April 6, 2002

High and Low

We're on a Trek to Nowhere

In a recent issue of The Nation, writer Donna Minkowitz articulated her displeasures with Enterprise:

[W]atching the first season of the latest Trek vehicle, Enterprise, I've felt...nausea and horror. It takes Star Trek so far backward that it's like Buffy [the Vampire Slayer] becoming a sex slave chained to a bed for the rest of her television career. Set in Trek's "past," 100 years before Kirk's time and just 150 years after our own, Enterprise depicts the first humans to have contact with alien races. Emphasis on races: the interplanetary politics seem to have been framed by Pat Buchanan...

All the previous Star Trek series, over three decades, have been about becoming progressively more catholic, more aware of the astonishing diversity of the galaxy, the provincial limitedness of one's own assumptions and one's own potential to harm people who are different. The newest offering is a frank vehicle for white male suprematism[sic] and resentment.

-- excerpt from "Beam Us Back, Scotty!"

Being a drooling fanboy, my perspective is often foreshortened by such minor things as continuity errors and inconsistent technobabble. But I have to say, Ms. Minkowitz makes some good points. Enterprise doesn't just suck -- it's actually pretty clueless, especially with regard to the Vulcans.

Let's take a look at the theme song. The lyrics include this line: "they're not gonna hold me down no more, no they're not gonna hold me down." (Gee, that conjures up some nice images of a rifle-toting lunatic in a clock tower.) "They" are the Vulcans, unfair victims of the rampant anti-intellectualism being perpetrated by the producers of Enterprise.

Ms. Minkowitz's article was written before some of the more recent episodes, in which T'Pol gets to do both "[the] very cool self-defense maneuver that involves making people unconscious by pinching their necks" and "the very cool Vulcan mind-meld." But she's right about Enterprise's Vulcans being the butt of juvenile humor and outright discrimination with scary racist overtones.

We should have seen it coming: there was Deep Space Nine's "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" (1998), in which Sisko's rival is a Vulcan Captain who's arrogant, petty, and doesn't even know how to have fun. Tuvok, Voyager's security chief, fared a little better, but once again, he can't have any fun unless he's transmuted ("Tuvix," 1996) or lobotomized ("Riddles," 1999). Clearly, having fun is much more important than being smart, and the two are mutually exclusive, and if you don't agree, you're just a big poopy-head.

I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again: Enterprise is NOT Star Trek. Trek's moral compass has always pointed, straight and true, to the philosophy of IDIC -- Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations -- which extols the appreciation of the universe and its inhabitants as they are, without judging any one race, culture, or tradition to be inherently superior. And do you know who, in the world of Trek, came up with this inclusive philosophy?

That's right: the Vulcans.

Celebrity Boxing: Andy Richter vs. Greg the Bunny

It's a peculiar irony that Fox, the television network which routinely and egregiously caters to the lowest common denominator -- witness Celebrity Boxing, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire, and Temptation Island -- also airs some of the most original, imaginative, and funniest damn comedies ever seen on TV.

And it's a peculiar tragedy that the network cancels most of these shows far too quickly. The Tick and Action are the most recent casualties of this curse; The Simpsons are a rare exception. How long can Fox's two newest comedies, Andy Richter Controls the Universe and Greg the Bunny, survive?

Andy Richter has been getting good reviews, which is always a bad sign. When will the networks learn that audiences don't want to watch "good" shows? Your average couch potato doesn't care what critics say; in fact, he's more likely to rebel against those highfalutin sensibilities.

No, I don't have any evidence to back up that claim, but hey, neither does ACNielsen.

Greg the Bunny has the audacity to not only challenge audiences to accept puppets as real people, but also attack the sacred cows of children's programming. Sesame Street, the Muppets, Mister Rogers -- I'm sure none will be safe from this unabashed satire. But airing in primetime surely restricts their freedom of expression, and when South Park and Meet the Feebles have already pushed the envelope for this kind of "big kid" entertainment, how much more can cute puppets have to say?