by Jon Carr
The joke starts with a woman asking, “Edward or Jacob?” Ringing in the punch line, her scene partner responds, “Well, one is filled with a bunch of other people’s blood and that’s got Hep-C written all over it but the other one is basically a dog so . . . I pick Fido.” I smiled as I read this incredibly outdated joke in the script, a reference to the once culturally ubiquitous “would you rather?” from the mid-00s obsession with sparkly vampires and werewolves. I hadn’t thought about the Twilight series in years but hearing the joke reminded me of how pervasive the trilogy once was. Seemly the provenance of sci-fi and fantasy fanatics, Twilight managed to crack through to mainstream America. I don’t particularly miss Twilight , but I do miss those early emerging shared moments driven by nerd culture – so when we at Dad’s Garage thought about remounting our 2012 play The Wrath of Con about nerd culture, the question was, “why?” The answer, however, was simple. For a nerd, everything is different now.
In the 2011 world of geekdom–having not yet fully entered the mainstream media–we celebrated our unique but shared experiences. In the world of DVDs and Blu-Rays, we all spoke the same language. When we went to Dragon Con, we knew the costumed characters, and if you didn’t, you’d learn about them by the end of the night. There was something powerful about a Marriott hotel lobby filled with people who bonded over the common enemy of “mainstream” and a society that constantly placed you in the category of “other.”
Then Netflix happened, and everything changed.
Netflix launched its online streaming platform in 2007 and by 2013 it began producing original content starting with House of Cards, effectively revolutionizing the way we consume media. With hundreds of selections at your fingertips, the shared media experience long dictated by network TV effectively died. The concurrent rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe suddenly flooded the list of highest grossing movies of all time, making nerd culture the very thing it raged against – the mainstream media.
Eight years later, and jocks no longer mock us. Instead, they stand next to us, as shirtless 300 characters and reciting facts about Iron Man. Convention attendees dress up as YouTubers or characters from an obscure Netflix Original British mini-series. The nerd in you is struck by the sheer amount of media despite absence of shared experiences and an isolating inability to recognize anyone’s costume. You both feel the loss of that unique community that welcomed and celebrated without judgement while marveling at the level of mainstream acceptance.
At Dad’s Garage, we found it necessary to showcase this change and, most importantly, delve into the stories of those affected most. In an effort to do so, The Wrath of Con 1 and The Wrath of Con 2 will be staged back to back. The Wrath of Con 1 focuses on the days before multimedia streaming, the magic of sci-fi conventions and nerd culture, and the bounds that tied geekdom together. The Wrath of Con 2 explores the “now” – a culture turned upside down and the overall journey toward acceptance.
Dad’s Garage is an incredibly unique place if only for its willingness to tell these stories of modern America that appeal to and reach young and passionate audiences who, for once, see themselves reflected in the art.
Jon Carr has been a part of the Dad’s Garage cast for more than 10 years and currently heads Community Development at the Alliance Theatre. He founded United Atlanta Improv and has helped improv theatres around the city come together through collaborative works. He has appeared in a number of plays and shows such as: Cannibal! The Musical, The Dad’s Garage Going Out of Business Show, and Democracy Achieved. He has also written plays including The Wrath of Con and Black Nerd (winner of The Suzi Bass Award and Creative Loafing Best New Play). The Wrath of Con 2 runs until July 27th.
Photo Credits: Freepik