Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Firefly Fans vs. Star Trek Fans +

Back to Firefly vs. Star Trek for a moment. The question I'm asking isn't really about the absolute value of either franchise, or their relative values to each other. Both had good features and bad.

What I find interesting enough to pursue it is why serious Firefly fans in particular seem especially eager to bash Star Trek. It's puzzling. I don't see anyone arguing that Firefly is crap... so why get so defensive about it as to try to make it look better by snarking at Star Trek?

I find it interesting that Star Trek fans don't seem to have anywhere near the same need to try to make their science-fictional TV/movie entertainment of choice look better by devaluing some other SF. As I said, about the closest they ever come is the occasional Star Trek vs. Star Wars bull session where Star Trek fans describe Star Wars as "science fantasy"... a charge that even Star Wars fans generally don't rise to dispute.

As for whether regular entertainment critics level the same charges at Star Trek that the hardcore Firefly fans produce, with two exceptions to the list I provided earlier I don't agree that they do. Those two exceptions are the "social utopia" and "no money" (i.e., statist economy) objections, which do seem to give most people some amount of heartburn. (Though possibly Americans more so than others.) The other criticisms -- the accusations of hierarchicalism, militarism, paternalism, and in general an insufficiency of feminism -- these aren't perceptions that the general public have of Star Trek. But they are claimed over and over again against Star Trek by the really dedicated Firefly fans, along with the charges of "bad science" and "2D characters."

(Classic examples of this kind of stuff can be found in two volumes of essays edited by Whedon associate Jane Espenson: Finding Serenity and Serenity Found. Go read the stuff in these volumes and then tell me that the serious Firefly fan doesn't have it in for Star Trek to a strangely unreasonable degree.)

What this suggests to me is that there's something special about fans of Firefly. Perhaps Joss Whedon's work in general, or Firefly in particular, attracts a certain kind of person, the kind of person who naturally sees the world in terms of these sorts of utopianist socio-political beliefs? Would it really be surprising if that were the case?

But if that were so, why would they be so antagonistic toward the fans of a show -- Star Trek -- that is even more utopianist than anything that Whedon has produced?

Maybe the bottom line here is just that Star Trek fans should feel pleased that for all the criticisms that the uberfans in the Firefly community have for Star Trek, they can't seem to stop talking about it....

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