Simon Pegg And The Geek Controversy

Today has seen beloved British actor Simon Pegg both come under fire and be heaped with praise for comments from a new interview with The Radio Times (via The Guardian).

This ‘prince of geeks’ was discussing how geek properties that were once on the sidelines – space operas, superheroes, etc. – have become the norm and has expressed concern about the impact that is having on society:

“Before Star Wars, the films that were box-office hits were The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Bonnie and Clyde and The French Connection – gritty, amoral art movies. Then suddenly the onus switched over to spectacle and everything changed.

Now, I don’t know if that is a good thing. Obviously I’m very much a self-confessed fan of science-fiction and genre cinema. But part of me looks at society as it is now and just thinks we’ve been infantilised by our own taste.Now we’re essentially all consuming very childish things – comic books, superheroes… Adults are watching this stuff, and taking it seriously.

It is a kind of dumbing down in a way. Because it’s taking our focus away from real-world issues. Films used to be about challenging, emotional journeys or moral questions that might make you walk away and re-evaluate how you felt about… whatever.

Now we’re walking out of the cinema really not thinking about anything, other than the fact that the Hulk just had a fight with a robot. But I sometimes feel like I miss grown-up things. And I honestly thought the other day that I’m gonna retire from geekdom. I’ve become the poster child for that generation, and it’s not necessarily something I particularly want to be. I’d quite like to go off and do some serious acting.”

The comments were met with swift reaction in social media, with defensive retorts using several arguments and bits of evidence, most notably this past week’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” and the debate that has brought up over female empowerment. io9 has posted up a report with some defences to his claims that caught the eye of Pegg.

Pegg has since responded with a lengthy essay on his own site Peggster which both clarified the original interview piece, and responded to the criticism in the best possible way. It’s a superb and self-aware piece that discusses capitalist forces and their impacts on art, and that geeks should always question their passions. Here’s an excerpt:

“The point of all this is just to get my position clear. I’m not out of the fold, my passions and preoccupations remain. Sometimes it’s good to look at the state of the union and make sure we’re getting the best we can get. On one hand it’s a wonderful thing, having what used to be fringe concerns, suddenly ruling the mainstream but at the same time, these concerns have also been monetised and marketed and the things that made them precious to us, aren’t always the primary concern (right, Star Trek OST fans?)

Also, it’s good to ask why we like this stuff, what makes it so alluring, so discussed, so sacred. Do we channel our passion and indignation into ephemera, rather than reality? Not just science fiction and fantasy but gossip and talent shows and nostalgia and people’s arses. Is it right? Is it dangerous? Something to discuss over a game of 3D chess, perhaps.”

For the full piece, click here.