Is this the new age of geek-friendly entertainment? We’ve been asking this question for a while. At least since the first X-Men movie was a success. Our popular entertainment has taken the kind of turn that makes it seem like gamers, comic book fans, trekkies and the like are no longer the out crowd. While it’s not clear that playing StarCraft will ever make you popular outside of Korea, it seems more and more like being a fan of the traditionally geeky is not a stigma so much as just another thing.
Geek fare makes big money now– the kind of money that can buy special effects that make geek fare look badass. Still, I can’t help but wonder how far we’ve come. To what extreme? Is anything still out of bounds? Where do the real outcasts lie? I mean, yeah, high school is probably still hard for cosplayers, but I’m talking about the kind of rejection that comes from going to a dance in a Star Wars t-shirt in 1990. Whose burden is that now?
Well there’s a movie about LARPing coming out. That’s Live Action Role Playing for any muggles reading, and that is something which stretches the limit of what I consider reasonable, out-of-the-closet geekiness. Granted, I used to LARP in high school, which I consider downright heroic bravery now, but I’ve toned down over the years.
Seriously? Seriously. And crazy as it seems, it looks fantastic. It makes me happy that Peter Dinklage, better known as Tyrion Lannister in HBO’s Game Of Thrones, is embracing a role that makes fun of the role he’s best known for. And I’m just happy he’s finding mainstream work.
But is it mainstream? From where I sit, that depends entirely on two things. Whether Knights of Badassdom is profitable or not and what the message of the film is. The first item should be pretty easy. While it isn’t set to catch a wide audience, the production costs of filming a single wooded location with horror-style effects is probably minuscule. So not a hard target to hit, and judging from the website, they’ve spared some expense.
The second item is a little harder to say. From the trailer it appears this is a “rise above your mundane life to fight evil” kind of story, where LARPing represents the mundane life. So it’s a question of sincerity. Do they choose to play it ironically and make fun of the setting they release their monster in? And what do our protagonists take away from the experience? Does the movie end with survivors embracing their geeky hobbies or do they put away childish things?
Actually, Supernatural had an episode about LARPing just the other week that demonstrates what I’m talking about. It was pretty good and while fun was made at geek expense, the message wasn’t that nerdy endeavors are the refuge of the socially unclean. Quite the contrary. The main characters finished the episode by joining in and LARPing fun was had all around.
I recall Role Models showing LARPing in a positive light as well, though the movie wasn’t about it.
But that’s the good. And Supernatural always had a connection with its geek fan base that just isn’t intuitive with CW programming. There are negatives too.
io9 has compiled a pretty extensive list of all the times television stereotypes the “geek loner” into a social problem.
One tried and true trope that these shows inevitably turn to is the “nerd episode,” where the straight-laced cops/doctors/whatever enter the bizarre and terrifying world of gamers, role-players, cosplayers… and even furries. These are usually poorly researched and almost always make nerds look like morons, lunatics and/or sociopaths. Here are just a few episodes of these super-popular, mainstream network TV shows that did nerds no good at all.
I’m right there with them. Some of these episodes are embarrassing.
So maybe what we are seeing now is the civil rights movement of geek entertainment… if the stakes were far lower and no one had to get beaten or arrested. There are folks out there that see things like LARPing as just another game people play. And then there are people who see it as a gateway drug to practicing witchcraft or not getting dates or something.
That said, the trailer for Knights Of Badassdom keeps making me think of Cabin In The Woods and Kickass for some reason. The premise is clearly different, but I feel like it’s almost perfectly set to be a commentary on horror films and the way we look at entertainment. Or it could go a completely different direction.
Whatever way it goes, it looks like it’s made with geek stock in mind. Setting aside Dinklage, True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten, Community‘s Danny Pudi, Firefly‘s Summer Glau and at least one of the McPoyls from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia are present. Making this cult-friendly fare by my estimation.
But that’s probably the best we’ll get. And this is all speculative, as the film has already been pushed back from its 2012 release date. With no date currently given, I think the best we’ll get is a marginally profitable cult-classic that shares some space on the shelf next to Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. That’s ok though. These things take time.