Last night, AOL threw a party to celebrate its network of pop culture blogs, under the guise of handing out so-called Geek Awards relating to the topics covered by Urlesque, Popeater, Moviefone, Asylum, AOL Music and Stylist. And when I got my invite, my first thought was “Well, the food will probably be good.”
Sure enough, the food was good. But even crispy little crab cakes couldn’t hide the fact that the event was a Blackberry-sponsored appropriation of geek culture, which was ultimately more of a disservice to the passion and obsessive knowledge that fuels innovation online and off.
Aside from naming I Can Has Cheezburger’s Ben Huh as its “web geek” and filmmaker Kevin Smith as its “movie geek,” there wasn’t much in the way of genuine geekery being honored. It was pretty telling when host Ken Jeong (very funny overall, though doing his best with the written gags and occasionally resorting to catchphrases from his role in The Hangover) made a joke referencing Felicia Day — and it died in that room. Not because the joke was bad, but because maybe ten people knew who she was.
I mean, local Los Angeles news host Jillian Barberie and actor husband Grant Reynolds won the award for Geekiest Couple, apparently because they know how to use Twitter on their iPhones? I went to wash my hands after that, but the dirt just wouldn’t come off.
Real, official celebrity nerds like Wil Wheaton were nowhere to be found, probably because they knew ahead of time that this wasn’t going to be any sort of authentic tribute to geek culture. I mean, I’m not going to complain about the fact that the bartenders and waiters wore fake spectacles with white tape on the nose bridge, and I’m not even going to complain about the use of the word geek instead of nerd (I’m weird about the word geek, because biting the heads of chickens sounds so gross). But it was just kind of sad, the effort to pretend to know what being a geek meant. Especially since in the AOL-verse, celebrating geeks includes making the following choices:
- Not creating a website to provide information about the event — geekawards.com is empty, no other URL permutations appear to exist and the only quasi-coverage out there is scattered across the participating blogs.
- Filming a series of promotional video shorts with Jeong, but just plopping them all together in a blog post the day of the awards and not making them embeddable.
- Live-streaming the red carpet, but none of the actual show, and not archiving the red carpet footage afterward.
The thing is, some of these blogs really are better than this. I thoroughly enjoyed following Urlesque’s recent Catfight, for example, which I had thought would at least be referenced at some point that evening. I mean, I didn’t really think that the ultimate champion, the oh-so-wonderful Maru, would actually make an appearance. But that was me, thinking that an event called the Geek Awards would spend more time featuring Internet content than spotlighting C-list celebrities. Silly, silly me.
It was a fun party (and did I mention that the food was good?), but next time, AOL, maybe give some thought to pleasing the audience you’re claiming to cater to. Because there wasn’t a single real geek in that room who felt cool at the end of the night. Maybe that was the point?
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