Foregone Warning: the title of this post is a play on words and borderline off-key rhyme. It almost verges into the territory of the pun. Actual warning: this article is going to be a very link extensive post and I hope it will all make sense towards the end.
In my post A World Coming Together, A Possible Paradigm Forming, and Other Stories That Find Themselves On Their Way, I make a lot of promises and claims but there is one in particular that I feel I need to go into a little more detail about.
I said before that it seems like we are in the process of the rise of a new paradigm: based on the geek nostalgia of the late seventies, but mostly the eighties onward to early 2000. As I said before, I feel I need to be more specific about this. What I actually mean is that we have been, for some time now, at a point where we can look back what was the present not too long ago and actually subvert and critique it. I mean, we can actually ask some questions about a lot of things that we took for granted: either in all seriousness or through satire.
For instance, look at Robot Chicken and how it makes fun of a lot of popular culture from the 80s and onward. The thing about Robot Chicken, however, is that it makes fun of generally everything to a warped and twisted degree of hilarity: and I wonder if this hasn’t also been a product of the past thirty or forty years or if it takes a paradigm about that amount time to gestate and create itself.
I guess I am trying to talk about a few things at once: which is not the first time something like this has happened for me. So I’m going to take a risk and bring up some theory, and then see what I can do with it from there.
In about the 1980s, there was–or even is–this theory that we had entered something called post-modernism. There is a lot of debate as to what post-modernism actually is, but from my understanding it seemed to be a period in which literature and other media had become fragmented or combined with one another to make entirely different meanings from what they once were, or could have been. In addition to this was the rise of another idea called deconstructionism which, in the very reduced way I’m explaining it, is a theory that likes to take things apart. When you combine these ideas together, you essentially create writings and cultures that are incredibly ironic, sometimes “self-aware,” and that like to dissect themselves while at the same time attempt to reveal a multiple amount of different meanings.
There are a lot of scholars and artists that dispute these terms, of course, and say that every generation or paradigm goes through a phase of critiquing what came before and making something new from these elements afterwards. I like to think that the 80s and onward really favoured making pastiches–narratives and stories created from parts of things like patchwork monsters–to either subvert something that once existed or make as unique as is humanly possible.
Now, take that idea. You can definitely apply that to Robot Chicken. But it goes further than that and it doesn’t always manifest in the same way. For instance, take ItsJustSomeRandomGuy. As I mentioned in another post, he takes primarily Marvel and DC superheroes and villains and actually makes them aware of their fictional status but keeps them in character in doing so and even manages to make some incredible meta-narrative plots with a whole lot of geek culture references. I‘m A Marvel, I’m a DC is a whole lot less “profane” than Robot Chicken, but they operate on similar principles. I also would be greatly remiss if I forgot the How It Should Have Ended series: where popular movies and videos are depicted as cartoons and their plots are changed or subverted by … well … common sense. But since when do good fictional plots make sense with common sense? 😉 We can argue that point.
The whole idea of popular cultural or geek references, sometimes to the point of being self-referential in different media seems to have originated from Joss Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer: where in addition to a whole lot of witty “dialogue without pity,” there was a regular string of different kinds of references. The issue, however, is that I’m not sure this where it came from, or one of the points of entry into mainstream culture and entertainment. All I can say is, it was for me.
I have noticed, however, that a lot of my examples of this paradigm are very television and Internet-based. And there it is. I would argue that a paradigm or a culture is created when it evolves to the point of being able to look at itself and critique itself. And right now, this impulse, which may have started in the 80s as we know it, has sky-rocketed as information technology has advanced.
Look at the Abridged series for instance. Abridged series are fan-made parodies of television shows and cartoons. Parodies like LittleKuriboh’s Yu-gi-oh Abridged and Team Four Star’s Dragon Ball Z Abridged have become very popular and entertaining shows among fans: so much so that many other fans create their own Abridged series, or parody the Abridged series that exist. They are practically viral phenomena.
And these are just the fictional examples. I haven’t even begun to go into the actual Critics like The Nostalgia Critic, The Angry Video Game Nerd and Cinemassacre Productions, Nixie Pixel, G33kPron and countless others who review and critique video games, movies, and geek culture old and new. They also use the pastiche form in some cases to make various verbal and media references. There are also so many more people we do this as well.
Now, somewhere in all of this fictional and non-fictional stuff … is me.
It took me a really long time to realize that not only was I already a part of this nebulous process, but that it was legitimate and more than okay to be so. I’ve had at least one teacher or two who would have once considered comics and video games utter dreck: or at the very least very un-serious diversions from real life. And I’m not going to lie to you or myself: there is a lot of garbage out there that isn’t even entertaining like “YouTube Poop”: videos created specifically to be obnoxious. But every literary and media culture has garbage. They also have gems and other treasures.
Think about this prospect. All the video games you’ve played and the comics you’ve read are becoming references that more people from a generation of thirty or forty years understands. These references make it into literature and criticism. Moreover, we exist in an Age of Information: where many obscure and old elements of our childhood are much more accessible to us now than ever before.
Some scholars have even argued that we are–or we were–in an age of Hypertext: a situation where we can click on a vast amount of chain-information through links and linked words on the Internet. You know, like when you are on Wikipedia or anywhere else, and you search for one thing, and then click on a highlighted word or phrase to be linked to another–or multiple other–online pages. In part, this allows us to look back on “our childish things,” and we don’t turn our backs on them, but instead we embrace them with an adult perspective and understanding that only someone who knew them way back when can give.
Moreover, we can even take this perspective–possibly created from our own nostalgia–and apply it to times that existed before us, or take that and make something entirely new in our time now. But also think about this: in addition to having more information technology, we are developing more interactive technology as well. Video games are much in the same place that comics, and film used to be–and to some extent–still are in public opinion. They have not always been respected, but as we continue to make them we can add more content, more distinction, and more variety. We can–and we have–gotten to the point where video games can even make references or “literary allusions” to other video games and culture in general. I am definitely going to revisit this thought at some other people.
Then consider the other people who participate in these interactive narratives and add the Internet to that fact: which connects people all across the world and different forms of life. Sometimes, I believe–in my more optimistic moments–that we could be on the cusp of creating something truly great and maybe even in our own lifetime. I can’t even imagine what will come after this if all goes well.
So in all of this, I am trying to find my own place: to find my niche. I want to take advantage of this time and do something that matters. This Blog, in no small way, is a part of this drive. It is here that I can combine my geeky interests with my academic background and my creative impulse to construct new things and state my opinions. I want to be a part of this. I want to do something great as well.
I grew up in the nineties or, as a friend of mine likes to chant, “90s 90s, living in the 90s!” Once, it was my present and sometimes it’s weird–really weird–that it and the early 2000s aren’t anymore. Sometimes, I feel time-displaced. I feel lost. I have another acquaintance who once stated that the children of the 80s, and even those before are a Lost Generation: of people who never really achieved their full promise in today’s world. But we’re not. We’re really not. I think we have been coming into our own and we will continue to do so as we ascribe a multiplicity of new meanings to old things, and create things that will make other things together.
Because there it is: perhaps post-modernism and deconstructionism might have taken things apart to see how they work, as they work, but we–whether we are in a Hypertext age or not–are starting to put them back together … and make different things entirely. Now that is something to celebrate.