Posted by Whittier Strong
I am a Trekkie. It started when I was a small child, and our local CBS affiliate would showreruns after Saturday-morning cartoons. I don’t remember watching it so often, though, in part because I liked to play after cartoons, and in part because my didn’t like the show so much (because Spock’s ears freaked her out).
Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted when I was in junior high. However, it came on really late at night and I couldn’t watch it. When I moved to St. Louis, a station there was showing Next Generation reruns five nights a week at more reasonable hour of 10:00pm, as well as showing the new episodes on the weekends, and the brand-new show Deep Space Nine. I was obsessed. I had to watch it every single night it was on. I peeved a lot of my dormmates who rightly felt I shouldn’t have sole control over the television in the dorm lounge. Towards the end of my time in St. Louis, the franchise launched Voyager, which quickly became my favorite of the franchise. Enterprise first aired after I moved to Indiana, but a schedule conflict kept me from the show, and my ability to follow the series was as ill-fated as the series itself.
The internet era has opened new windows to my Trekdom. I can watch nearly every episode of all six series (yes, including The Animated Series) at startrek.com for free (though it’s sometimes annoying which episodes are missing–how do you skip over the introduction of the Vidiians?) About three years ago I started playing Star Trek Online and got to explore my fandom in a whole new way. The game has its glitches, but it is most enjoyable, especially when I get to play with such a fantastic fleet.
Of course, I haven’t even mentioned the movies. I’ve seen all but two: The Final Frontier, which by all accounts is not very good, and Nemesis, which isn’t supposed to be good either, but better that Frontier, and which I wouldn’t mind seeing but haven’t had the chance. I saw the relaunch by J.J. Abrams in 2009, and, though I was confused a bit about how the franchise would proceed (no spoilers, even now), I thought it was good enough.
Now, I have to correct myself–I said I’d not seen two movies. I actually haven’t seen three. I have not yet seen the new movie, Star Trek Into Darkness, and I don’t plan to. I had wanted to see it, but an incident a couple of weeks ago turned me off completely to the idea.
Interestingly, what ruined the movie for me was a completely different franchise: Superman. As I was waiting for a video to load, I got a two-and-a-half minute preview of Man of Steel. I didn’t like what I saw. Most of the preview revolved around the destruction of an entire city, masses of people dying meaningless deaths in clever and innovative ways. It was what some call “torture porn” on a metropolitan scale, the Saw series with a cast of thousands, a devaluation of human life that brought me back to when I quit watching Total Recall after the “human shield” scene. I sat watching the opening of this Superman reboot (how many times has that franchise been relaunched again, not even counting the DC-universe reboots?) and said to myself, “There is no way I’m watching that movie, it’s just torture porn.”
And then it hit me that this is exactly what the trailers to Star Trek Into Darkness looks like. (Notice that even the poster is focused on a destroyed city, not on, well, trekking through the stars.) And the trailers to the last two Transformers movies. And the second half of The Dark Knight Rises that I saw at a Christmas party. And every other freaking “action” movie that has come out in the past ten years.
And I’m done. When I go to a movie, I want a plot. I want a story. I want the characters’ lives and deaths to mean something. Whether it’s comedy or tragedy, I’m looking for some meaning. And I really don’t get that out of a lot of the movies that come out these days. Now, to be sure, I’m singling out a particular genre in my writing here, and it’s not exactly one in which people are expecting Tolstoy. But if it’s a movie about heroes, shouldn’t the focus be on heroism, rather than the meaningless deaths of thousands?
The last thing I’m saying is that all our media should portray a Pollyanna fantasy. A healthy mind needs a balance of comedy and tragedy in what it consumes. But where is dignity? Hope? Heck, even just some nuance and complexity, instead of a relentless onslaught of explosions, would do nicely.
It has been said that, as a culture declines, its arts are the first to suffer. I think that’s really what’s going on here. I hope I’m wrong, and that we can yet redeem ourselves.