Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Obsessed, much?

It’s Friday night at home, and you can’t believe the scene in front of you.  Everyone in your house is stuck in front of a TV, a computer screen, or a book:

Your dad’s a trekkie, and he’s on hour nine of the latest SyFy marathon.  But you can’t count on him for help on your homework anyway, unless you ask him to “take me to your leader.”

Your weird Uncle Chester is in the corner with his Dungeons & Dragons books and, despite a collective eye roll around the dinner table (or shall we say, pizza box), won’t stop talking in D&D lingo.

And now your little sister is locked up in her room, suddenly obsessed with New Moons, Eclipses and other astronomical phenomena that are way beyond her normal 8th grade science class material. 

Something must be wrong here, because it’s Friday night.  Normal people should be out in the real world, not stuck at home living life through the boob tube.  And then the truth suddenly Breaking Dawns on you: everyone is obsessed with the imaginary. 

From Star Wars and Stargate: Atlantis to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight , generations of geeks have lived through fictional characters in books, TV shows, movies, and video games in place of living their real life.  The afflicted are usually characterized by their unparalleled knowledge about a single subject area (often involving dragons), their bounty of paraphernalia including t-shirts, swords, and Virgin Mary-shaped toast and their collection of magic wands.

While some may believe that the Twi-Hard fans hit the obsessive glass ceiling in full force this past fall, the invasion of the body snatchers began long before Edward and his little groupies came onto the scene. 

With your older brother, your father, and your grandfather all as followers, Star Trek certainly has one of the most infamous groups of obsessed superfans.  Iconized by the simple Star Trek T-shirt to the full on surgically altered pointy ears, Trekkies lead the pack of TV show-obsessed Klingons with an abnormal (and quite frankly, weird) amount of pride.

Diving into the world of fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons also has a fan base large and strange enough to comfortably rival any Trekkie convention.  Rumor has it that one of our very own Augie professors was once a world-class DD champion—but even he realizes that it’s too embarrassing of a feat to make public.

But an unfortunate number of these trends—especially those in the entertainment industry—fail to entice the right kind of excitement in their couch potato fan base.  Games, books and movies are simply enablers that do little to promote interaction out in the real world, making it easier and easier to “just say no” to real life relationships.

Obsessive to the point that they take on the personas of their favorite characters and forget to live their real lives, fans choose instead to live through Bella & Edward, the Gilmore Girls and the Call of Duty squadron. 

TV shows, movies, books, and role-playing games (RPG) have created an alternate reality that no one can sign off of.  These types of obsessions essentially make the whole world into a RPG, where we’re all just playing the role of our favorite character.

At this rate, the world won’t be made of anything real or original.  We’ll all just be living vicariously through fictional people and dropping our own identity all together.

And you’ll still be stuck next to Uncle Chester on Friday night. 

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