Television programs and movies have a commanding ability to influence society, both at the sociological and individual level. People don’t just become addicted to their favorite franchises, they become part of them. They see themselves as an extension of a fantasy world which they subliminally think exists, and through that, they channel their own dreams and fantasies.
But the programs and films with the most influence on their followers are by far of the fantasy and Science Fiction genres. Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are prominent examples. So are Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica. But the most prolific geek machine of them all is without a doubt the Star Trek Franchise. Created by TV producer Gene Roddenberry and billed as a sort of “Wagon Train to the Stars”, Star Trek envisioned a sort of humanist utopia where society’s most idealistic views as to where it should be are finally realized. Now, as the basis for a story, I would say that is fine in itself. But some people want to take things much further than that.
Very recently, I watched a documentary film on the life and times of hard-core Star Trek fans, called ‘Trekkies.’ Focusing on the lives of the most obsessed Trekkies, I must say that it is one of the more interesting documentary films that I have watched to date. And it demonstrates quite profoundly the extreme amount of almost religious fervor that many of these people have for this highly influential science fiction franchise.
When you watch the film, one can instantly see why these pious followers are deemed to be extreme nerds by the rest of society. A few of them even fitted the nerd stereotype rather well. One rather myopic dude had huge face-hugging glasses with lenses so thick, that if an Asteroid were to smack into the Earth, he’d be the first to tell everyone about it, because he could see it coming from Pluto. And another rather socially Awkward guy buttoned his shirt right to the very top.
But one of the more interesting characters I saw was a woman who attended jury duty Dressed up in a Starfleet uniform, complete with the gizmos and all. I immediately felt awkward for her. And quite sorry for her as well. Actually, I felt both awkward and sorry for almost every one of these fanatics in the film.
And, of course, she wasn’t the only one dressed up in the garb. Throughout the film, you can see people dressed up in uniform in everyday situations, from sci-fi conventions, through to workplaces, and even out and about in the general public. People dressed as Klingons, Vulcans and assorted other aliens also pepper the film with a diverse range of obsession and outright mediocrity. Some went as far as to do up their vehicle to resemble a small spacecraft. Others even practiced dentistry whilst also indulging in their make-believe fantasy.
But the hero worship doesn’t just stop at Mr Spock impersonators. The attendance rate at some of these conventions is insanely colossal. From the perspective of those on the stage, some of them could only be described as resembling an entire page from a ‘Where’s Wally’ book. This clearly wasn’t just a casual gathering of fans; this was a religious pilgrimage, a type of religious service if you will. With all the signage out front, the local high school football team, in theory, would have had a field day, pardon the pun. There were more potential wedgies, wet willies, noogies and Chinese burns in one room than in the entire history of school yards.
And the calls for these people to get a life, is actually quite valid. They like to talk about how they are representatives of the United Federation of Planets, when in reality they are more like the United Federation of Misfits. Some of them even claimed to have come from another planet. They were right on that one.
In spite of the fact that Trekkies, and sci-fi/fantasy fans in general, will often take their passions a little too far, it must also be pointed out that there is nothing wrong with liking a particular television program, movie or franchise. And that includes Star Trek. Whatever floats your boat. Turning up to a Star Wars premiere dressed as a Storm Trooper or Wookie is perhaps pushing it. Learn to speak Klingon and you’ve completely lost the plot. Where things really start to cross the line is when people cross over the reality/fantasy threshold and psychologically ostracize themselves from the rest of humanity. That is where the danger lies.