WARNING: COARSE LANGUAGE.
For those of me who know me very well, and for a long time, this statement could come across as very surprising.
Ditto for some of you who visit this site as followers. I usually write about homelessness and employment issues on my blog.
To understand the title of this blog post —- and why I have a change of heart regarding a franchise that I once adored since my childhood—- I need to give you a peek into my childhood, and then move forward from there.
I got picked on a lot as a little kid for two reasons.
The first was I was a runt, and still am a runt. I’m shorter than most men, I have a slight build, and I lack alpha male tendencies. I’m not someone who believes that might is right. I’m a talker, a supporter, a negotiator when I deal with others. I try to make my stay on this world as painless as possible for those I deal with.
The second was my last name. Gay. You might find it odd reading that it’s an issue but you’re dealing with the context of the present time. During the 1960s and 1970s, homosexuality was on the DSM books (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a sexual deviancy and a mental disorder.
So combine those two points — a runty kid with a scary sick last name — and I can tell you my school life from Grade 6 to Grade 12 was not a pleasant one. These times had an impact on shaping me as a person growing up, both good and bad. Let’s focus on the good and leave the bad for another day.
These tough times made me more compassionate towards others. It strengthened my support for the police and for good government. It reinforced a belief that violence in society as an agent of change was wrong and I am glad to see that point has been validated in this now much more violent and terrifying world we live in. Most important, it made me a staunch advocate for respecting our differences in a diverse and inclusive society where we don’t leave people behind.
All of this was encapsulated in Star Trek.
Star Trek offered a future where there was no war, no poverty, no hunger, no hatred, no discrimination. Each member of the crew of the Enterprise in the “Original Series” were from different parts of Earth —- except for one particular pointy-eared alien who was from another planet — but were still able to come together as one to take on each challenge and win.
Roddenberry was a sneaky little bugger. He posed social issues like racism, poverty, morality and others in a science fiction framework. In the episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, he did not explicitly mention white racism towards blacks but showed how wrong it was to make an issue over cultural or ethnic divisions. “A Private Little War” showcased how easy it was, and how wrong it was, to play the game of global political chess by arming sides in any country.
Spock was my favourite character because, like myself, he was an outsider and a misfit. He stood out. He was kinda geeky and nerdy. The only difference between this fictional alien and myself was that he was wanted, appreciated, and accepted.
How I wanted to be like Spock. How I lost myself in that world. It got me through that tough childhood, because I believed one day things would be just like Star Trek. This was just another hurdle in how imperfect we were as humans. We’ll get better.
By the time I went to college, things did get better. Homosexuality was no longer considered a deviation and society as a whole became more tolerant. My dealings with others was as adults with more mature and open minds. Still, Star Trek remained a part of my life and my development. Through the series run for “The Next Generation”, it showed what we could all become in the future by showing us what was wrong today. It wasn’t just good science fiction fun, but a blueprint of what was to come in the form of a good story told.
Something went wrong, and it happened in the 1990s.
Maybe it was because of the hangover we got from the heady 1980’s but society became more pessimistic. Blame culture was on the rise, on both sides of the political ideologue. We became distrustful of the police and government and less likely to believe that politicians represented the will of the electorate. While it can be argued there’s reason for this, the rot that nibbled away at following the rules and obeying the law was still there.
Star Trek became to change to reflect that time, most notably in “Deep Space Nine”. It was dark, somewhat horrific at times, and fraught with controversial subject matter. Captain Kirk would never consider lying on a galactic scale to achieve the needed means, no matter the cost. Nor would Captain Picard. Captains Janeway and Sisko however had no compunction in doing this, the most notable example being “In the Pale Moonlight” where Sisko, with the assistance of less savory characters and the blessings of a Federation desperately trying to avoid being conquered by the Dominion in a losing war, forges fabricated material to bring a former enemy — the Romulans — into the battle and ultimately saved the good guys. Clearly a far cry from the days of the Original Series.
Star Trek went away after the turn of the century for a bit, and later returned but only in name. The rebooted movies under J.J. Abrams was little more than an Avengers movie set in space. I have no problems with the Avengers, as that franchise never was meant to be social commentary, but the reboot featured a Captain Kirk that whined and naval gazed often and a Spock who kissed Uhura, lost his emotional shit often, and punched.
“Discovery” and “Picard” continued with the bad writing and the peeing on canon, but also featured crew members that fought often among each other, sometimes beyond what would be considered appropriate Starfleet and Federation behaviour.
Add into the mix the aforementioned blame culture in the form of social justice warriors, the same bunch that has ruined Marvel’s previously successful line of comics. In these shows, someone who is racist or sexist — something that should be impossible in Star Trek’s universe by now — is without question a white male. The Federation now not only lacks cohesion as a united body of worlds, it’s also protectionist. Star Trek went from slyly presenting social issues without present world context to explicitly mirroring what was wrong now in what should have been a perfect future. In the Discovery and Picard era of Trek, war, hunger, poverty, hatred, is not only still around, but it had someone to blame it on — and it wasn’t the Klingons, Romulans or Borg this time.
Star Trek went from a blueprint of what an attainable Utopia should be, and must be, to a mirror of what sucks in today’s society. There is no optimism. There is no hope. There is no tolerance. It’s just today’s messed up times but enhanced with CGI graphics and mass marketing.
It’s the marketing part that finally nailed the coffin for my love of Star Trek and replaced it with hate. Star Trek used to be available to all who had access to local broadcasting and later with cable. Even the low income could watch it and like myself find escape into a bright and glorious future from their social hell. Not any more. “Discovery”, “Picard”, and now the upcoming “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.” (see above image) can only be accessed behind an expensive paywall.
In short, Trek has now become something only those with money can watch.
I’ve been told that this incarnation of Trek is canon, it’s “real Star Trek”, and that I should get over it.
I can do better. If this is now Star Trek, and the futuristic world where poverty, homelessness, war, racial strife, and hope is no more, where people refuse to get along and work together, and all of this behind a paywall, then I hate it. I hate Star Trek because that’s not what I think the future should be like.
What my own personal fortunes will one day be like.
Thanks for reading.