Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Big Weregeek Theory

Spoilert: If you haven't read the webcomic Weregeek yet, and you don't want me giving away the... middle, I guess, then head on over and bask in some geek subculture. It's safe, it's cozy, it's got big hairy barbarians. Just like Canada.

Weregeek did something great a while ago, pulled off a bonah-fidey dramatic reveal which it had built up for years. Now, the internet is full of escapist fantasies in which our idealized teenage selves travel to some magical world to become charming princes or warrior princesses. If only we had enough rabbit-holes and looking-glasses to fall through! A few of the more daring authors even make a business of analyzing this headlong eXistenZ-style dive into fantasy. Erfworld began with that sort of questioning, even if it's become quite involved in its own world since then (which transition is itself wonderfully self-referent.) Guilded Age, a more focused and coherent incarnation of Fans before it, is doing a pretty good job of mixing fantastic reality into real fantasy.

Weregeek went a step further. The fantasy was never real. The looking-glass was only ever showing a reflection. That Gaimanesque slip between the cracks, your self-important heroics, your paranoid fantasies of persecution, were all imagined. Reality is still real and if you honestly believed it wasn't, if you were ever truly, all-consumingly immersed, then you would not be able to function.
Maaaan, way to harsh our buzz.

Of course when you've spent the entire comic building up that whiplash-inducing climax, the question of "what next" looms larger than a shadowgeek stuffed with Monty Python quotes. Sure, the comic still has quite a lot of material on which to comment, what with gamers still gaming, but having declared its main gimmick and half its content over and done with, Weregeek seems to be gradually slipping out of its niche and toward the inexorable pull of the lowest common denominator: sex.

Not bow-chicka-bow-wow, of course, but run of the mill relationship comedy. If there is one unifying trait of human psychology it's our obsession with the tiniest details of our simian mating rituals. It's not like we don't have other examples of webcomics which have gotten bogged down in such universality. PvP weathered a constant storm of criticism over it for years and boy howdy, did the geek realm ever implode over Megatokyo's temporary focus on pure moe. I tend to compare Weregeek more with The Big Bang Theory, though. Remember when that show was at least partly about trotting out one-liners like "wood for sheep" and bouncing lasers off the moon? When did it become about spending Thanksgiving at your in-laws' house?

Weregeek is not quite there yet. Still, shadowgeekery left a huge void to fill, and given that the end of that storyline was also the end of trans-reality adventuring, its void is slowly being filled with more and more hugs and kisses, with mundanity. So, what negative signs can we look out for? The beginning of the end of The Big Bang Theory was arguably the "hoo" episode - the arbitrary, utterly forced normalization and depersonalization of the character Amy Farrah Fowler. The erasure of other cast members' original gimmicks has followed in its footsteps, until the show has gotten filled with the same all-purpose "my friend's new girlfriend doesn't like me" tropes which you could get by watching Friends reruns... or any other TV show about twenty-somethings going about the business of fitting themselves into the mold society has prepared for them.

So what's the equivalent of that for Weregeek? Joel's already down for the count... but the characters who really matter are the extreme examples. Who are the Sheldon or Amy of Weregeek?

I guess that'd be Dustin and Abbie. Ooof. One down already.
When Abbie gets her "hoo" episode, it's time to shelve the comic.

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