“No, the danger is that reference culture is increasingly becoming exclusionary rather than inclusive, where works of art pull from other works of art as opposed to real-life experience.
Watching and reading “Pixels” and “Armada” felt as if I were being subjected to a cheerleading routine rather than experiencing a work of pop art. Congrats, you remember “Centipede”! Honorary, you know which tattoos grace the characters of “Aliens”!
“Pixels” and “Armada” can’t exist without the success of prior texts. Aliens in both even communicate via clips of old TV shows and movies (that’s probably a reference to something I missed). They’re symbols of a larger landscape in which serving the cloistered and obsessed fan is paramount.
Why, just this summer we’ve seen that “Jurassic World” is more a nostalgic ode to “Jurassic Park” than it is a stand-alone movie. Also, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” shows that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is at risk of swallowing itself — a snake eating its own tail full of nods to past and future Marvel movies.
It’s not a tease, it’s a holier-than-thou turnoff. Take a scene early in “Armada” in which a typical bully is lobbing spitballs at an acne-addled freak. What Cline fails to see is that it’s him, the author, who has the power of the aggressor.
Nary a page of his book goes by without some need to reference a prior work of fiction. Infuriatingly, intergalactic war doesn’t inspire much concern. Instead, it’s an excuse to throw out nods to Buck Rogers and Admiral Akbar. And when the theories of a military official are questioned, this is the reasoning: “He doesn’t know … about common tropes in science fiction.”
Each of these is a spitball, needling the reader. Didn’t you get that “Time Bandits” joke? You mean, you prefer “Top Gun” to “Iron Eagle”? Don’t you remember the plot points of “Total Recall”? It’s OK, you love “Flight of the Navigator,” right? RIGHT? YOU MUST LOVE “FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR”?
Never seen it, and now I feel ashamed.
It’s a book that should have come with footnotes, because keeping up with all the references makes the text impenetrable to those schooled in something other than sci-fi.
It’s also exhausting. The counterculture I once found so communal has now become oppressive. Dorks are cool. Can we please stop trying to prove it?”