Posted on March 12, 2017 | Back to Literature
Here be spoilers.
Nerds.They fill YouTube with 45 minute critiques of 2 minute film trailers, endlessly dissecting every frame for spoilers and in the process robbing the movie-going experience of all its joy. Or they wring their hands with grief because that recent superhero movie didn’t faithfully imitate the comic book on which it was based. Or they proclaim their own superiority over the “mundanes” because they read science fiction and volunteer at the local Renaissance Faire. (If you’ve ever watched Party Down and are familiar with the character of Roman DeBeers played so perfectly by Martin Starr, then you know who I’m talking about.) Nerds are — and I say this as one of them — a fascinating and vexing lot and Ryan Britt is our unofficial philosopher-king.
As such, I was excited to pick up his collection of essays with the intriguing title Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths. At a mere 224 pages, it seemed like a quick, amusing read. It wasn’t quick, because Britt had a way of making to think about trivial things much longer than you should. And it wasn’t always enjoyable because — and this is directly related to what I wrote in the previous sentence — trivial can often mean tedious.
There’s lots to admire in Britt’s collection on all things nerdish. His analysis of science fiction and fantasy in popular culture can be astute, varied and fascinating. Essays like “Imagine There’s No Frodo (I Wonder If You Can)”, in which Britt (kind of) defends George Lucas’s constant “improvements” of the classic Star Wars movies by pointing out that J.R.R. Tolkien did exactly the same thing to The Hobbit without being despised for it, are very interesting. Unfortunately, much of the book’s subject matter has been so thoroughly masticated online that sometimes Luke Skywalker Can’t Read just felt like regurgitation. A good example of this is “All You McFlys: A Back to the Future Theory of Everything”, an old internet-based discussion of the space-time paradoxes in the famous time travel films starring Michael J. Fox.
I found Britt to be at his best when he’s relaying stories from his past, recalling how his father introduced him to Star Trek or how he and his friends irritated other nerds by engaging in some ironic cosplay during the premiere Star Wars: Episode One. He’s less so when he strays into disquisition, but maybe that’s because I’ve never been the type of nerd that needed to dissect every aspect of a movie or a book in order to enjoy it. Sometimes it’s okay for things to just be fun.
In the end, Luke Skywalker Can’t Read is not a book for everyone. I would recommend it only to hardcore nerds, and I suspect even the heartiest of you will pick and choose your way through its pages. Stop reading when it begins to remind you of that one friend you have who over-analyzes every movie he’s ever seen.
May the Force be with you.