From the wonky opening that brought you “Fuck you Star Trek fans” and “Phwooar, Princess Leia”, comes this … “Nerd culture is the product of a late capitalist conspiracy, designed to infantalize the consumer as a means of non-aggressive control.”
It has come to my attention (thank you google), that the excellent website, Io9 picked up on some controversial comments I made to the Radio Times, which can be summed up in the above headline. Now, maybe I was being a little bit trollish, I can be a bit of a Contrary Mary in interviews sometimes. When you do lots of them, you get sick of your own opinions and start espousing other people’s. Having said that, the idea of our prolonged youth is something I’ve been interested in for a very long time. It’s essentially what Spaced was about, at least in part.
One of the things that inspired Jessica and myself, all those years ago, was the unprecedented extension our generation was granted to its youth, in contrast to the previous generation, who seemed to adopt a received notion of maturity at lot sooner. The children of the 70s and 80s were the first generation, for whom it wasn’t imperative to ‘grow up’ immediately after leaving school. Why this happened is a whole other sociological discussion: a rise in the student population, progress in gender equality, the absence of world war; all these things and more contributed to this social evolution. What fascinated Jess and I was the way we utilised this time. For Tim and Daisy, not having to grow up in the way their parents did, simply meant a continuation of their childhood. For Daisy, it was the pursuit of her girlhood dreams and fantasies. For Tim, he channeled his childhood passions into his adult life, cared about them as much, invested in them, the same level of time, importance and emotion. His hobbies and interests defined who he was, rather than his professional status.
In the 18 years since we wrote Spaced, this extended adolescence has been cannily co-opted by market forces, who have identified this relatively new demographic as an incredibly lucrative wellspring of consumerist potential. Suddenly, here was an entire generation crying out for an evolved version of the things they were consuming as children. This demographic is now well and truly serviced in all facets of entertainment and the first and second childhoods have merged into a mainstream phenomenon.
Before Star Wars, the big Hollywood studios were making art movies, with morally ambiguous characters, that were thematically troubling and often dark (Travis Bickle dark, as opposed to Bruce Wayne dark)*. This was probably due in large part to the Vietnam War and the fact that a large portion of America’s young men were being forced to grow up very quickly. Images beamed back home from the conflict, were troubling and a growing protest movement forced the nation to question the action abroad. Elsewhere, feminism was still dismissed as a lunatic fringe by the patriarchal old guard, as mainstream culture actively perpetuated traditional gender roles. Star Wars was very much an antidote to the moral confusion of the war, solving the conundrum of who was good and who was evil. At the heart of the story was an ass kicking princess who must surely have empowered an entire generation of girls. It was a balm for a nation in crisis in a number of ways and such was that nation’s influence, the film became a global phenomenon.
Recent developments in popular culture were arguably predicted by the French philosopher and cultural theorist, Jean Baudrillard in his book, ‘America’, in which he talks about the infantilzation of society. Put simply, this is the idea that as a society, we are kept in a state of arrested development by dominant forces in order to keep us more pliant. We are made passionate about the things that occupied us as children as a means of drawing our attentions away from the things we really should be invested in, inequality, corruption, economic injustice etc. It makes sense that when faced with the awfulness of the world, the harsh realities that surround us, our instinct is to seek comfort, and where else were the majority of us most comfortable than our youth? A time when we were shielded from painful truths by our recreational passions, the toys we played with, the games we played, the comics we read. There was probably more discussion on Twitter about the The Force Awakens and the Batman vs Superman trailers than there was about the Nepalese earthquake or the British general election.
The ‘dumbing down’ comment came off as a huge generalisation by an A-grade asshorn. I did not mean that science fiction or fantasy are dumb, far from it. How could I say that? In the words of Han Solo, “Hey, it’s me!” In the last two weeks, I have seen two brilliant exponents of the genre. Ex Machina and Mad Max: Fury Road, both of which had my head spinning in different and wonderful ways and are both very grown up films (although Max has a youthful exuberance which is nothing’s short of joyous, thanks George Miller, 70) I’ve yet to see Tomorrowland but with Brad Bird at the helm, it cannot be anything but a hugely entertaining think piece.
I guess what I meant was, the more spectacle becomes the driving creative priority, the less thoughtful or challenging the films can become. The spectacle of Mad Max is underpinned not only multiple layers of plot and character but also by an almost lost cinematic sense of ‘how did they do that?’ The best thing art can do is make you think, make you re-evaluate the opinions you thought were yours. It’s interesting to see how a cerebral film maker like Christopher Nolan, took on Batman and made it something more adult, more challenging, chasing Frank Miller’s peerless Dark Knight into a slightly less murky world of questionable morality and violence. But even these films are ultimately driven by market forces and somebody somewhere will want to soften the edges, so that toys and lunch boxes can be sold. In that respect, Bruce Wayne’s fascistic vigilantism was never really held to account, however interesting Nolan doubtless found that idea. Did he have an abiding love of Batman or was it a means of making his kind of movie on the mainstream stage?
Fantasy in all its forms is probably the most potent of social metaphors and as such can be complex and poetic. No one could ever accuse Game of Thrones of being childish. George RR Martin clearly saw the swords and sorcery genre as a fertile means to express his musings on ambition, power and lust. Perhaps it milieu makes it more commercial though, would a straight up historical drama have lasted so long? Maybe Game of Thrones wouldn’t have been made at all ten years ago. A world without Game of Thrones?! if Baudrillard had predicted that, I probably would have dropped out of university and become a cobbler**.
The point of all this is just to get my position clear. I’m not out of the fold, my passions and preoccupations remain. Sometimes it’s good to look at the state of the union and make sure we’re getting the best we can get. On one hand it’s a wonderful thing, having what used to be fringe concerns, suddenly ruling the mainstream but at the same time, these concerns have also been monetised and marketed and the things that made them precious to us, aren’t always the primary concern (right, Star Trek TOS fans?)
Also, it’s good to ask why we like this stuff, what makes it so alluring, so discussed, so sacred. Do we channel our passion and indignation into ephemera, rather than reality? Not just science fiction and fantasy but gossip and talent shows and nostalgia and people’s arses. Is it right? Is it dangerous? Something to discuss over a game of 3D chess, perhaps.
Speaking of which I better climb aboard the old hypocropter and fly back to writing Star Trek Beyond.
- I love Science Fiction and fantasy and do not think it’s all childish.
- I do not think it is all generated by dominant forces as a direct means of control…much.
- I am still a nerd and proud.
Love and rockets,
p.s. Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan are also Stormtroopers in The Force Awakens.
*Those type of films are made today but not by big studios. Before Star Wars, SciFi and Fantasy were seen as B movie fodder, that the big studios were wary of. Alan Ladd Jnr really doesn’t get the credit he deserves for backing George Lucas.
**No disrespect to cobblers, I merely intended to allude to a profession that would not fill my days with fantasy. Not that cobblers can’t enjoy fantasy, they can. After all, some of them are magic elves who only come out at night to save a poor husband and wife from destitution. Surely a metaphor for the invisible underclass, enabling social mobility among the executive echelons of the pre war working class.
This entire misadventure reminded me of something Charlie Brooker said on one of his “Wipe” shows: “Calling Batman ‘the Dark Knight’ is like calling Papa Smurf ‘the Blue Patriarch’: you’re not fooling anyone.”
Which is to say, I agree with all the above.
if you analytically look at the star wars universe,the empire is a great representation of the USA today in my opinion. yes including the prequels (i hate them too)however the universe itself the empire was created through endless war, massive debt, and the government spying, turning neighbor against neighbor. also the first true rebels were labeled terrorists.
EXCELLLENT analysis, and kudos for your hatred of the US, it is really clever. It is a good thing we have so many other countries around the world that can claim a clean conscience over the past few hundred years like the UK can… um, I mean y’know, other European countries.. that weren’t.. involved in genocide or subjugation or anything ever.. I mean, y’know what I mean? But yeah, that Star Wars thing for sure, and maybe C3PO could be stoned to death for being a homosexual and Princess Leia could have acid thrown in her face for not minding her place.. It really DOES work..
Hatred of the U.S. ?? Where perchance did you find that little nugget in that post? You might need to get out a little more often, maybe meet some people. Take a chance, perhaps a girl will help you to open up, and not be so fearful. Give you a more open and rounded world view..? Trust me, it will help. Some time from now, we’ll look back on all this and be able to laugh about it, even you. Maybe you’ll be the first to crack the joke. I look forwards to it. In that other dimension, you already have!
By the way, have you ever heard of someone called Bill Hicks? Look him up, George Carlin won’t hurt you either.
Good luck, Mr H
Mr. H, if you’re going to write some nonsense you should at least stand by that nonsense when you’re called on. Poor form to pretend you didn’t mean what you meant.
to keep short as one of the few nonsheep i’m not sure how other than in the sense that the usa did not only start strong and at first help many it then 180’d its beliefs regardless of its people and then started to destroy itself…. you i feel more speak of the government controlling powers and those who blindly follow it. just in my humber opinoin…
also i desire no retort comment or reply.
That’s “woman”, not “girl”, unless you were suggesting he take up pedophilia, and it’s not our job to open you guys up. At some point you need to take responsibility for your own emotional lives, just like we have to do. Also learn some social skills.
(I say this as a geekly-inclined sort who has few social skills. But I recognize that as a *problem*.)
Hey, I’m from the UK and I completely and totally dispute…ummm…ooh look at this shiny thing
Hello, who let Rush Limbaugh in?
People keep harping on how evil the USA can behave because the USA apparently needs to be reminded frequently. Because otherwise we catch ourselves up in all sorts of self-aggrandizement over what an amazing and free and liberating nation we are.
Get your nose out of the sci-fi and wake up for five minutes. Preferably longer, but five would be a revolution.
cp30 is gay….but hes so butch….wot do gay androids dream of…gay sheep?
I agree, except I would extend the “Empire” to the Western World. Star Wars is actually a very clever movie, which is why it appeals to so many across the world regardless of their background.
These “rebels” were responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 civilians by bringing down the World Trade Center.
You sir, are a fucking blight on humanity by making such retarded comparisons.
Pretty sure he was referring to the British Empire referring to the original tea party in Boston Harbor as well as those involved in the events leading up to the Boston Massacre as terrorists. In the 1700s.
You know that 3,000 is a tiny fraction of the number of Iraqi civilians dead after the US war in Iraq, right?
Our Empire killed at least a hundred thousand Iraqis. Think we’ve avenged those 3000 yet?
Yes, and the rebels in star wars were responsible for the deaths of over 30,000,000 by bringing down the death star… whats your point?
Children are the greatest asset we have and we need more dreamers and I have to make a point that men like Stefan Molyneux has some things to say as to how we raise them. On the issue of government, listen to Adam Kokesh and Tom Woods. If we are to dream and make the future bright for everyone, it is not government to solve that of which it created the very issues we have but we individually and cooperatively need to be the rebels, the dreamers, the makers of the future. As a religious man I only have so much hope for us all but we need to help one another through voluntary corporation and rid the idea of being dependent upon the violence of the state which is a lot like the Empire in many ways, most are just not awake enough to see it for what it is behind the curtains. Humanity can be and do so much more. We need to be free from the chains of the centralized powers of the elite and rise above if we are to survive into the stars.
I got very bored reading this so I stopped. then felt the need to comment about it thus adding to the problem.
Kinda seems like you missed the point.
This post is about how *not* all works of fantasy and sci-fi are childish.
hay hey HEY! Do not try and tell me that I’m an adult, I won’t take it, I am childish and I watch childish things :-p
I child, therefore I am!
Well articulated, Mr. Pegg. Things got a little pear-shaped there for a minute, didn’t they? Thanks for all your fun and art which I do so enjoy.
Feminism is lunatic fringe.
“If we just avoid any more female advice, we ought to be able to get here.” ~Han Solo
Thank you for writing this thoughtful response. I couldn’t agree more. I am often criticized for paying too much attention to reality and the real injustices in this world. I am the only person I know who watches EuroNews for actual world news instead of the pablum and distractions broadcast in the US as “News”. The best entertainment is both an escape and challenging. “Smoothing the edges” is not new, nor is writing circular scripts that leave the audience as they started for “broader appeal” (commerce). The extended adolescence phenomenon is disturbingly evident in the US. Market forces feed of it.
I guess my own take is that as refreshingly thoughtful as I find this I think the critique could be extended further. Globalization is an equally important facet as the sort of infantilizing culture. Part of the reason for using existing properties like comic book characters (and sequelizing them to death) is that the global market for films has become much more important. It’s easier to sell films to China and other places with established franchises. That’s a far cry from the ’70s when movies like The French Connection had its success determined purely by domestic US sales, and overseas sales was an afterthought (much less revenue streams like DVD/Blu-Ray, streaming online services, etc. etc.).
I think you’ve hit on an interesting line of thought though. I just think the market forces involved are even more insidious and complex.
Good on you for such a classy response :)
I’ve enjoyed so much of your work, and I love spending hours ruminating over the incredible themes that scifi and fantasy can explore. But I think there is a solid grain of truth in your criticism- that we are a culture obsessed with what is intellectually comfortable. I don’t personally think it is limited to, or even best exemplified by such “childish” pursuits as sci fi and fantasy- in my experience, reality TV is much worse when it comes to blatant “I don’t care about Nepal” type escapism and “important topic” co-option.
Sadly such incredible (INCREDIBLE) films as Mad Max Fury Road are not the standard, they are a breathless exception to the rule of mediocrity and pandering. I’m hugely disappointed when I see movies, like Age of Ultron, that clearly aspire to complicated messaging and challenging ideas but fall short. To top it all off, many of my friends’ response is “I love Marvel movies! It was great!” without any desire to explore a more nuanced critical perspective.
In short, while your original phrasing may have been understandably rough (it was extemporaneous, for goodness sake), I think you were hinting at some very valid criticisms of modern culture. Though the examples run rampant in sci-fi, I do think it’s unfair to limit the criticism to that genre of culture alone- it is a symptom of a much larger shift, as you suggested in this piece.
Well said. I’m glad more people are becoming aware enough to stand up to the regurgitation and simplification of media to market it as a product causing it to be a machine to create impulsive shoppers.
Aye, Aye Sir… Saw that headline and thought, ahh another one that has mistaken him, And didn’t read it… (And would love to be a fly, with the capability to read, on the wall in your office) Good day Sir!
Well said, it would have been a shame for science fiction & fantasy to lose one of its ambassadors.
Whatever the intent or context of the original comments, the discussion you kicked off on i09 is worthy of praise in itself.
You have turned me onto thoughts I had previously considered. Also, you are overly apologetic. Sorry.
“And Now I know how Joan of Arc felt…” Right on, Simon! I noticed, several years ago, that nerd culture or geekdom, or whatever you want to call it, was being used, not simply to celebrate fun, joy, imagination, etc., but to make money. I’ve never been to a con, despite the potential to meet like-minded people and have fun, because it seems to me that I’d be considered–to someone in the organising body, at least–a cash cow. That thought literally takes the joy, fun, imagination, etc. out of the experience for me. I’m glad I no longer have to apologise for continuing to love the stuff from childhood, but I have to agree, at some point, developing a perceived-as-adult hobby or interest is worth pursuing, too.
Solid points made throughout. You sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.
Any chance of a Spa.. oh never mind. Keep up the good work old chap.
A great summation of the state of scifi as pop culture these days; it makes me sad to have the things I love coopted for the somewhat nefarious purposes of just filling someones coffers while distracting an increasing segment of the population of now-justified perpetual children (not discounting myself, there) from the truly important things going on in the world.
You, Simon, are our favorite contemporary author and thinker whether you believe it or not. :)
Well said. I’ve been thinking of something like this for a while, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Simon has hit the nail on the head.
Well, okay, but… cinema in commercial terms was dying on it’s arse when the “difficult” / “adult” movies you cite were topping the box office. And those kind of movies are still being made: Nightcrawler, Driver, Boyhood, Whiplash, and on and on. And I’d take a bet that the audiences for those movies were about as large in 2015 as they were in 1973.
What we have got is a massive blockbuster industry on top of that audience bringing in people who were never going to watch Boyhood… including the dreaded “extra million +” that paramount wanted you to add to Star Trek’s audience for the next movie.
There will always be a hunger for a fantasy that allows people to escape without engaging with their problems. In the forties it was swashbucklers, the fifties Cowboys, in the sixties spies and heists (and arguably, the declining quality of those contributed to cinema crashing, when TV took those genres and doled them out on a weekly basis at home)… today, it’s superheroes. If today’s men children are escaping harsh realities, it’s only what they’ve done for at least the last fifty plus years.
I think the misconception that comes with the “great movies are still made today” argument is that we don’t recognize that there are still great movies, or that there was also trash before this period in time. Both of those things are absolutely true. The difference is that, as great as Boyhood and Whiplash are (and they ARE great), they were made for pennies relative to a lot of the films in, say, the 70s. We’re at a place now where it’s extremely rare to see a film with thematic depth outside of the indie market. Major studios just don’t take risks anymore when dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into known properties is usually more financially rewarding.
I’m not sure where you’re getting the “cinema was dying on its arse” argument from. Star Wars was a massive blockbuster, sure, and changed the landscape of cinema, but movies never stopped being an enormously popular art form. The Godfather was an enormous hit, as were things like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 3 Days of the Condor, and Jaws (which I’d argue isn’t really a “geek” movie, but some may differ). Going back a little, if you adjust for inflation, even Star Wars can’t compete with the massive amounts of money made by past hits like Gone With the Wind or Birth of a Nation (and this continues through to today’s blockbusters–we always hear about how stuff like The Avengers is crushing the box office records, but if you actually look at movie theater attendance, it’s been on a steady decline).
Even the “geekier” movies of the 60s and 70s had a more adult sensibility than today’s–think of 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Exorcist. Hell, I don’t think anyone’s ever argued that The Planet of the Apes movies are anything but trashy B-level flicks, and they STILL have more challenging things to say than most post-Star Wars SF and fantasy flicks.
Yes, people have always wanted escape in their cinema, but the problem Simon identifies is very real: movies are being forced more and more into a formula to make money rather than to genuinely entertain, let alone to challenge. Sure, Hollywood’s always been about making money, but they used to make money by showing the audience something new, or (even better) by getting them talking. These movies still exist, as you say, but they’re relegated to secondary status below the big, samey, exploding blockbusters where greyish pixels crash into other greyish pixels. This despite the fact that audiences clearly do want more variety–as you may have heard, a movie about a capella singers demolished Mad Max and The Avengers at the box office this past weekend. But Hollywood has a smooth, assembly-line process going for making big action SF movies that reliably grease the wheels with a consistent revenue stream, so they’d rather do that than take even the slightest risk on something different, even when doing so could actually net them *more* money.
Movies aren’t supposed to be about selling us product. They’re not shoes or cars. They’re supposed to surprise us. As much as I love the nerdy SF movies of my youth, I’m also waiting to see something *new*, not just watch Star Wars and Marvel sequels forever. And the current film climate is making that hard.
Just as a footnote, the “dying on it’s arse” idea comes from here: http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/6693/business/cinema-attendance-in-uk/
Jaws is kind of recognised as the first blockbuster, but the landscape of Hollywood in the late 60’s and early 70’s was very, very odd in that the rise of TV had almost killed popular cinema, and the latest throw of the dice was giving the indie kids (like Coppola & Scorsese) a throw of the dice. Then Spielberg & Lucas got an audience that hadn’t been going to the movies back to the cinema, and we were off to the races.
Hollywood has ALWAYS been about selling product, it’s a huge, huge business that is always looking to maximise profit, and within that framework I think most people are looking to make something worthwhile if possible, but profitable at all costs (witness our esteemed hosts’s notes from Paramount WRT the next Star Trek), but Hollywood isn’t the whole of the film industry.
Movies are not (per se) about selling a product, but they are commercial endeavours, and I’m wary about pronouncements on what they are “supposed” to be about. Sometimes, they’re a comfort, and I think in Pegg’s opinion, that’s the default position for the bigger films now, mostly because big money is afraid of loss.
That’s the received wisdom, anyway. No exec ever lost their job for funding the second sequel to a successful movie. But it does lead to the insanity of industry pundits losing their shit because the second avengers movie took less in the first weekend that the first one (lot’s of “where did Marvel / Disney go wrong in only having the second most succesful opening weekend of all time? Was it the weather?”)
Anyway, I’m sticking to my guns that the golden age harked back to was an anomaly in the history of cinema, and escapism has pretty much been the stock in trade of Hollywood.
I think Mr P could do with watching (or remaking?) this particular old Hollywood chestnut again: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034240/
OK, but…as an audience member, a lover of movies, are you REALLY sitting there going “Golly I hope this movie really optimizes the parent company’s brand and provides significant overseas sales!”? Or are you wanting to be entertained, if not actually enlightened and challenged?
I certainly understand why Hollywood themselves want to make ALL THE MONEY, but what does that benefit us? Why wouldn’t we, the audience, demand better? You can write the 70s golden age off as an “anomaly” but it happened; why wouldn’t we want to get it back? We are, at the end of the day, the people who buy the tickets and pay everyone’s exorbitant salary. Shouldn’t we have some say in the matter?
There’s a weird complacency to the geek mindset, where we’re rooting for our “team”, be it Marvel or DC, Star Wars or Star Trek, Disney or Warner Brothers, and if they’re percieved to be doing well, we’re happy. But these are all massive corporations who are going to keep blowing more money than most of us will ever see in our lifetime on the catering budget for these movies. They don’t need our moral support; what they need is for us to push back a little, to hold them to a higher standard.
You look at what happened with, for instance, Ant-Man, where Edgar Wright (who I’m guessing most of the people reading this trust to make a good movie) gets kicked off a movie HE ORIGINATED because he wanted to make something distinctive instead of an assembly-line blockbuster, and you start to wonder if the Marvel formula isn’t actually preventing good movies from being made, rather than enabling them. Marvel isn’t going anywhere; we could easily let this one, likely-to-be-not-very-good movie flop and it wouldn’t cost us Avengers 3. Yet you’ll still hear from people with no financial stake who seem to be deeply invested in Ant-Man doing well, because they’re rooting for the brand. Why? What does that benefit anyone but Marvel?
The answer is: it’s a mindset that’s been cultivated, carefully, by the big companies. It’s fine to root for filmmakers who you like, but those are PEOPLE. Marvel is a brand. A brand that frequently steps on and minimizes the contributions of the actual humans who make the movies entertaining in the first place. Why would we enable that mindset?
I can understand wanting to go into the theater and be swept away. No one wants to walk through the door as a complete sourpuss and watch a movie with arms crossed. But there’s a happy medium. Not everything has to be EPIC AWESOME and THE BEST MOVIE EVAR (as most blockbusters are hyped until they’ve been in theaters for a week or so, by which point the companies have your money). It’s OK to apply a little bit of critical judgment going in. It’s not going to ruin the movie for you.
Let me put it this way: when you have high standards and don’t embrace every movie that comes along as TEH BEST THING EVAR, you get a MUCH bigger thrill when something which actually lives up to the hype comes along. It’s weirdly liberating to be able to admit, walking out of the theater, that Age of Ultron is a puddle of weak tea and not an epochal shift in cinema, even if it means that your geek pals will throw rotten eggs at you (and then agree with you 6 months later). We’re all too addicted to the hype; I say, it’s time to push back a little.
Couple of interesting points you make Pete. What we’re talking about though isn’t blockbusters but that too many have their aims driven by spectacle with little content. You mention Jaws and Star Wars but both of those are more than simple blockbusters. The former offers society commentary wraped around a thrilling narrative and great characters. The latter, the hero’s journey via human culture i.e. cinematic, literature, religion.
On the Sullivan’s Travels thing, please no. I couldn’t bear to see its beauty destroyed. Remakes should only be films that can be improved, like Mad Max.
North American theatrical attendance has been flatlined at a billion for the past 25 years. That’s “billion.” As in, all the people who blather on the Internet about how they never go to the cinema anymore because high prices and kids and expensive popcorn and loud sound and they have a flatscreen at home with 1/4 the resolution of the worst digital projector, are actually going an average of THREE TIMES A YEAR. While this is not an increase, it is also not “steadily declining.”
I refuse to read the rest of your argument if you’re going to lie in the first paragraph.
“Flatlined” is a weird word to use when it’s fluctuated wildly over the years. We know that last year was a particular low point (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/box-office-2014-moviegoing-hits-760766) and the general trend is downwards (here’s an article from 2011 that claims the attendance was steadily downwards for 4 years at that point: http://www.techspot.com/news/45401-3d-films-boost-box-office-revenue-despite-drop-in-attendance.html) Note that the REVENUES don’t go down because theatres keep raising ticket prices, and using gimmicks like 3D.
It does appear that the early 90s saw a pretty low point in film attendance, though. And that was largely because there were fewer 13-25-year-olds at that particular demographic instant…and that’s the market Hollywood targets more than any other since the blockbuster era dawned. Which is sort of my point. Hollywood’s main audience is teenagers now. That wasn’t necessarily the case in the 70s.
Completely agree with you Pete. I think Pegg is way off the mark on this, I recently looked at what films were popular over the last 100 years and overwhelmingly they are comedy, action, and family films.
I think the only major change is that most of us that do enjoy complex and mature subject matter consume it differently than we used to. We are no longer beholden to the Theaters to show this content we can find it on Netflix, HBO, Hulu, on Cable. I’d put the best TV of he last 2 decades against some of the best dramas ever made. The Wire stands as a towering achievement of drama and can hold its own against anything the 70’s produced. Mad Men is just as experimental and difficult as any dozen films made in the last 50 years. I can and do watch the Criterion films when they are offerred on any streaming service. I will be checking out Blue Is the Warmest color in the convenience of my own home. If we were to go back a mere 20 years its likely I wouldn’t have even heard of Blue is the Warmest color let alone have easy access to it.
I really think so many people are readily eating this up without even considering if what he is saying is even the case.
“Culture” and “Cinema” are not synonymous. With the advent of decent displays in the home, there’s simply no reason to watch most dramas on the silver screen. movies have been relegates back to spectacles, and good content goes straight to TV.
1. Your analysis clearly excludes “The Godfather.”
2. Thirty years ago, you’d have had access to “Blue is the Warmest Color.” Twenty years ago, you wouldn’t, because Blockbuster, who wouldn’t have carried it, had driven mom-and-pop video stores out of business, and multiplexes stopped showing art films, because of people lke you who’d rather “wait for the DVD” and actually say things like “Mad Men is just as experimental and difficult as any dozen films.”
Intentionally or not, this is a really great piece of film criticism. As often as people complain about the current state of cinema and its reliance on reboots and adaptations of childhood properties, they rarely ask why this is happening or examine why this strategy, for the most part, has been effective. The hypothesis that sociological changes since the 70s have led to prolonged interest in adolescence, and that studios are monetizing that, is difficult to refute.
I also like that you acknowledged that, while spectacle is driving most studio-funded modern films, greatness can absolutely seep through the cracks. It just seems that there is less of a financial reason for studios to fund more high-minded, mid-budget films (like The Godfather, for instance) when they can throw absurd amounts of money into recognizable childhood franchises and consistently reap the rewards. I would love to see somebody work out a way to make that financially viable again, but I sure as hell don’t know how to do it.
I think the most amusing response to the comments I saw today was on twitter ‘so Simon Pegg thinks sci fi is childish, well personally I think he a poo poo wee wee head’
can’t argue with that logic i guess!
Myself I am looking forward to seeing Mad Max and Ex machina and certainly awaiting TFA with eager and yet grown up anticipation, so Ner ner ne ner ner :-)
P.S. does anyone know how i subscribe to this blog, is it possible? so i dont miss a post. . . .
I feel Simon falls prey to the false notion that the 1970s were a great intellectual era for movies when people were flocking to Planet of the Apes sequels, Roger Moore movies and disaster epics with ensemble casts, and we continue to see a mixture of dumb action movies, great blockbuster movies (like the current Apes), great arthouse movies and mediocre ones too.
Also, I disagree “Bruce Wayne’s fascistic vigilantism was never really held to account,” as Nolan’s notion of a happy ending for Batman was for him to kill off his toxic persona. “Did he [Nolan] have an abiding love of Batman or was it a means of making his kind of movie on the mainstream stage?” Yes, I recall Nolan mentioned in an interview he loved the Adam West incarnation as a boy.
This is a great point. You can look back at the early 70’s and remember great films. But for every “Godfather” or “Taxi Driver” there was a “Towering Inferno” or “Smokey and the Bandit”.
You can go back through the history of Hollywood, and it’s never changed. There has always been spectacle designed solely for light entertainment, whether it’s the Fred and Ginger movies, the endless parade of John Wayne westerns, screwball comedies whose plot is no more sophisticated than the average episode of “Three’s Company”, or today’s CGI-driven sci-fi blockbusters.
The 70s WERE a more intellectual era for movies, or at least a more original one. Yes, there was lowest-common-denominator junk, there always is. But consider how many stone-cold classics came out of that era, including the movies that became the templates for today’s blockbusters. As a few people have pointed out, you couldn’t actually make Star Wars on a large budget today, if at all: it’s too weird, too childishly innocent, has too much world-building. Even a lot of the trashier flicks of that era had more thought, or more heart, put into them than the soulless assembly-line blockbusters we get.
There’s also the crucial fact that stuff like the Planet of the Apes movies, or Romero’s Living Dead movies (both of which are frankly smarter and more heartfelt than any blockbuster movie of the last decade, by the way) were considered solidly B-grade. No one confused that stuff with the A-list movies with big stars and high production values, like the Godfather movies or 2001: A Space Odyssey. If you’d asked Hollywood types at that time, they would have told you that the latter type of movie was where their focus lay–that that was the kind of movie Hollywood made. Nowadays the trashy B-list movies are the top priority, and the intelligent, adult movies are the second tier.
I’m glad you wrote that. I thought Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End, too.
This reminded me of some of the things you spoke about in the Marc Maron interview; you’re interesting on this stuff, I wish you’d write more about it.
With regard to Nolan’s treatment of Bruce Wayne, there was an exploration of sorts in TDK, wasn’t there?
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You didn’t have to apologise, you were right the first time. A lot of people will only listen to someone as long as what they’re saying is complimentary. To deny that a large section of Sci-fi fans (myself included) aren’t more infantile that the general population is a gargantuan exercise in self delusion. Most of the genre is based around nostalgia and you can’t really grow if you’re always looking back. Surely it stands to reason that if you idolise childhood you’re going to attempt to recreate it as much as possible including your behaviour. I still thoroughly enjoy Science fiction in many forms, but I try to focus on the questions posed by or the visual beauty of a futuristic world and less on the comfort and familiarity of regurgitated characters/stories from my childhood.
Sci-fi fans are more infantile than the general population?
More so than soap opera fans? Rabid sports fans? Celebrity-worshippers who time their lives by the schedule of the latest Karsashians reality show?
While I abhor all things Kardashian and firmly believe soaps attract only the over dramatic (which is apparently surprising for a woman) these types of fans can separate themselves more easily than we sci-fi fans and it’s that separation that allows for growth. I think most of us have a thread of “nerdery” running through our childhood/teenage experiences, it isn’t just something i picked up age 20. Speaking from personal experience, at times of stress when I turn to comic books/gaming and the like I find it difficult to determine how much of me is enjoying it for what it is or whether I’m most comforted by the escapism of regression, nostalgia and the desire for “simpler times”. This idolisation of childhood is something specific to “nerd genres” sci-fi, fantasy, adventure (with the notable exception being disney fans). When we participate or are engrossed in something in this “nerd genre” I think at least a small part of us reverts to a “child-like” place. So considering “nerdom” is more that what films we watch (it’s practically a subculture) and therefore affects our lives on a grander scale this far reaching influence allows for these regressions to occur more frequently. This is something i don’t think other types of fans experience regularly. This idealisation and idolisation of “child-like” qualities affects the way we navigate the world, the choices we make and our behaviour. If we can agree that these “child-like” qualities can have positives we also have to acknowledge the negatives, one of which is “peter pan” syndrome and another being avoidance of situations, subject matter and activities that are beneficial but might also be boring, unpleasant or difficult. So yes, I think sci-fi fans are more infantile/childish/child-like than the general population. Bear in mind that i have no scientific evidence to prove my hypothesis.
The thing is, it’s not just “geeks”–that’s actually the problem. A large swathe of the population are going to see these dumb superhero movies aimed at teenagers and being convinced that it’s suitable entertainment for adults. Which sounds really snobby, I guess, but it would be fine if it was just a small, nerdy segment of the population, as it has been for most of the existence of superheroes. When society at large is expending all its mental energy obsessing about these silly comic book movies, there IS a resultant dumbing-down of culture.
I’m as geeky as the next person, for the record. But it really is for the best that geeks be a minority. We’re supposed to be the weirdos, the outcasts. We’re not up to running a civilization, dammit. For that you need actual adults, and as has been pointed out, a big part of geekdom is refusing to grow up.
Seriously, if you’re over 40, could you imagine your parents when they were 40 obsessing over a comic book movie?
I’m 40. My adoptive aunt got me into Star Trek TOS and took me to see E.T. when it came out. She cried right along with me. She’s still a big Trek and Star Wars fan and she’s in her late 70’s. I draw cartoons (even make some money doing it) and love being a member of both the furry and brony communities. I’m also a geek and proud. My parents think fursuits are cool and geek out right along with me. I come from a long line of nerds.
“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
― C.S. Lewis
No, but my father in law obsesses over Westerns and War Movies, with just as much depth as the current crop of men in capes. My parents generation had their crop of Bond fanatics, etc. Our “infantilisation” is a red herring.
There are, I suppose, vapid westerns and war movies, but those genres were invented for adults; superheroes were explicitly meant to be for kids from their inception. And there aren’t really any all-time classic superhero movies among the current crop. Sorry, there aren’t. There are some fun ones. But there’s no superhero equivalent of The Magnificent Seven or The Searchers or Stagecoach or A Fistful of Dollars or The Wild Bunch or…
Those are smart, exquisitely-crafted films that work on multiple levels and speak to real human experiences, even when they portray times long ago and heightened action. Even when you’re simply enjoying them on a shoot ’em up level their writers and directors were burying all kinds of meaning, personal and political, for smart viewers and students of film. High Noon is about the anti-communist witch-hunts that swept Hollywood and the filmmakers’ experiences with it; Rio Bravo is a response to that film. The Searchers looks at America’s attitudes towards race and its’ “heroes”‘ white supremacist attitudes at a time when that was an unthinkable subject. The Wild Bunch was a transgressive exploration of violence.
The modern superhero and Marvel movies rarely come close to this level of thoughtfulness, and when they do (as with Winter Soldier, the best Marvel movie) they tend to announce that THIS IS A THOUGHTFUL MOVIE ABOUT POLITICS DAMMIT, which announces a certain…insecurity, don’t you think? It’s easy to drape your story in Important Themes for easy cachet; it’s another to have anything to say about them.
I think both. I am a rather mature person, living within my means and value being responsible but I am a dreamer, a nerd, die hard geek. We can find a balance to be dreamers and makers in the world. The imaginations and thinkers are what makes for a working world. Have an brilliant idea and build it. Look at Nikola Tesla, we need more of him. There are men out there like that if not being held back of the cronies and elites of the world.
I really appreciate this post and the questions that it raises about the role that nerd culture should play in our grownup lives.
Like you, I don’t believe that passion and imagination and worlds beyond our everyday reality belong only to childhood and adolescence. At the same time, it’s hard to deny that those things have been used to disengage from rather than grapple with the issues facing the world today.
Is it out of some desire to preserve the “purity” of a child’s worldview? I don’t know. The answer may not even be particularly important. What I believe is important is how we use our passion and imagination for worlds beyond the ordinary from here on out.
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You’re entirely correct. I just don’t want them to change Star Trek, or rather, what Star Trek is supposed to be. Sure, they’re going to attempt to make it more accessible for mainstream audiences (aka people that think Star Trek is boring). The thing is, why does that mean they have to make it dumber? Are we ever going to see another Star Trek television series? I don’t want the hard science-fiction side of Star Trek to go away. I love the rebooted Trek, but I also love the old Trek. It really sort of scares me. Is the fact that they are remastered “Star Trek: The Next Generation” on Blu-Ray a sign that they want to put the old Star Trek to rest, or a sign that they’re trying to keep it alive and relevant? I question their motives…while I’m trying to collect them all.
As always in these interesting social overviews, one comes back to “who is ‘they’?” Who is infantalizing us? We have met the enemy and he is us.
“Infantilization” is where someone is reliant on others to make their choices for them and serve their needs. Changing the script of what is an “adult” is not infantilization, it’s expanding that script to allow greater freedom to make their own choices about what being an adult means. That could range from the traditional script of job-marriage-kids to one where you install a ball pit in your spare bedroom and watch Star Wars while playing in it. It’s a mistake to view people expressing a different script for adulthood as not being an adult at all. (And anyway, the challenges of modern Developed-World-Adulthood are more about economic forces than about Star Wars.)
Thank you for clarifying your comments; this is appreciated. I do think you have interesting points, but let’s not forget that a LOT of good, thought-provoking, original cinema is being produced overall. Blockbusters…are blockbusters. Not all action hero films and sci-fi are deep works of fiction, but some are. Alongside these, plenty of “serious” films are being made, alongside the dreck and the eternal parade of remakes. You are certainly powerful enough to produce and star in them yourself.
But let’s not lay this at the feet of 70’s and 80’s kids and our unwillingness to “grow up.” I am a grownup. I was in the military to pay my college loans at 19 and I now have a two-decade spousal relationship, a mortgage and a parent with Alzheimer’s to care for. I like thought-provoking films, but I also like escapism. And you can pry my Iron Man action figure out of my cold, dead, mature, tax-paying adult hands.
Exactly. I get my daily dose of reality and try every day to make this messy, complicated world a little better. Also, I suffer from depression and anxiety. I stay connected to the real world, but I need a happy place to go to so that grim reality doesn’t overwhelm me. SF and fantasy gives me that safety valve.
I also think that this is a really interesting idea. It contrasts nicely with the 1920’s phenomenon when a generation lost their childhoods so they fetishised children and innocence.
It’s the inverse. Cinema has dumbed down sci-fi, to the point that Michael Bay is allowed to make half a dozen Transformers films built on nothing but explosions, Star Wars was downgraded to two-hour lightsaber exhibitions, Star Trek was downgraded to Star Wars, and superhero movies have become CGI loveletters that are more about “Let’s have you and you fight each other” than they are about drama. We need more classic sci-fi storytellers, like in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and even the 80s. We need to make it more about the search for truth, like it used to be, instead of the search for destruction. There are great writers and directors out there trying to do just that. Don’t abandon the sinking ship, Simon; help steer it off the rocks.
Thank goodness. For a moment I thought our dear Mr. Pegg had been abducted by sour-pussed social activists. Now I know he simply made the mistake of expressing himself in anything more than three sentences and with no polysyllabic words. Anything more than three sentences is sure to be misquoted.
Hey Simon! I have to admit it worried me to see you on the Trending Topics and not for a good reason. All those comments on one of my favourite actors were hard to read, but hey, I’m also a big fan of your good friend Martin Freeman, so I know what it is to have your idol say something that people take the wrong way and see all hell breaking loose. Internet is a dumb place, you can’t say anything these days without having everyone on you right away (and not getting sarcasm, which is another issue that still baffles me). Anyway, of course some of the people who made negative comments read this all as you quitting being a huge nerd, which is a scary concept! The way I see it, being a nerd is not always about not growing up, but liking something with a passion and being proud about it. I’m sometimes the weird type of nerd, who might cry over a good action sequence or something, but I definitely appreciate a good plot and a good message behind what I see. I will always remember walking out of the cinema after watching “The Imitation Game” with a knot in my throat. That doesn’t usually happen, and it should, more often. Of course, God forbid we only see dramas in cinema, but hopefully my point is clear. I would have to agree with you on how film industry is delivering lower and lower human-quality products but I wouldn’t exclusively point at fantasy, sci-fi and overall nerdy things. People who’s not into these tend to think of them as kids stuff, and why should that mean they don’t deliver a message anyway? I personally see this problem in american comedy films like the ones Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill or Adam Sandler would star in. Someone would argue those films generally have a message behind them but those are exactly the films that came to mind when I read the headlines on what you said, poor tasteless and brainless comedy which should go straight to DVD but instead are often box office hits. I just don’t get it. THAT’S where I see dumb cinema.
Okay, rant over! Thanks for taking the time to write all this and overall thanks for what you do, your films make me smile and laugh and cry and ALWAYS deliver a message (as opposed to what some people are commenting). Good luck with your upcoming projects and don’t be afraid to make a good trekkie film for trekkies, Simon! The key here is to make Star Trek what it originally was, as you said. Of course some of us want good ship battles but “human” values are just as important in this universe. When I think of Star Trek I don’t think of a blockbuster type thing! Have a good day and keep rocking! Love from Argentina.
I actually agree with what you said to begin with, though. I miss original stories and actual adult oriented cinema. For every “Gone Girl” and “Nightcrawler”, we get seemingly 5 to 10 Avengers.
I’m not saying I don’t like comic books or sci fi, but sometimes you really need something more than big action set pieces that all challenge each other to be bigger and more explosive with each successive release.
Movies aren’t about inspiring people or telling a meaningful tale anymore. They’re made solely for the purpose of making more money than whatever the last release made.
Age of Ultron might have been the last time I see a Marvel movie. Something about being almost 29 and seeing a flying purple robot lifting a magic hammer makes you wonder what else you could have done with those three hours. Oddly enough, I never felt like that the previous weekend when my wife and I watched the entirety of Daredevil on Netflix.
Anyway, I’m rambling on. Just wanted to say, I’m a huge fan and I hope to see you in some more serious roles in the future. Hot Fuzz is still one of my favorite movies of all time, though.
Good luck in everything you do, The Artist Formerly Known as Tim Bisley.
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You really are quite brilliant. Plus, you held twine for me. I will always have your back. Keep being provocative and making me think.
Beautifully written! I love that Simon actually responds to irresponsible journalism. It’s hard to believe anyone could actually second guess his nerd status, level: expert. People, including actors, are not 1D.
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Honestly, I don’t think you own anyone an explanation. However, I enjoyed this post and I absolutely love watching you act. Spaced was awesome!
Sorry, I meant “owe” not “own”.
The problem with trying to have this type of in-depth look at the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ culture, society, and the film industry (an extension of our culture and society) changed over time in an interview is that someone has to find a meaty bit the can share in 140 characters. They are tasked with driving traffic/views/likes/retweets to their own ‘work’ which is often just finding whatever might trend or get people riled up. It’s a symptom of what you’re discussing here, and one I know I’ve been a part of at times. I mean I write and use social media for a living, so yeah. I’m part of the problem, too.
I’m glad you shared your thoughts, because it’s just not something that can be said in 140 characters without context. Context is often missing in these conversations and in commentary about a few words someone said.
I agree with you that it’s a conversation worth having. The machine of the mainstream, our consumption of it, and our love of certain ‘childish’ things are certainly worth considering. I am a kid that was born/raised in ’70s/’80s. In some ways I have never grown up, and in some ways I feel like I was always an adult. Honestly? Being a grown up is hard sometimes. Sometimes escaping into something fun is well…fun. I appreciate thinking pieces, too. The best is when all the good stuff can come together in one piece. Part funny, part action, and part thoughtful. When you combine those things you get the best pieces of art-whether they’re on film or not.
Raising the next generations of nerds I’m actually a little jealous that they have access to so much content, so much art, so much commentary, and are often accepted as who they are. So while we 30-40 somethings may be holding onto our youth a bit, our kids get the benefit of that growing up in a time when it’s okay to be nerdy or geeky. Everyone is a little nerdy or geeky. It’s cool.
Maybe that’s the real benefit here? That people all over the world now have a way to enjoy some of our perennial favorites even if they are a little smoothed over/dumbed down it will still draw them to the original works. It will still help them think. More importantly it will bring about a new era of creators and hopefully a more diverse view of what success looks like.
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You are absolutely right, and while I suspect the next Star Trek is going to end up the same as the last (that is a wonderful action movie that is not really Trek), I’m glad you at least recognize and sympathize with the concern that many fans have.
Hopefully you can steer the ship more in the direction of its legacy. TNG posed some serious questions without drama or preconceptions, in a setting with believable and grounded characters.
Rick Berman trek was the first thing in a long time that recaptured the urgency and commentary you spoke of.
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I am often accused of never growing up – but in a good natured fashion! That said, the more ‘grown-up’ of my peers seem to be the ones most pliant to authority, never questioning their principles, the government, their religion, etc. Hell, they’re all listening to music from the 70s, as rigid in their musical tastes as in everything else.
I think the great qualities of youth are wanting to know about the world, to discover new worlds, new things, new ideas. I think SF can be great at nurturing these positive aspects of humanity in general. So what if I can’t find space for one more longbox in my crowded basement ;-).
The bigger sci-fi and fantasy seem to get in the context of the “mainstream phenomenon” you describe, the more I hope the independents begin to take back the genres. I don’t buy a lot of films anymore; as I’ve aged I can’t seem to rationalize collecting more stuff to extend my life (uh, I mean my childhood). But here’s what I find on my shelf these days: Shane Carruth’s “Primer” and “Upstream Color”. Richard Linklater’s “A Scanner Darkly.” John Hyams’ “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” (which has a great Phil Dick-ian structure). Pete Travis’ (and Alex Garland’s) “Dredd” (two copies, in fact, one on DVD, the other BluRay). And perhaps not surprisingly, the Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy on BluRay. The only film I’ve seen in the theatre in 2015 so far has been “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Not sure what will be next, but I suspect it might be “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and part of me is troubled by that. You’ve tapped into something with this piece of writing, however. I think it warrants a lot more discussion!
Distraction and evasion, that’s what all seems to be.
Have followed almost all your work and loved it, clearly you know how the game is going.
Waiting for your next move.
Wtf is Simon Pegg? Never heard of him.
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To look uncritically at the things we love is to do them disservice. Both your initial radio interview and the above article provide good fodder for discussions that fans of these genres SHOULD be having. I too share concerns that spectacle overtakes substance and I hope fans can come together to respectfully discuss this stuff.
Star Trek OST? I think we can agree that diehard Star Trek TOS fans had never any issues with the soundtracks of the new movies. Looking forward to Star Trek Yondbe.
Glad to hear your side of it. Far too easy to be swayed by tabloid sensationalism when it concerns something you care about. :(
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“Simon Pegg has written a thoughtful response…”
Thoughtful indeed. Keep up the good work.
Oh, Simon! Your fans know what you meant. Having said that, I’m happy you cleared everything up. I agree with you about today’s films…too many of them have lost the art of film and have become lost in the cgi and shock value to entertain the masses. I enjoy the films that say something- that make you think. The films that make you laugh with simplicity. I adore all of your films, Simon. Even the ones that include a bit of cgi. Not to say cgi is the thing that differentiates everything. Look at my favorite film, PAUL- we wouldn’t have Paul without technology. Maybe I’m not making a fantastic point, eloquently written like you wrote- but I’m saying that you are correct, and who says it better than you?
If you thought the attacks from geeks were bad, Mr. Pegg, just WAIT until the cobblers read this. They will make your life HELL.
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Don’t let the “social police” kill your day, Simon. Your comment was spot-on.
In the 1950s, one of the most popular genres of entertainment was the western. Little boys dressed up as cowboys and “indians” and played bang bang shoot-em-up. In the 60s, this genre took hold of television and film. It serviced those who had grown up playing those games and listening to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Clint Eastwood owes a lot to those little boys because his career was fed on the childhood fantasies of those little boys.
At no time in recent history have we not drowned ourselves in something that could take our mind off the world at large. In my own country, it wasn’t so long ago that men drank up the saloon, came home shit-faced drunk and beat the shit out of their wives to relieve their stress. It was great entertainment for some I’m sure and I’m certain that as painful and horrific as the events were for the women who had to endure their brutality, those big boys looked like raging toddlers. This led to women seeking a way out — the wrong one — and prohibition was born.
Sometime, somewhere, someone is always saying exactly what you’ve said. Some people prefer to “infantilize” themselves with a bottle of Scotch, a collection of guns or yelling at a bunch of men in tights chasing after a ball. But for some reason, it’s the geek stuff that seems to bother people the most. Why is that?
The film you mentioned as being a think piece, Taxi Driver, is a film in which the women are all victims and the trouble protagonist is the star of the show. He grows more violent as the film progresses and we all call it art because it’s “dark” and “seedy.” Is it any wonder that women — at the very least — stopped (or never did) truly respond en masse to this? The films you mentioned are the cherished films of a patriarchal society that was, at least at that moment, dying at the hands of the women’s right’s movement.
And as you so aptly pointed out, along came a film with an ass-kicking princess. There were some bumps in the road, but Leia was a “shot fired.” No one cares who made that shot first.
In the last ten years, it’s been sci-fi and fantasy that have propelled many actresses from co-star to star and given a whole host of little girls something to hang on to when all around them they’re constantly reminded of how inferior, how little they are. You’re absolutely right. Princess Leia was vastly important to me as a child. So was Wonder Woman. While the think piece films of that time focused on male boxers (Rocky), greedy stock brokers (Wall Street) and a whole helluva lot of war flicks that, depending on who you talk to, either glorified or really showed the horrors of Vietnam — science fiction and fantasy gave us women who had something to do rather than cry.
My love of science fiction and fantasy isn’t part of some grand scheme of keeping my head down and in the dark about social change. First, I’m well aware of what I’m doing. I’m not hypnotized into complacency. Second, to attribute lack of care regarding the world at large to science fiction is giving sci-fi both too much and too little credit. I know that you had no intention of painting geeks at large with a broad brush as childish consumers and I believe you. But to suggest that we are all part of some larger scheme to turn us into zombie consumers of entertainment also suggests that were are incapable of making our own decisions. That we are so taken by the shiny that we cannot possibly give enough concern to issues of importance. My Facebook feed alone, filled with people who have similar tastes in film and television, says that this just isn’t the case. The people at protests who have held up signs decrying oppression that have featured quotes or symbols from Hunger Games or Doctor Who tell me that, if anything, these characters and these stories move people to emulate the heroes they see in books or on screen to their best potential. While it’s great to see Travis Bickle’s arc and while it may be important to discuss some of the topics that those types of films bring up, I’ve rarely heard someone at a protest use him as a catalyst for change. However, I have heard many of my friends who protest and cry for social change alongside of me invoke the Doctor or Superman or Katniss Everdeen.
If that is infantilization, I’ll take it.
“Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.”
Have you looked at a Japanese person lately? The culture is overwhelmingly niche-oriented, infantilized and introverted to the point where there’s a term for it (hikkikomori). The birth rate is lower than the water levels in California, and people are getting counseling about how human reproduction actually works. Incidentally as an engine of economy, that’s probably why Japan is also so successful. So yea, you’re totally right about that.
On the other hand, there’s also unique opportunity in the Japanese geekery underground erupting into light to express adult ideas normally kept at bay by a non-nerd, non-scifi mainstream. In the 90’s, that was immortalized by such animes as Serial Experiments Lain (existentialism, AI, introversion) and Neon Genesis Evangelion (suicide, depression, xenophobia), alongside celebrated art films like the Happiness of the Katakuris and Tampopo. They’ve all got a vein of darkness running through them, explorations of the subconscious and social values. Japan is sometimes a much more conservative society than either the UK or USA, but these works are not only tolerated but celebrated- precisely because they are veiled in this aura of geekery and whimsy. Our infantilization protects us from the forces of conservatism, dogma or fundamentalism because those old farts think we’re bloody daft.
Food for thought. Btw love your work. If I ever see you IRL I’d love to buy you a pint.
As far as cinema is concerned we can blame it all on Star Wars. It changed everything. After Star Wars there were lunch boxes, figures, sequels… Ever since then films have had the crap marketed out of them. Why? Because it now costs the GDP of a small country to fund a blockbuster. Yep, Star Wars broke cinema.
BTW I fucking love Star Wars.
I saw Mad Max Fury Road at the weekend and it was a bit like the Namibian desert in which it was filmed – vast, magnificent and pretty empty. It’s definitely something to see at the cinema, it needs that huge screen and big sound.
I just wanted to say great article loved reading it and I love how u have diesel weasel in your bio.
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A thoughtful response. Who would have thought a sound byte didn’t contain the whole context of the story?
Next time instead of being a “contrary mary” maybe you could be a “Rhymin’ Simon”?
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Thanks for clearing that up.
I think it’s just a case of seeing Avengers 2 and like me being wholly depressed by the experience. :)
Well said, Sir. I read the article on Daily Mail and one of the commentors mentioned actually visiting your site for clarity. I’m glad I did. I was a little puzzled at first since most of your work that I’ve enjoyed was steeped in nerdy, immature, goodness. Although I love sci-fi and action flicks, I’ve felt the same about Hollywood pre-our generation and the direction it’s taken over the past 30 years.
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Cinematic Sci-Fi and Fantasy have always lagged behind the literature. But even then, what books get published rely largely on market forces as well. So when a genuinely original voice gets published I count it as a win.
I love science fiction for it’s ability to simultaneously state where we are and where we are going within a framework that would not be easily digested otherwise. Escapism is fine, but like one cannot live solely on salt water taffy, a diet of escapism can narrow one’s world view and may indeed lead to a general blindness of the larger issues in the world. Or if not blindness, then perhaps apathy. A balanced diet is what is needed. Hmm, should we develop a food pyramid/grid for fantasy fiction?
There is sooo much untapped potential in some of the older works by Theodore Sturgeon, C.M Kornbluth, Alfred Bester, Fritz Lieber, Steve Rasnic Tem, etc. I’d love to see some serious movies based on their works.
I agree the superhero movies might be heading for over saturation – just as the superhero COMICs did back in the 90’s giving rise to a slew of indie titles. Are we possibly heading for a sci-fi movie renaissance? Will bloated summer block busters give rise to more movies like “Primer”? Who knows. But I do feel that science fiction, fantasy and even horror are valid genres for serious expression and exploration of humanity’s problems, hopes and fears.
So thanks for the clarification, Simon. But I wasn’t worried. I’ll just finish listening to my audio adaptation of “Metamorphosis” so I can get back to playing Skyrim.
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Pegg, you bloody wanker! You can speak all your french… but you don’t need, we know you didn’t mean “that”, obviously… by the way, is a valid point of view, of course. You made us think, this is frightening. Fans from Brasil send you a Forte Abraço!
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i love Pegg’s movies. That said, I’m not sure his blog here was an apology, a rant, or a rationalization. I have no respect for JJ Abrams; basically, he’s a mindfuck, and he destroyed the ST rboot, and he’s playing his same sociiopathic games with SW. So, Mr Pegg, I won’t be seeing your ST movie, and am looking forward to whenyou return to original work, and get out of the Spielberg/Lucas/Abrams clique!
So basically you’re just parroting what prominent Science Fiction author Theodore Sturgeon said back in 1957 which is known as ‘Sturgeon’s Law,’ that stated 90% of everything is crap in reference to the number of books coming out then and later on in 1958 updated it to include films. I don’t think the general public even cared that much then as most of it was seen as a few hours of escapism as far as movies go and screw having to think about it. Sometimes it’s good to have a mix – ride on the rollercoaster while trying to work the Callan-Symanzik equation. It’s up to the fans to find them.
Just please make the best Star Trek you can get away with. The best of Trek is adult sci fi, and that can be “inclusive” too. #layeredplots
Firstly, I’m not saying I disagree with you, because you are right at least to some extent and I saw that from the beginning of this. However, one fear I have is that some seem to think that making a film or whatever more “adult” means adding much more graphic themes, rape, murder, torture and other atrocities. I refuse to watch Game of Thrones, or anything of that ilk for that reason. Horrible things happen in our world every minute of every day, bad things happen to good people every day. I am adult enough to know all about that. I don’t enjoy it in my entertainment anymore than I enjoy hearing it on the news or witnessing first hand. There is of course great societal value and audiences for such films that deal responsibly with those topics and don’t glorify the violence, but it’s just oftentimes not for me. I’ve seen things in films that just hurt my heart for months on end and make me never want to watch anything like that again. I guess I’m too sensitive. I don’t think I’m the only one tho. So yes I guess I am an adult who still likes “childish” things in that sense. I like to be hopeful that good will prevail. I like the hero to win and good people to be saved. I like to be in that innocent childish world for a little while because I am adult enough to know that world for the most part doesn’t exist otherwise.
To sum up:
1) Adult doesn’t necessarily mean themes and scenes that will give people like me nightmares for months on end. I hope you know that. I think you know that. But I’m just sayin’. (And good luck with the next Star Trek but PLEASE do not turn it into Mad Max. I’d rather watch a movie where I get to see what happens in a much more hopeful *Utopian* future. That’s one of the special things about Star Trek that I hope doesn’t get lost.)
2) We still need fluffy childish entertainment in the world because the world is hard to take without it. And for the record, if there is deeper meaning, interesting characters, themes that make me think, then even better. :) The best movies have a balance of very strong entertainment value and those messages that makes you think and maybe even cause you to see something differently. “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” as Julie Andrews once sang. :)
I dunno. I truly believe in the charm of being an outcast. That’s why I hate the hipster trend.
As someone you really loved your work, I was really disappointed to read your comments and I still am. Perhaps it is because I have fallen too deeply in the fantasies of my childhood. I have become obsessed with high school romantic comedy anime. To clarify, I am 25 years old with a full-time job and adult responsibilities. “I’m too old for this shit.”, yet I barely get sleep at night watching these perverted shows and obsessing over them. I never leave my apartment outside of work and I watch nothing but these shows. So I’ve had some time to think things over.
I have read about how Japan is having some sort of population issue where young men have been sterilized (figuratively speaking) by the bright and colorful animated and highly sexualized fantasies, leaving them to lack a desire for any physical contact or anything “real”. And to be absolutely honest, that’s pretty much what I have become. So this is where I believe both you and Baudrillard are incorrect. I believe there is no conspiracy to infantilize the masses with sterilized entertainment as a means of distraction. I believe something far worse than that.
No one is distracting us. We are distracting ourselves.
I think from a young age, we were all milk-fed the ideals of being an adult and how great things will be. When I was a child and bullied, I refused to kill myself because I always felt that life would be better. Yet, life doesn’t care about us. Life just is and we have to accept it and try our best to survive it. The mounting pressures and stresses build, life-long friendships deteriorate and you discover that you are alone. You are beaten mercilessly as a game by strangers and you realize you are insecure and fragile and mortal and alone. Your grandmother and aunt are diagnosed with cancer and still you are alone. You develop incredible social anxieties and more relationships around you fall apart and you are still alone.
No matter what, we are always alone. No one is there to save you. Nothing is as nothing can. So we find our happy place. Sometimes that’s a bar/pub. Sometimes that’s a bench in a park with a nice view. Sometimes it’s our bed. Sometimes, like me, it’s on a TV screen or in a comic book. Sometimes it’s on a stage or in a book or inside someone else or in a syringe. We find our ways to keep us from falling under (healthy and unhealthy).
Reality hasn’t gotten any nicer. Racism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia, murder, rape, corruption and genocide are still prevalent as always. I think we are all fully aware of these things.
Action Comics #1 was sold not only to children, but adults who survived the Great Depression. People who felt betrayed by society and wanted to believe if even just for one moment that justice could prevail. Someone above the law who would take down corruption and crime. People have always needed that undying optimistic hope; the fantasy of never giving up and always trying to do the right thing. That’s what Superman is.
Science-fiction itself has deeper roots in identity and the questions of who we are and who we might be. Stories reflect ourselves back at us and sometimes we see our reflection.
So people flock to superheroes and eventually marketers and studios recognize their appeal. The cartoons are fueled by the merchandise sales. The television shows are fueled by the advertising slots. Each one of us can now more visibly (thanks to print, TV and social media) see our value against that of those around us and those richer and more secure than us. Everything and everyone has value, yet it’s all arbitrary. We are sold things to buy things. That’s the world we live in. Even the marketers have to sleep at night.
This is where I took the most issue with your initial comments. You seemed to take more issue with the entertainment than the way we consume it. I don’t know if I can blame Frank Miller for the pessimistic tone that has prevailed in the comic films for years. He didn’t make The Dark Knight Returns to create a one-note pessimistic tone that would overshadow comics and now comic-based films for years. Alan Moore made Watchmen to make us reconsider how we worshipped Batman and others in the context of the Reagan/Thatcher world, but didn’t make it to deconstruct our own enjoyment of fantasy.
The truth is that we need to dream. We need that bright-eyed optimism many of us had as kids believing that life will turn out great. If we don’t have the ability to lie to ourselves to live another day then we have nothing. So I take absolutely no issue with “childish” things. I try to find the value in all sorts of mindless things. My favorite film of the last several years was Big Hero 6. I’m not sure if you have seen it, Simon, but it’s wonderful. It has good messages and has the ability to challenge us in ways even the writers and animators weren’t aware. They didn’t solve any problems with fists or beating up a bad guy. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe “childish” is more than a sterilized fantasy. Maybe it has the ability to challenge us like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Brazil.
The world can be beautiful, but sometimes we need a fantasy to remember that.
Will George Lazenby, Roger Moore, and Sean Connery also be Stormtroopers?
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My one point of disagreement is that ‘Star Wars’ wasn’t intended as an antidote to the moral confusion of Vietnam (or more appropriately, Watergate). Remember, Lucas was at the time seen as something of a political filmmaker who was at one point tapped to direct ‘Apocalypse Now’ until Coppola decided to do it himself. ‘Star Wars’ is intended to be a political film; it’s just that the message was entirely lost because everyone assumed that America was “the Rebels” because America is always the good guys in an action movie.
Whereas in fact, America is the Empire. Palpatine is intended to represent Nixon had he gone just a little bit further, responding to a challenge to his authority by dissolving the bodies politic that were supposed to check his power. The ending to ‘Jedi’, which was originally supposed to be the ending to ‘Star Wars’ until budgetary concerns forced him to trim it down, involved jungle-dwelling “primitives” using cunning and superior knowledge of the terrain to cut down arrogant soldiers with lots of cool technological toys. In the context of Vietnam, when it was originally written, this couldn’t be clearer.
Which brings up a wider point–science fiction/fantasy has the freedom to be subversive, because its natural language is the language of symbolism. Lucas could make a film about the dangers of creeping fascism slowly undermining a democracy until the people begged to be ruled, knowing that people would just write it off as a kiddie space opera. Beneath the commercialism that we all agree is a negative influence on the genre, there’s a lot of space to play with big, dangerous ideas in a way that gets by the gatekeepers of popular culture.
In an ideal world, of course. Otherwise you just get ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’. :)
Simon you didn’t need to go so eloquently defensive. You were on target in your original comments. For the most part, American culture is fostering a fear-mongering infantilized mommy-state. And our media in large measure reflects that. I live in Los Angeles and you can smell fear of burning infants in the air, daily.
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As punishment you go get a Soyuz reentry capsule, attatched to nasa’s hall effect engine, with large hexagonal solar panels on each side and fly that tie fighter around the moon.
Though I don’t agree with the intentionality of this switch to conspiracy but more to cognitive capture (though I will now need to read Baudrillard, thanks for cluing me in), I agree whole-heartedly on the conclusion that market forces are to blame for the current saturation of particular modes of sci-fi and fantasy. I wouldn’t even stop there- fast news, clickbait, etc are byproducts of sociopsychological factors interacting with consumer driven media and are only going to get worse as the technology advances and the cash flow increases.
Consumer media, consumer culture, has dumbed down a LOT of things by appealing to our appetites, our conservation of cognitive effort, and those things that appeal/placate to our displaced and now growing anxiety. This isn’t new (Westerns, crime shoot em ups, facile 80s action movies were directed to their constituent kids-turned-adult generational consumers), but the business is so huge and focus group calculated now it’s unprecedented in it’s deliberate pandering.
Btw, thank you for saying all this– not just the clarification but the original interview. A buddy of mine and I were talking about this topic, not the interview, not more than two days ago.
I’m really glad you responded. This was a much more intelligent treatise on what you actually meant. I don’t disagree that people do tend towards escapism, including myself, but I think the greatest problem lies in the industry. The reason independent film makers are doing better at raising social awareness is because they don’t care how much their movie is going to make. Or, at least, profit is their secondary concern. As long as the industry underestimates the public–by continuing to assume that white, male leads will make them the most money for example–this trend will continue. Science fiction will continue to fail us sociologically, because all the money continues to fund Michael Bay’s male genitalia fetish.
What you can do for us is start to change it. You have the advantage of being settled into the heart of the entertainment industry. Perhaps you don’t have as much pull as some might, but you have the fan base. We’d follow you into the socially conscious abyss of sci-fi and fantasy that makes us think rather than distracts us with pretty lights. Be our Obi-Wan.
While I agree with all of the above (and appreciate the tenacity in which it was dealt) the same could be said for any number of over commercialized products, celebrities, music, art, athletics, holidays (really we can go on and on) the point is – where there’s money to be made the marketers will come: and this can be both positive in the sense that good things are getting the spotlight it deserves (ie: charities and empowering non profits) and providing the consumer with what they want -there will always be the negative backlash of perversing the subject into something almost ugly- in the sense it no longer appears as it first did (Disney anyone?). This subject piece is brilliant in that it brings to light the downfall of commercialism – but this isn’t new and it’ll only continue to deepen society into a abyss where the consumer is so enriched with the subject matter humanity seems to dwindle down. It comes down to Albert Einstein’s prediction that has finally been realized “I fear the day that technology will surpass human interaction.” For now we can enjoy the geekdom that defines most of us Pegg-fans but funny how we are all interacting via a technological void that takes the faces away from human individuality which is what marketing is all about to begin with. Make everyone the same in that you can sell everyone the same crap.
I feel there’s an element of genuine clarification here, and a bit of back peddling. After all, the quote, “I honestly thought the other day that I’m gonna retire from geekdom. I’ve become the poster child for that generation, and it’s not necessarily something I particularly want to be. I’d quite like to go off and do some serious acting.” was pretty un-ambiguous! But that’s OK. We all say things that either need to be clarified or taken back a bit. Sometimes both. I’m glad you wrote this, Simon.
Dare I say I was directed here by a comic book writer. And without reading the article I had allready made my mind up.
Thank god for BBC Film4 and Canal +. Thus agreeing with Simon in some way.
Does the industry expect me to pay upwards of £15 to watch a ropey 3D projection on a slightly taller screen. That is the problem, ticket price. And to justify that price we are given Big budget CGI fests.
Many of my collegues only visit to the cinema are these films. I on the other hand pay a subscription of a similar value and get to see most of the independents. Sadly some of these are blink and you will miss them releases, yes I missed seeing Simon in his y-fronts on the big screen, others are adverised nationally only to be shown in Ireland. James Cameron shoots some spectacular films, his ex however could make better films and only used explosions to further the narrative.
I suppose we should differenciate between comic books and graphic novels as there have been many good films whose roots are based on these art forms and ofter show in the narrative of these films they do tend to be one offs(Watchmen V for Vendetta etc.). The fantasy genre in any form is used to challenge society. Should a race hold onto an old mysogenistic belief system? or wage war on those that don’t?
The Hollywood industry is killing itself with formulaic films of which comic book are the latest weapon. May be it should die, or at least come close enough to give it a wake up call to change its ways. Stop with the gadget obsessed Mid life crisis. I’m no shrink but, Hollywood needs to stop, look at itself, let go of its fears and unhealthy obsessions.
How does you saying you’re quitting sic-fi films and moving on to serious films tie in to your apology?
I have loved Simon since Spaced and Black Books .. But I also love my TREK to be TREK .. even if they are saving a whale .. Do it like Gene would .. if I want lens flare and battles I will watch the WARS. W ..
This is an eloquent, provocative piece. However, I think you might be misrepresenting Baudrillard. The postmodern theorist rarely spoke about power in terms of domination by the capitalist elite. The most terrifying thing about his argument was the notion that these forces of subjugation are widely decentralized and dispersed. It would be comforting if we could explain our contemporary condition as “domination of masses by the elite,” because the villain would be clearly identified. Baudrillard’s point is that we are *all* dominated by our tools of communication and by the nature of representation. We cannot pinpoint some sort of authentic capital T-truth about the world, and we will never be able to do so.
I do not think Baudrillard would claim that indie art films and short stories are more meaningful and authentic than Hollywood blockbusters and comic books. He argued that we “live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.” We can seek out documentaries and serious dramas in an attempt to locate a deeper reality, but Baudrillard’s entire point is that there is *no* deeper reality.
As Shaviro writes, “The point is not to resist by clinging to older visions and values–a mistake made alike by the survivalist Right and the communitarian Left. Let us rather push further and further, into ever new landscapes of simulation and delusion. Our only chance lies in this: to remake ourselves over and over again, frenetically chasing fashion, keeping up with state-of-the-art technology, and always being sure to purchase (or steal) the latest upgrades. ”
Great essay, Simon!
I find this comment a bit confusing would you mind explaining farther. What does Baudrillard think we should do about all of this? Or does he deal with that question at all?
Also would be awesome if you could clarify shaviro’s point too.
I’m happy to have read this all the way through because, had I stopped where I first became irritated, I would have missed the fun. Well said, Simon Pegg. Too much SciFi is just so much brain candy while some truly spectacular work is ignored because it doesn’t have the big Hollywood budget or promotional machine to shove it down our throats. Thank you for this perspective and for all you do. Cheers!
Aaaaaah, fuck it. You’re entitled to your opinion. Hell, you even made some good points. Keep on keeping on, and whatnot.
I totally agree that the theater space is now less hospitable for mature themed content, but I completely disagree that these means we are consuming it less. What has changed is how we consume more mature themed content. I find that I really don’t enjoy the theater experience if I’m going to see some new experimental film or complex drama. For the same price of admission I can own the film and watch it in the comfort of my home. Not to mention there is so much on TV now that offers as much complexity, challenge, and difficult themes as any film from the 70s did. Take a look at the popularity of things like Breaking Bad, The Wire, Deadwood. I would put any of those up against the studio dramas or mature films the studios ever put out. In fact to the contrary of your point I think now more than ever mature and difficult content has become extremely popular its just that the venue has changed.
At any given time Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, and others offer a veritable cornicopia of mature themed content that is continually added to. If this stuff wasn’t popular you’d think they would be offering less of it. The very fact that a bunch the Criterion collection is available seems to indicate someone is watching and wants to watch mature and interesting films. I don’t want to watch something like Nymphomaniac, or Blue is the Warmest color in a theater, I’d much rather watch it at home on Blu-ray where I can enjoy it at my pace and in a safe place.
I really do think you have confused the venue of the art for the art itself. So what that adult oriented films don’t get space in the multiplexes? We are still consuming and watching them we are just doing it the way we want to do it are no longer beholden to what theater owners want to promote.
On a side note, I love your work even the chances you take on things like A Fantastic Fear of Everything. I am cautiously optimistic about the next Star Trek even though I really disliked the last one. I’m still willing to give it a shot as I think you can bring something fresh back to the series.
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The people I know who geek hardest are the same people who are into politics, though. You sure you’re not just trying to make a connection that isn’t really there? Like, could it be that movies like The Avengers are bringing down our collective IQ or could it be that, decade after decade, century after century, there are both smart people and dumb people?
As incisively and eloquently as you’ve made your case, you’d have done well, I think, to have had someone edit it before making it public. Grammatical errors abound, taking up arms and marching into every corner of the post.
I find this clear, concise, and well thought out. I agree completely with it and it really makes you think. I also must let my inner fanboy out here and say I loved your movie “Hector and the search for happiness.” One of the most poignant and intelligent films i’ve seen and it is now one of my top ten movies.
As an avowed nerd, I have to say that science fiction and even fantasy do us a service, even if it is infantile at times. It prepares our minds for what is to come. As 20,000 opened the door to such things as submarines and even ecology as a science, it opens our minds to possibilities. We are undoubtedly on the cusp of becoming a space faring race. Developments like the Em drive highlight this. Stem cell research, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence, as frightening as their misuse can be, are going to become necessary tools in our tool box once we make that leap. Science fiction has prepared our minds and attitudes for this step, as well as entertaining us. Yes, much of it is schlock, marketed to us to distract us and get us to fork over some cash. But even you gamers know that the skills you learn gaming, both manual and mental, are the same skills used to fly drones and how else to mine an asteroid except via drones?
Above I started to write 20,000 Leagues Beneath The Sea, but for some reason didn’t get past 20,000. My apologies.
I feel like as each year passes, I can’t help but think of this more and more:
“It makes sense that when faced with the awfulness of the world, the harsh realities that surround us, our instinct is to seek comfort, and where else were the majority of us most comfortable than our youth?”
I leave the house. I drive my car. I go to work. I go to the grocery store. I go to the gym. I deal with my daily responsibilities and obligations to the best of my ability. Basically, I do the adult thing. And yet I always catch myself feeling so surprised that I’m the one doing those things. I own a car? I’m responsible for other people? I’m expected to generate numbers? Me?
I go home at the end of the day and I retreat to all of these less-than-adult things that I love. I can’t deny that I do find comfort and enjoyment in things that, as a child, I imagined I would not be into as an adult. I find it’s easier to engross myself in a good tale from the various forms of media I consume than it is to look at the news, actually want to look at what’s going on in the world, and take it all in. And I’m completely aware of what I do.
I feel like the older I get the more I question these habits of mine. Like I should grow up. Like I should be doing something different. But then I make excuses and try to justify it. After all, it’s not hurting anyone, right? I’m a responsible, contributing member of society, so that’s got to count, right? What else could I possibly be doing anyway? And so the cycle continues. But the older I get, the less right it feels. I suppose I’ll figure it out eventually and find a happy medium where I can still enjoy some of my childish interests, but not feel like a complete piece of shit for it. But in the meantime, The Force Awakens is seven months away and two new seasons of Red Dwarf have been confirmed, and that’s really exciting.
Well put. I found myself questioning some of the things I enjoy that are pop culture, just because these days I’m curious about higher culture. I don’t seem to have this ‘anxiety’ anymore; each one gets the attention I feel like giving it, at any given time.
Continued success to you Mr Pegg. I look forward to whatever work you do as as an actor, writer, director.
This “extended childhood” really doesn’t surprise me one bit. We’re living into our 80’s and 90’s yet we’re still following a system based on us dying in our 50’s and 60’s.
We should extend our childhood. Allow us to learn more before we slag off into the depths of Cubicle Town.
That was deep. Glad I smoked before I read it. It’s always amazed me how people gave the sci fi/fantasy genre no credit. Look back at the old Flash Gordons or some of the Arther C Clarke stories and really look at what was outlandish then but is reality now. The human races capacity for imagination is incredible. Whatever we can dream of at some point becomes reality. Now that’s not only for good but also for evil unfortunately. I can’t speak for this being a form of control, I tend to see it as an escape from that control. For some of us, we escape maybe to much. or as Mr. Pegg puts it, investment. I invest and dream of what can and will be. My only hangup is dwelling on what I’ll miss after I’m gone. I enjoy your performances tremendously and now I get to enjoy your musings. Should we meet, the first pint and bag of crisps are on me.
I’ll grow up when the world does, and not before.
There is so much carry on about being responsible adults from childish politicians who think they can get away with telling the rest of us to grow up while they spend the taxpayers money on toys for themselves, that I am inclined to distrust them.
You, on the other hand, Mr Pegg have a job that many of us would kill for, and a large stack of cash to show for it…From a career that specializes in playing make believe in front of a camera for an audience of both children, and those adults who haven’t quite ossified in to cubicle minions.
I presume you will now be limiting your acting work to depressing documentaries and educational features?
Then don’t bite the hand that feeds you, and not expect to get a little mauled by an audience that wants a little fantasy in the grey reality of the 21st century.
Now go lay some fantasy tracks down, Mr Pegg, this train’s got to run today… ;)
The world cannot grow up until the people who live in it do. Yet until the world “grows up first”, you (and everyone who seriously believes as you do) will refuse to do so, thus preventing the world from achieving this standard you’ve set down as a condition of you growing up. It’s quite the catch-22, isn’t it?
Mr. Pegg has an opinion. You may or may not like that opinion, and no one is forcing you to like or dislike it. But why begrudge him his right to express it in the first place? Your and similar comments are basically telling him to shut up and go back to entertaining us with the sort of mindless drivel we’ve all been force-fed by Hollywood and its foreign counterparts for decades, as though he isn’t a human being with thoughts and feelings and hopes and dreams and ambitions of his own. Is it really so troubling to think of actors and actresses having opinions, of being human?
I have consumed too many beers to read this entire post, but certainly it’s rational and agreeable. And you’re really funny. So. Yeah. All’s well that ends well, with the exception of “The World’s End”.
This post really is a bunch of nonsense. I stopped reading it right around the time he started trumpeting feminism.
Hi Simon. Please do us all proud by making an epic Star Trek film. You don’t need to copy TOS, TNG or DS9. Just make it something new, but true to Star Trek at its core. Also no more Star Wars references in Star Trek films. That is all I ask for.
Lots of time for Mr Pegg.
Don’t know what the new Star Trek is like, first one was a teen road movie in space so unaware of any furore.
Why no mention of Run Fat Boy Run in the bio? How dare you sir, I appeared in that, well short of Mr Warhol’s standard time frame for fame, but still, it is the only thing I have to crow about!
You may expect my seconds to call on you if you will first kindly supply a PO Box address? (Good article though.)
I get it. Anything out of disproportion can be bad. Studios selling whatever people will buy will always be the name of the game.
Infantile mind control? Meh, we are past that brother. We’re all plugged into the matrix, no going back. People like to be happy as a general rule. But “have faith in humanity.” I knew about the elections and the quake.
Bottom line is you miss an even larger more beautiful thing about the interests holding people’s imaginations. Star Trek, Star Wars, the comics, fantasy, these were consumed by nerds first. People who thought “thinking” was for more than homework it was “fun.”
Simon, it is fun to learn. That’s what it means to say you’re a nerd.
I disagree too.
On the contrary of his point, then every movie Pegg has made is not worth the popcorn one had ingested while viewing it.
And with all due respect, no comic book artist should agree with him and this silly blog. Yes, I just belittled the entire focus of his blog. I’ll tell you why.
Capitalism is what drives the American economy. So Pegg would be ok if it was a socialist society and we gave out money, food and medical care out like candy on Christmas, but we don’t, we have to pay for it all, (bear with me for a moment).
Its not about government making the point of creating an infantile society, it comes from the past generations having to grow up too fast and warning the future generations about the end of the line… which is simplistically going to be called death, for sake of argument.
Any comic book artist should be grateful for this new world geek culture because it fills their wallets with green matter so they can buy their kids braces and lollypops. Please spare me and the fans the hypocrisy…. without this nerd/ geek passion there would be no comic industry.
Spectacle is the essence of life. We are attracted to things that are larger than us. To things that are beyond us. Have you ever been stuck in rubbernecking because of a severe accident? Or watch the crowd thicken on a corner obsessed with a residential building on fire?
Pegg like so many creatives (whom I adore) who have achieved a good level of success in their chosen (in childhood I’m sure) career in entertainment become fooled into believing that they are now a powerful intellect. A true intellect does not make movies, or comic books, or make rock and roll… they do research, they fight cancer and they change political policies for the good of human kind. For far too long I have seen artists be molested by their ego until they actually believe that they are the most important thing in society. Wrong. Sorry to be so crass, but wrong. You make movies. Or comic books. Or you make music. That’s all.
Don’t feel too defensive. The world would crumble without art. Its imperative that we have art in all aspects. Good art and bad art. Now, the successful artist will tell you what good art is… even if you like what is deemed bad art… they will tell you you are wrong.
Star Wars changed society because it gave so many people a chance to trip the light fantastic. To journey beyond their own boring little lives. It was a story that was told the right way. It was nothing new in its tale, only in the way it was told. And technically it revolutionized the movie industry forever.
If anyone actually thinks that government saw SW and thought it would be great to turn the American people into children, I think you’re over thinking the reality of things. It made a crap load of money. And that’s what excites the human species…. and the government machine.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying what you did in childhood, as long as you’re paying your bills and being a decent citizen.
Who wants to face real world issues…? In that case, all successful artists of all genres and industries should do only one project a year or two and spend the rest of their time and energy and creative genius to improve the world by facing the real problems still dirtying our world community.
This is nonsense. And so is art. But then again it isn’t. I just think that once creatives achieve a higher level of success they suddenly believe that they are an authority on the human condition. And no you’re not. Your ego just makes you believe you do.
Ghandi. Mother Theresa. Malcolm X. These are people who went there. They just did it. Because it needed it to be done. I never heard any of them talk about the movie industry, or any printed fiction.
Please Mr. Pegg… just make movies… make funny movies… that’s what you do. Or be like Angelina Jolie and go be a humanitarian.
Yes, examine the art. Yes, analyze the art. But let’s not fall from the soapbox because no matter how fortunate you are in your career of playing pretend… it still hurts when you hit the ground.
I don’t suppose it’s ever occurred to you that Mr. Pegg, like any other actor or actress, has a mind and opinion of his own, and while you might not like it, he has the right to express it and clarify it for those who took it in the wrong context. Is he not allowed to think or have his own opinion? That seems to be what you suggest.
I appreciated this comment.
It will be art that awakens us to see The Spectacle of the Real for what it is. http://edbrenegar.typepad.com/leading_questions/2013/05/the-spectacle-of-the-real.html. Thanks for the Baudrillard reference. Also read Guy DeBord. He gets it, too.
Dear Simon, well done. I think you gave any naysayers more credit and thought than they deserve with this response. Whoever tries to defend the entire fantasy genre has forgotten it includes the Twilight series, for one.
Science fiction, fantasy, and superhero genre fiction have always been aimed at the audience who wants a rollicking story where, to quote Blues Traveler, “the hero’s right, and nobody thinks, or expects too much”. And to that point, Simon, you’re right. It’s ‘mere’ entertainment. Pandering. Fluff.
But that has never stopped them from allegorically tackling social issues. From _Stranger in a Strange Land_ to _Star Trek: TOS_’s “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, from _The Wonderful Wizard of Oz_ to _Chronicles of Narnia_, from Power Man to Wonder Woman to Northstar of Alpha Flight… whether heavy-handed or subtle, even whether intentional or merely ascribed, genre fiction has dealt with many issues of our day, or of the greater human experience, by taking them apart and reassembling them in a different context.
Just a quick mention: Just before the TOS/TMP signed off for the last (?) time in “The Undiscovered Country,” Captain Kirk closes the performance with a line from Peter Pan, which as you remember, is a story about a boy who refuses to grow up.
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You sound like Alan Moore; http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/21/superheroes-cultural-catastrophe-alan-moore-comics-watchmen
Whenever I hear this I try to see it from the writers view, but more often than not, it comes across as, “What I like is smart and cool, but that other nerdy stuff is stupid and childish and does not advance us, but hurts us” It seems petty, and demeaning, like Oh Star Trek is cool, but Avengers, how lame, you people unable to let go of your childish yearning for heroes.
I am a huge fan and I do not think you have any ill intention for anyone, but I have heard this before and it just feels like a George Carlin skit, as in your shit is shit, but my shit is stuff, and my stuff is important and your shit isn’t.
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I don’t look to scifi and fantasy as something that keeps me infantilized and distracted from what’s important in the world. I look to it as a momentary release from reality, so I can take a breath and gather myself before joining the world once more.
To be honest, I wish I could be distracted with scifi as dispensed by corporate control to keep me in a perpetual state of childhood. When I was a kid, scifi was hope for what I would see in the future when I grew up. More and more, I come away from reading or watching scifi with utter despair that what child me hoped to see in my lifetime will never happen. The movies that challenge the audience, spark thoughtful discussion, etc., are the worst offenders. I love them, but sometimes, I just want to watch a fun and GOOD movie with explosions that has no hidden meaning or underlying social issue because after a long day dealing with sex offenders, the last thing I want right before I sleep is to be reminded of what awaits me tomorrow.
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Certainly no outrage from me (christ, isn’t everyone tired of being outraged?).
But I do wonder at the tenability of this line of thought while being an active promulgator, participant and beneficiary of said infantilizations. Seems to me a bit of the looking the gift horse in the mouth…. I (and probably his agent) are both screamwhispering “JUST SMILE AND WAVE SIMON… SMILE AND WAVE!!!”
Sure, I totally buy Simon’s mixing it up in the course of an endless press junket. IMO, that’s the best explanation… just stray thoughts… and it’s completely valid as that. College dorm room style shootin’ the shit.
But again, considering what Pegg does for a living… very problematic if you try to hold it up as some kind of conviction or guiding principle.
And at the other end of his musings is the stuff about being grown up and dealing with real life – to which i ask, “like what?”
Were our parents BETTER for being “grown up” earlier? Are they more fulfilled? More “actualized”? Does participation in war gain you any useful insights that those who’ve experienced it wouldn’t eagerly trade away if they could?
If there’s enlightenment to that kind of growing up, there’s no evidence of it on the faces or lives of the oldsters I pass by.
All the grown up stuff seems to be endless stratigraphic layers of bullshit just dressed up in a solemn looking suit. Is POLITICS more important? Really? I suppose if the goal was just to be angry all the time….
Everybody’s a goddamn monkey and all “serious endeavors” are just the delusions of the most hostile and self important monkeys. Do we really want to get involved in these sociopathic movements?
I don’t mind Simon taking down comic book culture a peg or two… to be serious or outraged about THAT is probably the height of absurdity.
But I do disagree with the message simply because I don’t think THERE IS much better. Everything’s bullshit. Everything’s an absurdity. If you can spend your life in benign absurdities that are at least self professed bullshit… maybe that’s as much good as there can be in the world.
Simon, you can pay the bills and put food on the table.
That’s fucking grown up enough, man.
Well we all say things that do not come out right. However if your worried that movies are not making us think then maybe you should re-watch the Original Star Trek series.
Star Trek used to be a positive show to watch, showing how there was nothing wrong with equality and desegregation. All forms of equality from race, class, and gender. I think now more than ever that message needs to be told again. With all the race, gender, and sexual preference issues boiling to the surface again now would be the time to return to Roddenberry’s original philosophy. Much better than the what has been done with a distopian society plagued by lens flares.
The reboot has managed to take a meaningful philosophy and grind it down to nothing more than an action movie in space.
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“So, what;s your story about?”
“Well, it’s about these cryogenically-frozen-”
“No. No, no no. I mean, what’s your story ABOUT?”
“No. I mean, what’s your STORY about?”
“Imagine a world where-”
“Stop. Please. What’s your STORY … _ABOUT_?”
“Ah. You mean the REAL WORLD stuff?”
“Yes! Finally — now we’re getting somewhere!”
“It’s a toyetic franchise-starter with over 50 million consumer impressions!”
“Right., then. I’m off to have lunch. Mind the store for me, will you?”
Science fiction, at its best — at its most REAL — is primarily concerned with real-world things. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it’s true.
Go back and watch the original STAR TREK. It’s not great because of warp speed and photon torpedoes and phasers and Tribbles. It’s great because it dealt with real-world issues and transformed them via metaphor into broad stories that illuminated passionate real-world themes like racism, cultural disillusionment, or the bureaucracy of war. The original TWILIGHT ZONE did this. While telling stories about nuclear bombs or tiny robots, the show was really talking about self-importance and human arrogance and the grotesque ugliness of Manifest Destiny and all kinds of other important issues. Hell, even JOE 90 touched on what were then current events in some of its stories.
They were ABOUT things.
Now — I challenge you to tell me what AGE OF ULTRON was about. Here’s the catch: you can’t talk about robots or Asgard or Hulkbuster Armor or anything like that. You have to use only real-world descriptors and terms. Go.
What? Silent? Yeah, I thought so.
And don’t start saying “It’s about the lengths people will go to for their own security and what we’re willing to sacrifice to feel safe!” Because, while the film gets some frottage osmosis from touching on those PREMISES, it makes absolutely no conclusions, not even to say “It’s a complex issue.” There’s a difference between a story starting with themes and actually exploring them. Out of all the recent cmmic book movies, WINTER SOLDIER got the closest — which is why it was lauded as more of a political thriller than a comic book movie. But it was still a comic book movie.
The reason-blame for STAR TREK falling apart as a global phenomenon has been laid at the feet of many people. But I place that reason-blame squarely on the fans, who grew less interested in sociopolitical metaphor than “What are the Jem-Hadar doing? What’s trilithium made of?” They’re now getting what they asked for out of movies that have absolutely nothing to do with anything except Vulcan exploding or not and whether Romulans deserve to survive or not. That can be fun, but it’s no foundation to build anything upon.
In summary, I say this: someone way smarter than me put it really well:
“Once upon a time, movies were sagas. Now, they’re franchises.”
Age of Ultron was full of flaws, but i think it can pass your test easily. It’s about how America fucks up the world, and how a bunch of freaks has to mend the mess their own nation has created. The origin story for Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in the film reminded me of the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia in 1999. And the parallels between Tony Stark’s obsession with world policing and the self-assumed role of the US as sentinel of the free world are evident. Blame that film for its many shortcomings, but don’t take it as a scapegoat, please.
I kinda agree with pretty much everything here although I think the important thing that was missed is that TV has become the place for the dark, morally ambiguous character and we are all better for it. Years ago we would have gotten a 2 hour movie exploring a character going from well meaning to bad but in modern TV we have a few shows that can spend hours showing the descent. Hollywood hasn’t completely stopped making those stories, they just decided to move them to a medium better suited for telling the story
Very well said, but you’re missing a big part of the picture. All of those challenging, morally ambiguous stories that aren’t being told by the major film studios anymore have moved to tv/online, because they’re much better told episodically and have become very successful. It started in the late ’90s-early ’00s with The Shield, Oz & The Wire and now we have Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Boardwalk Empire, etc, etc, etc. All of which are the exact kind of story that you’re bemoaning the loss of. Instead of a case of the audience being infantalized, I would suggest that it’s simply a case of the film studios going for the easy money which, with the possible exception of a brief period in the late ’60s-early ’70s, they’ve always done and the audience finding our challenging, grown up entertainment in elsewhere.
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I think people need to start looking at movies that don’t come from Hollywood. There are incredibly challenging and complex movies coming out of Canada, France, Japan, Germany, Portugal and the UK all the time. So let’s remember there is a bigger film world out there.
I think because America is such a multi-cultural country, where English is not the first language for a portion of the population, modern movies tend to focus on the visual rather than the verbal. And many American movies since Star Wars are being made with a consideration to the international market, and again therefore tend to focus on the spectacle.
But let’s be kind to Hollywood, they have made the occasional awesome movie – Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine, Gods and Monsters, Short Cuts, Precious, Juno, Adaption, Birdman; so it’s not all bad news.
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Useful if you’re writing: Know when to use ‘me’ and ‘I’. e.g. “What fascinated Jess and I was the way….” should have been “What fascinated Jess and me….”
Good luck with ‘Beyond’.
Please look at the link below just trying to get some help to get a project off the ground.
I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve been saying this for a long time. While it’s well-known that a little nonsense is good for us, we are becoming infantalised.
I was in Tesco earlier. And they’re selling colouring books for adults.
Your lifestyle cred certainly doesn’t take a hit from your honesty with me, it raised it. Those that imagine an individual is defined by “meme-styled” moments in their life are below standard intellect, and sadly the norm. But not in the geek circles. In any case I came for the first time to say love your work, your choices, and to give respect for noticing and extending honest appraisal. Few take in mind that our thousands of years in roles firmly entrenched have in the last sixty, seventy years, scattered to the technological winds. Media of course along with its need to sell has driven its perceptions with our excess free time, and lack of self responsibility. Family structures are torn apart, relationships, respect, basic skills along with morality and self sustaining skills are null and void in the masses and completely incompetently taught in schools. Thinking is not taught, regurgitation is with corporate political school lesson plans and number generating lies of ability churning out morons while selling them the blinders to keep them from noticing they are incapable of basic abilities everyone had a mere 60 years ago. Who do you know that can tell you without blinking how to make bread? We have stretched so far out in technology we are dystopia waiting for the shoe to drop. OMG EMP!! So, yes of course many are using media and fairy tales to keep us from noticing the scare fest making people clearly dependent on nanny state and stop and frisk and cameras everywhere. Scifi has great writers pointing out obvious lacks, and honest appraisals of just how badly things will go without more education, and outrage and how those with the money alone are pushing agendas. It was just stated in the USA, if the less than one percent gave back two pennies on each of their dollars, the entire nation would double minimum wage overnight. These same individuals control energy advances, resource usage, and media and education. They like pressing the blinders on fools, so dont for an instant feel out of place pointing out the truth of things. Take care.
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I think its mostly a standard of living thing. The elite of society in any age could afford to concentrate on ‘frvilous’ things and have an ‘extended childhood’. It may be in the 70s and 80s was the first time that kind of standard of living became common place, at least in western socities.
I made your tea during Spaced post production. Out of everyone I made tea for then Nick, Jessica and yourself were the most gracious. Not Edgar though, (I jest), (no I don’t).
I have to admit Simon, I had the complete series one before anyone else in the world. My girlfriend, (now I’m very happy to say my wife), and I where the Spaced underground, I have never been that cool since.
Well done Simon.
Science-fiction, understood in its broadest possible sense, arose from the collision of two extremely different cultural strands:
On the one hand you have the Myth and Utopia tradition, which is a fictional (consciously or not) construct meant to represent an ideology, and thus becoming somewhat “congealed” by the aura it gains from its political or religious associations.
On the other you have the tradition of the novel, which if it was certainly associated with the political formation of the nation-states, was also inextricably linked with the rise of cultural consumerism.
I am sure Simon does not imagine Star Wars to be “purely” conservative and Mad Max to be “purely” subversive: their very fictional character make such work ambivalent by definition, because destined to interpretation.
Producing fiction (and science-fiction all the more, inasmuch as it departs further from the shared experienced reality) entails a willingness to sacrifice at least part of the ideological content on the altar of narration (whichever the media).
What some would ask however is whether this “non-ideological” reminder, which we may call “pure entertainment” for argument’s sake, is in and of itself, subversive or pacifying. There would certainly be po-mos to argue for the first option.
To Mr. Simon Pegg,
I sit here upon my cracked leather throne upon the marigins provided me by interestest into opinion that I write in response to your response to your own response. As a fan, I make no other reguard but than to klink two cents next a bowl you have graciasouly left out. As such, I do believe my title shall fit the percription of my criticism,
Why Its All Your Generations Fault-The Usual Millennial Response to the Past
I do believe you make some serious points about the marketization of science fiction: however, I propose that the current social atmosphere of the average audience member differs so significantly from that during your released of Spaced which, in part, you never quite rectified in your film The Worlds End, as it is the individual having put off maturity to a irreconcilable point. If I were to take an even bolder step, I would say it was your generations development of science’s importance to the individual that led to the marketization of science fiction in the contemporary present.
As it is, perhaps more than anytime in history, that the individuals need for marketable, simple but flashy science gives them a maintained sense of order in the universe. These techniques, granted developed on economic gain, are marketable because the acceptance of science as an established feature of society now directs society, not at its own individual freedom, but the destruction of individual into the genetics of their own being and their destruction by the scientifically held universal forces which seek to destroy out own being.
As another bit of my madness, here is where I critique your work as an actual filmic essay. During your era (or rather, finished during the 70’s and 80’s) was the end of the traditional understanding of human physiology, particularly as it related to gender, race, and sexual orientation (with or without the presence of narcotic influences) as well unlocking the last bits of the mind as it related to mental illness. Science had, over many previous governmental and often relligiously influenced conceptions of humanity, freed the individual from their perscribed notions and given them a fundemental understanding of human nature greater than their predeccesorss. In essence, your generation was freed from the notions ascribed to maturity as you had been
So it that I think your film, The Worlds End, bears mentioning. The whole notion of the generation freed from the notion of maturity was something I hadn’t connected before, and find it very insightful into understanding how Shawn of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The Worlds End all play to this notion of the generation freed from it. As you develop it, even your generation has (or had) an inviteble point which made every body mature or reject the notion of maturity all together. But here is where I feel you have somehwat changed your opionion (perhaps even as it applies to my “millenial generation) from then. As you satirically develop it, the destruction of the world by the aliens wasn’t of the world but society; in whose destruction people were provided a world from which to mature in (even if your own character is, perhaps, a bit on the reblious side of maturity).
And here, with more straws, I now bring those contemporary topics which may provide insight and, by reference, give the most conceptual basis to build my point. But it wasn’t until the beginning of that period, namely the seventies, that issues of environmental maintenance became part of social atmosphere. It is, in fact, perhaps the single global issue which science most acknowledges, no pun intended. As a result, with addition of the prevalence in modern society compared to your own, science has assuaged of a clearer doomsday than any religious text
In the past twenty years, cloning, sequencing the human genome, the possiblities of genetic modification do provide the same proof to the individual, but rather these issues found the identity in their genetic and scientifically proven humanity rather than the freedom of indviduality given your generation. Add to that the growing notions of environmental climate factors, the unconditional basis of gravity, and the higgs boson particle, is being rendered down to a singe quantifable substance which lacks any gestualt. Thus, science has given the same enlightend freedom of being, however there is even less dominion of the natural (or, in this case) scientifically universal forces which exist around them. Accepting them breaks away any notion of individuality as it revloves around development as they have previously experienced, making the very maturity developed suspect but still, none-the-less, apart the person’s being. Further, it dooms the individual to degree your own film doesn’t recognize: the pontential of “its already too late”. Science has, particuarly in its notion of geometric progression, suggests the progress being made, as we speak, cannot stop even we tried. That the world will not be able to sustain life even if we, theoretically, mature.
Great article. Apart from the bit about mad max, there was pretty much no plot or character depth.
I’m just commenting to offer my sycophantic support in the vague hope you’ll single me1 out and be my friend. I once watched a programme with you in (at least I think it was you) and it was pretty decent! Also I like robots and once drew a picture of a storm-trooper that I sent to Tony Hart (bastard never put it on the gallery though, even though the drawings from 5 year olds were frankly shit). So we’re like brothers. Keep up the good work!
A lot of ppl like, and go to, superhero/fantasy films.
A lot of ppl don’t.
There have always been dumb action films.
There have always been artsy fartsy indie films.
Personally I’d rather see Captain America 3 than My Dinner With Andre.
That’s all I have to say about that.
A great piece. Very well said and I love that P.S.
In the immortal word of Sigmund Freud
“sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”
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I have turned to entertainment, away from thinking about “things that matter” because when I look at the things that matter all I see is a system that will not change without drastic action. And thinking about / talking about drastic action makes one crazy. So- until everyone else gets caught up I’ll be watching Star Wars, playing Madden and working on my poker game. Ring me when the revolution begins.
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That’ll do pig, that’ll do.
Don’t change a word, don’t back down. You are exactly right. I’m a 50 year old physician who grew up reading Asimov’s Foundation, Heinleins Stranger, Bradbury’s 451 and Tolkien’s LOTR- these were stories that made you think.
Now everything has to go boom, costumes be skin tight amidst the saintly glow of lens flair.
Stargate ran a series retrospective in it’s episode “200” and roundly mocked the trend of shows going for EMO teens as main characters and then largely fielded that as a cast for SGU- which lasted 1 season.
At the very end of that episode Is a great little speech that stands in contrast to the tone of the rest of the (Outstanding) episode.
“Science fiction is an existential metaphor. It allows us to tell stories about the human condition. Isaac Asimov once said: “Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today, but the core of science fiction, its essence, has become crucial to our salvation, if we are to be saved at all.”
Mr. Pegg you are one of the central players in science fiction right now- you rightly called out a bad trend. It’s not that the current superhero films are bad, they’re great fun, but it’s mind candy and someone should start making thinking Sci-fi again.
Put JW and yourself in a room with a stack of 19-20th century Sci-fi and blank paper. We’d be immeasurably better at the end of that process.
Keep the faith
Nice little read that. You’re pretty good with the old words aren’t you?
Now I know why I still love all the stuff I loved when I was 12 and I feel even better than before I knew why. Brilliant!
Also, I think you spilt my pint in the Green Dragon in Stratford once. I was a goth and was cool about it so you probably didn’t notice.
Also, Is the new Star trek going to have Nick in it as a Tribble Master Breeder?
Infantilization is not really the cause for people’s not getting engaged in social issues. The problem of lack of engagement stems from numerous causes: the narrowing of news coverage (the same three stories all day) and shrinking of news staffs; the media’s failure to cover many issues; the media’s penchant for covering stories for a short while and then dropping them as if they’ve been solved; the framing of every issue as a noisy debate between left and right, which wearies many people and they stop listening; a kind of stigma attached to be being socially aware and active (stemming in part from TV and film representations of activists as kooks or insincere malcontents); the boiling down of complex stories into simple sound bytes often repeated without giving a broader context; the attention span shortening influence of computers and Internet resources; an economic system with stagnant wages that causes people to be more fixated on their own livelihoods than worrying about things elsewhere; decades of cultural fixation on the self and one’s own fulfillment; learned helplessness on the part of those who look at the state of the world and believe that their influence over government or ability to change anything is nil; intellectual relativism that says that all things are basically the same anyway; a xenophobic resentment of other countries or providing assistance to them informed somewhat by the aforementioned economic conditions that make people want to circle the wagons and protect our own jobs, country, etc.
There are other causes, but each of these in its way eats away at people’s ability or desire to be engaged. Pegg’s comments, however, appeal to our resulting need for simplistic scapegoating (I’m not saying that’s what he’s doing, but that in a sound-byte driven world, we gravitate toward the short questions and short answers)– i.e., fantasy movies make us babies with long childhoods, so we don’t engage. That’s something we can have quick, short responses to and not have to think about much.
I should also note that the “serious” movies of the 70’s usually did no more to encourage concern about social issues than entertainment today. The movies he mentions — The French Connection and Taxi Driver — have little to do with pertinent social issues that people would be moved to do something about.
Excellent clarification. You’re correct in how the dominant market forces have usurped our childhoods to maintain a pliant society. The things that made the original ‘Star Trek’ (truly a thinking person’s television show, despite NBC’s efforts to make it more “palatable” to audiences with increased action scenes) were utterly lost in J.J. Abrams’ reboot, which is one reason I dread the prospect of going to see the new Star Wars film. Nevertheless, the knowledge that he shot it on film, and breakdowns of what key scenes (such as the activation of the new Sith lightsaber) tell us about the characters and the story, pique my interest enough that I will take the risk.
But if you really look at what made shows like ‘Star Trek’ so enduringly popular, it was the social and political commentary. Rod Serling’s ‘The Twilight Zone’ was full of these commentaries, and they forced us to question societal norms and looming threats of the 1950s (McArthyism, atomic war, and totalitarianism, for example). Roddenberry offered a brighter vision of the future, but still asked that we keep open minds and recognize that for all we’ve accomplished, we still have a long way to go.
But when one looks at the continual reboots of these shows, those important factors were done away with, the characters reduced to caricatures of their previous incarnations, and the stories reduced to nothing more than cheap amusement park thrills and horror house scares. It’s obvious the writers and directors never once sat down and actually observed the original shows to see what truly made them so great. That’s deliberate, because if the reboots were to capture the true essence of those much-loved shows, audiences would be made to think, and the last thing the market wants is a thinking society capable of rendering its own decisions as to what is best for itself.
What we need are film-makers willing to go outside the Hollywood system again to make the kind of thinking persons’ films we need so badly. The whole reason we had the Hollywood Renaissance was because actors, writers, and directors were sick of producing the mindless tripe Hollywood demanded and so went outside the system to make their own films and tell the meaningful stories they wanted to tell.
Excellent follow-up, Mr.Pegg. Truly.
Nevertheless, when you have a few idle moments to spare, please review the worldwide box office grosses for 1970 – 73. Not all was gold, by a long shot. We all fall prey to looking through rose-colored glasses.
Lastly, as to your comment, “There was probably more discussion on Twitter about the The Force Awakens and the Batman vs Superman trailers than there was about the Nepalese earthquake or the British general election” — bread and circuses, nothing surprising about it.
I have to say that your piece, no wait , the entire edifice on which you stand is undermined by your image.That top banner could be an alternate banknote, a Peggster Pound, from some remote island owned and ran by a particularly nerdy chap who’s passion is bowls (which he’s crap at), so much so that its the only sport on the curriculum. Forgive me but isn’t that a knitted tanktop or cardigan? I’m hoping this is tongue in cheek though i can’t help thinking this is a serious stab at seriousness.
I’m hoping, nay praying that from the waist down you’re sporting a nappy and flippers with one hand holding a pipe. If , god forbid, you’re in cordouroy trousers and slip ons i will never, ever watch another one of your films!
Seems Simon upset the hard of thinking. Not all sci fi and fantasy is good, and some of it is just cynical money making with little artistic merit. Controversial? Sue me.
In a way its kind of ironic, that comments intended to be about the infantization of the western world are taken out of context in one of the most infantile ways… I mean, one only has to read a single blog post from Ryan Holiday to realize just how easily the entire media machine is manipulated into regurgitating some half thought out childish opinion based on pure and utter bullshit. It doesn’t even matter if you didn’t say any of the things quoted on io9, people would still throw a massive social networking temper tantrum about it and the media machine never bothers correcting itself even when they get it wrong. In fact i think trying to clarify your clearly benign intentions to a nation of idiots is the last thing you should be doing, because they’re so surreptitious it doesn’t really matter what you say, if you make an intelligent argument, their small minded brains will throw out all the big words their small minds didn’t understand, and take the other parts out of context, filling in the blanks with their own idiotic assumptions to make you out to be their own veritable strawman. I got what you meant the first time around. There are certain things you take as a given, if you’re intelligent, if you have common sense. You don’t have to explain why the Michael Bay type explosions and action are just the pulp cinematic equivalent of childishly smashing some action figures together, and you don’t have to apologize for wanting sci fi to be more adult in its terms of themes than a simple, good guy wins, bad guy dies, sort of thing thats indistinguishable from the games kids play in their backyard. You don’t have to spell it out for people like they’re children. And the fact that they think you should have to, is embarrassing for the human race.
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And to think I was going to boycott Star Trek Beyond because you were writing it. It seems you have a habit of speaking before you think. It’s probably for the best that you left your twitter account to be handled by your assistants. I’ve dialed back my own social media presence on account of my own foot in the mouth behavior. You seem to be genuinely apologetic about offending people with your statements. I hope that is the case. Your friend Bob Orci could learn a thing or two about appropriate online behavior and taking genuine criticism without throwing a fit. Anyways, I enjoyed reading this blog post. Good luck with the screenplay for Star Trek Beyond. I hope you’re enjoying the journey of writing for the Trek franchise as much as you do playing Scotty.
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I agree that science fiction is not a dumb genre (far from it). As a woman born in 1971 I was often ridiculed for being a Trekkie. (Born in Poland, have lived in Sweden before I turned 10). I was actually a really good student, and became a lawyer to no one’s surprise, not before graduating from High School in Minneapolis (USA) at the age of 16 and becoming a mother in 1990. There was no box anyone could fit me into, although many have tried. You have to fit into a box and the box has to have a label telling others who you are. Otherwise the people around you just can’t function. I noticed at a very early age that there were two kind of sci-fi nerds. (I’m simplifying of course since no one can fit perfectly into a labeled box). One kind understands the underlying meaning of the genre. Gene Roddenberry’s “agenda” of bringing up “forbidden” subjects and getting away with it, since what happened on an imaginary planet could never have anything to teach humanity about being human. It was but a fairy tale, a fantasy, something for children and couldn’t possibly have any kind of political ideas hidden n the plot. Right?
Then there is a different kind of nerd whose admiration for science fiction was…, let’s say less complicated. This group has a larger passion for the starships and the fights. One group was eager to ask Kirk or Picard about dark matter and phasors (at fan gatherings or what not). Others asked Mr Stewart or Mr Nimoy for an autograph after making an effort to read a little about dark matter and other strange things mentioned in Star Trek and other Sci-Fi shows or movies. Some of us (Me) still have no idea what or how this universe really is, or how many multiverses there might be out the. Even if God created it all, then from what and how? Some of us don’t get that part, but we do understand the fiction part of it all. “The hidden agenda”. No conspiracies that it, but the many questions that came up in a galaxy far away, but might as well be about us. Many times the stories are about humanity, our planet, out purpose our weaknesses and strengths, but those questions are overlooked or not as entertaining as the starships.
At a time when a moon landing is just too boring to give a crap about, it is still very important not to utter the wrong word about a movie. I think I’d better stop now because you either get it by now or you never will. And that’s ok. What a dull universe (or whatever the right term might be) it would be if we all could fit into the same box. I’m sure you’d say it would be a boring place. But why then do people STILL try to cram me into that darn box? I’ll soon be 44 years old. Will people ever give up or will they be happy only after I am cut into pieces just so they can finally close the lid and label this stupid box? Is the label even written yet or will that take about 50 years as well?
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Simon, you are free to pursue whatever project you want. You have been the victim of the reactionary internet where people form opinions based on a headline.
I have always enjoyed your work and look forward to the new Star Trek movie.
Best of luck.
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This is the same guy who did Shaun of the Dead, yes? Fun movie, but not exactly Citizen Kane. That’s a lot of words to say you f’d up. I’m sure this “apology” has nothing to do with the fact that you want your movies to continue to make money. Because that would be capitalism and that would be wrong, right. It’s all about the “art”.
Well written, articulate and intelligent. It’s nice now and then to see that behind the wide array of characters played by “actors”, there is also a mind, unafraid to speak out,.. maybe not often wisely, but that is what makes us human.
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A great riposte to what I feel is a straw man accusation, and a source of some mild cultural anxiety for me, as someone who enjoys comics and science fiction, with Darth Vader and Doctor Doom favourite fictional characters, but has also ‘grown up’ since and likes to challenge themselves with more canonical forms of art, especially modernist music and literature (I don’t know why people think it is obsolete – I don’t feel Postmodernism is a replacement, more a lazy diversion).
How we get to high culture is usually by means of education, curiosity or sometimes Tom and Jerry cartoons (Cat concerto being one that drew me to classic music in my youth). I think the curious mind is never quite satisfied with pop culture, especially of a self-referential nature, (as cool at it seemed in my teens), and will aspire to know more background and context in which their favourite fictions/properties are produced. You have hit the nail on the head here, and it is refreshing to read someone who knows the role sci-fi/fantasy play in the lives of people, It certainly served as escapism during medical , and as corollary, social difficulties as a teenager. Some people will always want to escape into these worlds because the real world is complex and sometimes harrowing, but I found this state of fantasy is fragile and life is harder to deal with if that dream-state is interrupted. That’s why I like to know what’s happening in politics, economics and society, and to practice skepticism in most matters.
I definitely feel that popular science fiction could learn something from the harder writers of the past, and experiment more in form AND content. I know Star Trek: The Motion Picture isn’t popular, but it felt like the most authentic of the films, and is my favourite from a conceptual standpoint, but then I love the ideas of Clarke, Asimov and their mutual friend, Dr Carl Sagan. I want Sci-Fi to be big again.
I hope Star Trek Beyond offers greater scope than what we’ve been used to.
Don’t back out now. You’re right and you should stand up for it. This has been widely discussed in academia* for some time now, the effects of mass-produced popular culture–and especially TV and movie culture–on the general population. They’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter how intelligent or educational it is, staring at the idiot screen has the same effect on you. It’s a distraction. It rewires your brain. It makes you compliant.
Turns out Orwell didn’t have it entirely right. We never needed two-way telescreens to control the people. We only needed the screen to go one way. Long as our brains are properly numbed we’re no threat to anyone.
You’re going to get blowback for saying things like this. All I can say is that if you want to be able to look at yourself in the mirror in the long run, take whatever earnings you get from the next film, invest them wisely, and then say what you really think and let the chips fall where they may. That’s the problem with the money economy, it makes cowards of us all. Don’t let that happen to you when you have an out.
[*Not that I think academia are the be-all, end-all but sometimes you need that degree of distance from normal society to really see the patterns of what is happening in society.]
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IO9 misrepresenting the facts? WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE WORLD!!!!!!!?????
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You are awesome. Keep being awesome.
McLuhan said “Advertising is the art form of this century
Today, all media arts serve to sell lifestyles which manufacturing can fill with unneeded (superhero) merchandise, the only rhetoric employed is to render the audience comfortably numb, while their attention is being sucked out.
Great article, this needed to be said, and it’s a sorry world where you have to apologize for this
If I’d been hauled up by the testicles (figuratively of course) every time I said something to convey a broader message, without carefully considering how many different ways it could be used against me, I’d be constantly tripping over them!!!
“p.s. Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan are also Stormtroopers in The Force Awakens.”
Hah, I wonder how many news websites will take that to be serious too.
Well . . . no.
First, I would refer you to C.S. Lewis:
“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
Once you grok that and get past treating “childish” as a weapon to attack the hobbies of others, you can begin to learn to accept people liking different hobbies, including different expressions of art. Taking your examples specifically:
Mad Max: Fury Road was . . . weak. The “multiple layers of plot and character” were shallow and distracting to the point of the spectacle becoming the only unifying factor.
It wasn’t a Mad Max movie, with Imperator Furiosa as the guest ally.
It wasn’t the start of an Imperator Furiosa series, set in the world of Mad Max, with a guest appearance by Mad Max.
It was a Michael Bay effects-fest, with random pretenses of plot and character development attempting to string together rehashes of the chase scenes from The Road Warrior.
Genre intensive to be sure, but high art? Not even close.
Frank Miller’s Dark Knight was adult all on its own. It did not require Christopher Nolan to up it.
Which is not to take away from Nolan’s achievement. Especially when viewed in direct sequence, the degree of foreshadowing is astounding, not to mention the character development from one movie to the next.
As for “fascistic vigilantism” being held to “account”, how much more needed to happen to the man?
He lost the woman he loved, his health, his reputation, even his wealth. And then he had to “die” to actually “rise”.
And did you forget Lucius Fox threatening to quit over the spy device in The Dark Knight, and the voiceover about trust being rewarded?
It would seem you missed a considerable portion of the woods the movie was searching for the trees of “adulthood”.
That brings us to Game of Thrones and George RR Martin.
No, I wouldn’t accuse it of being childish.
I also would not herald it as an expression of musings on ambition, power, and lust.
Instead I would leave it as it is – an indulgence in paraphilias under the pretense of realism.
Any musings on ambition and power were lost by the middle of the second book in an ocean of gratuitous torture, sexual abuse, and “alternative” sexual attractions.
As for it not being done 10 years ago, surely you know that the first book was published 20 years ago.
Or do you just want to restrict that to film? Allow me to introduce you to Flesh + Blood, a historical piece from Paul Verhoeven (before he trashed Starship Troopers), released in 1985. Now THAT was a gritty, realistic, movie! Okay, so it didn’t have dragons. Whatever. It “only” had Jennifer Jason Leigh running around wearing as much as Daenarys Targaryen, while Rutger Hauer and Brion James cutting down people with style that Jaime Lannister could only dream about. Yeah baby! That title is pure truth in advertising.
I know, you want a TV series. How about War of the Worlds, from 1988 to 1990? It was network, so no nudity, and sci-fi instead of fantasy, but in terms of character abuse, I dare you to watch it straight through and not contemplate ultimate doom at the endless string of pyrrhic victories before the sudden cancellation Hollywood ending.
Sorry dude, but been there, done that.
Oh, and the literary content? Bio of a Space Tyrant by Piers Anthony, 5 books 1983-1986, covered much of the same territory in terms of sexual content without the torture pr0n, and with some real musings on ambition and power, not to mention Robert A. Heinlein and the social and sexual themes of Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and Time Enough For Love (1973). So even there Martin is decades late, despite being millions of dollars ahead.
Art criticism has its place.
Study of the tropes and archetypes involved has its place as well.
But trying to make it an issue in order to score points?
Arguing chocolate vs. vanilla ice cream will get your further and be more “adult”.
Simon hit on some great points about infantilizing adults. I am constantly reminded of Huxley’s Brave New World. The various caste were kept infantilized and distracted with drugs(soma), sex, and music/entertainment.
Grown men today know more information about the inner workings of the Klingon High Council than they do about the workings of their own governments and control systems.
Bread and circuses in the end. Keep people fat (with food stamps/the dole) and entertained and they will be too content to object to how they are controlled. Its like Huxley said in a lecture at Berkley some time in 1962. There are methods of control being developed that will cause people to love their servitude.
Bertrand Russell wrote “A revolt of the plebs would become as unthinkable as an organized insurrection of sheep against the practice of eating mutton.” in regards to the methods of control being developed in his day.
Phillip K. Dick was famous for his paranoid delusions but something that always struck me were claims he made that he had been contacted to implant certain ideas in his writings by some shadowy group. He claimed he refused but felt other authors may have been approached to do the same thing. He attempted to contact the FBI about his claims. I have no proof either way but in light of the ongoing discussion it is interesting to ponder the implications.
Long before Star Wars there was James Bond and many other movies that were mainly spectacle. The rise in “spectacle” movies has really been a product of the special effects industry rather than the silly notion of some capitalist conspiracy to dumb people down by a liberal Hollywood machine. As special effects got better and less costly this obviously allowed the comic book, sci fi and fantasy genres to put ideas on screen which were never feasible before and people obviously are interested in seeing these worlds and ideas which are now only limited by the imagination.
The idea of an extended childhood is interesting. To have a discussion on the topic though you first have to have a definition of what “being an adult” means. Traditionally, people would finish school, get married, have kids and would then take care of their family and kids and this is what being an adult has traditionally meant. The 60s brought about chages where people became more selfish and these norms changed. Women became more focused on careers rather than children and the family structure became less important. Promiscuity increased and now many men and women are more concerned with getting free milk rather than buying the cow as the expression goes. As the focus on family and kids has decreased people have a lot more time to indulge their own aspirations and whims. This is not always a bad thing, but as generations have continuously become more selfish, there are some that take this to a negative level. When you’re 35 and living in your parents’ basement this irresponsibility could easily be seen as a problem.
Regarding Pegg’s main premise, the reality is that we are being brainwashed on a national level. Men are being demonized under the flag of radical feminism and false stories (Rolling Stone’s excoriated rape story for example) are perpetuated to the public. Whites are being demonized with racist logical fallacies such as “white privilege”. America’s history is being demonized and we are being taught self hate for actions that were committed worldwide and that we have no responsibility for (ironically it’s being done by a political party that actually committed the bulk of slavery). We are being sold “climate change” so that politicians can convince the uninformed that the world will end if you don’t vote for them (as if the climate hasn’t been changing for billions of years and we should just accept computer models that have been consistently wrong). It seems the hypocritic actors demonizing capitalism from their mansions that capitalism built are endless. Christians are having Constitutional rights take away, usurped by the made up right to redefine words. Free speech is being demonized by an ever growing leftist thought police with political correct types now trying to burn down the lives of all who have a different opion. Morals have been flipped where lying, rioting, looting and the assault of innocents is excused while the truth is suppressed and branded racist. Success is being demonized by class warfare and Marxist constructs such as “wealth inequality”. True equality under the law is being attacked with racist and sexist programs under the flag of affirmative action.
The reality is that we are being lied to, divided and conquered through mental rape by the Hollywood music industry, the movie industry, TV entertainment, TV and print media and via the Internet and social media. Pegg’s blog is just another example. The illustrations of this in the movie industry vary from total propaganda such as the atrocious movie “Cloud Atlas” to little jabs such as Tim Robbins’ comment about “occupations never succeed” in War of the Worlds, referencing liberal talking points regarding the Iraq war. You can view 12 Years A Slave and see where the director demonized whites by having an evil white man kill a black man and throw his body overboard (in the real story the black man died of smallpox). The examples of leftist ideological subversion are endless. To understand this, one needs to investigate Yuri Bezmenov, but that’s beyond the scope here. Pegg illustrates all this himself with words and phrases like “feminism was still dismissed as a lunatic fringe by the patriarchal old guard” and Marxist buzzwords like “inequality”, “economic injustice” and moral twisting ideals such as describing the capture of criminals as “fascistic vigilantism”.
Where Pegg really loses his mind, is in suggesting that we need MORE of this. I couldn’t disagree more. We are indeed being dumbed down, but it’s not by movies with no real message, but by movies that constantly send all the wrong messages. Learning nothing is better than learning lies. Movies have always been an escape and that’s hardly a bad thing. What Pegg doesn’t get is that many are trying to escape the abuse of entertainment that Pegg seems to favor. There’s nothing wrong with deep movies that make you think, the problem is when those with hidden agendas use entertainment to lead you to a false conclusion and tell you what to think. Sorry Pegg, love your movies, but the last thing we need is our only escape taken away.
I think you’re politicizing a discussion about artistic merit and cultural significance.
Nothing to do with what you wrote and what you think – just want you to know that “Paul” is simply the funniest film EVER, I love every second of it, and all the allusions hidden, and not so hidden in there are pure genius.
I believe the phrase you may be looking for is “psychological neoteny”
more general information on neoteny here as well,
(CTRL-F “psychological neoteny”)
but therehave been serious studies of what may be happening culturally in response to, essentially, the precursor to the Rich economy/cultural singularity (I know, seems like stretching a bit, but it’s an interesting speculation)
replying to myself to include another link re:“psychological neoteny”
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Hard to believe how much utter b******* this post has generated…….
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Hey Simon! I don’t know if Paramount has told you, but “Star Trek Beyond” is also the name of a new series pitch I wrote last year. In fact, I bought the domain http://www.StarTrekBeyond.com to showcase the concept and pilot script! (I’m in the WGAw and have written for Trek once professionally: I wrote Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force).
Interested in discussing it? It’s registered with the Copyright Office and WGAw, and Paramount is aware of it. It may be a bit Star Trek-y, but I think Trek on TV *should* be Star Trek-y, even if the movies need to be more accessible blockbusters… :)
If I’m not in the majority, by actually wanting to be infantile …. Sorry… “infantised” (sodding productive sex) at regular intervals, in an attempt to retain what childlike magic still lingers in the deep recesses of my ever ageing psyche, then I see little hope for humanity….
Long may celebrities (proper ones, that is… None of your reality show wannabes) continue to speak and write spontaneously, in their own way and if nothing else, provoke controversy and discourse between those harbouring more brain cells than Farcebook profiles
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I love science fiction, but I do believe something is lost in a lot of today’s movies. Where’s the meaning? Where’s the thought provoking material and excellent story telling in light of the bombastic blather we see before us? The studios are more than happy to appeal to the nostalgia of those things many fans who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, and we are letting that nostalgia cloud us for what is good story telling.
IF it is one thing science fiction can do well is tell a great story and carry a meaning, and it is all the more hollow and unsatisfying when it doesn’t. Any sci-fi geek gets this, and I can see the concern that Simon has voiced. Why be part of something when it means nothing? I believe that a movie like THX-1138, Blade Runner, or Gattaca were proposed before a major studio today that none of those movies would never make it to the big screen intact as we know them to be today.
As with the video game industry, the types of movies you mention are being made by the indie’s. And they usually do well. Someday, maybe the big studios will see and understand what’s going on there. At least, we can cross our fingers and hope.
Simon, I cant disagree with anything that you’ve said. However, having read this, I have to ask why you arent using your powers for good? You’re writing the new star trek movie… the power is in your hands. You dont have to go all 2001/Solaris on us, but the change has to be gradual, and it has to start somewhere. You have the power, good sir, and if there’s anyone I trust to do it right, it would be you. Show us how.
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Simon, I agree with your assertions in regards to how movies can reflect all facets of society. One of the driving forces in the TOS world was people latched onto Gene Rodenberrys concept of man making it out, and still having to deal with the same issues they had on earth. They solved some of them. It was done on the cheap, with a lot of bondo, duct tape and bubblegum. But they did it. The fans loved all the aspects of it, from the ships to the people. That was what made it so enduring. A lot of “sci fi” today takes the technology and thinks the best special effects means it is a good movie, but look at the last ST movie made “Nemesis”. It had glitzy effects, and a seemingly good story, but it went out off the edge of what the Trek fans lived for. It added up to “Bad guy wants to destroy world, good guys save it”. the JJ ST had the same plot, with glitzier special effects. Into Darkness broke the cardinal rule of ST and rehashed a story, and did it in an unbelievable way, so it had no credibility. “Bad guy wants to destroy everything and good guys save it”. Again. SF can be written to expouse deep social concerns, even in military SF. Look at the Honor Harrington series of novels. A more tantalizing series of movies could not be found beyond it. Yet it’s back to a no name company to try to cobble together the movie, which will fail due to a lack of glitz or compromises made for costs or “studio heads”. There is no lack of great SF material people would watch today, just a lack of common sense when adapting it. Go look at the ST Axanar project for how to do Trek right. They have a 21 minute preview that is almost all people talking, but it tells a gripping story, and will be an awesome movie. Stick with it and try to make Trek proud again.
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If you could just do one thing with the next Star Trek movie which you are writing, please..
ensure that there is a story about interesting characters.
Don’t just do a shootup, fire phasers, fire, fire, fire as with the last one.. the last one bored me to death after watching it so much I didn’t buy the bluray.
Please keep a balance between action and character story! I know it’s a movie and movies these days tend to have LOTS OF ACTION scenes..
But we need to care for the characters, and all out non stop action doesn’t really allow that (and what’s worse many won’t understand what is happening in the story).
Give us a good mix, so more people will appreciate the movie whether they are fans or not.
Just my five cents.
I know now it’s said that with Khan’s blood, nobody can die in Star Trek now :) .. hope you have a solution (way out!) for that lol (perhaps its efficiency is fading with time?)
You are right with this. But I have to disagree with one of your opinions. Babylon 5 is good, even if it is too geeky for you! ;-)
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I rather liked that Peggsy. Well written ant to the point. Kudos.
Simon Pegg will do it justice. I think he’s got what it takes to strike a balance between the rabid fan base and pleasing the producers for ticket sales. He’s in a position of ‘saving the franchise’ again it seems, much like it was for Nicholas Meyer. I hope Pegg might learn from Meyer’s approach to making “The Wrath of Kahn” as he writes Star Trek’s next script. (Reference: http://hollywonk.com/post/44804979721/nicholas-meyer-trek-podcast)
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hi Simon, i am one of your fans from china. this article is so intersting that if you can permit me to traslate it from english to chineses and put it on weibo(which is like twintter in china)
weibo is a place where gathering a lot of fans of you and star trek.
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…“Nerd culture is the product of a late capitalist conspiracy, designed to infantalize the consumer as a means of non-aggressive control.”… and everybody feels that is ofensive. That doesn´t prove the point? People taking personal that speech, isn´t that childness?
I understand you focus in the industry you are in – but the problem runs deeper then that. We are creating generations of folks who feel entilted because they live in an age of instant access to almost anything. When you look at the film industry ( which i am a small part of) people want things today. They want movies , music , jobs , promotions, money and other things they don’t always want to work for. It is hard to appreaciate all the work that goes into filming until you spen that first day on the set from 4:30 am till midnight and have to come back the next day. How the editors work on the film sometimes day and night, and all the people involved in the production. This time we live in is definatly a dumbing down time. We do need sometimes to get back to basics enjoy a good story like moneyball ( don’t get me wrong i enjoy all types of films) or a WW2 clasic like to sink the bismark or a good comedy like Kelly’s heros. Yes i do enjoy special effects but you are right the charaters and the story have to be there.
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What, no Roger Moore or Sean Connery?
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Well said Henry
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I can definitely agree with you Mr. Pegg. I and many of my friends have had similar discussion about our prolonged childhood and what motivates us to continue to embrace it. I have a job with many responsibilities along with a mortgage and bills to pay. However, I also collect and restore arcade video games from 70s and 80s. I enjoy playing them and for a brief bit of time I can forget about my adult life and mentally take myself to a period in my life when I didn’t have to worry about such things. Every time I see a Dave & Busters commercial I kick myself for not capitalizing on the opportunity of the extended childhood generation.
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Yes, we as a people in general should be more concerned about what goes on in the world around us than the schematics of the Batmobile, or who was wearing what on Rodeo Drive (for all the non-nerds out there). The problem is… there’s just so MUCH of it.
And it’s frightening. News networks today can run 24/7, with information from all over the world. Social inequality, the cost of energy (both monetarily and ecologically), disaster, and every other facet of the world can be brought into our living rooms at the touch of a button. When you look at it all, it’s overwhelming. Absolutely overwhelming. What can one person do with all of this? If you donate to help with a disaster, does the money go towards the victims or some scammer’s pocket? As someone with an anxiety disorder, I can safely say that all these thoughts come to mind, and if I overload on it, I get physically sick. So I do things to distract myself.
So, yes, people turn towards movies they don’t have to think about. Television that doesn’t give pause for concern. Because the truth of what’s going on is all around them, and so accessible that movies are a release.
Movies should be thought-provoking, while also entertaining, and Hollywood is certainly shifting away from thought-provoking. But people have always needed Dionysus (sorry, god of wine and festivals… so, yes, more or less the god of distractions). Historically and anthropologically speaking, people have always needed distractions from the world around them. Yes, it infantalizes them. Yes, it is a form of social control. But it’s been around for thousands of years (gladiator battles, anyone?).
We’re needed our black and white versions of the world for ages. Even some of the oldest stories are good versus evil, such as Odysseus vs. Medusa. Even so, a smart person can take a look at a simple story and ask questions behind it – Why was Medusa a Gordon? Why were the Emperor and Darth Vader such jerks? Where they control freaks, or were they trying to create stability any way they could? Were they actually evil? Those questions went through my head, even as a child.
Either way, Science Fiction and Fantasy are spectacular vehicles for thought-provoking movies and television. Star Trek did wonders for that (and the evolution of technology). Jules Verne and Isaac Asimov were spectacular at it as well. And Tolkien’s works contains a an interesting amount of anti-war themes. After all, anything goes in Science fiction and fantasy. Has Hollywood gone bonkers on the Special Effects without substance? Yes. Can it be turned around? Of course. It’s up to the consumers to choose that with our money. We just have to remember that we adore our glamorized Odysseus’s, our dime-novel versions of Kit Carson versus the real thing, and the Batman whose quest is just and nobody ever thinks about the fact that he’s a lunatic beating up criminals because he has anger issues. As long as the people with intelligence take a step back and realize that it’s just a catharsis, or take time to ponder different sides of the story, we’re doing well.
That being said, Nerds Rule.
My apologies on this, I realize that the initial post was made eons ago in internet time, and I am quite behind the curve, but I just saw this and couldn’t help but post – the topic has been one I’ve been arguing for a while now.
And… proof that I shouldn’t write comments at 1am… Perseus, not Odysseus. And I forgot H.G. Wells.
And I failed to note that ‘superheroes’ have been around since the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Either way, your article was very awesome! My apologies for the errors in my comments.
Great thoughts, thank you. I just wanted to add that there has been studis in psychology into this phenomenon, notably the work by James Hillman and others on the “Puer aeternus”, which literally means the eternal boy or child. there have always been people, who were affected by this, you can usually spot them very easy, old men sporting much too youthful clothes and haircuts, flying around in planes and such. le petit prince comes to mind. the problem we are facing since a few deacdes, is that there are more and more of us who abide to that archetype, and there are entire branches of capitalist economy that profit from it.
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I just had a great dream about you. (You were dressed like Gary King but you were unmarried and not a dad.) For some reason, you and a number of older Latino film stars were at my workplace in a press conference mode but my dream fast-forwarded to my being backstage and you agreed to sit down for a chat, even though I wasn’t interviewing you. You were lovely and at the end of the dream everyone else was gone and we were sitting at a table and it was time for me to leave. I asked if I could kiss you and you grinned and nodded and we had a couple of nice kisses and then I woke up smiling and I even chuckled a little. Thank you. That was fun. (By the way, please do not become a curmudgeon, for the sake of your family and friends. Life is much too short for that sort of nonsense. All men should work hard to avoid perpetuating that stereotype. It’s incredibly annoying and if no one tells you that, they’re just being polite.) You are a wonderful and talented artist and I thank you for sharing your gifts with the rest of the folks on the planet.
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Also, I loved Hector and The Search For Happiness (book and movie), and I’m very much looking forward to Absolutely Anything. Yay! Pythons, Izzard, Riggle and you!
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As I see every other fan of or nonfan of pop culture, it reminds me to keep an open mind to everything, but to not close my eyes. To know that the “Magic” that we find in our fav stuff is a product of someone else and many of those guys are not our friends. The history of pop culture is a long one and in it you find names like Marx and Hitler…and so many more. But their influence on poop…oops, pop culture have left right? To think that the creators of your favorite things are only out to give you what you want is nieve. There are many more reasons to control your views of the world and your place in it. And so much goes on in secret and being closed doors that we have no clue the craziness that has been created all around us. Yet we are still here…still loving the innocence of our youth wile giving up our future trying to regain something that was meant to be “let go of”, So is there a happy medium…I hope so I love my geeky things to but not to the extent some do. But I know there will always be a bit of Frankenstein in the world and me.
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The thing that annoys me about this whole thing, apart from his back peddling, is that saying cinema now is childish and there’s no edgy thought provoking films anymore is that it is such a first year college student rant. It is exactly the type of horse shit you see from 19 year olds who discover philosphy and Karl Marx for the first time and then think that they are the only people in history so far to understand anything with any depth. It is especially rich coming from someone whose entire back catalogue of films consists of nothing but awful comedies and self-indulgent love letters to the films that he himself grew up with. So Simon, although I doubt you will reaqd this, If you do want to make films that are more cerebral or encourage discussion about social issues, then maybe you should make them. You clearly have the resources, ability and opportunity to make the kind of films you cry about not existing anymore. Or is it that you prefer making films staring you and your talking dog that are comparable to Bruce Almighty?
And by the way, The idea that there is some shady organisation intent on keeping the population controllable by keeping them dumb through the manipulation of media is really laughable coming from a man of your age. there is nobody at the top. Nobody is in control. Just greed. thats all. If your not happy then put up or shut up.
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While I agree strongly with many of your comments, listen to John Richardson and Allen Stroud’s UK discussion of The SHIVA Syndrome (last 1/2 hour). http://laveradio.com/dataslate-episode-8. Stroud compares it to Asimov’s sci-fi.
One reviewer, an Anglican minister, said “The progression in The Shiva Syndrome story is a sort of an evolution in human consciousness toward a greater awareness, a spiritual realization. Therefore, the spiritual mystery is itself an evolutionary process. . . I do think he has created an authentic genre.”
There is a move towards less “dumbing down” and the appeal of a mature storyline containing sci-fi and thrills.
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Thanks for the insight on this, Simon. I too, share quite similar realizations, but getting people motivated enough to challenge what they’re told by “notable sources” is quite trying.
On a side note, people I’ve met tend to absorb and retain information quite well, but fail to do any critical thinking on anything outside of the box they’ve built from the information they’re provided. In fact, many people have become lazy or spoiled, so much that instead of following up on something posted online, they demand proof from the author. We are in a time of instant gratification, where people form expectations based on their self-esteem.
Then again, I could be way off.
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Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons & Dragons was a cobbler.
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Thank you for this thoughtful explanation of the controversial io9 piece. While I did think you were making “a huge generalization,” I did not see you as a “A-grade asshorn.” At any rate, I understand your position better now and mostly agree with it.
This is a lengthy read, and it is only peripherally related to what you are discussing here, but you might be interested in Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro’s recent discussion on genre in “The New Statesman” (http://www.newstatesman.com/2015/05/neil-gaiman-kazuo-ishiguro-interview-literature-genre-machines-can-toil-they-can-t-imagine). There are a couple of places where they could be in dialogue with you. In talking about Baudrillard’s book, you say, “It makes sense that when faced with the awfulness of the world, the harsh realities that surround us, our instinct is to seek comfort, and where else were the majority of us most comfortable than our youth?” I agree with that to a point. But Gaiman has a different take on escapism: “I remember as a boy reading an essay by C S Lewis in which he writes about the way that people use the term ‘escapism’ – the way literature is looked down on when it’s being used as escapism – and Lewis says that this is very strange, because actually there’s only one class of people who don’t like escape, and that’s jailers: people who want to keep you where you are. I’ve never had anything against escapist literature, because I figure that escape is a good thing: going to a different place, learning things, and coming back with tools you might not have known.”
Later, Ishiguro writes about how our culture wants children to be LESS interested in fantasy as they grow up, because they can’t be good participants in the labor force if they’re too dreamy. He also remarks that society may be loosening up on an interest in fantasy at older ages because the nature of work itself has changed.
Food for thought.
Thanks again for your exploration of the infantilization of society and how it may or may not intersect with science fiction. It’s worth discussing.
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Wow, I may not be interpreting Simon’s words correctly, but this guy almost certainly is.
I guess no matter what you say, somebody will twist it around to make it fit into their agenda.
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I fucking hate you more than I’ve ever hated anyone in my entire life. You are nasty, hateful little bully who seriously deserves to have the fucking shit kicked out of you. Your hypocrisy knows no bounds; your ugly fucking face is repulsive to look at, especially on the big screen, and your opinions are fucking worthless. Your screenplays are banal, lazy and feed off the works of other, much more talented people.
In short, whoever let you of all people have kids was a fucking idiot, much like yourself.
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I love this essay with one exception, the line: “Suddenly, here was an entire generation crying out for an evolved version of the things they were consuming as children.” The last thing this generation seems to want is “evolved” versions of their childhood stories. They want familiarity and status quo. They want Agent Coulson to still be alive, Legolas wedged into The Hobbit for no reason, and the new Star Wars movie to have a droid with a secret holographic message, a death star, and a trench run. They confuse the Death Star being “bigger” with the story “having evolved.” If the Beatles were a band today, they’d still be singing I Want to Hold Your Hand and Shake It Up Baby spin-offs on their sixth album because no “fan” would have tolerated their “evolution” into Sgt. Peppers.
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