Red Shirt Guy

People who care passionately about something that seems unimportant to the rest of us are easy to mock. The satirical publication The Onion sometimes runs pieces by a nerdy know-it-all named Larry Groznic, who defends sacred works of geek culture. The headlines alone read like a compendium of obsessions: “When You Are Ready To Have a Serious Conversation About Green Lantern, You Have My E-Mail Address“; “I Appreciate The Muppets On A Much Deeper Level Than You“; “Now More Than Ever, Humanity Needs My Back to the Future Fan Fiction.” Part of the joke is that the internal concerns of any particular community appear picayune to the outside eye; but to be a member of a community of shared interests is to care, deeply and in detail, about things the general public doesn’t spend much time thinking about. If you want to see this effect in action sans Larry Groznic, go to a newsstand and buy a magazine on a subject you care nothing about. If you read Vogue, get Guns and Ammo; if you read Golf Digest, pick up Tiger Beat; and as you read, imagine what someone who liked that magazine would think about your interests.
— Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus

: Zubon

7 thoughts on “Red Shirt Guy”

  1. This guy is a master of the obvious, isn’t he?

    A lot of us already know how it feels. One of my past co workers was a nut about the Kamen Rider series. An old friend loved WW2 memorabilia and re-enactments. My current boss is a golf nut. Just interacting with people outside your cohort gives this kind of knowledge, but I guess the Web 2.0 crowd is hermetically sealed or something and these come out as startling truths.

    1. This is perhaps obvious to you as a self-aware member of an unusual subgroup. Go back to the context of the introductory video I posted. Most people recognize it as normal to spend hours watching and talking about American Idol, football, or whether Jennifer Aniston harbors resentment against Angelina Jolie, whereas debating the classification of Pluto in Wikipedia is weird. Within our subgroup, people attach moral significance to playing Horde or Alliance.

  2. There are degrees to this though. I would not put someone highly concerned with global warming on the same level as someone concerned with finishing their 1960s lunchbox collection.

    Even if you don’t have an interested in either topic, I would hope you can see how one might be a little more… legit? than the other. That’s the real joke of the red shirt kid; he is hyper-concerned over lore that is already so flawed, so broken, so abused, that it’s humorous.

    At least global warming guy is perhaps doing some good, and at least lunchbox guy has some historical context. Red shirt has space goats, and hence we laugh.

  3. I thought the take-away from Red Shirt Guy is that the reactions of the developers who actually created the lore pretty much showed how little they cared about it.

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