As our divinely appointed Nerd King, Simon Pegg sure does have a habit of insulting his subjects. In this week’s Radio Times, he said some unequivocally harsh things about comic book movies and geek entertainment in general, ending with his desire (or at least an idea) to walk away from it all.
I sometimes feel like I miss grown-up things. And I honestly thought the other day that I’m gonna retire from geekdom. I’ve become the poster child for that generation, and it’s not necessarily something I particularly want to be. I’d quite like to go off and do some serious acting.Now, the cycle of off-the-cuff comment taken out of context (or not)-outrage-apology is something we’ve come to expect on our daily internet lives. But Pegg, who posted an explanation-apology on his blog today, offers up something slightly different.
First of all, there’s no blame for quotes out of context. He admits the comments were “a bit trollish,” and the result of a “Contrary Mary” attitude borne of exhausting press junkets, and ultimately sums up his apology in his headline “Big Mouth Strikes Again.” But what follows is an odd but engaging divergence from the typical internet outrage apology. Because Pegg doesn’t say his comments were erroneous, just that they were maybe a little hurtful to his fanbase. Or as he puts it, “a huge generalisation by an A-grade asshorn.”
What’s different here is that rather than just brush us all off with a half-hearted apology, Pegg has invited us into a conversation. He expounds on French philosophy and the impact the Vietnam War had on a generation of storytellers, and he does so in a way that may feel to some like he’s over-explaining, but really he seems to just have a lot of questions that he doesn’t have the answers to.
I guess what I meant was, the more spectacle becomes the driving creative priority, the less thoughtful or challenging the films can become. The spectacle of Mad Max is underpinned not only multiple layers of plot and character but also by an almost lost cinematic sense of ‘how did they do that?’ The best thing art can do is make you think, make you re-evaluate the opinions you thought were yours. It’s interesting to see how a cerebral film maker like Christopher Nolan, took on Batman and made it something more adult, more challenging, chasing Frank Miller’s peerless Dark Knight into a slightly less murky world of questionable morality and violence. But even these films are ultimately driven by market forces and somebody somewhere will want to soften the edges, so that toys and lunch boxes can be sold. In that respect, Bruce Wayne’s fascistic vigilantism was never really held to account, however interesting Nolan doubtless found that idea. Did he have an abiding love of Batman or was it a means of making his kind of movie on the mainstream stage?
The point of all this is just to get my position clear. I’m not out of the fold, my passions and preoccupations remain. Sometimes it’s good to look at the state of the union and make sure we’re getting the best we can get. On one hand it’s a wonderful thing, having what used to be fringe concerns, suddenly ruling the mainstream but at the same time, these concerns have also been monetised and marketed and the things that made them precious to us, aren’t always the primary concern (right, Star Trek TOS fans?)
Also, it’s good to ask why we like this stuff, what makes it so alluring, so discussed, so sacred. Do we channel our passion and indignation into ephemera, rather than reality? Not just science fiction and fantasy but gossip and talent shows and nostalgia and people’s arses. Is it right? Is it dangerous? Something to discuss over a game of 3D chess, perhaps.
—I love Science Fiction and fantasy and do not think it’s all childish.Of course he is. As he reminds us in his post, he is the man who co-created Spaced, and has given us some of the best nerd culture roles of a generation. This stuff is his foundation. But does that mean he’s not allowed to change? Of course not. These are interesting questions he’s working through, and I hope he continues to make this a public conversation. But hopefully in the process, he’ll remember to be a little kinder to the fans who have supported him for nearly two decades.
—I do not think it is all generated by dominant forces as a direct means of control…much.
—I am still a nerd and proud.