Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wolf Blitzer and Princess Leia

Last night my brother, Joe, called me and interrupted Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's election coverage (sacrilege?) and convinced me to flip over to CNN to check out their hologram machine. On the one hand, it's another tacky ploy to make 24 news coverage more interesting through gimmicky gadgetry. On the other hand, it obviously worked. As though the night weren't historic enough, we entered the age of the interview by hologram. Or maybe we just returned to it, since it began in 1977 in a galaxy far, far away.


@bdul muHib said...

Oh for shame! They very definitely said "beamed"! That was Star Trek - not that other story which-shall-not-be-named.

Benjamin Gorman said...

On Slate's Culture Gabfest podcats one of the reporters made a comment that they thought they were watching Princess Leia on the Starship Enterprise. Oh, he's gonna' get angry email from both kinds of geeks!

@bdul muHib said...

Hey now! Star Wars fans are geeks. Trekkies only recognize what will one day be reality.

Benjamin Gorman said...

Careful. Careful. For all Star Wars' faults (and there are many) it is still the most culturally significant story in American pop culture. When people compare Dick Cheney to Darth Vader, we all know what they mean. Do you hear anybody comparing him to Khan? I enjoy a good episode of Star Trek as much as the next guy, but the story does lack the tragic, operatic ark of Anakin Skywalker's fall from grace and his redemption by his son. The only thing tragic about Star Trek was how sucky the movies got as the men got older and dumpier.

On the other hand, Next Generation was better than the original in a lot of ways, whereas the Star Wars prequels do not measure up to the original trilogy (though they did get better and better, and the third probably reaches parity).

Oh, and Trekkies are raging geeks. I'm amazed when I meet second generation Trekkies, because it seemed so unlikely that their Trekkie parents would ever breed.

Star Wars fans, on the other hand, breed prolifically and indoctrinate our children at much more impressionable ages. We are the tribbles of your future utopia.

@bdul muHib said...

I agree, Star Wars is legend. But Star Trek is myth. Star Wars is popular and everyone knows of it, because it had special effects and made a lot of money. Star Trek writers, by and large, knew how to write. Even the crappy writing in TOS was still deep in myth, much like George MacDonald, who could write myth like no other. Roddenberry's call for agreement between characters, and always showing us a picture of what is possible, directly translates into the possibility of hoping for the future and seeing redemptive analogies in nearly every episode- something the Wars doesn't allow for, in all it's realistic grittiness. How else would we have sustained ourselves through the long years of the Babylonian Captivity (George II), except through the lens of DS9, VOY, and ENT?

TNG was the best of all five, yes, but the movies weren't that bad- you forget the Odd Number Curse. II, IV, VI, and VIII were all great movies. III was okay, and without V, SFG, we'd never have one of the greatest revelations of the nature of God in cinematic history. And this says nothing of the pure quality of the writing and directing in Trek over Wars. Lucas's perchant to cutting scenes only got worse and more confusing with age, such that, to this day, I'm still unclear as to what the entire storyline was.

No one compares Cheney to Khan, because he was a one episode character- Darth was in all 6 movie. (Okay, Khan was in one TV episode and one movie.) But I have heard Cheney/Rumsfield/Bush compared to the Borg.

Yes, Wars is more popular. It's like the Prayer of Jabez. Trek is Foster's Prayer. Wars is the Left Behind series. Trek is Phantasties.

Benjamin Gorman said...

I can't just go to bed and leave my beloved Star Wars compared to the Left Behind series.

Star Wars is chocolate ice cream.
Star Trek is pralines and cream.

Also, though both launched exemplary careers, I'll take one of Princess Leia's hilarious novels (Postcards from the Edge, or, better, Delusions of Grandma') over Mr. Spock's latest, a collection of photographs of obese nude women.

And the writing in Star Wars may be clunky and sometimes painful, but they came up with some great catch phrases. Beyond "Live long and prosper" I can't think of anything close to "Laugh it up, fuzzball," "May the Force be with you," or even "Aw, Uncle Owen, I was gonna' go down to Tashi Station to pick up some power converters" (great to use with full inflection as a retort to a whiny teenager).

Also, watching my son fall in love with Star Wars has been a treat a Star Trek fan would miss. Even as Lucas undoes his legacy with our generation, he's gaining a new one with his more kid friendly fare. We'll see if the new J.J. Abrams movie does the same for Trek (Abrams is super-cool).

Oh, and in the new animated Star Wars series, in every single episode, someone says, "I've got a bad feeling about this!" It was bad writing the first four or five times, but now its become clever self-parody.

Lastly, no matter how heavy handed, Star Wars did end up providing a more apt political analogy for the Bush Administration. The fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire was well timed in our political climate. Star Trek never managed to be so relevant. It may have been more deeply philosophical, but if you're both less popular and less relevant, who cares?

@bdul muHib said...

I can't compete!

I thought the Left Behind reference would get you :-)

But I must protest your last point, most strongly. I've seen every episode of Star Trek, literally. And as far as political analogy and reference, Trek was it to the superlative degree. TNG takes place in the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton years, at a time when we believed certain things of ourselves and morality, and thus is remarkably prescient. Episode after episode reveal such a different viewpoint of the world. Consider just the two-episode arc where Capt. Picard is tortured by the Cardassians, and we know the good guys are us, and good guys would never do that. TNG, along with STV and DS9 (in the Clinton years) repeatedly relate to world events in subtle ways (as allegory, not analogy), and, if one is so inclined, are prophetic rebuke of the Bush II years. ENT, taking place during the Bush II years, then goes much further. It presents a morality more in keeping with these dark times, in a 3 year arc of revenge for those who perpetrated a terrorist act killing millions (half the population of future Florida). But instead of the easy way, it looks at the difficulties of pursuing a pattern of revenge, what happens to your soul as you do, and the inner motivations of those who first attacked, revealing them as, well, not human, of course, but...more human than the current administrations caricature of al Qa'ida.

@bdul muHib said...

I think in truth Star Wars does much the same, commentary on current times. But there are benefits to both genre. Movies are huge, and have a big, immediate impact on the psyche. A series can deal with more nuances, adapting as the months and years go on to new events.

Anonymous said...

nerds. it's a wonder ben found someone to procreate with.