We’re a generation of nerds. Well, “nerds.” In days of yore, trading Magic cards and swapping Final Fantasy walkthrough guides resulted in wedgies and a lifetime of flinching at sudden movements. Now, comic books, video games, and fan fiction are a new kind of cultural currency, one that resonates an odd amalgam of heaven and hell for old fans, who now see the hunks who used to bully them lining up for Avengers tickets.
There remains a silver lining, however: If you have a child, you can raise them to not only like genre, but to appreciate it as well. Such was the journey of writer Robert Jackson Bennett, who, in a hilarious new essay on Tor, laments, “I have miserably failed in my efforts to indoctrinate my children with the appropriate pop culture references,” but clarifies that “at least 70 percent of the burden of failure rests on my two very bad garbage sons, who have both proven to be just dogshit at liking the right things.”
Obviously, the piece is satire, but it’s resonant satire in this modern age, reminiscent in its own way of that Star Wars commercial from Saturday Night Live last year. “The way they’re doing Star Wars today is just all wrong,” Bennett writes. Of his “Large Son,” he says:
For a whole damned year he called Darth Vader “Star Vader,” and he still calls Boba Fett “Bobo Fett,” and he calls every kind of land transport an “AT-AT,” which is just abysmally fucking wrong in every kind of way. I created a spreadsheet for him, but I am fairly sure he only gave it a cursory glance. Perhaps the most galling thing about it all is that, incredibly, despite having never actually watched a Star Wars movie in the six years of his life (he says they are “too loud,” which, okay, sure), he somehow already knows that Vader is Luke’s father, and he’s just utterly fucking blasé about it, too.
“As a white, middle-class, male American nerd, I am only capable of expressing my anemic inner self through vapid genre references,” he writes, echoing the voices of so many frustrated dorks out there. “If my child does not appropriately love the intellectual properties I am attached to, will I be capable of loving either child?”
Maybe let’s just let kids like what they like? Otherwise, this could be you.