COMMENT: Anal Preventive
First published March 2000
Anal Preventive
Mad, sad, nerdy, anoraky, no-friends trainspotter twats. That's what we are, apparently. And so is everyone else who's reading this. We've all committed the heinous crime of BEING INTERESTED IN SOMETHING. We should all get a life.

This attitude appears, on the surface, to be perpetrated by the clubbing set - those who revel in drinking, dancing and getting off their faces. They care not for 'serious' stuff, or for acquired learning of any kind. Having a good time is tops, and a passion for information or ideas is the last refuge of the man without a girlfriend.

This is balls, obviously, but it's seductive balls. For the most part, this sneering pocket of society consists of otherwise pleasant and normal people who are culturally afraid of being tarred with the 'trainspotter' brush. So they dress cool, they act cool, they make damned sure they don't, for the love of God, say anything that might indicate that they've ever read a book without pictures (other than to revise GCSEs with - and even then they didn't pass because, hey they were drinking and clubbing and grooving all night before the exam, yeah), and they generally keep their heads down in a crowd.

The 'Oh my God, I might be considered a nerd' mentality has even affected our fanzine and website culture. Yes, we still have fanatics, but all too often their eulogies are now punctuated with salutary reminders from the compilers that they're not that sad really. Facts and research diminish in favour of 'Oh, let's not go down that road - it's a bit sad' type comments (or worse, equal weight given to articles about how much the writer had to drink with his mates the previous night).

But why is this the case? Why is an interest in any given subject treated with so much bewildered contempt? Why is a 700-page book about television comedy dismissed as the writings of someone who's 'mad' (to quote a certain well-known comedian called Stewart Lee) instead of, like, really quite good. When did it start?

Pedantic overzealous merciless attention to detail is what makes fanzines and websites fun in the first place. Creations put together by people who make the effort to compile 32 pages of coded hints that they don't really like the subject matter are no fun whatsoever.

Ignorance may be bliss, but a little learning goes a long way.

The idea that people want to read about 'the essence of what makes a television programme good or shite, not production information or episode lists' (to quote a certain well-know website called TV Cream) is all wrong. Said attitude has spawned the illogical attitude that a grown adult talking about kids' TV in a kind of misty, vague way is cool, whereas a grown adult talking about kids' TV with a big bunch of evidence and theory-quenching data at his side is desperately sad. This attitude even permeates the things people feel they can talk about - most children of the 1980s, for example, enjoyed Saturday Superstore every week, and did so at face value and without irony; the TV Cream dictum, however, states that the only possible way of remembering said programme is by boozily recounting Matt Bianco being called wankers or the time when John Craven got kicked up the arse. The aloof denial that one had a childhood is the coolest, and saddest, thing of all.

And anyone who refers to old childrens' TV presenters as 'the legendary...' is a cunt.

But anyway, who decided that there was this great fat distinction between people pursuing interests and people getting ripped to the tits? Samuel Johnson, writer of the first dictionary, was a notorious boozer, shagger, gambler and all round waster. Yet, on those occasions when he dried out and dipped his quill, did all his mates down the tavern call him a trainspotter? No. Mainly because trains hadn't been invented so the arrival of one would have been far too easy to spot. The analogy doesn't work. And they probably didn't have quills either.

But imagine the dictionary written in the style favoured by today's fanzine-compilers: Aardvark (noun): dunno!; Abacus (noun): y'know, one of them things... etc, until it came to B for Beer at which point Johnson would have launched into a long paragraph about wearing his underpants on his head. Unreadable.

And what, after all, is the antithesis of the 'trainspotter' tag to which we're all supposed to aspire? Logically, it's to know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. About anything. And, worse still, to have no desire to change this.

Our view is that any acquired learning puts you on a higher rung. And that's a good thing. Not just for the individual but for the development of the species. Taking an interest in diverse subjects and researching them ad nauseam is what it's all about. Any subject. The clubbers we mentioned earlier pursue their interests by bopping till daybreak in single-minded pursuit of the groove. They should not be excluded from the New World order either. Do what you do but, for crying out fuck, do it well. Don't hold back because some bloke with more fashionable trousers than you calls you a nerd for being able to quote the entire Splodgenessabounds back catalogue. You're wonderful. And we want you to stay that way.

Apart from you people who learn Klingon. You're just strange.

And what was that? That was bathos. With a 'B'. Look it up in the dictionary, saddoes...