Now we as nerds have been known to, on occasion, geek out about things. If you combine our obsessions with our excitability one can quickly find themselves with a new hobby. Who among us hasn’t wanted to wield a broadsword after seeing Lord of the Rings or brandish a bullwhip with Indiana Jones level of precision or, hell, join the Marines after exiting 300?
I personally caught myself driving home on my bike at 120 mph after seeing The Dark Knight, started fencing as a lifelong reaction to The Princess Bride and have lofty ambitions of designing a full set of armor inspired by Game of Thrones!
However the geek activity du jure is the summer of archery! Between The Hunger Games, The Avengers, Brave, & Arrow you can’t turn on a movie without a badass flourishing some fletching. The Los Angeles Times featured an article earlier this year saying that sales of archery equipment is up over 20% for the year; with attendance at the National Field Archery Assn.’s World Cup tournament up 40% from the year before. Whether we want to admit it or not, Hollywood plays a big part in showcasing and highlighting trends that then became mainstream. Pre-Hunger games, Pre-Lord of the Rings archery was the domain of hunters and renaissance re-enactors. Today, the Games paints it as sleek and a tool of rebellion, LOTR as smart and lithe, Brave as a symbol of independance, Hawkeye as precise and powerful, and Arrow as vengence personified in patience. With so many shades and some of the biggest franchises in history backing it, it’s no surprise that archery is putting up some very big numbers as “hunger games fever” (as it has been so affectionately dubbed at my local range) is poised to enter it’s third month with no signs of slowing down. Classes are filling up hours in advance and even for long time members parking and range time is at a premium.
That is not to say that Hollywood’s influence is all bad! It can help invigorate interest and public opinion in history, it can breathe life in to a stale activity or industry; and be an economic boon to the business that can adapt and thrive off of their new found wave of popularity. Swordplay fencing studio in Burbank, CA hosts a Star Wars themed fencing camp every summer that puts up better attendance numbers than any other of their year’s group fencing classes. And in modern times when people hear the word ‘pirate’ would they default to the image of the affable Cap’n Jack Sparrow off the coast of the Caribbean or the low life hijackers off the coast of Somalia? I can guarantee that “The pirates life” wouldn’t hold such whimsy and fantasy if it weren’t for Mr. Depp!
However, I think it takes more that just expensive visuals and big name stars to make us want to nerd out at a whole ‘nother level. I think there is something about how those heroes utilize these skills to define themselves and save the day. The Princess Bride didn’t convince me that sword fighting was cool because of fancy footwork and careful chereography. It convinced me fencing was cool because Wesley was the kind of person I wanted to be, and he used his sword to defend himself, his love, and his honor. It was a tool of his; and if I could use that tool then I too would be safe, and loved, and honorable. It takes way more than an activity looking cool or seeming fun to inspire us in this manner. It takes a magnificant adventure and extreme circumstances to awaken some dormant, but very practical, aspect of our humanity; be it a characteristic we wish we possesed, an attitude or emotion we want to attain, or simply to give us a reminder of something worth fighting for.
Now lord knows I’m all for romantic flights of fancy; but, unless you want to be taking aim with nerf bows and engaging opponents with plastic lightsabers, proper training, equipment, and safety is a must! Last weekend alone four people showed up to a public archery range with store bought gear inappropriate for their skill level (none) and shooting style. The first giveaway that something was wrong was that the bows were being shot upside down! Do yourself and everyone around you a favor and, whatever your passion moves you to explore, do so with proper gear and the supervision of someone else that knows what they’re doing. If you want to give archery a try this summer (and I highly recommend that you do) seek out a place like Rancho Park Archery whose dedicated volunteers will have you up and on point in no time at all!