This week’s question comes from our own Danette Chavez: What Wikipedia page do you think you could maintain?
The earliest nerd loves are often the deepest; maybe that’s the reason I feel confident I could handle the solemn duties of Wikipedia keeper for Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series, which I fell in love with at the tender, impressionable age of 13. You want obscure trivia from the original radio series? I got you set, courtesy of Napster-ing every (then-extant) episode of the show back in 1998. An outline of which plotlines Adams cribbed from his other job at Doctor Who? Got you covered, friend. A brief lexicon of fake words the books injected into nerd culture? I assure you, reader: I’m your hoopiest of froods. More important, though, is what will not be making the cut on my version of the page: Any references to Eoin Colfer’s god-awful, blasphemous attempt to extend the series with a sixth book in 2009. You might call my hatred-fueled idea to 1984 away a book I don’t like as geeky intellectual supremacy taken to its most dictatorial excesses, to which my only response is: Welcome to Wikipedia, motherfuckers. That’s how we do.
I’d like to maintain a Wikipedia page that requires some consistent effort, making me feel like a noble guardian of knowledge instead of a fact-dumper, so I’d like to take over the page for Batman. There’s new Batman information coming out all the time, so whenever DC Comics put out a press release it would be like some sort of Batman signal shining for me in the night sky, calling me to action. Then I’d hop in my Wikipedia mobile and race toward my computer, ready to fight crime and/or misinformation about Batman. Plus, I know a lot about Batman as it is, so running this Wikipedia page would be easy and it would give me a good excuse to continue ignoring my real world obligations in favor of reading about, writing about, and thinking about Batman. I would also be able to trim some of the unnecessary content that’s already on there. For instance, should we really be telling the world’s criminals that Gotham’s Caped Crusader is actually billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne?
I get so anxious even considering the hypothetical responsibilities of maintaining a Wikipedia page that this question stressed me out merely by existing. But if I manage to temporarily suppress the overwhelming sense of Imposter Syndrome that would kick in the second I pretended to know basically everything about a topic, no matter how minuscule, then I can admit that I’d probably do a bang-up job of maintaining the page for punk band Bad Religion. I went down a deep rabbit hole of fandom with that group back when I was a teen; forget collecting every record and seven-inch, I’m talking about checking the thebrpage.net back when it was updated on a semi-daily basis, in order to read every interview and article ever published about the band, including those translated from other languages. I delved into the archives and found old zine interviews lovingly preserved online, and ordered back issues of Maximum Rocknroll just to check out the reviews. I can tell you about that one Warped Tour where bassist Jay Bentley attempted to wear the same pair of pajama pants for every single show. I could probably handle it, is the general bullet point here, even though I would really have to force myself to keep up with the subsection on Graffin’s published writings about science.
Saved By The Bell defined my childhood. I worshipped Zack Morris. My first crush was Kelly Kapowski. As a saucer-eyed grade-schooler, I was moved by Jesse Spano’s struggles with caffeine pills. In third grade, my classmates and I acted out one of the episodes, rewriting the ending so Kelly ended up with Zack, not Jeff (I played Zack, despite being more of a Screech). In college, the show’s DVDs played as the smoke billowed, and the addled minds of my friends and I became obsessed with minor details, like the time Slater dances with a tree at the Fall Ball. All of this is to say that I, an adult man, can recite just about every episode of this pre-teen soap, not to mention its cadre of quirky teachers and stereotypical nerds (Herbert is the best, don’t @ me), so my Wikipedia page for the series would be nothing if not comprehensive. I abstained from watching the Fallon reunion, partly because I cringe at his brand of opportunistic nostalgia and partly because I’m content with the show existing in the timeless bubble of my brain. I have, however, grimaced through both Dustin Diamond’s discredited Behind The Bell and Lifetime’s grueling The Unauthorized Saved By The Bell Story, neither of which were able to snap the Buddy Band I share with the series. Bayside for life.
While I acknowledge that the task would be a consistent source of emotional stress, I would be the first appoint myself as the official Wikimaster of the Steven Universe page. There are few animated series with cross-generational appeal, and creator Rebecca Sugar’s transcendent story of a young boy and his found family of alien-esque Homeworld rebels, the Crystal Gems, is absolutely one of them. So the keeper of the Wikipedia page should try their best to cultivate a space with enough information that appeals to fans of all ages. Sure, episode titles and air dates are necessary, but how about an itemized list of songs from the series, complete with lyrics, exact episodes and timestamps? Because that’s the sort of information a thirtysomething fan needs when they just want have a glass of wine and a good cry to “Here Comes A Thought” and can’t remember which episode to fire up for the occasion. (By the way, the episode you’re looking for is #107, “Mindful Education.”) I’d also curate a helpful collection of necessary visual aids for those of us who might struggle to keep up with the deeply-webbed conflict of the Gem Homeworld, because following the ins and outs of an entire war over the course of 160 episodes is a tall order for anyone. And when you have a series that continuously shatters barriers by making talking points such as gender, sexuality, and mental health digestible for children, there’s no shortage of theory to unpack and archive for future fans. Oh, and I’d dedicate a section to our fallen frozen brother, Cookie Cat. He left his family behind!
While my consumption of pop culture is dedicated, it’s also pretty loosy-goosy and not particularly scholarly. As much as I enjoy things, for whatever reason that enjoyment has rarely translated into a dedicated academic pursuit into the details and elaborate structures behind the stuff I like. What I do learn is simply by osmosis through prolonged exposure. So I guess the pop culture I know the most about is going to be the pop culture I’ve cared about for the longest: The Muppets. From Jim Henson’s local television debut of Sam And Friends in 1955 to the Jim Henson hour (and its groundbreaking The Storyteller segments) that aired a year before Henson’s still-upsetting early death by bacterial infection in 1990, I’ve internalized a whole lot of knowledge and feelings about those assorted felt weirdos. According to my family, The Muppet Movie is the first film I ever attended, so it’s been a part of my psyche nearly since birth. As sage as the Onion shirt may be, I’d never claim to appreciate the Muppets on a deeper level than anyone, I just appreciate them a whole lot.
A long-haul driver, janitor, indie filmmaker, gruel chef, and king of a subterranean world—Hans Moleman contains multitudes, and as the editor of his Wikipedia page, I would plumb those 4-foot-and-change depths. I’m even more motivated to ensure that Simpsons fans the world over know of Hans’ legacy after learning from Vulture’s history of the enigmatic, arthritic Springfieldian that series creator Matt Groening thought he was too weird-looking for a town full of people with topiary-like hairdos, bulging eyeballs, and overbites. But his withered exterior and diminutive stature are among the most lovable aspects of Hans, along with a surprisingly upbeat attitude for someone who’s endured much job turnover and many near-fatal (if not outright, fatal) accidents. He has the same inexplicable resilience as Homer Simpson; he might have his lungs pulled out and played like a bagpipe in one scene, then be seen breathing comfortably in the next. But unlike Homer, Moleman doesn’t have a family or network of friends to rely on; he just keeps going, like a pint-sized Terminator with an eye for seed bells and the kind of unyielding curiosity that makes him sign up for a Chuck Garabedian Mega-Savings Seminar. Hans Moleman is reinvention, and I’d be honored to maintain the accuracy of his job titles, great loves (Selma and Doris know what they’re missing), and early run-ins with the Simpson kids (he first appeared in The Tracy Ullman Show short, “Scary Movie”). Now if I could only get my hands on his biography, Magnificent Bastard: The Lives And Loves Of Hans Moleman.