Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Free-For-All - A Salute to Wil Wheaton as he celebrates 10 years blogging!

This week was Wil Wheaton's 10 year Blog-Birthday. I really have to tip my hat to Wil because it was the fact that I got so much enjoyment out of his blog that made me really interested in starting my own. I found it around November of 2001 - and during that time, Wil was pretty much a struggling actor still trying to come to terms with what being a "teen idol" and one of the most hated Star Trek characters meant for his life.

For those of you who don't know, Wil played Wesley Crusher, a boy genius whose brilliance was so great he actually got to be an acting ensign on the Enterprise bridge at the age of 16. Unfortunately, this hardly endeared him to fans who felt that a child had no place on the bridge, and it didn't help that early episodes had the character be a bit of a snotty know-it-all. Worst of all, the kid practically saved the whole ship in the first episode. Fans resented him and Wesley never recovered from that. Wil, being a teenager at the time, also had trouble dealing with the hate mail the character would receive. I didn't come to TNG much later, so I didn't have as much trouble with the Wesley character.

So in Wil's early posts there's a lot of ambivalence towards his Trek history, compounded by the fact that he felt disrespected by some of the Powers That Be in Trek. It was a running theme in many of his posts, and it was fascinating to see Wil grow as writer. One of my favorite early posts are these two - featuring a dialogue between Wil and Wesley.

Mirror, Mirror
The Big Goodbye

Wil's blog has been a must-read for me since early on. It's a surprisingly personal blog at times, talking about the meaningful moments he has with his sons, his frustrations with the business, the joy of geekdom, and much more. Most of all, these past ten years have been about a journey that Wil has taken from a path that could have led to "embittered has-been actor" to "Geek Icon and All-around Cool guy."

Over the past ten years, Wil's readers have seen him go from struggling to get even an audition, to a successful career resurgence playing against type. The guy who had to struggle just to get into the room eventually had parts written for him on The Big Bang Theory and Eureka, among many other well-received gigs. The fans who remember the sad story of Wil canceling a family vacation to go on an audition where he got little respect probably take a lot of pride in seeing "Uncle Willie" get the acclaim he deserves. I've met Wil twice and he's been nothing but gracious both times. (And twice I've balked at bothering him at the comic book store we apparently both frequent.)

So I want to salute him this week, and I think of no better lesson to take from Mr. Wheaton than the journey he points out in his post:

"Ten years ago yesterday, I started my blog at WWdN. Ten years ago today, Metafilter declared that it was "lame," and most of the Internet was really shitty to me about the whole thing. I was so sad and hurt by how cruel people were to me back then, I almost gave up before I'd even started... but for some reason, I was stubborn and just kept going.

I'm glad I made it across what Ira Glass calls The Gap, because I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be going to PAX (or doing any of the wonderful things I get to do these days) if I hadn't. Thank you to everyone who has shared the journey with me; I hope to continue earning your time and support for the next ten years."

As a special treat, here's a live performance of one of my favorite Wheaton stories - the first time he met William Shatner. (A bit of mature language. Don't play this at work)

Or if you'd rather read it, it's available in two parts on Suicide Girls. (Also probably not safe for work). Personally, I think the live performance is hilarious and well worth the time it takes to watch.
Part I
Part II

I've very relieved to say that both times I met Wil, he was friendly, willing to pose for pictures, and didn't once make me feel like Mr. Shatner made him feel at that time. Wil, it's been a pleasure reading your blogs, Tweets and books, and enjoying your podcasts over the last ten years. You've evolved into a wonderful writer, and if you stick with this acting thing, who knows where it could lead?

In all seriousness, I think your recent success has been a direct result of all the good karma you put out there during those years when things might have been a little more lean. Seeing that paid back to you has been both rewarding and inspiring. Any actor and writer can identify with your struggles and yet also share in the hopes that if we put in the same work and positivity that you have, we may yet find the same success.

To ten years!


  1. I wouldn't say I'm a fan of Wil's, though I did like his tweet regarding what people should do with their money rather than going to see Charlie Sheen, but I never understood why people hated him so much. Wesley, yes. Wesley was annoying! But that's the writers' and Roddenberry's fault for creating him that way. Not Wil's.

    In fact, I don't get how otherwise normal people can possibly mix up the character and the actor. In high school the drama teacher took us to a lot of live tv tapings and I remember some talk show where the guy who played the older brother on The Wonder Years talked about some guy coming up and punching him in the face for what his character did to Fred Savage's character.

    Anyway, I do have to say I like Wil a lot better in Eureka than in ST:TNG. Even though he still plays a character I want to smack. Not him, though. Just the character.

  2. I love Will Wheaton. I never hated Wesley. For heaven's sake, the kid was always around adults and constantly told what a genius he was from an early age. That'll mess with anybody's ego.

    That was an awesome video. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wil's got an interesting take on the Wesley hate in his podcast for the TNG ep "The Battle." If you click the "Wil Wheaton" tag above, you should find an old post of mine that links to that podcast.