I’m going to tell you a tale about fight radar, and performance art, and frogs, and the President of the United States, and somebody who used to run around with these robots that turned into trucks, and like the future of humankind.
Once upon a time, there were these movies called The Transformers. They were made by a gentleman named Michael Bay and they starred the hottest young actor (so we were told by the media) at the time, Shia LaBeouf. They were supposed to be about how this “geek” (who was actually really really cool) befriended the most popular toy line from the 1980s, and got smokin’ hot babes. Plus: Optimus Prime.
As I’ve written about in “Geeks Will NOT Inherit the Earth: How Hollywood Helped the Jocks Win,” LaBeouf’s character Sam Witwicky was an approximation by Hollywood as to how “geeks” really were:
No longer would the “computer nerd” or comic book collecting enthusiast or intense gamer be merely dismissed as a lovable weirdo at best, a creepy McCreeperson at worst—he was now dictating what was “hot” in pop-culture. He WAS the protagonist, not his best friend or comedic side-kick.
Movie-makers and corporate marketers bowed down to the wisdom of the Geek-as-Alpha, tailoring their products to cater to that demographic. And the biggest movie franchises seemed to be born from that “nerd fandom”—the Batmen, the Marvels, the Tolkien stuff.
Nothing more encapsulated this Geek-as-Alpha era better than the “Transformers” movies. Shia LaBeouf, who personified the nerdy awkward “beta male,” had the hottest chicks and was friends with elaborate CGI-representations of beloved 1980s cartoon characters.
But this was largely a very cynical cash-grab by Hollywood to reappropriate nerd culture in order to perpetuate a fad and make tons of cash on licensing and merchandising. Once the entertainment industry “had” the culture—they did a bait-and-switch and swapped the “geeks” for jocks:
And yet in fact, the Geeks did not inherit the Earth. Instead, we see the blond jock-types who might have been cast as the villain in Karate Kid become the latest generation of Heroes.
And certainly we can see that even in the Transformers movie franchise itself, as LaBeouf is replaced by the muscular “alpha” Mark Wahlberg.
In the interim between when that started happening and now (a.k.a. “Interesting Times”), what was, loosely, considered “geek culture” started to mutate faster than a hermetically sealed barrel full of Fukushima turtles. And Hollywood, well…they had no fucking clue. They just went on as business as usual.
But something very strange started to happen.
The icons of so-called “Geek Culture” from movies, TV, comics, and so on started getting trolled. Hard. And they were getting trolled largely by this new generation of so-called “geeks” they failed to understand or even anticipate.
And this was because a) the sub-culture was bloodlessly co-opted by the entertainent industry to make money, with no thought about the actual people who created it in the first place; b) the sub-culture itself, like I said, mutated; and c) the people who made the Hollywood side of Geek Culture were getting older and more, frankly, out of touch.
I know all this because a) I fucking worked for a site called “MTVGeek”; b) I spent the last five years away from the mainstream entertainment industry & instead actually studied the sub-culture (and related outgrowths) in as objective way as I possibly could muster; and c) I’m getting older too and out of touch so maybe don’t listen to me either.
And the latest target of the sub-culture’s rage is Shia LaBeouf, who, in his continuing efforts to be avant-garde, created a livestreamed art installation called “He Will Not Divide Us.” The “he” of course, being He Who Will Not Be Named (Donald).
In order to evade people trolling the event—real, live, people in The Three Dimensional World—LaBeouf moved the installation to a secret location…which folks on 4chan, using flight radar and all sorts of weird shit that is beyond my pay grade to understand, found within one fucking day:
Unofficial Trump advisor and Infowars host Alex Jones—who also doesn’t quite understand this subculture, but knows a potential bump in viewership when he sees it—gleefully tweeted about the event:
And so we have the shaming of Sam Witwicky—Shia LaBeouf, who, to be fair, was also shamed by the “hipster” geeks not too long ago, and has been generally despised since Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull, if I’m not mistaken.
We have several things all going on in here.
#1, It “feels” like LaBeouf, whose career continues to be in a muddle, is at least partially using the #resist movement against Trump to get publicity. I don’t dislike the guy, I think he does have some interesting things to say…but that’s the vibe I’m getting.
#2, Hollywood clearly doesn’t understand the current youth subculture; and by the time they do, it is most possible the sub-culture will be 75% on its way to mutating into something else entirely. Which is usually the pattern, and which means we should have some extremely self-conscious (and possibly self-righteous) cartoon starring a Pepe analogue in 5…4…3…2…
#3, I don’t think people like Jones really understands the subculture either. I think to some of them, Trump is like Pepe, or the Joker, or some sort of Trickster “fuck shit up” Eric Cartman/Stewie Griffin chaos motherfucker who is hilarious. And I know you might be reading those words, and it immediately infuriates you because Trump is obviously a bad guy and this is no laughing matter…but that’s exactly the point.
#4, As I will write in future posts, there are genuine economic and sociological reasons why Millennials and, even more crucially, post-Millennials, feel fucked by the world. Unfortunately, I don’t see Trump really laying down any genuine plan to tangibly help them where it will matter most…but I didn’t see a lot being done before him, either.
So where do we go from here? I think we gotta focus on #4 of that list I just wrote, because it is the only thing that is going to make a real difference in the years to come.
As for Shia’s plight…you know, I think, in part, some of these child actors get fucked up by Hollywood. So maybe, Internet Crusaders…go take a look at that & see what rabbit holes you stumble into. Because Shia’s all like: