I know I wrote something somewhere about this, but for the life of me I have no idea when or where. Some time in the past year, and somewhere on the internet is as narrow as I can figure it. Totally helpful.
Some time ago, a few months I believe, I was speaking with a coworker about movies and TV, and coworker mentioned that he always liked Star Wars better than Star Trek, because Star Trek didn’t have enough action in it. Which is a totally fair assessment, and I completely agree with it. In particular, I’m thinking of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as that is what I grew up on. That is *my* Star Trek. (Picard is a way better captain than Kirk.) Part of the reason I like Star Trek so much, and this is something my father imparted on me early on, was that they were problem-solvers. There wasn’t some big rebellion going on and they weren’t fighting for their lives. They were explorers and diplomats and scientists and thinkers. Picard had roots in the classics, philosophy, archaeology, and had vast scientific knowledge on top of all of that. They didn’t whip out their phasers at the first sign of the unknown. They studied it. They learned from it. And if they were in a tight spot, they used violence as a last resort.
The problem I find is that a lot of people don’t find that entertaining. They don’t want to think, they just want to zone out. That’s why (I think) sit-coms and reality shows and pure dramas are far more popular. If you’re faced with a choice between how a relationship is progressing and whether or not an android has the same rights as a human, well, I think most people end up choosing the former to be entertained for an hour by. It’s the more relatable situation versus the philosophical ideas.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to zone out sometimes, too. I enjoy shows like Grimm and Vikings, or some of the superhero shows like Arrow and The Flash. But I also like Law & Order, Person of Interest, The West Wing, Newsroom, Stargate SG-1, Star Trek… All… slightly technical shows. They aren’t about the people so much as they are about content. (Yes, I realize NONE of these shows are current, except SVU. A pattern, I wonder?) The former shows I listed all have one thing in common: They all have clearly defined Good and Evil. The other ones? Not so much.
And that’s part of the enjoyment I get out of them, because it so much better mirrors real life. We don’t have clearly defined Good and Evil. It’s a constant struggle, and what you think is Good now, may not always have been Good, and may not be Good in the future. It’s important to take a step back and look at the other side.
I don’t think people are capable of doing that very well, as evidenced by some of the discussions I’ve seen and been a part of over the past year, mostly revolving around the presidential election.
I find myself wondering if our entertainment menu is a part of that. What we see on TV and in movies is supposed to mimic real life. But what happens when it doesn’t?
I remember hearing that it was a big deal when the first blacks started appearing on TV shows. And I see that big deal now with homosexual relationships. (Actual experience: A person said to me that he didn’t mind if people were gay, but it seemed like every show had to have a gay couple, and that was ridiculous! No, not really, I think to myself, but I don’t really want to have that argument with that person.) Our society is not all white, so to have a show that consists of nothing but white actors is not representative. Same thing for sexuality.
This isn’t a situation that will ever fix itself on its own. Producers are going to make shows that bring in cash, and simple shows are what sells. They aren’t going to make shows that get low ratings, because the networks won’t buy them. Writers can have all the ideas in the world, but if other people don’t find them interesting, what does it matter?
My only suggestion is this: That the writers keep on writing, and trying to get their ideas out there. Because there will be some good ones, some that will get picked up by some fluke, and we can continue to inspire at least some of the new generations to think critically.