Dispatches from the Suburbs of Hell

Heaven is for the obedient. Hell is for the wrathful. What of the ones in between? We wind up in the Suburbs. Our sin is individuality. Our punishment is boredom. But at least we're in good company.

Location: New England, United States

Monday, November 05, 2007

Burning Bridges

...or, Why I Can't Go To B-Fest

Two weeks ago, my local National Amusements Theater finished their "Attack of the B-Movies" program. All in all, I enjoyed it. I'm an old-school MSTie. Not a B-movie aficionado, exactly, but one who is thoroughly entertained by crappy film. I don't worship the likes of Roger Corman or Ray Kellogg, but I get a kick of the train wrecks that are their movies. And that's what this program delivered for six weeks. A weekly double feature, replete with rubbery monsters, fake blood, and Peter Graves's perfect hair. Yum, pungent cheese.

The movies were great. The other theatergoers, however...not so much. A glance around the theater at the types that these kind of movies attract gave me an epiphany of sorts. It wasn't the poseurs that bothered me all that much. It wasn't the small pack of hipsters who sat in the back and giggled throughout the movie. It wasn't the group of Red Hat ladies who reminisced in unsubtle tones over the first time they saw that movie at the drive-in. No, it was the HARDCORE B-movie fans that made me uncomfortable. The bald lumpy guy with the huge packpack full of Godknowswhat. The jittery nerd who engages you in conversation about some subtle point of trivia whether you want to talk or not. The Geek Supremacist who lords his (or her; in this case it was a girl) B-movie knowledge over you and demands that you be impressed. These are the ones that put me on edge...and I have a pretty good idea why.

Once upon a time, I was a denizen of The B-Movie Message Board. It's been several years since I've visited the place; I and several others left around the same time. My reasons for leaving were personal (I'm not going to gossip, but those responsible know who they are), but my reasons do stem from the same problems that drove others away. There is a B-Movie Geek culture out there, one that is just as filled with wonders and horrors as any other. And one that is just as ugly as any clique.

That's the thing, isn't it? I don't know how we as a society got it into our heads that people who have been abused by society are somehow above those same abuses. The idea that somehow getting pushed around in high school gave you a stronger moral center. I suppose we like to think that such people are more compassionate, because they've been there, they know how it hurts, and all that. Outsiders have an almost mythical place in the history of human civilization; those who do not belong to the group have a unique perspective on the group. And at times we NEED an outsider to show us what we really are.

That's the romantic view, of course. The reality is quite different. Especially when the outsiders band together and form their own group. A clique is a clique is a clique. A subculture of nerds is no less exclusive and mean as is a subculture of high-school cheerleaders. In fact, nerds can be even MEANER; they've got chips on their shoulders and they know how to hurt. Nobody who's been abused wants to be treated fairly; they want retribution for the wrongs they've suffered. Whether it's something as serious as race relations or as petty as a high-school book-dumping, the first instinct of the wronged is to respond in kind.

And that's the unfortunate case of Geek subculture. Geeks are not kind and accepting people. Geeks are petty. Geeks are mean. Especially to those that do not belong to their group. And on the one hand that's understandable; they've been kicked around most of their lives, so they have a right to be guarded and suspicious of outsiders. But that doesn't make them better than the people who did the kicking around. And someone who is not a Geek who looks for acceptance or friendship among them is in for disappointment at best, and ridicule at worst. Ridicule of the worst kind; the mean-spirited taunting of one who knows what it's like to be taunted, and is now having his moment of revenge.

So that's kind of what happened to me. Others fell foul of the general atmosphere of cliquey-ness that comes from such an insular group, but it was all coming from the same place: we didn't belong there, and we were cast out. Oh the shame...

Of course I must shoulder some of the blame myself. I'm not a very generous person either, and I never really fit in anywhere either. My geekiness took a different course than others, I guess. Not comic books, or movies, or video games. More scholarly nerdiness: dusty old tomes on philosophy and history and literature, that was my racket. So I guess I missed out on a lot of stuff that would have won me acceptance in other circles. Never seen a movie about Japanese gangsters, or Italian zombies, or elaborate Indian song-and-dance numbers. Never felt a pressing need to see them, either. It was just never something I was interested in. Too busy reading Hemingway or Browning. Or Tolkien. And we all know what a low rung on the Geek ladder us Tolkien fans occupy. Somewhere down there with LARPers and Ren-Festers and Theater Majors. Cuz, you know, 1970's grindhouse movies were just so darn edgy and cool, way cooler than some fruity old book about elves and wizards...

Ahem. But I digress.

So part of the schism is my fault. Because the dark side of wanting to be accepted by a group is assuming you have something the group would consider including. And gosh, I'm just so darn interesting, aren't I? That feeling of stung pride as some stuttering geek looks down his nose at me for some unforgiveable lapse in my B-movie knowledge is as much my fault as the geek's. After all, that's what his culture values, and he's got it. BMMB is his place, not mine, and I suppose he has the right to exclude me if he wishes.

So we come back to the B-movies. I love B-movies, but I don't love the culture of B-movie viewing. My love of B-movies is only one facet of my personality, only one thing of many that gets me out of the house. I don't know if that makes me better than the B-Geeks, but it does make me different. And that's a little sad. The fabled "B-Fest" which happens in Chicago every January was always something I wanted to check out, but if it's anything like my experience with "Attack of the B-Movies," I's rather not. Twenty-four hours alone with dozens of them. God. And that's not even counting my personal reasons for not wanting to go; there are people who I would probably end up punching in the face if I ever had to deal with them in real life...and that would kind of prove their point for them, I suppose.

So...that's it, I guess. I've got enough to do, managing my own forum, which consists of many of the aforementioned BMMB exiles. Maybe THAT's my place. Or at least, that's a place I can live in for the moment.