Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
[Mark Millar and J.G. Jones’s] Wanted articulated a new myth for the hordes of suddenly cool under-achievers who’d been lionized by the rise of “nerd culture.” Big business, media and fashion were, it seemed, so starved of inspiration, they’d reached down to the very bottom of the social barrel in an attempt to commodify even the most stubborn nonparticipants, the suicide Goths and fiercely antiestablishment nerds. The geeks were in the spotlight now, proudly accepting a derogatory label that directly compared them to degraded freak-show acts. Bullied young men with asthma and shy, bitter virgins with adult-onset diabetes could now gang up like the playground toughs they secretly wanted to be and anonymously abuse and threaten professional writers and actors with family commitments and bills to pay.
Soon film studios were afraid to move without the approval of the raging Internet masses. They represented only the most miniscule fraction of a percentage of the popular audience that gave a shit, but they were very remarkably, superhumanly angry, like the great head of Oz, and so very persistent that they could easily appear in the imagination as an all-conquering army of mean-spirited, judgmental fogies.
In the shadow of The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell’s immensely influential book on social networks and marketing, nobody wanted to risk bad word of mouth, little realizing that they were reacting, in many cases, to the opinions of a few troublemakers who knew nothing but contempt for the universe and all its contents and could hardly be relied upon to put a positive spin on anything that wasn’t the misery and misfortune of others. Too many businesspeople who should have known better began to take seriously the ravings of misinformed, often barely literate malcontents who took revenge on the cruel world by dismissing everything that came their way with the same jaded, geriatric “Meh.”
– Action Comics and Batman Inc. writer Grant Morrison on the nastiness of “nerd culture” in Supergods, his new prose non-fiction book about superheroes. Morrison uses the protagonist of his former friend and protégé Mark Millar’s Wanted, a downtrodden office drone who launches a rape-murder spree when he discovers he’s part of a secret supervillain society, as a symbol of how nerds, a group of people bullied and marginalized by society, have frequently used the newfound power conferred upon them as pop-culture trailblazers to bully and marginalize others. Or as another writer of science fiction once put it, “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” (He likes Wanted, fwiw.)
It’s a bit surprising to see Morrison resorting to the fat-virgin stereotype, but in the context of the book it becomes clear that he was burned pretty badly by over-the-top fanboy rampages, up to and including threats against him, following such works as New X-Men and Final Crisis — hence the obvious and perhaps forgivable rancor in response. Food for thought during the San Diego Comic-Con, nerd culture’s annual Woodstock?
(via Matthew Perpetua)