However, this seems to be a case of missing the forest for the trees. Your ability to differentiate between all these pieces of Geek Culture is directly related to how deeply you’re already into Geek Culture. And from a complete outsider’s point of view, say someone from The New Criterion, all of this Geek Culture stuff looks depressingly similar. Now, I’d never make the argument that Kill Bill is exactly like Identity Crisis, but I have enough sympathy with the outsider’s perspective that I can see their major similarity: they’re targeted at the same audience. It isn’t a coincidence that you can buy action figures of the characters in both Kill Bill and Identity Crisis. This would seem to separate Kill Bill in some way from all those movies that don’t have their own tie-in toys, i.e. the ones not made for fanboys—the ones made for actual grown-ups.
And this is why I don’t really buy David and Sean’s points. David wants to differentiate between certain super-hero comics and stuff like Star Wars because he sees an essential difference between their underlying philosophy and concerns. And Sean doesn’t think lumping this stuff together is very useful because some of it is good and some of it is crap. But I’m more inclined to argue that as an actually existing social and cultural phenomenon Geekdom can be a fairly meaningful, and therefore useful, concept. For example, I think Rosenbaum is right to point out that women’s roles in a lot of these geek movies—aimed at fanboys (i.e., arrested male adolescents)—is different from their roles in more “mainstream” pictures—aimed at men and women who are presumed to have adult sensibilities.
Here’s some relevant and insightful commentary from Steve Sailer, a nerd, in the sense that he seems to get a real kick out of crunching numbers, but not a geek, in the sense that he doesn’t seem to like comics, from his review of the Spider-Man movie (which, incidentally, I like a lot more than he did):
Lots of fellows these days complain about the "feminization of American culture." Perhaps that's actually happening, but movies have become increasingly masculinized, as shown by the enormous anticipation for "Spider-Man."
Compare two recent Angelina Jolie movies: last week's chick flick "Life or Something Like It" and last year's boy toy "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider." Being a guy, I certainly wouldn't go see "Life or Something" again, but, as I predicted, the women who saw it rated it warmly. Yet, not many saw it. It grossed less than $7 million in its first week. Because it's a film for females, it lacked buzz.
In contrast, Jolie's video game-based "Tomb Raider" earned almost $48 million during its first weekend, even though it's now widely derided as a dud.
So, which segment of the audience is obsessive enough to get on the Internet and beat the drums for unreleased movies? You guessed it -- the generally shy but extraordinarily opinionated fanboys who love comic book movies. The best known is Harry Knowles, founder of Ain't It Cool News, the movie preview website that has so much influence over what's thought hot, and, increasingly, what gets made.