Aug 2010 16

by Edward Kelly

It’s an age-old question, which isn’t to say that it has been around for a very long time, but rather it is to say that it is more a question of our age, the era in which we live. The question, I should add, isn’t actually a question, it’s more a scenario and it goes a-little something like this:

You (yes, you, the reader, with the hair and the clothes, assuming you have both of those things) like a work of art. Could be a band, a movie, a book, whatever. You like it and therefore you tell your friends that you like it and they should listen to/watch/read this work so you can all appreciate it in a grand adventure of shared cultural experiences (not entirely unlike the plot of The Goonies).

[Lux Suicide in Heatwave]

Then the work of art catches on. You didn’t even see it coming, but all of a sudden there’s now more people liking the thing you like. And now they are talking about it and telling their friends and all of a sudden this thing that once “belonged” to you and your friends is now growing too big to control—this thing is going global, man, positively expansive.

And it all culminates in something you thought you wanted in the first place: everyone knows about it. Now it’s a genuine pop culture event and it doesn’t belong to you, but rather to the fans and you are just one face in a sea of squeeing appreciators.

So, you do what people do: you react and shun. And then, inevitably, you say one or both of the following stupid statements.

  • Statement the first: “I was into that before everyone else was into it, and now I’m not anymore.”
  • Statement the second: “Artist X sold out.”

Comic book fans find themselves trying to reconcile these facts quite a bit these days. For example, take the recently released Scott Pilgrim movie.

Personally, I can’t claim any sort of fan-based claim to the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels. I started reading them about a year ago and, like most people, I love the crap out of them. I can’t help it—they’re wildly inventive, effortlessly charming, and refreshingly breezy and witty. They’re just good. I’d like to lay some sort of fan-claim, but I can’t because I only started buying them when I heard there was a movie coming out and I wanted to be In The Know and be familiar with the source material.

Or in the other words: I’m a huge poser.

But here’s the sad part, if you feel that you were a progenitor of the Scott Pilgrim fandom, then I have to break some sad bits of news: you were not there first and you’re pretty much a poser too.

You see comic book fans tend to be a pretty insular group. Maybe it’s a genetic thing, like we just don’t like people (although I would disagree with this) or maybe it’s a societal thing, like most of us spent so much time reading comics and being ridiculed for it that we eventually fulfilled the self-fulfilling prophecy and become islands unto ourselves.

This is a pretty big shame since comic books are a great art form and all art forms should be discussed and debated whenever possible. That’s why art is important—it’s not just pretty stuff that we can admire, it’s pretty (or ugly or exciting or sad or happy or insert any adjective from the gamut here) stuff that can tell us who we are, where we’re coming from, and why we care about this thing but not that thing over there.

So why do I say we’re all posers? Well, because we kind of are.

Unless you’re Young Neil, sitting on the crappy couch in the crappy apartment while sycophantically watching as Sex Bob-omb rehearses, then, yeah, you weren’t there first. And here’s another shocker: you didn’t want to be. You didn’t want to be because when art is just being birthed into the cold, bright world it usually sucks out loud.

But why do some fans (myself included) latch onto certain works and feel betrayed when said art breaks into the mainstream? There are probably a lot of theories and reasons why this is, but here’s my off-the-cuff, overblown and probably ill-informed postulation: the long and short of it is that you and me and everyone you know are terrified that we’re all going to die alone.

Oh yeah, this blog post just went there.

In this world, people need people (what up, Streisand) and there’s a constant need to make connections with others and art allows a shared shorthand language. It bridges gaps and crosses boundaries and allows you to quickly connect with people you otherwise may not have. I know that when I watch as something I felt a connection to explodes into the ether, I feel like I will somehow lose the relationships I made in the first place.

But the good news is: that’s a stupid, stupid worry.

Because, hopefully, you and your fellow posers will stick together.

Again, not entirely unlike The Goonies.