Nerd Culture Is Dead

Ready Player One Movie

Over at the Emperor Ponders blog, the Frisky Pagan charts the decline of Western culture using the highest-grossing films of each decade as a benchmark.
Since there’s a lot to rant about this, I will focus on a single hypothesis: since the late 90s, there has been a divorce between quality and popularity. I’m sure you could go further back in time, but at that point is where it becomes evident. Before the mid-90s, you could go see the top box-office success of the year, and there was a high chance that you would see a competent or even a great movie. Even if the movie was boring or not your style, at least the movie would be a proper movie.
The following are the highest-grossing films per year according to Box Office Mojo. Underlined movies are those that filmsite ranks as the best of all time.

1950: Cinderella
1951: Quo Vadis
1952: The Greatest Show on Earth 
1953: Peter Pan 
1954:  Rear Window
1955: Lady and the Tramp
1956: The Ten Commandments
1957:  The Bridge on the River Kwai
1958: South Pacific (1958)
1959:  Ben-Hur

1960: Swiss Family Robinson
1961: 101 Dalmatians
1962: How the West Was Won 
1963: Cleopatra
1964: Mary Poppins
1965: The Sound of Music
1966: The Bible: In the Beginning and Hawaii (virtual tie)
1967: The Jungle Book
1968: Funny Girl)
1969: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

1970: Love Story
1971: Billy Jack
1972:  The Godfather
1973: The Exorcist
1974: Blazing Saddles
1975:  Jaws
1976: Rocky
1977:  Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
1978: Grease
1979: Kramer vs. Kramer

1980:  Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark
1982:  E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
1983: Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi 
1984: Ghostbusters
1985: Back to the Future
1986: Top Gun
1987: Three Men and a Baby
1988: Rain Man
1989: Batman

1990: Home Alone
1991: Beauty and the Beast 
1992: Aladdin
1993: Jurassic Park
1994: The Lion King
1995: Toy Story
1996: Independence Day
1997: Titanic
1998: Saving Private Ryan
1999: Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

FP posits that the decline began in the 90s. I see signs of cultural degradation as early as the 70s with garbage like Love Story and Kramer vs. Kramer. The 70s dip makes sense considering that the national mood was in the gutter. But Star Wars ushered in a brief renaissance that carried us through the 1980s and into the early 90s. After that, I'm with FP. American cinema became a sterile, blasted hellscape.

We rejoin the Frisky Pagan in the early aughts:
At first, it seems… OK-ish if you are into nerd stuff:
2000: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
2001: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
2002: Spider-Man
2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2004: Shrek 2
2005: Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
2006: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest 
2007: Spider-Man 3
2008: The Dark Knight 
2009: Avatar
But then...
2010: Toy Story 3
2011: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
2012: Marvel’s The Avengers
2013: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
2014: American Sniper
2015: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
2016: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
2017: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Besides a couple of standouts like Toy Story 3 and American Sniper, it's wall-to-wall "Read Another Book" crowd pandering.

Back to FP:
None of this can be considered a worthy cultural product and almost all are painfully recent. The most they can aspire to is to be mildly entertainment and then be forgotten in a year (like Avatar.) And I’m not sure about the entertainment bit.
There's much more in the OP. His Friskiness identifies likely causes for these trends, such as increasing reliance on the global markets and catering to women as the Next Big Thing. The latter represents a self-fulfilling prophecy wherein political and corporate interests pushed for the economic ascendancy of women and now tailor most pop culture products to them in order to suck that money back out of their wallets.

FP further makes some well-considered predictions about the near and medium-term pop culture landscape. The prognosis: not good--at least not until independent content creators can effectively circumvent the gatekeepers to reach mass audiences directly.

Thankfully, there is one corner of the entertainment industry where indie creators are successfully making an end run around the ossified old guard: independent publishing.

Take Galaxy's Edge by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole for example. FP foresaw attempts to rival Star Wars coming from overseas, but Galaxy's Edge is shaping up to be a homegrown answer to Disney's globalized, homogenized, and sterilized SocJus Wars.

Your humble host is also busy making whatever small contributions he can to the revival of Western culture. If you're looking for a somewhat darker space opera series with zero political preaching, check out my award-winning Soul Cycle, which is now complete at four books.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier


  1. Titanic hit the same audience as Love Story. Women who drag their dates and husbands to see soppy romances over and over again.

    But it is interesting to see that the nihilistic 70s, despite Hollywood's pushing, only really gripped the mainstream with KvK and only at the very tail end of the decade before Empire blew them out of the water.

    But the late 90s was a terrible time for every sort of media short of anime and video games. PC culture gripped tight, monopolies began to form, creators were shut out, and audiences were being force-fed gruel.

    We are better off now simply because the alternatives to traditional publishers and studios are growing tremendously.

    And if you've been paying attention to mainstream culture it's hard to argue they don't deserve exactly what they're getting now.

    1. 1997--The pop culture decline hit critical mass almost exactly at the beginning of that year.

  2. If Galaxy Edge can manage to get an adaptation, and avoid the film makers filling it to the brim with subversion (given Nick's knowledge of Hollywood, I don't see him allowing that to happen to his baby) it could be a total game changer.

    1. That scenario is more likely than some might think. I've said before that Nick Cole is the only man I'd trust to write a Star Wars movie. He's savvy enough not to sell the GE film rights unless he gets to write the script. At the very least, I don't see him settling for anything less than final script approval.

      A Galaxy's Edge film written by Nick--no offense to Jason; I'm not as familiar with his solo work--would change the whole landscape overnight.

    2. I would sooner trust independent film makers than anyone in Hollywood to film it.

      Same with Larry Correia's works. Which still aren't on my screen yet.

      Actually, there isn't a good Dresden series either...

      Wow, there's a lot of good material sitting around without any adaption forthcoming.

      I wonder why.

      Actually, no. I don't.

    3. Larry got a possible nod in Blood Blockade Battlefront - could be a coincidence, but a ship infested with vampires seems pretty specific. Leave it to Japan.

  3. MegaBusterShepard here....

    It's kind of undeniable we have entered cultural rot at this point. Whether that's due to William Gibson's cyberpunk MegaCorporations controlling everything or the slow march of marxists throught the halls of entertainment and academia I'm not sure.

    What is sure is that we need a change. Everything's been subverted. Everything has an unnecessary sequel or reboot. ll we are left with is an empty, hollow society where western culture used to be.

    And it sucks....

    1. At the end of the day, the enemies, as always, are Satan and sin.

  4. Brian.
    Frisky pagan has analyzed a fascinating moment 8n the west. Frankly this is when the 68 generation armed with Gramscian methodology captured the commanding heights and we've had incoming barrages ever since.
    Geek culture eas a very unique subculture that only went mainstream thanks to the computer revolution.
    The transient nature of technology render it frankly impossible to build a durable culture.
    Ready player one will confirm that salient fact. I can't see it resonate within North America's younger generation let alone the rest of the

    1. Ready Player One is going to be a watershed moment in pop culture. I have a feeling it's going to be a real meme machine, too.

    2. JD
      Agreed and Spielberg is directing it. Sp we'll see lots of wistful nostalgia and lots of inside cultural references that'll pass over the younger generation's head but will adapt them to their time

    3. JD
      Agreed and Spielberg is directing it. Sp we'll see lots of wistful nostalgia and lots of inside cultural references that'll pass over the younger generation's head but will adapt them to their time

  5. I grew up in the 80's and 90's, college in the early 00's. I didn't encounter movies pre-70's until college, and it made an impresion but it never really registered with me that cultural rot and decline had occured, since I grew up in the thick of it.

    However, when I graduated college I did notice something odd: the culture stalled. Fashion stopped changing (general fashion, not the ever crazier garbage that keeps hitting the runways), popular music stopped changing, media stopped changing and declined, art failed to develop any significant trends or styles...etc. And if it stalled at the turn of the millennium, well, that meant the rot started before it.

    I bet a similar thing has occurred in all civilizations just before they flush themselves into the historical toilet.

    1. You're not alone. We're close in age, by the sound of it, and I had many of the same experiences.

    2. This is more or less what I went through. Culture has been frozen and slowly melting to a puddle since the late '90s.

    3. The culture froze in the 00's as data mining of the past ceased. The 1970s grabbed onto the 50s, the 80s and early 90s harkened back to the 60s. But the 1980s never made the same impact on the 00s, though there were a few attempts.

      Since then the culture began scavenging from about 1939 (World War II, because it all started with "Nazis", doncha know) forward to the present.

      Each dip of the ladle into the Past was made more cartoonish and twisted it was tried. The ladle dips closer and closer to the Present all the time. So little resources left for the Barbarians to mine out and use to feed Moloch!

      So few people now realize what our immediate Past Culture actually was.

      Hollyweird and FakeNews Media memory holing, fabrication and lying, and denigration of Western Civilization played a huge role in this.

      Their justly-earned whirlwind is on the horizon and moving rapidly.

    4. Fascinating. A corollary to your theory is that America's cultural stagnation began when the 50s ended.