You think you’re too cool for these films, but you’re NOT
You think you’re too cool for these films, but you’re not.
- Quentin Tarantino
Basically sometimes I wonder if I once exhibited hipster tendencies because sometimes, I really feel underqualified as a nerd, even though my skill-set is good in some areas, the remembering of Star Trek plotlines and comic book continuities is not one of those skills I’m good at.
And I think the difference between people trying to like things to look cool and people who do it for the love can be summed up by the quotation above, from the maestro of mashup, Quentin Tarantino.
This. This right here sums up why I consider myself a nerd rather than a hipster still.
Because as annoying as Quentin Tarantino is, Tarantino is annoying in a way that only the geekiest of film geeks who got a window into the industry he devoted his life to studying and cataloguing media of could ever be, whereas hipsters who only watch Bollywood films and obscure knock off Kung Fu films to be “ironic” are not even close to fitting the Tarantino “I don’t care if you think I’m annoying, I love what I do” kind of nerd mould.
There was a time when I was asked to speak on radio to a prominent TV and radio personality in my country, about Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha manga. I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t geeking out for the love, because they certainly didn’t pay me, but what they did do is admit I was the only Osamu Tezuka expert they could find in the country, and that I was familiar to a large degree of the God of Manga’s works. Oh, and I got to talk to somebody I wanted to meet in person my whole life on his official radio show. That was cool, but at the same time, Tarantino levels of nerdy as well.
What I’m saying is, I have far more respect for Tarantino levels of geekery than I do for hipsters, because when these types of geeks geek out, they not only feel qualified to make bold statements about specific media without fear, but they ARE QUALIFIED TO DO SO. This is kind of why I’m wary to think of myself of a comic book reader versus a guy who grew up in the anime and manga boom, and thus am a terrifying result of growing up in a decade where anime and manga exceeded the popularity of superhero comics in my country a long while after the 90s Dark Age I don’t feel nearly as qualified as Linkara to talk about.
In addition, I’d like to point out that not all art students are hipsters. For starters, if I was to tell you that I owned the two most useful books about the works of Daido Moriyama available in English on my shelf, and the DVD documentary of his art practice, theory, and technical skills/influences, you would probably peg me as some geek who knows more than is good for him about the Japanese photographic artist, Daido Moriyama. This is not something I do to make me look “cool” - it is something I do because I regard Daido Moriyama awareness to be awesome.
Compare this to people who go to art school because it’s a way to look cool and creative without reading too much, despite the fact that while the visual arts are a visual medium, sometimes you really do have to crack open a book and study to get any decent idea about what your influences are actually saying with their work.
This is why I regard Takashi Murakami’s Superflat artwork as hiding some subtext of unknowable psychological horror that lurks under the surface of Japan’s otaku culture, versus people who went to a Murakami exhibition because they wanted to see the cute sunflower smiley artworks and heard about those weird life sized sculptures where the guy makes a lasso out of his jizz and the anime girl status with big boobs makes a skipping rope with her milk, and only heard about these because these are the more infamous works Takashi Murakami is notorious for versus what he was actually trying to say with them.
There comes a time when one really has to search out what identity fits them. College/University is one of those times. Trouble is, during this experimental period, pretending you’re something you’re not is all too easy to do by mistake.
In essence, I think this is why I feel kind of nervous when I’m talking to other nerds in different schools of nerd thought, such as comic books versus manga. I don’t even know everything there is to know about anime and manga, as even I haven’t seen all of the creme de la creme of what there is to see as far as those two Japanese cartooning artforms are concerned.
Yet somebody as notable as John Safran, the TV and Radio personality I mentioned earlier, called me an “Osamu Tezuka expert”. Why is this? Probably because I knew much more about Osamu Tezuka than he did. “Expert” is a weird word to apply to people, and it’s a bit nebulous - especially if you’ve seen the sketch by The Chaser who make fun of “experts” on Current Affairs programs who are smart looking people with no real credentials on these sorts of programs who spout nonsense at you but you believe they’re experts because they have a bookcase, and GLASSES. How could they not be experts?
Sadly, I have to point out that as far as Osamu Tezuka nerds go, I might not have a PhD in Tezuka Studies, but compared to the sort of “experts” on Current Affairs programs, I’m kind of overqualified in this department. Yet you’d never be able to call me a “CLAMP Studios expert” because I haven’t even seen many CLAMP anime and manga beyond half-remembered episodes of Card Captor Sakura. It’s all very subjective what “expert” in a medium of entertainment really is, as you may now realise.
See, a lot of the time I imagine some older bloggers than me, like Chris Sims and those kinds of professional comics bloggers, far more qualified to talk about Batman and related Batmanology than I have any right to, because he is a product of a time when Batman had much more exposure in the popular consciousness than he did when most superheroes only get noticed these days if they get a big budget live action movie. I’m not making fun of people like Chris Sims when I say this, but what I’m saying is, compared to him I feel dangerously under qualified and misinformed when it comes to trivia about The Dark Knight compared to my seemingly vast knowledge of the minutiae of Osamu Tezuka’s stellar and justly celebrated career.
Somebody like Chris Sims might be Batmanology’s most formidable and knowledgable professor, but I suspect if I set him an exam on Tezukan Studies I wouldn’t be surprised if he would try and think, What Would Batman Do? as he attempted to use a paperclip the exam papers came with to escape the locked room where his brain is being tormented with questions about “How long did Osamu Tezuka attempt to practice medicine before he gave it up for a career in manga?” and “How did Osamu Tezuka come up with his manga, Metropolis, if he didn’t even see the movie of the same name?”.
This is not a bad thing. Nerds need to accept what skill-sets of trivia and practical skills they possess, and in this department it’s part of why when I read comics blogs about superhero comics, I really begin to feel lost and wishing I knew more about what these professional geeks are talking about when they’re discussing the Green Lantern live action movie and why it is a good or bad adaptation.
When I read these well researched insights into contemporary comics culture, it makes me wonder if, hypothetically, I was raised in an environment where comics were easy to come by, and born into a generation familiar with superhero comics versus manga, I would be able to converse with these types of geeks much more easily than I’m able to because I’m terrified of seeming misinformed or a poser. Perhaps… a bit of a hipster in comparison.
It’s why sometimes I don’t think my experience in nerdy media and pop culture is significant enough to have myself counted amongst the few, the proud, the geeky, but then I remember that just because my childhood wasn’t rooted in the Reagan era and subject to the last epoch of true mass culture everybody shared in, doesn’t mean my nerd cred has no value at all.
All this does is make me skilled in discussing different things to different people. It doesn’t make me less of a nerd. It doesn’t make me particularly cool either, nor do I need it to make me cool.
To those who think you’re too cool for the films I watch, the manga I read as well as the outright dorky literature I’ve buried my nose in for lack of a girlfriend to share my fandoms with to snuggle into, you’re not. And I’m probably not much cooler than the stuff you probably like either.