We nerds collect things. Complete runs. Boxed sets. Limited edition figures. Somewhere along the way, I also started collecting holes.
Gaps. Pop-culture lacunae. Essential works I’ve missed.
I’m not talking about material I’ve chosen to stay away from. There’s plenty of that, too. I’m talking about things I know I’ll love. And would love to discuss. Things my family and friends--the nerds I trust--rave about.
In other words, holes. Big ones.
Like, galaxy-far-far-away-sized ones.
Partly it’s a question of scope. Essential works become essential because they reward sustained attention. They attract new fans. They retain old ones. So they grow. Until jumping becomes an utterly overwhelming prospect.
Partly it’s an accident of history. Born at the tail end of Gen X, I’ve chronically been either too young or too old to experience first-hand many of the can’t-miss properties.
On top of that, I’m a spectacularly unsavvy purveyor of new material. I spent much of 2003, for example, convinced that League of Extraordinary Gentlemen would be an awesome film. And the rest of 2003 wondering how I got that so wrong.
This hole business raises certain basic questions of identity--of who we think we are and who we want to be, manifested in the culture we choose to consume. And of canon formation--of what makes up the content we simply must see or read or hear to keep our dues paid, our standing in good order.
So I just can’t admit to some of the things I’ve missed, for fear that I’ll lose my membership card.
Which has, on occasion, given rise to some uncharacteristic bad behavior.
“Oh sure I’ve seen that! But it’s been a hot minute, so I’m a little sketchy on the details.” Translation: “I’ve been meaning to, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.”
A victimless lie. But a lie nonetheless.
I’ve never strictly been called out on this. Yet sometimes friends look at me askance. I think my spouse is growing more suspicious with each passing day.
I was counting on fatherhood to help me atone and allow me to patch some of the bigger holes.
But so far, all efforts to get the six-year-old interested in Phantom Menace have crashed and burned like . . . (I’m sure a dynamite Star Wars simile fits here. But, well, . . . ) We’ve watched the first twenty minutes three times. He digs the action. But struggles with the intricacies of intergalactic trade policy.
Or rather, I struggle to explain them.
I’m not totally ignorant. I’ve got vague memories of watching Return of the Jedi in the theater when it was first released. I’ve caught pieces of other movies on TV, possibly Empire. I know who Darth Vader is.
But just barely.
And no matter how much second-age Middle Earth lore I’ve mastered, or how accurately I can sing along to the original cast recording of Sunday in the Park With George, or how many times I rewatch the original 1960s run of Dark Shadows . . .
I’ve got holes.
Maybe you have, too...