It’s been weeks now since the demise of the Internet Movie Database massage boards and I don’t miss em one bit.
I mean *message* boards–see? I’m already forgetting what thought it was an addiction. And maybe it was, in its way for its while. The depths of dependency were sometimes dark — by god, I remember like it was a month ago, stopping at the library to return The Interview and Virginia Heffernan’s Magic and Loss, and taking a terminal to log in: Gmail, Facebook, the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest, and IMDb (that was before you, this here blog, so no hard feelings, k sweetie?). I had become adept, ctrl-Aing, ctrl-Cing and ctrl-Ving faster than you could say Father Mulcahey. I wanted to know if I had mail, and I wanted to know if anybody faceposted something kitten…but what I really wanted to know was what the boards were talking about.
Because the boards talked about all things constantly, in ebb and flow. Movie boards to talk about screenwriting, directing, sound, cinematography, subboards for every movie, every tv episode, every character, every actor, every crew member. Be you God, Wilson the volleyball, the assistant best boy on Exodus starring Paul Newman, Paul Newman — all had their own dedicated discussion boards. Apocalypse Now was a board of great quality with never enough quantity. Kubrick boards were generally lively and intelligent to the end, Eyes Wide Shut and The Shining guaranteed deep discussion. 2001 was always busy and heated; 48 years later that movie continues to inspire passionate, expansive, insightful discussion.
The number of movie boards was practically effectively infinite, and then there were dozens of other well-attended discussion arenas that couldn’t have cared if the movies lived or died. Music, books, religion, science, sports, tv, philosophy, politics, and on. They had their own lives, a community consciousnesses connected through the boards. Philosophy was a bit slow, but Science was engaging and surprising, and you could always be sure to get a reaction on Religion. And Politics… especially in these unimaginably Trumpian times, Politics was a shit show of staggering proportions.
Overall, the forums resembled a big old primitive brain, not as complex but still pretty magnificent, at least for a human creation. Well, maybe not the Soapbox… but even that ill-scented hive of scum and villainy had a right to exist. Rotten as it could be, it’s still a durn shame such a humming hub for human hubbub was dubbed to be scrubbed. Mmmhm.
According to my profile, I registered in 2007. That’s believable, especially if you subscribe to the notion that time passes. I never used to… but then I sat and watched a carrot grow, and let me tell you. Some of us require our own proof: that was mine, and the result is that now today I accept the year 2007 at face value. What a long strange trip it’s something. Those message boards had been an open odyssey of exploration and awareness for so many, so so many…
…for some of us, at least. You wouldn’t believe how many aggressively destructive losers (I mean users, hm) never seemed to substantially change. Strange creeps from America to Pakistan (and yes, the occasional Canadian wretch), burbling impotent rage and with malice and forethought damaging lives because they could, exercising what surely seemed like the only meagre measure of remote-controlled authority their existences could muster.
The remarkable thing about many of them was their commitment to one identifiable name. Ben
REDACTED because he’s a vindictive weasel, naeemak, these sorts of characters (nobody is who they truly are online), dfordiamondz, JackHapus, CapnDilty, they may have been hated, despised, reviled, or merely beleagured incessently by so many, but they did stay identifiably themselves. I like to think it was a generous admission of submission on their part, a public service so the mass bulk of other users could always find them for more slapping and heaping upon.
Whyever the reasons they stayed willing targets, there was certainly a sort of masochism in the electroair, at least on the lesser boards. It seemed as if a wave of ‘give your name a bad name and make it worse until you eventually become infamous’ mania ran perpetually unchecked. And of course, that was it exactly–the notoriety, the hate, the fact some people somewhere are paying ATTENTION. It was message board as unsanctioned therapy camp, and the attention-craving, self-hating and lashing out was sometimes ugly to behold. Did the occasional breakthrough make all the animal chaos and raw base humanity worth it? Are you really asking me that now?
That was, as I said, on lesser boards. On the late, great, ultimately suicidal Politics board, they kept their names the same because of ideals, and rock hard beliefs… because of godam REASONS, mister. People there meant what they said, and they were dying to represent, to be a voice, to be anysomeone. Changing their names would be counterproductive : why submit yourself to an endless crawl out of obscurity, forever proving and reproving yourself, instead of building upon your bad name?
I should clarify — few if any ever managed to actually keep their original name. After sufficient abuse reports, even the barely-bot-moderated IMDb boards doled out chastisements. First was a red warning reminder re: the posting ‘standards’, and the level of severity went up from there. Penultimate punishment was the dreaded history wipe, every post you ever made erased from existence. The next step was total nukage (as nobody ever called that devastating blow). You’ve already guessed it: your board identity and account fully deleted. It was worse than detached from the matrix. You weren’t even cut loose drifting in space. You. No. Longer. Existed.
For a few minutes at least. The neat thing was how this utmost penalty was a vaunted trophy for some. Why not? Accounts were free and infinite. You could spew the darkest bile of your inner superultrasshole in anonymous public, receive the maximum personal feedback of total deletion, and immediately register a freshie with almost exactly the same name.
Don’t get me wrong, I dig the gag. It’s within the rules, and I’m not innocent of playing loose within the confines myself. Should I be ashamed to admit that, where those maniacs constantly changed accounts and kept the name, I kept the same account, first registered as Ant_Man_Bee (I’d recently discovered Captain Beefheart; years later I changed it to tin_teardrop) and instead switched screen names hundreds of times over the, so I learned, subsequent nine years? At first I did it as a challenge to myself : come up with a unique name all regularlike, forcing creative inspiration and so on in service of a post-modernist monolith of impermanent artistic endeavor no one would ever see, not even me. I’d enjoy the process, but the whole thing as a whole thing would never exist. (You may ask, was I doing this in Paris in the 20s? No, stupid, but you might be forgiven for thinking so.)
It was years later before I learned of ActWon’s tireless work keeping track of such important things. Turns out my frivolous efforts were, in their own fashion, monumental indeed; after all, not many users warranted their own category… Oh stop asking, yes it was fun. And for the time I thought it a big part of my life. But since it ended and I don’t much care, I’m finding the ease of transition into post-life too easy to diminish. It does make me mildly lament the lot of some of the true board addicts, those poor narrow souls who for whatever reason (shy, disabled, trapped in loveless marriage, possessed of too encrusted a soul for public exposure) claimed to have only the boards for communication and outlet.
Though IMDb gave us several weeks’ notice (during which discussion raged over where they should all end up, and several new boards were coined), for a community that over years had seen, among uncountable other things, couples unite, friends meet irl, angry dispute turn to fondness, at least one suicide, and that loser criminal Ben harrass and doxx people and befoul whereever he inflicted his cyberstench–I don’t care what he claimed to be, disabled or Pakistani. He posted pix to make himself look like a real person (with a giant wang) so who’s to know? All the community at large agreed upon was that he was an online piece of shit. But wildly infamous in a small pond, and that’s what twisted fucks like that want.
So where is he now? Jumped to another forum no doubt, as most have. I’m happy not to be doing that, so I’m shoveling Ben to the back, so far back that as far as my perception is concerned he no longer exists. As far as your perception cares, you lucky youse, he never did exist. And as far as his limited perception knows, he’s still all there only ever was, is and will be at all. For all we know he’s methodically destroying another innocent psyche as we speak, like he did with poor silly Ashley… Part of me has to believe I occasionally broke through to some meagerly rational part of him and he’s a better person for it. He sometimes intimated as much… I don’t care anymore. The people whose existences he’s making worse care, and I wish their Ben-beleagured lives well.
But not ours, so cheers! Drinkum if you gotum.
Online forums are like an anthill. You can smash it, bust it up, scatter it wide, them ants’ll just make another community. The dissolution last month of some of the most popular discussion boards on internet 2.0 were a disturbance to some, a life-changing deal to others, and an absolute invisible pip to most of you. Nobody’s life matters to everyone, but everyone’s life is pretty important to itself. Reminds me of something I read in Peter’s Quotations,
“If an Aborigine drafted an IQ test, all of Western civilization would presumably flunk it.”
Stanley Garn said that, and following it in parentheses is presumably one of Dr Laurence J Peter’s own additions: (An intelligence test sometimes shows a man how smart he would have been not to have taken it.) Nice one, Dr Peter. What it means, of course, is that what makes waves for you might not make waves for me. But there’s enough waves to go around, and they’re all real, real waves. If we accept that everyone’s as real a person as we are, well… then I guess things start to get complicated.
On the boards, the mental warfare was always complicated. But aside from the wealth of potential sociological education now never more to be gleaned, I lament the loss of a community I could always rely on for movie matters immense and teensy. For now where will I go to investigate the meaning of the numerous apparent fourth-wall breaks in The Revenant? or explore whether Travis Bickle was cracking up the whole time? How do the three seashells work? What really happened at the end of Clue? Where will I go to argue that Michael Douglas’s character died falling through the glass roof in The Game, or discuss the painting at 26:44 of Speed Racer? How was Warren Oates so damn good in Two-Lane Blacktop? How amazing is the ending Of Beware Children at Play? or Society?
If I want to find someone to talk about Legend Of The Phantom Rider, it won’t be anyone I know, or anyone they know.
Now I guess it won’t be anyone.
to Shatnastic *
Shatner Database by dragonspinach
For those interested in tracking the presence of IMDb accounts past and present
with “Shatner” or a variation in at least one of their usernames
to PorkinsCantHoldIt *
to Moogiecookie *
to Hambang *
to tubeythetube *
to bubeythebube *
to Bachube *
to Novacobain *
to Cobrapants *
to Scumjeetrananwerjs *
to Mad_up *
to Matt_Sterbait *
to Shishkeshatner *
to MrFineSandwich *
* Missing names supplied by another User
to nubble *
to ScoobyDoobyDoobie ? *
to JoeyJeremiaujh *
to Begending (?)
R.I.P. us all, every one.