Thursday, October 5, 2017

Let's talk about that new Star Trek thingy

There is a new Star Trek on the loose.

I have not seen it. But I have seen people talk about it, and on numerous occasions these fine folks have said - independently of each other - that while there are more important things to talk about than Star Trek, they are now going to talk about it.

When things happen many times independently of each other, the ol' pattern recognition sets in. Something seems to be going on, and it seems to be going on whilst everyone is thinking about something else. This something going on needs to be interrogated, if only to find out just what it is. It might be important.

(To be sure, it is possible to note this as an example of writing in the presence of enemies. But that's another thought.)

The notion that Star Trek is not important is a strange one. As a cultural institution, it has built the foundation for many imaginations, both public and private. It is no exaggeration to say it is a part of a shared cultural heritage - the themes and mythologies spawned from it have had an impact far greater than mere intuition would suggest. It has been a fixed cultural point of reference for generations (in canon and in real time), inspiring countless young minds to do what they do and go where they went. In terms of sheer cultural impact, Star Trek is a big one.

Thus, new iterations of Star Trek are important by virtue of their connection to old iterations. In present terms, it is important through the sheer fact that millions of people are watching it and discussing it - it becomes a part of the overall zeitgeist. In the longer term, it becomes important as a reference point (for critics and fans alike): in the old Star Trek they did x, but in the new one they did y, and this is significant of cultural change z.

This means we cannot attribute these assertions that there are more important things to talk about than Star Trek, to Star Trek. There is something else going on here.

To be sure, there are a non-zero amount of other important things to talk about. Climate change, the rapid transformations of modernity and - not least - the totality of the political situation in the US loom large as important other things. The sheer amount of clusterfucks (actual or potential) that exist in the world are sufficient to make mere lived experience seem trivial and unimportant, and thus discussions thereof follow suit.

Thing is. All we have is lived experience, and denying ourselves the opportunity to talk about it would be detrimental. Even if it happens to be what we thought about the new Star Trek series.

It is a sign of hope that people do talk about Star Trek after having made the disclaimer about there being more important things to talk about. It means there is still a humanity left to explore those final frontiers. -

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