Homepage > Joss Whedon Off Topic > The geek shall inherit the Earth (joss whedon & firefly (...)
« Previous : Alyson Hannigan - "How I Met Your Mother" Tv Show - High Quality Promo Photo
     Next : David Boreanaz & Jaime - 2005 Fox All-Star TCA Party - High Quality Photos 2 »

From Stltoday.com

The geek shall inherit the Earth (joss whedon & firefly mention)

By Joe Williams

Monday 1 August 2005, by Webmaster

The most influential man in the entertainment business is a portly 45-year-old virgin who lives with his parents in Springfield USA and runs a comic-book store called the Android’s Dungeon. If you were to ask him what he thought of, say, the latest "Itchy and Scratchy," he’d be ready with an answer: "Worst episode ever. Rest assured that I was on the Internet within minutes, registering my disgust throughout the world."

The Comic Book Guy is a character on "The Simpsons" cartoon show, but he represents a real-world demographic that casts a wide shadow over movies, gaming and graphic literature: the geek. A geek isn’t just a nerd or an obsessive; he - and it’s almost always a "he" - is a nerdy obsessive with opinions that he wields like a light saber.

If George Lucas is the lord of the geeks, the Comic Book Guy is their Boba Fett, the archetype for an army of clones. Between the filmmakers and the fans, geeks are responsible for most of the superhero, sci-fi and fantasy films that have dominated the American box office for the past 30 years. And now they’re extending their reach from the traditional lair of movies and comic books to the expanding realm of cable TV and the relatively new world of computer gaming. But while their enthusiasm can help turn a cult phenomenon into a mainstream sensation, hard-core fans can also function as a first line of defense, shooting down projects that they deem unworthy.

Pilgrimage to Comic-Con

That power is why Hollywood sends its emissaries to events like Comic-Con International, the geek summit in San Diego every summer.

Earlier this month, Comic-Con 2005 attracted 6,500 attendees - from comic-book collectors and costumed nerds to such movie stars as Jamie Foxx, Charlize Theron and Adrien Brody. When they weren’t pressing the flesh of A-list celebrities, the fans could feast on appetizer-sized portions of hot new films, such as "Superman Returns," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" and Peter Jackson’s "King Kong."

It was at last year’s Comic-Con that LucasFilm first unveiled the title of its latest "Star Wars" movie. With great fanfare, the words "Revenge of the Sith" were revealed on the undershirt of Steve Sansweet, the former journalist and obsessive "Star Wars" collector who is the company’s director of fan relations.

"Fandom is more important than ever," says James Gunn, the former St. Louisan who wrote the two big-screen "Scooby-Doo" movies and last year’s remake of "Dawn of the Dead." He attended the recent Comic-Con to promote his directorial debut, a zombie flick called "Slither" that’s slated for a January release.

Gunn says that Universal Studios flew him and the principal cast on a private jet to the event, where they participated in panel discussions and interviews all weekend long. "All of this probably cost them significantly less than a single TV commercial," he says, "so it’s worth it. The fans don’t have enough numbers to really make or break a movie, but they can help in getting the marketing ball rolling, mostly through the Internet, but also through important fan magazines like Fangoria. A lot of times, the mainstream press will pick up what the Internet and fandom is buzzing about, and then it will all pay off."

Ain’t It Cool and other webzines

Around the country, there are countless other opportunities for collectors to trade merchandise - and rumors about upcoming projects. At last week’s ShowMeCon at the Airport Hilton in St. Louis, sci-fi fans on their way to a fantasy-themed pajama party or a panel discussion on life after "Star Trek" passed a table full of promotional posters for such movies as "The Devil’s Rejects," "The Skeleton Key" and, yes, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."

Within the various subcultures, there are specialty conventions, from earnest Harry Potter parties and the massive annual "Star Wars" Celebration to such tongue-in-cheek geek gatherings as the big Lebowskifest in Louisville, Ky., and last April’s sweet "Napoleon Dynamite" bash in Belleville.

But the biggest geek gathering of them all is the Internet. Although it’s a 24/7 Kwik-E-Mart for the entire wired world, cyberspace was first colonized by geeks. It’s no coincidence that, as the Internet has become more vital, tech-savvy geeks have enjoyed a higher profile within the mainstream culture, and, in a tangle of irony, they are sometimes even regarded as cool. The richest man in the world is now a geek, not a sheik. Although he has sat atop the global gazillionaire list for a decade, Microsoft mogul Bill Gates still sports the kind of bad haircut and style-free eyeglasses you might see on a basement-dwelling dweeb.

An actual basement dweller is the biggest success story among the Internet’s movie geeks. In 1996, a rotund young Texan named Harry Knowles started a Web site called Ain’t It Cool News to celebrate the latest genre flicks, with no pretense of journalistic objectivity. Although Knowles stayed in Austin, Texas, his site became a clearinghouse for Hollywood news and gossip, much of which was supplied by industry insiders or spies who had sneaked into previews.

Bad advance publicity from Knowles or his correspondents could handicap a film, so the studios started courting him with exclusive material and trips to private screenings. Today, aintitcool.com attracts 6 million visitors a month, and Knowles has an upcoming producer’s gig on the fantasy adventure "John Carter of Mars," to be directed by comic buff Kerry Conran ("Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow").

Considerably less cozy with the studios is another influential netizen, Chris Gore. Straight out of high school in 1985, Gore started publishing a ’zine called Film Threat about fringe cinema. In 1992, the magazine was bought by pornographer Larry Flynt. When the rights reverted to Gore four years later, he started filmthreat.com and soon shelved the print operation. Today, the Web site dispenses biting reviews under the motto "Truth in entertainment." Gore also distributes a handful of low-budget movies on DVD (including "Living in Missouri" by Wentzville’s Shaun Peterson and "April Is My Religion" by St. Louisan Bill Boll) and is the host of a game show called "The Ultimate Film Fanatic" on the Independent Film Channel.

Suitable candidates for that title could be found at the thousands of movie-related blogs and Web sites that have sprung up in the past few years. With the easier availability of DVDs and online reference material, everyone is a potential authority. There are so many self-styled critics on the Internet that the movie-review roundup site Rotten Tomatoes recently stopped accepting new contributors.

Because the video-game industry now generates more money than Hollywood, the studios have embraced the computer revolution, not only as a means of promoting their movies but as a source of story ideas and a potential pipeline for delivering content.

Since the Web-driven publicity campaign for "The Blair Witch Project," studios have devoted a larger chunk of their marketing budgets to Internet advertising, as well as to developing online adjuncts to their movie and TV offerings.

An upcoming space Western called "Serenity" is based on the 2002 TV series "Firefly." Although Firefly was produced by hitmaker Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), it lasted only a few weeks on the Sci Fi Channel. Yet, it became a surprise hit on DVD, and the fan base spread through some officially endorsed Web sites.

In response to fan pressure, a movie version was greenlighted, and when preview footage was ready to be screened, Whedon used his own blog to announce a series of regional screenings. They sold out almost instantly. For a screening in June at the Creve Coeur theater, hundred of fans came from all over the Midwest, many of them dressed in "Browncoat" attire. Everyone sang the theme song in unison before Whedon appeared onscreen to introduce the unfinished movie. "We’ve done the impossible," Whedon said. "It is, in an unprecedented sense, your movie. So, it if sucks, it’s your fault." Dark side of geek chic

The sense of belonging to a club of insiders can be very seductive, and geeks seem to be exhibiting a newfound pride. The comeuppance fantasy of "The Revenge of the Nerds" has morphed into something more like "The Triumph of the Nerds." The passive-aggressive title character in "Napoleon Dynamite" is the new folk hero of have-nots everywhere. Even the comic-book domain is giving equal time to less-than-super protagonists, in such crossover hits as "Ghost World" and "American Splendor." (The movie version of the latter not only introduced the mainstream to curmudgeon Harvey Pekar but also made a cult figure out of Pekar’s socially retarded sidekick Toby Radloff).

But there’s always been an element of defensiveness in nerd culture, and the new geek pride has a dark side. Movie-news sites like aintitcool.com have become playpens for haters and naysayers. Based largely on rumors and smuggled footage, "The Hulk" was wrestled to the ground and "Catwoman" was whipped into submission months before those films were released to the general public.

In the cyber-flood of information and opinion, even the most diehard loyalists chart individual paths. At the recent ShowMeCon, sisters Alicia and Katherine Rodriguez of St. Ann came dressed in Jedi robes.

Katherine, 20, said that her favorite movie in the series remains the original, from 1977. "That’s because Harrison Ford did so much ad-libbing," she said. "Lucas writes terrible dialogue."

Alicia, 19, said she had waited 14 hours in a freezing rain to see George Lucas at Celebration 3 in Indianapolis. Yet, she admitted that none of the latest three "Star Wars" movies has impressed her as much as 1983’s "Return of the Jedi."

"Lucas didn’t direct that one," she noted. "He’s a better editor and supervisor than a director."

At the various movie-gossip Web sites, sticklers are already sharpening their sarcasm in anticipation of such comic-book adaptations as "X-Men 3," "V for Vendetta" and "Ghost Rider." At a time when visually impressive movies are outrageously expensive to produce, films based on the market-tested characters and pre-existing designs of comic books are a relatively safe bet. James Gunn says he’s been told by studio executives that projects like "Batman Begins" and "Fantastic Four" are almost foolproof, because all the hard-core fans will rush to see a movie with a brand-name protagonist, even if they expect it to be awful.

In April, Marvel pawned the rights to 10 of its comic-book characters, including Captain America, as collateral for a half-billion dollars in movie-production funds. The company says it has another 5,000 characters in reserve.

But if someone gets around to adapting "She-Hulk vs. Leon Spinks," we can almost hear the pronouncement from a certain fellow in Springfield: "Worst cross-over ever."

1 Message