Thursday, May 19, 2011

Nerd Rants -- Is it Okay to Nerd Rant?

Hey y'all.  I just wanted to address an issue I was pondering the other day.

Okay, so I'm apparently a nerd.  What makes me so?  I think about things no one else wonders about, and I try to be logical.  Neither of these things is particularly unique.  All most people have to do to be like this is just think and pay attention to the logical things around them for a good worldview.  It's not hard.  Yet still, I often find when I notice something contradictory in a movie or story, other people either don't see it or don't care.  I'm either called a nerd, or the person will go "wow, you're smart" and drop the subject.  Thanks for the compliment, but it hardly seems like a compliment when you ignore my observation immediately and talk about something else.  Maybe I said it because I want a dialogue, y'know.  Maybe.

Is it wrong of me to want to point out these things?  Yet it seems more and more common that the only people who even want to discuss these things with me are fellow nerds.  It's as if popular people can't be bothered with noticing details.  What the crap do popular people talk about these days?  I'm really mystified.  I can't stand popular music (I'm not really an undergrounder, it just sucks right at this moment) and I'm not interested enough in celebrities to talk about them.  I'm not boy crazy, so I don't spend all my days going on about them.  Seriously, someone tell me what popular people talk about.  Money?  Clothes?  Going on trips?

To me, the real stuff of life is history, science, and story.  It pisses me off to no end how much kids these days know about the intricacies of zombies (I met a kid that says he believes in them - no kidding!) and yet don't know bull about history.  History is a grand story about the world, with lots of topics and cultures.  It's a vast library of things that's happened, and you're bound to find a topic you're interested in.

I mostly bring this up because I was thinking about Red Letter Media's vast reviews of the three "Star Wars" prequels.  He seriously rips these movies to shreds.  Honestly, no movie deserves this more than the prequels.  I couldn't possibly have done a good job as Harry Plinkett in coming up why these movies suck.  When the second one came out, my brain was in such a fog of boredom that I couldn't possibly care enough to want to. Well, before I watched Plinkett's review, anyway.  I love listening to him rip them up.

At one point I found this forum where people have been going on about RLM, talking about his reviews and whether they liked them or not.  They were generally positive, but one cranky fellow said that RLM was doing nothing more than making nerdy nitpicks about why the movies stank and that the whole reviews are stupid.  I don't know what this guy was watching, but most of RLM's critiques are things like plot and character relatability, definitely the two most important parts of any story.

But anyway, my point is, is it just nerdy that RLM would even bother going through the trouble of pointing out all the various problems with these movies?  Was it all a wasted effort?  Now, if one wants to complain that RLM was too disgusting or his kidnap segments were beside the point, I won't argue with that.  I found much of it to be entertaining, but yeah, he did cross the line at several points.  For the moment I'm not talking about that aspect, just whether or not these were worth his time at a reviewing standpoint.

I honestly think they were.  RLM, by means of its fictitious Harry Plinkett, found a way to explain why the prequels failed at both a storytelling and cinematic level.  Watching them is actually educational when it comes to finding out how to write and film a movie.  RLM notices so many of the things that we all noticed subconsciously ("You might not have noticed it, but your brain did"), but could never put into words.  He puts together a compelling argument about the lack of ability George Lucas displayed in these movies.  As a nerd, I feel really justified that someone would take the time to point out things that are wrong in modern cinema that few other people seem to understand or care about.

Now, maybe he was compelling, and maybe he had a point.  However, at the end of the day, why was it necessary or helpful that he rant on and on about how bad the prequels were?  Are all the people that enjoyed these reviews huge nerds?

I've read a lot of C.S. Lewis, and apparently back in the day people liked discussing the things they read about in their schools, like Greek mythology and old histories.  I mean, I know Lewis was a nerd in the terms of his day (unsocial, uninterested in bland chit chat or parties), but at the same time, because the educational system was a lot stronger, people actually discussed things like history and literature.  Modern movies can't really compare, but at the same time, that's the age we live in.  These are the stories we have to go by now.  Why can't we talk about their details?

The first problem is that we don't have a frame of reference anymore.  I have the ability to nerd it up because I've read a lot of good books (the ones that came out 50+ years ago...seriously, check it out.  There's a real difference) and I have a sense of storytelling to some extent.  Red Letter Media can nerd it out because he has a good understanding of cinema and screenwriting, and unlike me can actually express these in a coherent manner.  I only sound logical now because I'm not talking to you in person -- I think in colors, not words.

But now?  Who knows these things?  Public schools focus on getting people through and passing tests, not making people want to learn.  If people don't want to learn, they won't choose to make educated choices in what they read and do.  Not everybody has to be history buffs, but dang, they can at least know who Madea, Eurypides, Cuthulain, Ananzi, and all them are.  It's to the point where we can't read books written a certain number of years ago because they make so many references to things the schools don't even try to make us interested in.

Notedly, I don't expect schools to teach us everything about everything, but the point of school is to teach the basics, namely reading, writing and math, then give us a desire to learn more and a good background to get a good job.  Kids these days come out of school and don't know where to go.  They don't have any practical knowledge.  Heck, some of them can't even read that, well.

My point is, it's good to nerd it out.  It's good to think about story this way.  Nothing makes me more sad than when someone says a movie is good because it's got giant robots fighting in it.  People talk a lot of crap about Transformers 2, but honestly the first was a pile of crap (other than the Mountain Dew robot).  You couldn't really expect anything from the sequel.  Even worse, people think that the Iron Man movie was good.  I seriously need to go RLM it, if Harry doesn't get to it before me.  So many fake characters, so many plot holes...and there's like no chick in it who isn't hot or otherwise in the prime of their attractiveness.  No nerds, none too old or too young, and none that can be respected on the merits of their mind or rank.  They're all a bunch of dang FS2s.

I understand people go to movies to relax, and I would do the same.  The trouble is, stupidity is not entertaining.  The only flashing lights I need to entertain me are actual flashing lights.  Those make more sense these days.

All that, basically to say a few things.
1. Saying it's nerdy to critique film is basically a slur.  What makes it a bad thing?  I understand if you don't particularly care about Star Wars, but to me RLM's reviews are good no matter what kind of story you like.  I like what it teaches about cinema.  You don't have to like Star Wars to understand that.

2. Just because you don't care about storytelling and think it's boring, that doesn't mean it's "nerdy" to care.  It just means you have different interests.  Conversely, it's not "ignorant" to not be interested in storytelling.  Granted, I wish people were, but there are other ways to be intelligent, not just in a literature sense.

3. Thinking about details rather than taking them for granted increases your brainpower.  Sure, maybe storytelling isn't your topic.  Still, when you learn to think of details in stories, you learn to think of them in history.  Also, you think of them when someone is just telling you something at the office, or when you're doing something observational in general.  If you don't care here, there's a chance you're not observant in other areas too.  Like I said before, you don't have to be a storytelling sort of person, but there is a point to all the nitpickery.

So yeah.  Wanted to rant.  Rant back at me.

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