This weekend someone linked to a comic review on a well-regarded website. The writer was someone whose name I was familiar with, but someone I hadn’t read much of, and when I clicked on the link I was reminded why. He writes in a style I call, due to my biases, “nerdbro”. I’m not gonna call out the guy or link to the piece because there’s no need for that, and besides, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. All exaggerated violence and scatological/sexual jokes with a rich slathering of misogyny and gay-bashing to boot. It’s a way for a nerd to I guess make a statement about how he’s not one of THOSE nerds he’s a Cool Dude and OMG check out the cans on that broad!
This is how many nerds have been reviewing nerd stuff for a while now, and while it was kind of funny at first, it’s now utterly played-out and tired and I can’t believe it’s still happening. It’s not just comics either, this is how the “awesome” board game reviewers talk about board games as well. Yes, to review a game where you pretend that wooden cubes are spices being loaded on to a boat or something you have to say things like “THIS GAME MADE ME WANT TO BUTTFUCK ANDREW MCCARTHY WITH A RUSTY SPORK MADE OUT OF MY LITTLE PONIES” because there you go, violence, sodomy, rape, anti-gay, cursing, random D-list celebrity (bonus! 80s reference), spork, semicurrent nerd thing, something made out of other things. Holy shit you did well with that one, knock off early!
And then the audience whoops and hollers and says how epic your awesome review was even though all you said was you didn’t like it and chances are you’re “reviewing” something that already isn’t to your tastes anyway, so it’s not even a review, just a ritual slaughter.
If you liked the comic or game or movie then you can say “THIS WAS LIKE WATCHING KATY PERRY IN A WHITE T-SHIRT GET DOUSED WITH BEER WHILE IRON MAIDEN JUMPS DIRTBIKES OVER FLAMING BACON-FLAVORED NINJAS” Again, the goal is to just string together a bunch of junk in the hopes of hitting as many “Awesome” buttons for the reader as possible.
The worst part is — and this is almost always the case — there is a germ of a good, funny, and interesting criticism in the review but it’s been pushed aside for the stupid posturing nonsense. It’s as though the writer is afraid that if he doesn’t go for the nerdbro stuff and the cheap, easy laughs, people will think he’s taking it all way too seriously and make fun of him for reading this comic or playing this game.
My pal Jim identified the nerdbro facade as a weird, outdated sort of hypermasculinity and he’s right on target. There’s a boardgame site that was started by folks who were fed up with BGG. As I’ve been fed up with BGG myself, one might think that I would hang out there often as an antidote to the Monty Python Felicia Day Bacon Zombie Firefly junk, but not only do they also traffic in some of that stuff, they are also on the hypermasculine nerdbro angle where it’s all HA LAST NIGHT I DRANK SOME BEERS AND LOOKED AT SOME TITTIES AND FARTED and it’s so goddamn absurd. It’s like when you see something marked “MATURE CONTENT” and you know that however many swears and boobs it contains, it sure as hell ain’t gonna actually be mature.
Here’s the thing: I suck at writing reviews. I don’t know how to do it, I don’t like to do it (I don’t know which is the tail there and which is the dog) and as a result I’m not any good at it. I read something like Flex Mentallo or Goliath and all I can say afterwards is “ME LIKE BOOK, BOOK GOOD”. I don’t even talk about the stuff I read that I didn’t like because usually their crime is usually not being objectively bad but, “so what?” (There are exceptions.) Same thing with games. I have a hard time describing why I like something, and have had enough people who’ve come to me with “YOU SAID THIS WAS GOOD AND IT SUUUUCCCCKKKKKEEEEDDDD” so I don’t even feel comfortable with just saying, “This is a good movie and I recommend it.” (Though I’m starting to get over that because if you watched something because I liked it and you don’t like it OH WELL.)
What I’m saying here is, if you ARE a person who wants to talk about these things and is motivated to do so and has things to say, don’t squander it with this facile nerdbro bullshit. Don’t waste my time and your words on trying to be Seanbaby in 1999. Get a point across and don’t fuck around trying to get a bunch of meatheads to cheer over a homo joke. You are probably smarter than that.
You can rip on how “gay” something is or how that’s something a “chick” might like or talk about how much eating a dozen 20-oz raw steaks in a row makes you fart but it ain’t gonna change the fact that you’re a nerd playing boardgames or reading comic books and the rest of the world thinks you’re a loser for it. I know you don’t want to be viewed as one of THOSE geeks who takes this all way to seriously, but man, there’s got to be some kind of middle ground, somewhere you can stop before you’re overcompensating to a level one has to assume is parody. It’s just comics and boardgames and movies. I don’t want a deep, beard-stroking analysis of the stuff; nobody, especially me, is going to read that. Just tell me about the thing without having to see how many nerdbro bingo spaces you can fill.
It’s especially nerve-wracking in the wake of the return of Fred Clark’s takedown of the Left Behind books over at Slacktivist (yesterday he started Book 3). That is an incredible series which is funny, fun, informative, insightful, and absolutely DEVASTATING without ever having to result to this lazy-assed pandering. It CAN be done.