Steampunk’d, Or Humbug by Design: A Rebuttle

In the second half of my two part series on attempting to educate Steampunk’s critics, I turn this evening to an article written by designer Randy Nakamura, Steampunk’d, Or Humbug by Design.

Mr. Nakamura’s article is an attack of Steampunk and the Steampunk aesthetic. In a pedantic and verbose article, he attempts to downplay Steampunk by claiming that it is a backward and non-functional trend that fails at mimicking the Victorian influences that shape Steampunk’s aesthetic. Clearly, he needs a lesson in understanding what Steampunk is all about.

Steampunk is not about “some sort of inspired return to a prior era.” Steampunk is a subculture that blends the past and present to counter our plastic riddled modern world. It’s about taking the best from both worlds and turning it into something new. It’s about rejecting the disposable and low quality nature of today’s products and technology for something well made and built to last. Steampunk is hardly regressive. It isn’t about looking back to the Victorian era and pining for some non-existent notion of the “good old days.” Steampunk is a reaction to the corporate and mass produced products of today’s world and a return to a time when the local artisan was more than just a hobbyist at weekend craft fairs.

Which is why his comment that Steampunk is more Disney than punk really irritated me. Mr. Nakamura has clearly no idea of the incredible influence that the Disney corporation has on people’s psychologies and the products they buy, especially that of girls with the “Disney Princess” line.

Steampunk is a movement of independent artists and freethinkers connected through the internet. It cannot be compared to the corporate structure of Disney, which has it own theme parks, film studios, clothing lines, music labels… need I go on? Steampunk, however, has rightfully earned its place in the punk movement. It is anti-corporation, anti mass-production, and rebels again traditional concepts of power and gender.

And to assume that an entire subculture sprang forth from a single book, Gilliam’s Brazil, is incredibly misguided. In fact, in all my expertise of Steampunk, I can’t claim that I have read Brazil, which Mr. Nakamura seems to think is the seminal Steampunk work. Steampunk isn’t a unified or singular subculture. It’s focused on individual interpretation and exposure. Perhaps, if Mr. Nakamura wishs to rail against Steampunk, he should consider more than just one piece of Steampunk literature and a few DIY projects before coming to a conclusion on Steampunk as a whole.

Mr. Nakamura, your poor understanding of what Steampunk is and why it appeals to so many people hardly qualifies you to comment on the subculture. Your article is nothing more than a pedantic over-intellectualization of personal taste that achieves nothing more than preaching down to people who enjoy modding their own possessions. Perhaps, you would rather them buy your pre-made designs and submit to your (clearly) superior sense of art?

And, by god, it’s Steampunks, not Steampunkers! Who the hell told you we are Steampunkers?

Phew, that’s certainly enough ranting for the time being. If you have any thoughts on the topics I’ve brought up, please feel free to comment!

2 comments on “Steampunk’d, Or Humbug by Design: A Rebuttle

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