So, the other night I went with a friend to go see Expendables 3 (which, unfortunately, wasn’t as great as I would have hoped for as a fan of the first two, but I attribute that almost exclusively to them wiping out Terry Crews in the first fifteen minutes. Um, spoilers, I guess. Yeah – Wait for that movie at the dollar theater.).
But there was a fun little Easter egg that ended up in the movie that kind of pulled us out of the experience.
When Barney (Stallone) and the “new kids” are interrogating Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) in the van, it’s supposed to be an intimately difficult scene. Stonebanks is goading Barney into just killing him right there, taunting him and getting him angry. I’d imagine the scene was rather intense.
Or, it would have been, had I not been so distracted by two “N7” logos on a couple of hats hanging behind Gibson.
For those unaware, the N7 logo is associated with the Mass Effect games series. From the wiki:
N7 is a vocational code in the Systems Alliance military. The “N” designates special forces and the “7” refers to the highest level of proficiency. It applies to marines who have graduated from the Interplanetary Combatives Training (ICT) program.
The little logos made me laugh, especially for the inside joke that was clearly the work of some set worker who was able to sneak this by everyone. Clever, clever.
I’ve always enjoyed items that I’ve taken to calling “Subtle Geek Chic,” or things which don’t look extremely out of place in any context, but for those “in the know,” carry a little extra meaning.
As an example, on my car are three logos which look like any number of random car-aftermarket vinyls that you might see on a tuner car. That is, except the logos look like this:
These logos represent three of the main weapon manufacturers of Borderlands, and though most people don’t give them a second glance, those who are aware of what they mean usually make a comment.
I’ve seen Aperture Science polo shirts, and I keep eyeing this satchel with the “New California Republic” logo emblazoned on it (that seems perpetually out of stock!), along with numerous other examples.
There is a difference to me, I think, between these kind of “second layer” references to things that are more interesting than simply a surface image. As a big Captain America fan, I have a number of items with the shield logo emblazoned on them, but I wouldn’t classify these as “Subtle,” if only because of their purpose and notoriety.
The purpose of the shield, as well as the bat-symbol, the Superman “S,” etc, is to shine forth as a symbol, which is a little counter to the idea of Subtle Geek Chic.
Conversely, a t-shirt with “Citadel Custodial Services” on it, or a twisted pendant of “The Marker,” those both fit, as they are subtle without proclaiming their purpose overtly.
This is also why I’ve never been much into cosplay, I guess. Not because I don’t find the concept awesome – There’s some really impressive work out there, and I was sorely tempted to try building out a Dead Space 2 Advanced RIG at one point – But more because I’ve always enjoyed the “secret language” of fans, especially when those references can be passed by others without them knowing that they’ve missed anything.
It’s similar to inside jokes. When it’s just between you and a select few, then it carries a special meaning. It carries with it a wealth of shared experiences and moments that only those “in the know” remember. But when everyone’s already heard the joke, then the joke gets stale, and it loses some of its special-ish-ness.
On another (sidetracked) note, I think this may also be why people are so averse to spoilers – Those who know about something want to connect with others who have also experienced the same – the inside joke. They even want to bring others into the joke, but not really at the expense of the joke itself, so they encourage the “outsider” to have the experience for themselves in order to then become “in the know.”
While the whole thing may seem a little exclusionary, I actually feel like it’s kind of the opposite. When I’m asked about something that I wear, that I carry, or whatever, I’m open to explaining what it’s about, but it’s really just a matter of “getting it.”
That said, though, sometimes it’s nice to be part of your own club, and that’s okay, too.
Bienvenidos a la fiesta, amigos!