So it is now June and I have not yet blogged about 2016 being Star Trek’s 50th anniversary year! I will take a walk of nerd shame later on to atone. Anyway, as we head into the summer convention season, there will be much Trek celebrating on my part and on the part of my fan community. As you are most likely aware, Star Trek Beyond is hitting theaters in July, so Paramount/CBS are doing the promotional thing, but as a non-fan of the new Trek movies, I am most excited about honoring the franchise and all my favorite characters throughout the next six months. I actually started that process in April at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC! I gotta say, living less than an hour from the city that never sleeps brings with it huge perks. TFF ran from April 13 to 24 and hosted loads of premieres, panel discussions and star power as usual. One film that I was particularly interested in, obviously, was the documentary For the Love of Spock, made by Leonard Nimoy’s son, Adam Nimoy and featuring tributes to the pop culture icon from Star Trek stars, executives, and celebrity fans as well as the impact Spock has had on all of us in the Trek fan community. The documentary is excellent, and as it makes its way across the country via screenings and becomes available for download on social media and streaming platforms, I highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in science fiction.
Spock is perhaps the biggest symbol of what Star Trek stands for, and meant so much to so many fans. In fact, a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, which is the most-watched show on television at the moment, featured Adam Nimoy and The Next Generation’s Wil Wheaton stopping by to interview Sheldon because he is such an enormous Spock fan! I thought that was a cute addition and tie-in with TBBT; Sheldon was indeed present in the documentary, as was Jim Parsons. I was also very, very excited to see the footage from last year’s Star Trek: Las Vegas convention and two of my friends especially, Heather Barker and Claire Little! Claire was my co-panelist on my literature panel, so I was super excited to see the ladies of fandom representing! I’m sure they will screen it at this year’s 50th celebration and we will all cheer like mad when we see the halls of the Rio and all our friends. Meanwhile, I cheered very loudly for them in NYC, hope they heard me!
After the film screened, there was a panel involving Adam, Zachary Quinto, film critic Scott Mantz, the documentary’s producer David Zappone, and Variety’s Gordon Cox. They all commented on the sentiments in the film, Nimoy’s struggle post-Trek, and Adam further expanded on their estrangement. They then took questions from the audience, and I am happy to say that I asked the first question! You can watch the panel here on Tribeca’s blog, and you will hear me ask about how the cultural tide has turned – where we were mocked as nerds growing up as Trek fans, now it is cool to like comics and science fiction and be a fan. Quinto was pretty pessimistic about it, which I wasn’t expecting, but what he said is true – studios and corporations realized they could make money off nerds. I mean, they’ve still barely managed to recognize that women are fans (mad props to Ashley Eckstein and Her Universe for breaking that market open) but they have finally licensed the bejeezus out of every piece of merchandise they can. While I respect the truth of Quinto’s answer, that wasn’t really what I was going for when I asked about the cultural tide.
A recent article on Hitfix by pop culture analyst Drew McWeeny discusses a few current issues within fandom and nerd culture, namely the propensity for insulting our fellow nerd brethren on the internet, which is of course a huge frakking problem. Not to brush it aside because it is a a very serious problem that I frequently address in groups and with my fellow lady geeks, but another sentiment from Drew’s article struck me. He says that “when I look at the landscape of pop culture right now, there is no argument anyone can reasonably muster that positions nerd culture as outsider culture. We are not the underdogs, and we have not been the underdogs in a long time.” That is what I meant when I asked about the shift in my being ridiculed for loving Star Trek and The X-Files to telling all these baby nerds that my fandoms were the embryonic stages of what you know as fandom today – and how cool is that?! Fandom is cool. Tumblr is cool (Tumblr is also a spinning vortex of stress, but that is another post). Having something you love is cool! Yes, part of that is studios making superhero movies look all shiny awesome, and Target selling Darth Vader t-shirts. But another part of it is that a whole bunch of people have accepted their geek flag and let it fly, from the wild success of Penny Arcade and Wil Wheaton to mainstreaming nerd culture on The Big Bang Theory and Game of Thrones. As Scully stated back in the day, smart is sexy (tell me which ep and you get a prize!). We’re celebrating smart people like Neil DeGrasse Tyson and the Obamas and Amy Schumer, plus TED talks are the rage. The geek shall inherit the Earth – and we have.
All of the above are reasons why a documentary about Spock is important and necessary. So many people looked to Star Trek as a source of hope in their persecuted lives, and persecution still exists in a big way – this election and the vile candidates on the Republican side are evidence of that – so that hope is still necessary. We’ll never achieve Star Trek utopia, but just as the Cold War ended and the Civil Rights movement pushed our nation forward, so too will other movements in the future. With the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, LBGT rights have seen unprecedented support in the past five years alone. Progress is happening, more slowly than some of us would like and way too fast for those mired in backward thinking. With a new Star Trek series coming in January 2017, showrunner Bryan Fuller and his team will have an opportunity to make new Trek for the modern era, dealing with issues of morality that we face today. I feel like there is perhaps a chance to touch on climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, perhaps even Occupy Wall Street and 99-percenters. The topics available are myriad, and I’m sure that new, talented writers are incredibly excited to get their hands on this universe and bring us the progressive vision of Star Trek once again.
I look forward to what we will see in 2017, the first Star Trek series to premiere in over 10 years. With the franchise’s 50th birthday and the outpouring of emotion that took place last year when Nimoy passed away, not to mention the culture of nostalgia that seems to show no sign of stopping, Star Trek has a unique opportunity here to make great television and bring back Roddenberry’s vision while making updates necessary for our present society – like LGBT characters, conflict among the senior staff, and more women in positions of agency. One thing is sure – Spock and Nimoy would approve.
Next week I’ll announce my Star Trek convention schedule and all the panels I’ll be hosting this summer! I can’t wait to share them with you – until then, take to Twitter and let me know if you’ve had a chance to see For the Love of Spock. What did you think?