Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Star Trek vs. Star Wars; Liberal vs. Conservative

John Hood expresses the view that Star Trek is a liberal franchise and Star Wars is a conservative franchise:

• In Star Trek, law enforcement is armed with phasers. Officers stun people, then lock them up, then subject them to intensive psychiatry until they are “cured” of their criminal impulses. In Star Wars, law enforcement under the Galactic Republic appears to be the job of Jedi Knights who try to avoid violence but, if pressed, will cut you in half with a light saber.

• In Star Trek, evil characters are frequently considered to be the product of a poor environment, a bad childhood, misunderstanding, or miscommunication. It turns out that Captain Kirk and the other original cast members just didn’t understand the Klingons, for example, or the Romulans. The Gorn, a lizard-like race that does a Pearl Harbor on the Federation and kills many innocent people, are later excused from culpability because they say that they saw peaceful Federation colonists as “invaders” in their territory. Killer clouds of space gas or giant space amebas threatening the lives of billions turn out to be lost children or mindless things just trying to survive. Even the Borg, a great source of villainy from The Next Generation, are humanized in subsequent stories.

In Star Wars, evil characters have been seduced by the dark side of the Force. They have given into temptation, and are held accountable for their actions. The Star Wars movies are really morality tales, and have a strong religious component in spite of themselves. No one argues that Sith Lords might have turned out differently if they had just been enrolled in a quality preschool program.

Do you agree? Why or why not?

UPDATE: James Rummel offers his own answer to the question. Thanks for the link, James!

12 comments:

Jeff the Baptist said...

I disagree. Both are liberal franchises. Both Roddenberry and Lucas are huge hippies. It just shows up worse in Star Trek because Gene built his future as a liberal wet dream while George built his as melding of modern myth and saturday serial.

Rich said...

http://www.slashfilm.com/2009/06/05/cool-stuff-may-the-best-prequel-win-t-shirt/

(if I new how to paste that pic here directly, I would)

Actually, judging by many fans of either franchise, they both serve as a "wet dream." In fact, any franchise apparently can produce orgasmic delight when viewed in that light. I recall my own beaming pleasure when I finally obtained a good quality DVD of "Atragon." More recently, Harry Potter has produced a very similar reaction.

I think a liberal audience will react in a liberal way, while a conservative audience will react in a conservative fashion, regardless of the actual show. My own familiarity is with Star Trek, and I easily concede the point. The case that comes to mind first is the girl-girl lesbian kiss by Terry Farrell (Jadzia Dax DS9). Conservative viewers were up in arms about it, and caused quit a stink about family values. I don't recall hearing too much from the liberals at that time, but in my experience much of the Star Trek fanbase seems to be fairly liberal (if not directly libertine).

And as for Star Trek being conservative: do I need to remind readers of the first inter-racial kiss ever on American TV? ;-)

But I will grant this: Star Trek is decidedly grounded in a philosophy of non-violence as "the better way." Perhaps it would be good to say that Trek is socially liberal while conservative in some aspects, such as "law and order"?

John said...

I think that the modern liberalism of Trek is pretty obvious, but I'm not sure about Star Wars. Other than the classical liberalism of Republic vs. Empire, I don't see it. But I'll admit to being less familiar with that franchise.

John said...

But I will grant this: Star Trek is decidedly grounded in a philosophy of non-violence as "the better way."


Picard could be eye-rollingly multilateral and semi-pacifist at times, whereas Kirk was decidedly trigger-happy. At least in comparison.

One noticeable change between TOS and TNG was that Picard returned fire hesitantly, and usually only measured shots. It was assumed that the Enterprise-D was essentially going to win any fight that it committed itself to. In a similar manner, the US military operates under restrictive rules of engagement that would be self-destructive if applied to a conflict against a foe of equal capability.

I saw the Dominion War as a corrective measure to this problem -- the introduction of a foe that could stand toe-to-toe with the Federation. In the latter stages of the war, Starfleet didn't hesitate to seize any advantage, shoot first, shoot to kill, and ask questions later.

John said...

(if I new how to paste that pic here directly, I would)


Hmm. Blogger is rejecting the flickr embed HTML code, so I don't know.

Dan Trabue said...

Did Brother Luke not refuse to believe that his father was wholly bad? Did he not refuse to fight him, and his belief in the Good in his enemy overcame the Bad?

James R. Rummel said...

I really don't think there is any doubt that Star Trek is a Liberal fantasy, but I also don't think there is any doubt that Star Wars is as well.

You are too young to remember the 1960's. It was a disgusting time.

A large majority of the anti-war protesting, Establishment hating, socially disruptive crowd were trying to develop super powers. And they thought they could get them through sex and drugs.

They would drop acid, take meth, gulp down downers in order to develop "Cosmic Consciousness". Get in tune with the universe. Become One with the All. Become aware of their feelings, and the feelings of others. Break the 4th Dimension and see into the future.

Sound like Jedis, right? I was about to write that it was lucky they didn't have access to lightsaber tech, but they would probably have killed each other off if they did.

They wanted to acquire psychic powers so they could tell what everyone was feeling. Obviously, they sensed great anger in me.

Some might say that this is not a Liberal fantasy. How is illegal drug use a Conservative fantasy?

Besides, when we dream of becoming super heroes, we dream of becoming Iron Man. Rich, powerful, admired. A captain of industry. A captain of industry with a skin tight flying battle tank!

Take that, Hippies!

Rich said...

I enjoyed reading Rummel's post. His viewpoint is indeed one less-often voiced. Although with the internet, age is less reliably determined, I am very willing to listen. In this case, it made me re-examine things a bit, which is a process I enjoy.

Anyway, it occured to me that in the same matter that many political conservatives will differentiate various liberal ideas included as "fiscally conservative and socail liberal" I suggest we look at ST and SW in a similar fashion. Especailly in ST, I am reminded of many socially liberal aspects.

Would you agree?

And I have a favor to ask from Star Wars fans. What social taboos has Star Wars challanged? I am less familiar with SW, but I have already spoken a bit concerning the cross-racial kiss with Uhura in ST.

Jeff the Baptist said...

For that matter most of the imagery of Rebellion vs. Empire was developed entirely from the Vietnam War. The empire was highly mechanized like the US while the Rebels were much more like the Vietcong. Except for the routine murder and such...

And this isn't supposition, Lucas has stated that this is was a deliberate choice made during the filming of original movies.

Chris Byrne said...

I left this same comment over at Rummels place.

Star Wars as conservative? Not even close.

Star Wars is a CLASSIC example of the science fiction trope of enlightened elitist fascism.

Hell, there are serious, scholarly works going through this exact subject.

As for Star Trek, I don’t think it’s really a liberal ideal, it’s more like the post scarcity economy ideal.

That isn’t leftism, it’s just incompatible with the conception of capitalism as we know if today, which is based on scarcity of all inputs. In a post scarcity economy, the only scarcity in inputs is brainpower.

That changes almost every possible value calculation.

John said...

Jeff the Baptist wrote:

For that matter most of the imagery of Rebellion vs. Empire was developed entirely from the Vietnam War. The empire was highly mechanized like the US while the Rebels were much more like the Vietcong. Except for the routine murder and such...


And this isn't supposition, Lucas has stated that this is was a deliberate choice made during the filming of original movies.



That is simply fascinating. I had never heard this before.

It should go without saying that the comparison between the two sides of the Vietnam War is simply disgusting.

Cybrludite said...

A better choice for conservative or libitarian sci-fi would be Firefly. I'm sure Joss twitches convulsively every time someone says it, but it's a much better fit than either Trek or Star Wars.