Avengers: Endgame and the last Game of Thrones represent the end of dork culture. It will still be around, but I fear we’ve reached the top of Everest.
Our motto may finally be ‘Geekopocalypse: Now’. It certainly feels like it, as we’re currently experiencing is the zenith of geek culture, and potentially the highest point the mushroom cloud will reach. Alongside the last lap of Game of Thrones, we’re experiencing the lycra-Shakespearian pomp of Avengers: Endgame, a wriggling, writhing tableau of conflict where many people we know (and love) will be murdered over a three-hour stretch.
While there’s always been an audience for this kind of thing, it’s fair to say that the numbers have significantly grown over the last decade and the feels with it. Once, especially when I was a junior dork, I was pushed to the grimmer corners of the societal quadrangle. I skipped lunch to play Counter-Strike in the computer room at lunch. Like all embittered ex-revolutionaries, I don’t respect the current landscape of acceptance, because I never had it when it mattered most.
Nevertheless, we’ve come a long way. The early 2000s was the genesis, as Lord of the Rings ran across the cinematic landscape accompanied by the shenanigans of New York’s premier spidery-dude. Since, well, we’ve entered the mainstream, and frankly, it’s now the preferred mode of cool. Which, allow me to pause for a moment. Taking the status quo, and changing the definition of cool without the roster (i.e. dorks -> cool, jocks -> less cool) would give Jean Baudrillard a raging boner.
Let me hit you with a contemporary example. We’re all familiar with Iron Man. Without the assistance of Google (or Altavista for we chaotic neutrals), we know that Iron Man is actually Tony Stark who is actually Robert Downey Junior. We know he’s rich. We know his defining physical features, and we know he’s a bit of a dick. But, if we flash back to 2008, we knew nothing. Bar those who read the original source material, which could be surrounded by Tone’s goatee hairs, the original Iron Man was a massive gamble for Marvel back when Marvel sold every hero property they owned, inclusive of Spider-Man (to Sony) and X-Men (to Fox).
To risk it all on a relatively obscure dude was a bit of a punt. Obviously, the timeline we walk didn’t see the collapse of Marvel. Whether it was a good decision, is a matter of subjectivity.
However, I digress. The common thread that binds dorks together is the knowledge that they could be cut from us at any time. Not through a lack of narrative opportunity, but rather within the narrative. Both Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame offer us the same kink – seeing our favourite fictional characters come to their grisly end.
Watch the first couple of episodes of Game of Thrones’ final season and Avengers: Endgame in rapid succession and you’ll find yourself steeped in stories about characters who can see death coming — or have even seen death — and strive not for glory or honour, but to continue breathing. It might be a leap, but you could say that these stories resonate with us, primarily because we feel like saving the world is an impossible task, so we save ourselves – or defer to increasingly larger-than-life heroes.
Which is an important point to note, as we’ve managed to endure/experience the building of these worlds. We saw the movies, we entertained the flame wars on social media, we gleefully ticked down until the release date. We’ve earned this moment, but this moment represents a climax, the highest point the cresting wave of dorkdom will reach. It’s akin to the end of Harry Potter. We worked our way to the end of the road, and while the journey was the prescient point, the sucking ennui we felt when it was over tend to colour our recollections.
It is, I suppose, as the heartbroken Instagram truism goes, don’t be sad it is over, be glad that it happened.