got a friend kidnapped in large part merely because he wanted to keep his word to the mass-murdering psychopath. Answering all of them would not have been fun for anyone, so I boiled it down.

And here’s the answer: The writers of The Flash absolutely care, and I know this because this season of the show has been filled with things I can’t believe have come to live-action TV. Earth-2! King Shark! Jay Garrick! Vibe! If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t be putting so much of The Flash’s weirder, less mainstream-friendly insanity on screen. It just seems that some of the straightforward plotting gets away from them. (It never helps that the Flash’s power is so, well, powerful that in order to have conflict sometimes the plot requires him to be a moron, but that’s true in all The Flash comics as well.)


I’ve made my peace with it, and if the price for seeing Gorilla Grodd in primetime is Barry being a big dumb-dumb sometimes, I’ll pay it.

Illustration for article titled Why Are Nerds So Goddamned Angry?

Wild Thing

John S.:

Here’s a question: Why is nobody greenlighting a “Wild Cards” series (based on the long-running series of superhero-themed anthologies)? It’s “superheroes by the creator of ‘Game of Thrones’,” roughly, which would seem like a license to print money. Is there a rights issue? Or am I overestimating the appeal of “superheroes by the creator of ‘Game of Thrones’?


I imagine most networks would happily kill people to adapt Wild Cards. Thanks to Game of Thrones’ success, I think most networks would happily option George R.R. Martin’s grocery lists, but books about superheroes? There are probably Hollywood executives sacrificing goats to Satan right this minute in hopes of acquiring it.

Syfy actually acquired the movie rights back in 2011 with the intent of making a TV movie, I believe, and then literally never said anything else about it. I would assume, if Syfy had the ability to make anything George R.R. Martin-related over the last five years, they would have done so as fast and as hard as they could, so there must be some kind of hold-up.


My guess is that the hold-up is the production deal with HBO that GRRM signed a few years ago, which includes the job of developing new shows for them. I’m guessing HBO wants Wild Cards, and GRRM wants HBO to have Wild Cards, and they are going to make this happen one way or another, whether it’s waiting Syfy’s contract out or mailing them a check. It might actually already be done. In fact, I bet HBO is saving Wild Cards for specifically after Game of Thrones ends, in hopes that it will fill the giant programming void left by their flagship series.

I also think, given how hands-on GRRM has been with Game of Thrones, that he’d like to be equally involved in a Wild Cards show, but he knows he doesn’t have the time or bandwidth to deal with it right now. He might also be saving it until after Thrones. I’m reasonably confident most people won’t mind.


Doubled Standard

H. Chen:

Dear Postman, thanks to you, use of the term DC Murderverse has infiltrated io9 comment boards, but you have never made similar comment on Marvel. In the first five minutes of Avengers 2, Thor throws his hammer into people, Iron Man flies his suit into people, Hawkeye shoots them with his arrows, Black Widow shoots them with her guns and tosses grenades at them, and Captain America throws his motorcycle into an ongoing truck full of them, flipping it end over end. Hulk may be the only Avenger that is not explicitly shown killing on screen, and yet you have never called out the Avengers for murdering. Is this because you were sent from the future from Marvel to influence the past, or is murder OK in the future as long as you intersperse it with jokes?


This is actually a great question, and very much worth answering—mainly because I had to stop and think about it for a minute. You’re right; why do the Avengers get to beat the living hell out of Hydra, but Superman snaps one neck and suddenly I keep trying to bring “Zack Snyder’s DC Cinematic Murderverse” into popular nomenclature?

It’s actually an incredibly complex issue, but there are two fundamental things going on here. The first is the basic language of entertainment, from live-action to actual comic books, which modern audiences have internalized as this: Guns kill. Other things don’t. It’s short-hand, and it’s prevalent enough that if someone is shot non-fatally, the show/movie/comic inevitably has to specifically point it out, because the assumption is the person is dead. For everything else it’s the other way, where we sort of assume victims are knocked out unless we see something so obviously, egregious fatal as to contradict our common sense (e.g. Indiana Jones’ flying fridge adventure in Crystal Skull. Common sense dictates he’d be a puddle of blood.)


That might not be 100% fair, and it may even be counterintuitive when you stop to think about it, but it’s still true. Punches, blunt weapons, getting thrown (even out of a jeep, after some dude throws his motorcycle into it), slamming into someone (which Superman also does during BvS, and which I completely assumed wasn’t fatal)—we implicitly see these as non-fatal, except when it’s specified either by story or common sense (e.g., if we saw Hawkeye shoot an arrow into someone’s skull, or if Batman makes a car completely explode with people still in it, we know those people are dead).

If you’re wondering about how Black Widow can shoot people with a gun in Age of Ultron, well, that leads to the second fundamental thing here, which is that DC’s big heroes—Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman—are held to a higher standard than Marvel’s heroes (at least by the majority of comic book fans). Marvel’s heroes are flawed and make mistakes and sometimes their emotions get the better of them. But Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are better than… well, everybody. They are the truest and most super superheroes, and that’s because they are so mythic and powerful that there’s nothing they can’t overcome.


Let me put it this way: Marvel’s superheroes are characters. Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman are icons.

Rob Bricken was the Editor of io9 from 2016-18, the creator of the poorly named but fan-favorite news site Topless Robot, and now writes nerd stuff for many places, because it's all he's good at.

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I think there are different types of nerd rage. There’s the righteous “why didn’t they cast any Asian actors in Doctor Strange? Why is there no Black Widow merch? Why did Ripley’s shoes only come in male sizes?” types who have legitimate complaints. There are the detail fanatics who get angry over a costume change or a TV show’s plot not following the comic. Then there is the toxic nerd rage. The racist, misgoynistic, homophobic assholes who think you can’t have a black Spider-Man, that the Hugoes are a liberal scam and that women are ruining video games.

Not all nerd rage is created equal.