In the wake of my review recently, I had a lot of great responses both here and on Facebook from fans and non-fans alike. It appears that the piece opened up a good dialogue about the subject of Trek-fandom and their disdain for the Abramsverse. What I found out, and I really kind of knew this, is that there is a segment of the fandom that really didn’t like the first film for all of the goofiness and, well, f*cking with the established history of the franchise, but don’t necessarily hate the film or the Abramsverse. They’re skeptical of the new film, but they aren’t the butt-hurt, hater crowd. I just want to make clear that my criticism of the negative attitude by a certain segment of the fanbase is by no means a criticism overall of fans who are skeptical and have issues with a lot of the goofy shit present in both of the Abrams films. After all, there’s seriously a lot of goofy shit in both of these films (more blatantly in the first) and I wouldn’t expect fans to not take issue with them or to dismiss them out-of-hand.
I recently noted that that it had just dawned on me that the aft-end of the nacelles (engines) on the Enterprise in Star Trek (2009) glowed (and glowed brighter when the engines were “revving up”) and how as a Trek fan that annoyed the piss out of me because Roddenberry was insistent on the fact that the propulsion methods should not bare any resemblance to contemporary methods of propulsion, i.e., nothing coming out of the tailpipe. This is why the end-caps went from having all of those little round vents on them in the first pilot to just being those round globes during production.
That’s an important detail that the producers just ignored. To make matters worse, what did they do with the engines this time? F*cking CONTRAILS.
Then something very unexpected occurred: I realized those contrails looked bad-ass. Yes, they are in complete contradiction with everything I know about the franchise, but eff me if they don’t look wicked awesome and if I think that (considering I hate the concept in general) you damned-well know that the non-Trek fan in the audience thinks so, too. And that’s kind of where I think a lot of us fans stand. There’s a bit of self-loathing going on and guilt, here. “I shouldn’t like this but I do,” and that’s what kind of made me realize that you have to take these films in from the objective perspective of someone who’s just being introduced to the franchise… or just likes kickass action films. The foundation for the principles of the franchise are certainly there even of they eff up some of (or a lot of) the details of the minutiae but, on that note, Ron D. Moore does make a very good point that it is that minutiae that has contributed to making the franchise inaccessible to new audiences.
What I think has made it difficult for the fanbase in general to not be skeptical was the shock over the destruction of Vulcan in the first film. That hit me like a ton of bricks because of how integral Vulcan is to the mythology and because there wasn’t even any setup to get us prepared for it. It was like, “Pew, pew, pew… BOOM… Vulcan’s gone.”
That being said, having issues with the goofy shit is normal. Being cautious is normal, but I have to tell you that there really is a certain segment of the fandom that has hated this new vision of Trek since the Vegas Trek Convention of 2008 when Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy were on stage on the last day discussing it and warning the fans that it’s going to be different but they’re going to like it. This carried on through December of 2008 when more and more details were starting to come out and the chorus of hate was reaching a fever-pitch… even though they had not seen a single frame of the film. That just seemed absurd to me and it especially seems absurd when I see the irrational hate spewed at this new film by the fans who hate it for the sake of hating it at this point. I get skepticism as a reaction to the first film, but the “haters” have the exact same complaints about this film that they did the first one (or they’re just contriving false criticism about the plot) and I don’t even know how one could rationally come to that considering how much better EVERYTHING is about the new film and how it actually felt like Star Trek.
Lens flares… seriously? Spock and Uhura having a relationship? It’s not Star Trek, it’s Star Wars? C’mon… seriously?
I’ve come to a conclusion about this irrational hatred toward the Abramsverse and I’m not saying that my conclusion is right or wrong, but it is something to consider. I have a feeling that this segment of the fanbase doesn’t want Star Trek to be popular. Whether they realize it or not, their issues have nothing to do with the quantifiable changes to the franchise, just the idea of change itself. Allow me to explain.
Star Trek, for better or worse, has a justly earned reputation for having a strong appeal for kids who were, shall we say, less than popular. A lot of these kids felt excluded by the more popular and athletic kids because they were different. These “nerdy kids” were smarter, they were more intuitive, they were more curious, they were more creative and they were also socially awkward and they were non-conformists. There’s nothing worse than being a non-conformist during elementary and high school.
Then they found Star Trek which provided an outlet for their personalities and interests as well as an escape but more importantly they found a community of other like-minded folks to belong to, and that’s very important for all human beings. Star Trek is theirs and theirs alone and I can tell you from my own personal experience, the Trek fandom that was excluded socially easily transitioned to becoming the excluders when they found their niche.
I wasn’t always a Star Trek fan, I became one in 1997 because of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. When I was growing up, I was a casual viewer. I would watch Star Trek and then Star Trek: The Next Generation when it happened to be on but I wasn’t ever scheduling time to watch the franchise. I enjoyed it but my life certainly didn’t revolve around it. I was 18 when Star Trek: Generations came out and I was at a friend’s house on opening night and some of his friends had come over who had just seen the new film. Even if you weren’t a Trek fan, you knew that the big deal in that film was the “rumor” of the death of Kirk. When I casually asked one of these guys whether or not Kirk was killed, I was given a response something along the lines of, “Yeah, but it’s complicated… the Nexus, blah, blah, blah…” with eye-rolling and dismissive short responses pretty much implying, “You’re not a Trek fan, you wouldn’t understand and I’m not explaining it you.” To sum it up, instead of embracing my interest in Trek, they basically rejected me from their clique the same way they had been rejected socially… which was a mistake because I was good at getting girls and booze… which they weren’t good at.
And this is kind of the attitude that I’m reminded of and I’m seeing, now. These same people who bitched (and still do) relentlessly about what producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga did to the franchise in the mid-to-late 90′s and into the 00′s want to see Trek in 2013 go back to those days. Not because it was better, but because it was their exclusive domain. They may hate Rick Berman (which is something that Berman alludes to on the Star Trek: Enterprise Season One Blu-ray Special Features and seems very taken back and upset by even to this day about) for being “the sonofabitch who ruined the franchise” (a sentiment that I believe is unfair, in general… there were many factors involved) but he’s their sonofabitch.
Trek is their club and it shall not be interfered with by that Star Wars lover and non-fan J.J. Abrams and the legions of other non-fans that now like it. As I noted, my wife liked the first film and her interest in Star Trek is so beyond limited that when it’s on, she stares at the screen like one of those magic eye pictures waiting for the sailboat to appear and the last thing a Trek fan wants is for pretty women to like it (despite the fact that if they cleaned off the coke-bottle glasses off and opened their flippin’ eyes they’d notice that there are plenty of hot Star Trek fans right at their damned conventions). They want Trek to be just popular enough that it only gets other Star Trek fans involved.
Well, unfortunately for them, this is an absurd goal because as I pointed out in the review, there simply aren’t anywhere close to being enough of us to support the franchise and keep it successful. Trek has to make its tent bigger in order to survive and if that means tearing down a lot of the established aspects of the franchise and introducing more ‘splosions and action, well that’s just a reality that has to be accepted or we’ll lose Trek forever. Sorry, but the best thing for Trek to be successful is that it has to get fans of Star Wars (which is pretty much everyone) to watch it. Historically, it has been rare to find Star Trek fans that weren’t also fans of Star Wars. On the other hand, however, it was rarer yet to find Star Wars fans who were also fans of Star Trek. There’s a reason why that has held true until recently and it comes down to accessibility.
At its core, the principles and concepts of Trek have been able to find mass-appeal for more than 46 years regardless of race, creed, age, income level, educational level, sexual orientation… whatever. The issues the franchise has had to overcome have been in regards to execution in production, not theory or principles. And that’s really, at this point, what the major changes have been about; how Trek goes about telling its stories and from my perspective, if telling Trek’s stories in a manner that appeals to all audiences requires an execution more like that of Star Wars and less like that of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, that’s what needs to be done and it should be embraced by all of us… provided that the finished product isn’t total shit.