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Surely, I’m Not the Only One Who Overdosed on Star Wars and Star Trek

Nowadays I take both series about as seriously as Looney Tunes. They're just cute cartoons, not acceptable guides to life. Save for one exception...

by
Dave Swindle

Bio

May 8, 2014 - 7:30 pm

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Monday’s PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates! writing prompt was: “Star TrekStar Wars, Both, or Neither?

I had my list of “7 New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 I Invite You to Burgle From Me Bilbo-Style” in mind when starting this discussion. I still appreciate Star Trek and Star Wars, but nowhere near to the level I did as a child and teenager. The all-consuming, quasi-religious experience of fandom in both franchises is what I had in mind when writing my third resolution:

Why is it today if someone goes home after work and spends 2 hours watching TV we think of them as normal but if they spend 2 hours studying the Bible, praying, and meditating we regard them as a kook?

The term that I’ve come up with for the religion that I used to practice without even knowing it: pop culture polytheism. For so much of my life I devoted myself to the details of TV shows, movies, books, and all manner of pop culture and political celebrities. No more. Today in America fascination with culture isn’t just a hobby — it’s an all-encompassing obsession. I’m done with it. Our popular culture needs to be mocked and trashed much more and with greater intensity. There’s nothing in it that’s sacred.

New Year's #resolution 3: be much more aggressive against the #idols of pop culture.

What happened? Why don’t I appreciate Star Wars and Star Trek to the degree I once did? And which installment of the franchises now has more respect from me at 30 than it did at 13?

Requiem for a Trekkie... Part 1/3...

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I used to fall asleep to the scene in “Empire Strikes Back” where Luke meets Yoda for the first time. After moving to Indiana in fifth grade my fandom in Star Wars would form one of the cornerstones of friendship with my best friend, an ever loyal, perpetually trustworthy soul who would someday stand as the Best Man at my wedding. Likewise with “Star Trek,” scenes and lines are like flashbacks to a more innocent time when a shared understanding of the universe’s strange languages and speculations could enable endless debate and shared adventure.

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But as I grew older I made the mistake of thinking too damn much for my own good. I can’t really enjoy most of George Lucas’s and Gene Roddenberry’s universes as I once did. As I’ve grown up I’ve lost respect for the morality and philosophies underlying each set of fantasies. My friend Walter Hudson has written commentaries on each series’ flaws. Nutshell: “Star Wars” is built on the Jedi Morality as an Eastern Buddhist Warrior monk, “Star Trek” is an intergalactic United Nations. Neither shows nor films delve deeply into serious questions of evil save for one exception: Deep Space Nine.
Since my religious, ideological and philosophical shift in recent years, my appreciation for the third “Star Trek” show has grown the most. I think I’ll try to pick apart why a bit more in future list posts on THIS, the the best of the Star Treks and what would be the best science fiction show until the new version of “Battlestar Galactica” which I suppose also deserves some re-watching and blogging… -DMS

Walter Hudson’s pieces referenced above can be found here and here

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images via pinterest and instagram

David Swindle is the associate editor of PJ Media. He writes and edits articles and blog posts on politics, news, culture, religion, and entertainment. He edits the PJ Lifestyle section and the PJ columnists. Contact him at DaveSwindlePJM @ Gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @DaveSwindle. He has worked full-time as a writer, editor, blogger, and New Media troublemaker since 2009, at PJ Media since 2011. He graduated with a degree in English (creative writing emphasis) and political science from Ball State University in 2006. Previously he's also worked as a freelance writer for The Indianapolis Star and the film critic for WTHR.com. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their Siberian Husky puppy Maura.

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All Comments   (4)
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To address your question about two hours of TV vs two hours of prayer: for a lot of people, a day's work leaves less energy for serious thought than it does for amusement. This was probably true when Neanderthals told stories around their campfires too.
I attended college part time when I was in the military. Between a day at work and two hours of class, or a day at work and two hours of study, it got pretty tiring. Between classes, I was glad of the chance to slough off and just watch cartoons with my kids.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Star Trek's various incarnations teach some valuable lessons, or so it seems to me. All of them valued loyalty, courage and devotion. Spock's emphasis on logic always appealed to me.
These are actually the same values that Rodenberry brought to his journeyman work: "Have Gun, Will Travel."
Captain Picard was far more an officer than Captain Kirk; Kirk was probably more fun to watch than Picard.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was undergoing a similar shift in thinking when the final season of Deep Space Nine was originally airing. I liked the show before that shift but I'm surprised that 15 years later it's the only Trek that stands up to the test of time. Next Generation, which I loved and thought would endure forever, is dated, childish, and unwatchable. Voyager was always hideous for more reasons than I have the inclination to enumerate. And Enterprise, with a few exceptions, is still painful to watch. I think the difference is that Deep Space Nine opened itself up to the fullness of the experience of living the others limited themselves to a very narrow niche of Utopianism.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think the reason you see 2 hours of TV as something that should be compared to a formalized ideology is its own answer, and one you addressed.

I've never read or watched SF, or TV and film in general, for rules to live by. I've never seen Star Trek or Star Wars as morality plays other than in the most generic humanistic sense. I don't know there is really anything that formally ties the Outer Limits episode with Martin Landau called "The Man Who Was Born Yesterday" to Star Trek's "The Empath" or "The Menagerie" other than an attempt at lyrical artistry and a soaring faith in the human spirit expressed from within eccentric SF genre conventions.

My own reaction to film and literature tends to be in its specific artistry, not specific content. The only thing that ties the SF Hall of Fame and Hugo Winners books together is artistry - there is no overriding theme.

To me it was pretty plain the old Star Trek got people's attention for much the same reason new Top 40 songs do: something new seen from within an awareness of the evolution of an expression of pop culture. Star Trek had brand new sound effects, as opposed to the Irwin Allen cross-series same old sound effects, new special effects never used before, new faces only sparingly used in TV prior to that, and similar considerations.

I think the reaction to Star Wars was for much the same reasons. The real reaction was to a new type of artistry. Aside from that, there is nothing particularly new or creative about Star Wars universe. In film yes, in literature, no.

It has rebels, alien worlds, and the particular personality which may bind those worlds together in an interesting way lay more in design and artistic concept than world-building. In short, it is a rather bland and generic galaxy if one takes away the special effects and effective staging of scenes.

The original impetus for new Star Trek stuff lay in a kind of devotion to the camaraderie of original cast. At least to SF fans, there was nothing new about beam-weapons, transporters, or warp drives although those were kind of fun things that almost acted the way actors do. When Next Generation came along they had to rebuild that sense of camaraderie.

I don't see how the new Star Wars film can succeed. The old cast is being thrown in but are too old to matter. It's universe isn't interesting enough to convey a sense of wonder or philosophy.

Its success will depend on what I touched on at the beginning and why the original was successful and why there is no reason to make a new Star Wars movie in the first place: a good screen play, nice special effects but portrayed in a brilliantly designed way.

If anything, having the old cast and those damn robots will act as a drag on the film. I think the chances of seeing a stunning re-imagining of the genre, like Alien or The Mummy, are slim to none. You can have as clever a screenplay as you want, but if it's not executed by a great team it's worthless. The new Star Wars will be too constrained by relying on its past to break new ground. A much better project would have been to create an adaptation of The Mote in God's Eye. That would knock people's socks off, because there's never been an SF film like that.

The real reason Star Wars is being made is because it is a merchandising giant. That means it cannot cut loose from action figures and backpacks. It's a brand and a franchise and that's exactly what you're going to get.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
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