Movie: Ready Player One

Ready Player One is exactly what you expect it is. It’s a Spielberg movie; there will be no surprises but you can expect his cheezy brand of delight and whimsy and wonder: Spielberg movies are the “Ta-Da!” of children’s birthday party magicians. Even the villain is a classic corporate cutout who would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for these meddling kids. Go if you enjoyed growing up in the Eighties and used every fibre of your being to get E.T. home…you’ll have a good time.

What’s lamentable is Ready Player One is another sad reminder of the mainstreaming of nerd culture. Nerd Culture was the patron saint of the loser and the despised: often performing many miracles during school lunch hours. “Behold! That new kid who just transferred from Chicago with all that acne and those scraped knees? He’s a Whovian! Go forth and connect so you will be less lonely.”

Continuity excelled as an exclusive gentlemen’s club: you were either in or you were out. And if you were out that was an acceptable sacrifice: it wasn’t meant for everybody.

Comic Book Guy should always be condescending to Bart because he did the work. By virtue of his age and status he’s a solid snob and he’d make a fine bouncer at the Nerd Club but unfortunately he’s in a business where he must make allowances for the weaker among us. (Clearly he’s not happy…you cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you and all that.)

It’s the same process we’ve seen with many isms like feminism: for anything to become palatable for a mainstream audience is has to become watered down; those militant aspects (no matter how vital) are slowly stripped away. Ultimately it can’t exclude it has to include which makes it less valuable. The sacrifice of mainstream acceptance is never worth it.

The irony is this is the message of every 80s movie…a loser desires to ditch their loser friends and succeeds by scoring The Golden Ticket gets in with the cool kids and slowly discovers the grass is not greener on this side just way more shallow. What they really gave up was…love. Cool is cool but cool is not love.

There are a lot of cool easter eggs in Ready Player One but they’re just nostalgic farts from the consumption of a steady pop culture diet. There is no commentary to any of them; there can’t be because you can’t have footnotes anymore…nobody reads the footnotes it all has to be in the primary text. You can’t exclude…we’re group hugging now.

And I get it; we can’t go back and this isn’t a get off the lawn the old days were better thing. I’m simply recognizing what we’ve lost. You spend 20, 30 or even 35 years on this planet and you’ll eventually end up at funeral eating potato salad.

Generally there’s 2 reasons why people make stuff…books, paintings, movies etc.
1) Void: “how come we all have these sci-fi movies but we don’t have…” if the void bothers you enough you’ll make something hopefully the market agrees with you so it becomes successful and it works out. (Though with social media now people tend to complain instead of create…and based on a cursory glance as to what they consider a void they’re clearly terrible producers. So I’m grateful they don’t create.)

2) Anger: “I’m tired of these crappy superhero movies. I’ll show you how to do a superhero movie.” Anger, annoyance…this fueled a lot of painters movements and movies.

I’m hoping the second inspiration surges forward creating a whole new culture; an exclusive club with bouncers at the door and your name is not on the list. We can’t reclaim what we’ve lost but there’s hope you can always fashion something new and bold and visionary.

And I hope…so much hope that when I try to get into this new club I’m excluded. I want to do that walk of shame; that pitiful walk away from what was going to be an evening of ruckus to a night in yamming Doritos with other losers. Yes! You guys are doing it right. Keep up the good work.


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Also published on Medium.

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