DISCLOSURE: This was originally posted on my personal Tumblr, reworked for clarity.
The other day, while I was looking through Shirtoid (an aggregate site that shows off the day's low-priced fan designed t-shirts at various websites), I saw a shirt up on TeeFury that was a mashup of My Little Pony and Frozen. And I got incredibly salty. Not because I got rejected when I tried to apply (it was the Fulgore card design, btw), but because it made me realize something that my friend, Donut, pointed out a long time ago: nerd shirts suck 99.5% of the time. I thought welovefine was the apex (or is that nadir?) of belching out unoriginality into the fandom echo chamber void for the longest time, but legally sketchy nerd shirt culture in general takes the entire cake.
But it’s the lack of trying/originality is what gets me. The blindly following trends in the geek echo chamber, rustles my non-existent jimmies. And places like TeeFury are parasites to whatever is the Flavor of the Month: for May, it was Mad Max. June was Jurassic World. I've every reason to believe July will be dominated by Terminator parodies, with a side order of Ant-Man. Couple those, with the endless cycle of regurgitating the same trends and design fads: Minion mashups, Art Nouveau that's either a pale imitation of Alphonse Mucha if not an outright 1:1 trace of his work, parodies of popular blockbuster movie posters, sports logos, having a character meet a TARDIS somewhere... the list goes on. Even TeePublic, which doesn't have arbitrary rules on what sells and doesn't, isn't immune to this, as a lot of the popular selling shirts still follow some of these design conventions. Eh. Don't get me wrong, I'm not stupid: I know whatever is the hot thing will rake in the most bucks, as people are thirsty for that kind of merchandise (especially since lots of official stuff is either non-existent or leaves a lot to be desired), but that doesn't mean I can't find it a little bit obnoxious.
For all my griping, I can appreciate a really well-done fan design that, while derived from an established property, is original in its execution. Yes, I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but hear me out. Take, for instance, Adams Pinto's Final Fantasy 6 and 8 designs. They're an example of what I'm getting at, because while he is drawing from an established property, he's interpreting it in such a way that's a unique take on it, and one that I would be proud to spend money on and wear in public (and I have, too). That, IMHO, is far better and far more worth supporting than a tired old mashup of a Stormtrooper-clad Minion riding an Indominous Rex -with Deadpool clinging onto its tail- while waving Loki's scepter around and belching out the latest meme phrase in Minionspeak, as they run away from a TARDIS ontop of Max and Furiosa's car. With a Batsignal in the sky. (I could go on for hours, folks, but I won't)
I dunno. I sound like a cranky old person at this point, but my point still stands. And the sad part is that it probably won’t ever change, given the current tastes of pop culture and all.
So yeah. There's my piece. Now if you excuse me, I need to find my cane and a lawn chair. XP(And for those curious, my Fulgore design -which I submitted just for the heck of it- was basically rejected on the grounds that TeeFury believed it wouldn't sell. Which, I sort of do understand (Killer Instinct isn't as well known as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat), but I dunno... some times, you don't know if something will do well if you don't at least try, IMO.
Oh, and before you say, "But all that stuff is copyright infringement anyhow, why can't the copyright holders sue them"? Thing is, the shirts by and large are considered "parodies", so due to past precedent in the courts, a company would theoretically have no legal recourse whatsoever... but other people have articulated this better than I, plus a lot of companies are getting hip to this sort of thing and are working out officially sanctioned relationships with these production houses. We Love Fine is one, but there are a couple others out there. I digress, though)