Okay, so if I am in the mood to start a friendly row on Facebook, I like to jokingly generalize that there are two kinds of people in the world: Star Trek people and Star Wars people. It’s kind of true, though! Usually, even though there are a select few mythical creatures who swear they enjoy each movie franchise equally, if you put it to somebody to choose one they’d have to live on a deserted island with, assuming there is a flat screen, BluRay player, and electricity on this island, most people are going to choose one over the other.
Given that J.J. Abrams was involved with the Star Trek reboot and Star Wars Episode VII, I have to admit, the last couple of ST flicks have felt more Star Wars-y in nature because of all the flashy effects and sets. I actually didn’t really enjoy Into Darkness, mostly because I am a huge fan of the Khan storyline (beginning with TOS “Space Seed” episode) and thought that the plot was a missed opportunity in favor of effects and also phoned it in relying on fans’ allegiance to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It felt like more like glorified fan fiction. But. Interestingly enough, I have found that Star Wars fans enjoy the reboot more than any of the originals. I digress.
Anyway, because I am a well-known fan of Star Trek, I am often tagged in social media on ST related posts, particularly when especially rabid Star Wars fans are feelin’ themselves all close to a new movie release, demanding I justify my allegiance to ST when y’know, light sabers, duh. So, I’m going to finally put it to rest, my top three reasons why I prefer ST to SW and then we can all go return to our business anticipating going to see the new SW flick on Christmas this year.
Reason #1: Star Wars isn’t really sci-fi.
Okay, okay, that’s a bit hasty. I’ll just say it’s not true sci-fi and I consider SW to be science-fantasy. SW is kinda like watching LOTR in space. The Force? Magic. Light sabers? Magic staffs to do battle with other wizards…I mean Jedi and/or Sith. Death Star? Saruman’s tower. If you squint your eyes, Ewoks kinda look like hobbits…should I go on?? Okay, I will. Every SW non-human character, wookies and Yodas included look like something fresh outta the Jim Henson Creature Shop. Which is ironic because odds are, they are. Also, there isn’t ever really an explanation of how the technology works or if it's consistent…I mean you do have androids and robots, space ships and weaponry, but they’re used as stock characters, gags, and props. And could just as easily be replaced with elves and orcs, magic sailboats, and spells. Not much if anything in SW tech possesses believable applicability, which for me is an indicator that this isn’t true sci-fi. ST on the other hand is responsible for inspiring much of the technology we use today including cellphones, e-readers, Skype, tasers, voice recognition software, and more! But before you get all huffy, I have the same beef with Doctor Who and I still love the stuffing out of the Doctor and his magic wand…er…sonic screwdriver.
Reason #2: The Hi-Ho-Hi-Ho, it’s the Ho-Hum-Here-We-Go-Again Plot
In general, the plot to SW movies are built to cater to the widest berth of audience possible, meaning that complexity, nuance, subtext, all vanish. Star Wars plots, like most of mainstream popular sci-fi storylines (The Matrix, Avatar, Hunger Games etc.) typically on the theory of the “monomyth” or The Hero’s Journey, an archetypal pattern of storytelling, myth, ritual, etc., coined by Joseph Campbell that looks like this:
Again, while this plot cycle is fun to watch, it is enjoyable because it’s familiar and doesn’t necessarily challenge the viewer in any way. It’s unoriginal and easily replicated which gives plenty of room to distract the viewer with special effects and sweeping alien landscapes.
Reason #3: Conventions. And not the sort you attend for cosplay.
Branching off of #2, for me SW does nothing to challenge convention with complicated characters or complex storylines. In the SW universe, men are glorified gunslingers and women always seem to end up lightweight damsels in distress no matter how strong they first appear, and people of color are always marginalized. While there is no doubt that there are some powerful female moments, emphasis on the word: moments, and notable minority characters that make cameos here and there, the prominent convention that white heteronormative males are here to save the day persists. I prefer ST because while it is not free of its own conventions (particularly the fearless, charismatic male leader thing), there is at least a persistent attempt to be more inclusive by portraying women and people of color consistently in prominent roles of leadership with complex storylines that reflect the challenges and triumphs of modern day social stratification. While ST is utopic in nature (doing away with poverty, war), in terms of subject matter, each of the series and films tackle relatable, larger contemporary issues we go through here on Earth, related to racism, gender, sexism, technological advancement, and environmentalism and even deal with clinical depression, addiction and substance abuse, codependency, etc. played out through a spectrum of characters. The epic sweeping nature of “good” versus “evil” of SW is played for me because it is predictable. You can basically take your entire frontal lobe offline while watching. Which means Disney wants to buy your franchise because more monies, not just for the flicks but for all the subsequent paraphernalia you can purchase.
Tangentially related, I will add one concession to all of this…the Star Wars franchise makes more appealing LEGOS sets. Happy?
Alright. There you have it. My top three. Discuss.