That word is the rallying cry of the Internet generation, a word that threatens to swallow the entire World Wide Web into a black hole of apathy. There’s no word I dislike more than “whatever” and its close cousins, “Meh” and “PASS.” They’re condescending and dismissive, yet still maintain the illusion of indifference. The Internet uses these words as weapons, as a means to highlight its own sneering prickishness. How do you even argue with that without being matched by another “whatever”? It’s like a drumbeat of stoic assholery that keeps marching and marching, taking out huge chunks of conversation in its path, deflating enthusiasm, and tearing down the efforts of others with the speed of a goddamn chainsaw.
In an insightful piece last week, Fatboy Roberts wrote of the “Uhhh” problem endemic to the new nerd culture:
The Nerd is the one who begins every single disagreement, correction or otherwise contentious statement with a variation on this three letter preface:
Sometimes it’s “umm…” Sometimes they add a “yeah” to the beginning as a bit of a verbal flourish, an unintentional homage to one of cinemas blandest assholes, Bill Lumbergh. More creative types will add a dash of artistic flair by using ascii art to depict raised eyebrows or off-kilter looks before adding that single, drawn-out guttural noise.
It’s true. Yet, as irritating as I find “Uhhh, actually,” I find “whatever” even more problematic. With “Uhhh,” at least you’re passionate enough about the topic to engage in a debate, even if you do sound like a “fucking cockhole.” On the other hand, “whatever” ends the debate. It halts the conversation. You can’t engage with it. It’s a slick wall you can’t climb.
Yesterday, I ran a post highlighting the trailers for what I thought were the seven most promising movies of the fall. I had noticed that, in putting together the review schedule for September, that there was an inordinate amount of films that I could not wait to see. I wanted to share that enthusiasm here. But instead of excitement, the trailers in question were met with a lot of indifference: “Meh,” “eh,” “whatever,” “Yawn.” You don’t care? Great, but guess what? I don’t care that you don’t care.
It’s maddening: You got Clooney, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Matt Damon, Steven Soderbergh, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Steven Soderbergh Aaron Sorkin, and Gwyneth Paltrow DYING. What more can you ask for in a two-month period? If that doesn’t ring your goddamn bell, then your clapper is broken. It just blows my fucking mindhole that anyone could watch the trailer for Drive and respond with a “meh” or worse, make a boneheaded analogy between a Nicolas Winding Refn film and Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift. In what fucking birth canal were you stuck in for the first three years of your existence that you could watch that trailer and compare it to a goddamn Paul Walker movie?
But that’s the thing now. To borrow a phrase from Ben Folds, it’s the battle of who could care less. There’s this sense of urgency out on the Internet to see who can register their indifference the quickest. It used to be “First! First!” and now it’s “Meh. Meh! Look at me! I don’t care!” Cynicism I understand; Hollywood burns us every fucking day and we have every reason to distrust. But this is pure negativity, and I don’t get it.
We have our iPads and our iPhones and basically the entire goddamn world at our fingertips now, and the best that many can muster is boredom. What the fuck, folks? Where’s your sense of passion? Have you been beaten down so many times by your entertainment options that you’ve just given up? Show me on the doll where Green Lantern touched you?
There’s a certain irony to the fact that a lot of this attitude comes out of this anti-hipster mentality. Anything that smacks of twee or preciousness or actual honest emotion is smacked down with a sort of hostile indifference. Wait? Is that a Muse song? PASS. The irony is that — beyond the tight pants and the knit caps and the sweater vests — this is exactly what hipsterism represents: An indifference, a void, an absence of give-a-shit. You’re just too fucking cool to care about Drive or Like Crazy or The Ides of March, huh? Can you imagine if this mentality had pervaded earlier generations? Jean Paul Sartre would’ve been like, “Hell is other people. Or whatever.” FDR would’ve given a big “meh” to Nazis. Nietzsche would’ve come up with a totally different form of nihilism: “Life has no meaning, whaddya gonna do?” Upton Sinclair would’ve walked through Chicago’s meat packing district and offered a big yawlping, PASS.
I don’t mind when people complain and bitch and throw shit at me. That’s great! Get it out. Tell me to go fuck myself. Or if you see a trailer that annoys the shit out of you, say why. Illustrate your point. Likewise, if something speaks to you, don’t be a ninny. Express those feelings. Use too many exclamation points. If someone gives you shit for it, tell them to go fuck themselves. Anything is better than “meh” or “whatever” or “PASS.” Take your goddamn PASS and blow it out your ass.
There’s a frequent commenter here on Pajiba. He goes by the name Protoguy. He’s got cancer. He’s going through chemo. He can’t taste anything. I don’t even know if he can eat anymore. He’s also an asshole. But you know what I love about Protoguy? He’s passionate about being an asshole. If he’s as half as passionate about kicking that cancer as he is about being an asshole, I think (and hope) he’s going to be fine. That’s admirable, people. I mean that. On the other hand, what you don’t hear Protoguy is “Meh.” Or “whatever.” Because that’s some weak indifferent bullshit, and it’s exactly that kind of apathy that’s killing Internet dialogue. So fly that asshole flag, people. Or show some enthusiasm. Just do me a favor and swallow those “whatevers” because nobody gives a shit about your indifference.