Totally Obsessed, or Why I Hate the Internet

A while back, we created a fake web page called Get Happy! It’s a parody of a “tribute” band site; if you’ve never heard of a tribute band, that’s the nice name for one of those bands that pretends to be a famous one, like all those “tributes” to the Beatles or Led Zepplin or the Doors or whoever. Ours is a tribute to the Partridge Family. We thought it was so over-the-top that nobody could ever believe it was real.

Boy, were we wrong. About a year or so back, I got an e-mail from VH-1. They’re doing a new show about pop culture fans, and they want to come out and take pictures of our van. Being an honest guy, I e-mail them back and tell them that the page is a gag, even quoting the lengthy (and mildly witty) disclaimer at the bottom (go on back and read it, I’ll wait). I forwarded the e-mail to my friend Scott Shaw!, owner of the most mind-boggling collection of Flintstones memorabilia I’ve ever seen, in case he wants to show it off to VH-1.

They turned him down. Apparently he wasn’t obsessed enough for them.

Well, now I know why they turned him down. Have you seen “Totally Obsessed”? The name is wildly inaccurate; it should be called “Let’s Drag the Freakin’ Loons out into the Daylight So We Can Mock Them.” These people are nuts, okay? Barking, howling mad, the lot of them. The guy who is having himself surgically altered into a tiger? Nuts. The woman who takes her cardboard cutouts of “Lord of the Rings” characters out to dinner, and makes the waitress stand there for ten minutes while Gollum and Smeagol argue over whether to have chicken or fish? A full-goose lunatic. The lady who eats 17,000 calories of the most disgusting junk-food on earth in a determined effort to get her weight up over 600 pounds? Mad as a hatter. They’re all nuts, okay? Nutty as the floor of the Snickers factory.

Here’s why I hate the internet: The headcases can find each other and feed their lunacy.

In the olden days, when VCRs were the size of card-tables, nutbars had to be nutbars in isolation. If you had, say, an unhealthy fixation on Erik Estrada or Erin Gray or the Lost in Space robot, you were the town weirdo, and you were all alone. As a result, the town weirdo usually tried to keep a lid on it, at least a little bit. Nowadays, all they have to do is put up a website and the e-mails roll in, and before you know it a whole bunch of them have banded together to encourage each other in their monomania. They create names for themselves (Clay Aiken’s stalkers call themselves “Claymates;” Michael Flatley’s are called “Flatheads”), and hold conventions to celebrate their lack of anything resembling a life.

And believe it or not, any celebrity you can name has a group of followers who blast e-mails back and forth to keep each other up-to-date on the minutia of their hero’s life. Don’t believe me? The little girl who played Vicki on “Small Wonder” has no less than three fansites out there. We put up a fake page devoted to Felix Silla (the actor who played Cousin Itt on “The Addams Family” and Twiki on “Buck Rogers”), and people thought it was real. At least once a month I get e-mail from people who have found our “Have You Seen Me?” page, helpfully informing me as to the current whereabouts of Tina Yothers, Gil Gerard and MC Hammer. They know because they are intensely interested in these faded stars. No matter how nutso we try to be with our prank pages, people believe them, because we can’t be as nutso as the actual nuts out there.

Okay, fine. You win.

Look, I’m as much a fan as the next guy. I love cartoons, movies, genre fiction, toys, all of it. Maybe it’s because I love all of it; if I only loved one thing, I could be as obsessive as these people, but I can’t. I can’t limit myself to just “Legion of Super-Heroes” OR the Muppets OR Pinky & The Brain OR Simonson & Goodwin’s Manhunter OR Marvin the Martian OR Harry Chapin; I gotta have ’em all. Having them all keeps me from being nuts. These people need to get out more.

So I’m watching this exercise in schadenfreude (oh, look it up already) with my kids, and we’re all horrified by the couple raising geese as their family, by the girl who wants to be a ninja turtle, by the lot of them. We’re amused by the spouses (THESE PEOPLE ARE MARRIED!??!!) and their varying degrees of annoyance and/or tolerance for their pet wacko’s compulsions. And finally I lay down the law to the kids….

1) No body modification. If you get a tattoo before age 18, I’ll kick you out of the house; get one after that, and I’ll kick you out of the will. I hate tattoos, and piercings, and plastic surgery. They give me the heebie-jeebies. Be who you are, not who you think you need to be. Okay, I’ve loosened up on this one over the last 10 years or so. I think a tattoo ought to be meaningful to the wearer, or at least not something one is going to deeply regret in later years. I follow Penn & Teller’s NPD Rule: No Permanent Damage. Choose wisely. In any case, having plastic surgery to turn yourself into a tiger, lizard, human Barbie doll or whatever is just plain stupid.  

2) If you ever refer to any animal or inanimate object as your “child” I will disown you. This is not negotiable. Your dog is your dog, not your child. Your child is your child, and your child comes before your geese, bunnies, Cabbage Patch Kids, and whatever random detritus of television you decide to build your life around. Suck it up and deal with it.

To my friends who may be reading this: if you secretly dress up as Gilligan (or worse) in your spare time, do me a favor…. keep it to yourself, okay? For God’s sake, don’t go on TV and show off your dementia to the whole wide world. Nobody’s impressed that you’re on TV; we’re horrified at what you’re willing to admit to God and everybody. Stop it. Just stop it.