The good, the bad, and the ugly.
As you know, A few days ago my lovely wife and I went to the largest Star Trek Convention in the US, in Las Vegas, Nv. I have mixed feelings about the whole adventure. Yes, it was an adventure. I went because I used to be a huge Star Trek fan, and because it checked off a box on my bucket list of nerdy things to do. I also went to find out for myself how big a geek I really am.
Some of my fondest memories as a child was watching Star Trek with my family. I don’t remember watching the original series on it’s first run. In 1969, when it was canceled, I was only 6 years old, but I do have fond memories of watching the reruns in the 70s. The TV our family had at the time was a huge by 70s standards. It was a black and white TV that would periodically go out of tune. My job was to sit close to the screen and when the picture would start to get fuzzy I would tap the knob and the picture would return to normal. On reflection, these two simple acts set the stage for the two things I enjoy the most. Science fiction and fixing things. Anyway, I was such a huge fan that I owned the Enterprise blueprints, the first Star Trek making of book, and a number of other fan materials. I even went to a Science fiction convention in Santa Rosa back in the early 80s. The question is, am I still a huge fan?
Back then it could be said that I was obsessed with Star Trek. However, after attending the convention in Las Vegas I think I may be cured. I still love the idea of Star Trek, but as I have grown older, and maybe a bit wiser, I find that my perspective on being a fan has changed. This is difficult to put into words. Back when I was a fan of Star Trek in the 70s I obsessed over the minutia of the Star Trek universe. Memorizing episode names, star ships, planet names and their inhabitants, technical details about the theoretical technology, and other falderal. Over time I found that the essence of the Star Trek universe is not in the details, but in the people and how treated each other. It was the optimistic outlook for mankind and the view of how we humans are generally good, heroic, and fearless. Sure Star Trek fans tend to obsess over details and trivia, but they have the foundation of a universe created by Gene Roddenberry. A universe that is made up of strong moral people who are honest, smart, brave and stand by principals.
The reason I said that I may be cured, and that my perspective has changed, is partially because of how I now view the actors. I see them as simply people who get paid, sometimes a lot, to role play in front of a camera. Many of the people who attended the convention seemed to be confused about this. They asked the actors questions as if they were the person they portrayed. Most of the actors were very gracious with the people asking these kinds of questions, I doubt I would have been as generous. It was almost surreal to see an actor sitting on stage wearing ‘street’ cloths answering questions from a person in full Star Fleet officer uniform about an acting job they did decades ago. It would almost be like someone asking me “In 1986 when you were in Egypt renovating the base chow-hall, what did you mean when you said that beer should change color when it comes out?” I began to really empathize with the actors and feel just a little hostility towards some of the obsessed fans.
That said, I have to say that these fans behaved much better than any other group of people I have been exposed to. I don’t generally enjoy being immersed in a crowd of people.
For example, every sporting event I have attended there has always been the asshole fan who has to be escorted out by security, the loud mouth who is always right, and the overzealous fan who’s only contribution is shit talking about the apposing team. None of that was apparent at this convention. I don’t remember a single instance of anyone saying a harsh word or even criticizing a costume, which would have been as easy as shooting a cow in a barrel. Like I said, Star Trek fans have a moral foundation for their fandom.
So the question remains, am how big a geek am I? Well, I am still a geek because, well, I am honest with myself. However I no longer consider myself a Star Trek fan. I guess it was the combination of empathy with the actors and the contrast between the real world and the Star Trek universe that may have cured my fandom. Also I was hopefully outclassed. I felt like a first grade math teacher visiting CERN in Geneva. The whole experience was a unique combination of being welcomed into the fold and feeling like an outsider at the same time. The fans were always ‘on’. They were dressed up and in character all weekend long. During breakfast, at the craps table, outside walking the strip, in the elevator, everywhere all the time. I can’t compete with this level of commitment. Nor would I ever want to.
However, I did become quite fond of some of the actors. Not because of the roles they played, but because of their real lives. William Shatner, Kate Mulgrew, and Catherine Hickis are good examples of this. I saw each of them speak to the crowd, and they are the kind of people I could see being friends with. They were down to earth, interesting and entertaining all while being themselves.
I don’t think I will attend another Star Trek convention, but am glad I went. This kind of thing just doesn’t seem to sit right in my life at the present time. I have to appreciate the fans and how many of them are ‘all in’. I get the feeling that the costumes don’t always stay in the closet. They may integrate just a little too much of the Star Trek universe into their real lives. I guess that is why they are called fans. Which is fine for them, but not so much for me. The only part of the Star Trek universe I will try to integrate into my life will be the outlook and morality that is present in both the show and the fans. I will leave the trivia, props, autographs, costumes, and other stuff alone. With one exception….
I will frame and hang up the photo that was taken of my wife and I with William Shatner.
Next post: The ugly.