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Examining Female Role Models in Pop and Geek Culture

female role models pop vs geek

Variations of this infographic have been making the rounds for a while. It’s comforting for “geeks” to believe this is true, but it could just as easily be switched around to look like this.

female role models pop vs geek real

If I wanted to rub it in, I could swap out the Pop section with Adele and a few better role models. Which do exist. Just as they exist in geek culture. They’re just not that representative. Just like they aren’t in geek culture.

Here’s the thing about geek culture.

 

1. Geek culture is mostly not made by geeks.

Not if you take the examples of TV shows as representative. Even on the rare occasion when a TV show is created by someone you can claim as a geek, getting it to the air is the work of producers who are not geeks and who treat it like any other product.

 

2. Geek culture is representative of the culture as a whole.

Big shock. You can call the general culture Mundanes and call geeks Slans or any of the other names that pretend there’s a fundamental boundary, but geek culture comes out of and then influences pop culture. There’s no forcefield or magic barrier here. And even if there were, the same attitudes and drives would still influence both. And that includes is attitude toward women.

 

3. Geek culture is mostly not meant for geeks

Most geek culture, and I don’t mean the people who cynically pander to that narrow demographic like John Scalzi or Cory Doctorow, is not intended specifically for the consumption of a special group of people. The cult hits are usually the things that failed to reach a wider audience. Think of Star Trek or Firefly.

The ones that hit that audience, like Star Wars, shook off the geek crowd and thumbed its noses at them. Remember Shatner on Saturday Night Live. He didn’t need the geek crowd and he told them that. Then he decided he needed them again. Remember Nimoy, “I Am Not Spock”, “I Am Spock.”

 

4. Even when Geek culture is aimed at geeks, its creators have no idea what geeks want

Star Trek Voyager producers thought that fans wanted an emotionally dead woman in a silver catsuit. And they did the same thing with Star Trek Enterprise. Take a look at all the booth babes.

Geek culture is not created by geeks. It’s mostly created by people who have stereotypes of it and who program in terms of those stereotypes. And those stereotypes are a mark of contempt. Not just toward women, but the entire audience.

 

So that was quite a few things. But here’s the punchline.

Science Fiction and Fantasy are heroic narratives. So there are going to be more male and female role models in the mix. Heroes are heroic and even if there are 200 women in skimpy clothes whose only job is to cling to the hero while begging him to save them, there are going to be some heroines. And there are going to be more than a few heroines, because writing the other kind of female character is boring even to the most sexist writers.

That also means Science Fiction and Fantasy will have more heroines than pop culture, which isn’t running on a heroic narrative. It will happen to have more role models, not because it set out to create them, but because it’s adventure oriented. That may be why it’s better for boys and girls. Not because it’s progressive, but because it’s adventurous and adventures summon characters who have to be better than average, who can face challenges and overcome them.

Science Fiction and Fantasy will have characters of all races and genders doing amazing things, not because it set out to create role models, but because it tells stories about people beating the odds, traveling to other worlds, slaying dragons and saving the planet. And those people can be anyone. They’re likely to be like the people telling the story but that’s human egotism. And enough of them aren’t that geek culture is better than pop culture, not because it’s made by better people for a better audience, but because it tells a different kind of story. A story that used to be common until it got replaced by the story of people getting famous and screwing up their lives.

The Star Wars TV Series Keeps Getting Weirder

Star Wars Underworld

And I mean the proposed live action Star Wars TV series, which is supposedly in development.Not Clone Anime Wars.

The working title for it is Star Wars Underworld. That’s already a bit weird. It fits with the new 1313 project. It’s an easy enough concept to sell, but is anyone really waiting around for a Star Wars series set in the criminal underworld? Is that really the best use of the property?

It might be fun to watch, it’s just weird that the concept is 40 minutes a week of the Cantina, with funny looking aliens trying to cheat and steal from each other, is the series. As a game premise, it’s reasonable. As a major expansion of the property and the first live action series, it’s not the place you expect it to go. It seems more like a cash in, the way the games are. But that’s the whole Star Wars franchise anyway.

The would-be series already has 50 scripts written, just sitting on the shelf waiting for an economically sound way to actually be produced.

That’s a major piece of weirdness because who orders 50 scripts, over two seasons worth, before having a viable TV series? TV scripts are not the most expensive part of the production, but they’re expensive enough and it makes no sense to have 50 of them sitting on the shelf, when you don’t even have an actual series.

Shows go through transformations once they begin shooting. Having 50 scripts before a show even gets to production is something a control freak or someone with no experience in TV production would do. Okay, so that’s George Lucas. But it’s still weird.

 The scripts are said to be “timeless” and will deal with the darker side of the period between Episodes III & IV.

This makes a bit more sense. Republic collapsed. Empire is taking over. There’s a lot of corruption, a growing underworld, where people are escaping the laws of Imperial rule. It’s still weird though. What is the show going to do, follow Obi Wan around the underworld, another rogue Jedi looking to set up a resistance?

It might have been cleaner to do this in the Knights of the Old Republic timeline, but this way there will be a structure.

Our biggest problem is that these stories are adult. I mean…these are like Deadwood in space. It so unlike anything you’ve ever associated with George before in relation to Star Wars. These aren’t for kids. I mean, we hope they’ll watch, but it’s not being targeted at 8-to-9 year old boys. The situation we have is that each episode – or if you put two hour long episodes together – is bigger than any film we’ve ever done. It’s on the Avatar level and we’ll only have about $5-6 million we can spend on each episode.

Based on McCallum’s “We hope they’ll watch”, this isn’t going to be too dark. There aren’t going to be violent deaths and space hookers, not if you’re hoping that 8-9 year olds will watch. And that’s fine. It doesn’t have to actually be the Wild West, as long as it’s not pitched at 8 year olds.

But the subtext is that McCallum is uneasy. With the prequels, Star Wars firmly reoriented itself to the kid market. That was a smart business mos eisley cantinadecision in the short term, but a lousy creative decision. It’s why no one really cares anymore about Star Wars, except parents picking out Halloween costumes for their kids.

George Lucas failed the balancing act between kid-oriented and not-for-the-mentally retarded. (Pixar has that balance.) Star Wars, for the generation that grew up with the prequels and Clone Wars, is something you leave behind when you hit puberty. Making a more adult show that’s deeper to lock in that older audience is also a smart business decision. Especially when your teenage audience is more likely to associate Star Wars with Jar Jar Binks, not with Darth Vader. (About the only reason it might not is the amount of fan activity and outside media projects like Blue Harvest and Chad Vader)

Making an adult Star Wars TV show, even one that’s a long way from Deadwood, endangers the Lucas business model of selling action figures to kids.

Why is Star Wars Underworld delayed for so long? Why does it have so many scripts sitting on the shelf? It’s not the money. If DS9 and BSG could pull off some pretty impressive settings and shows within a budget, Star Wars could do it too. 5-6 million an episode isn’t bad, if you balance it out with some bottle shows, which every TV show has to do, and reuse enough sets.

What’s the real delay? George Lucas. Lucas liked the idea of a Western Star Wars, but he hasn’t allowed a quality Star Wars product that’s not licensed to someone else out the door. The scripts were written and probably rewritten, but the project still wouldn’t move forward. But George Lucas has been slowly stepping down. Until he leaves all the way, the Star Wars Underworld will remain on hold.

Star Trek and the Intergalactic Asshole

The Intergalactic Asshole is a staple of Science Fiction. Back from the pulp days to more modern versions like Poul Anderson’s Nicholas Van Rijn or George R.R. Martin’s Haviland Tuft or Star Trek. The Intergalactic Asshole travels around the galaxy, visiting new planets all the time and manipulating their society for his own purposes. Usually he takes an existing conflict or imbalance and forces the people and their leaders to rearrange their society to do things his way.

Sometimes the Intergalactic Asshole is an exploiter looking to cash in, like Van Rijn, often he’s looking to enforce his own idea of human captain kirkrights, like Captain Kirk, or animal rights, like Haviland Tuft. The Intergalactic Asshole has his own idea of how society should work. There’s often a determinism based on a simplistic idea of biology or economics or the environment which he believes makes people the way they are. What the Intergalactic Asshole does is rely on that idea to understand the aliens, their problems and turn their conflict on its head and impose a solution on them.

The Prime Directive of the Federation explicitly ruled out Intergalactic Asshole behavior, because it was a staple of galactic adventure tales. But Captain Kirk still played Intergalactic Asshole with a starship behind often enough for the Prime Directive to be an afterthought. With TNG the Intergalactic Asshole quota went down. Captain Picard would still occasionally play Intergalactic Asshole, but he was more likely to leave with a lecture and a disappointed look. Bad Science Fiction had plenty of stories in which aliens would arrive on earth only to decide that we were too primitive and violent to be worth including in their federation. In TNG we were the advanced aliens, visiting other races and punishing them with our disappointment. The alien visitors whose standards we couldn’t meet represented gods. With TNG we became the gods who were too good for them.

With Janeway the Intergalactic Asshole syndrome came roaring back. But Janeway was much more erratic than Kirk. Captain Kirk usually intervened because there were clear abuses going on. Janeway interfered randomly. Sometimes she walked away from oppression, other times she helped the oppressors. Sometimes she intervened, just because. She allied with the Borg, gave the Hirogen, holodeck technology and allied with them against the holograms. Archer stuck to the Intergalactic Asshole way, even though he didn’t have the firepower to back it up. He yelled at Vulcans and Andorians, either of whom could have swatted him like a fly. Because the habit was there from Voyager.

How viewers or readers react to the Intergalactic Asshole has less to do with the issue at hand and more to do with the character. Van Rijn nicholas van rijjn poul andersongot away with awful things, because he was entertaining and he sold his own libertarian spin on any issue. Haviland Tuft and his environmentalism appealed to an audience at the opposite political spectrum. But both were eccentrics who got a pass from both sides because they were more human, more personable, than their adversaries.

Captain Kirk could drag audiences into his Intergalactic Asshole approach to problems, because he seemed to really care and because he had senior officers who often disagreed with him and whose perspectives he took seriously. No Captain after him had that. Picard, Janeway and Archer did things their way and rarely bothered listening to anyone’s advice.

The Intergalactic Asshole is a power fantasy. He does the things that audiences would like to do. He’s a one man dictator setting societies to right by being smarter and tactically more powerful than them. He’s Batman with a starship, except he actually solves problems for good. He’s the authorial voice made omnipotent, lecturing, hectoring and telling readers how the world should be run.

Why Star Trek Enterprise Failed

(I’ll keep this brief after the earlier marathon post this morning.)

Enterprise was an attempt to get back to classic Star Trek. It wasn’t a very good attempt because the people making it didn’t understand classic Star Trek very well… or like it very much. Enterprise was how they saw TOS. It was their version of it.

Audiences had fled DS9 and Voyager. The ratings were low. The franchise was in trouble. So they tried to make a classic Star Trek series. Or star trek enterprise azati primewhat they saw when they looked at Star Trek.

Make the Captain an old-fashioned wild card type. Put in a Vulcan. Keep the crew small and mostly human. Make the technology cruder. Have the humans dislike the aliens. Show some skin. Break some rules. Get them to explore space. Show how the Federation got started. Then throw in some exit strategies so continuity doesn’t matter too much. A temporal cold war. Pre-Starfleet starship. There’s your classic Star Trek series.

That summary wasn’t completely wrong, but it was completely incomplete. It was something like Star Trek, but it wasn’t really Star Trek. It was Voyager with a new skin, but without the gimmicks or a large cast. It felt empty, because it was.

Enterprise wasn’t the show that the producers wanted to make. It was the show they had to make. There was nowhere else to go. The gimmicks had failed, so they went throwback. They went prequel, which was popular then. Then after them came the reboot, which is popular now.

Every story, every fictional universe has its built in rules. The parameters that cover how things work in it. First you learn the rules. Then you can break them. Berman and his favorites boasted of breaking the rules. They were going to make Star Trek their own way. And they did. It failed. Then they tried following the rules, but they didn’t know the rules. They never learned them. So they imitated what they saw.

When they looked at the Original Series, they saw a sparse show focused around the ship’s captain and one or two subordinates. They saw crude technology. They saw a lower comfort level with aliens. They saw space portrayed as a dangerous place. They saw sexism. They saw “seat of the pants” tactics and stories where the captain goes to a strange place, is captured, breaks free, acts like a jackass and moves on.

And they copied all those things. One after another. And they didn’t understand what they were doing wrong. They didn’t like TOS and didn’t really get it. It wasn’t a show they could take seriously. It was like the Adam West Batman to them. So they tried to make it a little more serious. And that made it even worse because their idea of serious was Voyager. On top of their bad clone of TOS, they pasted in Voyager.

The Original Series was more than the sum of its parts. It was more than Shatner and Nimoy breaking out of another cell on an alien planet Star Trek Enterpriseand then yelling at the aliens about doing the right thing. It was about more than a human dominated crew in an intergalactic federation. It was more than Uhura in a miniskirt and repeating back what she heard on her earpiece before being forced to make out with Kirk.

When Berman and Braga looked at TOS, they saw the flaws. And they thought, “If this is what the fans want. We’ll give it to them. We’ll have a captain who constantly gets captured and yells at aliens. We’ll have a Vulcan to be uptight all the time. We’ll have a good-looking guy who sleeps with chicks. We’ll try to fix it up a little so it’s not as stupid as the old one, and then we’ll give the dorks exactly what they want.”

But TOS was more than the sum of its flaws or its silly moments. Its core was its ambition. Its fans saw what it did best. But the people who made Enterprise saw it as a dumb silly show and tried to make a classier version of it. A show that fans would agree was classic, but that would also let the producers do their thing. Win-win.

That’s how we got Enterprise. That’s why it failed.

Why SyFy Abandoned Science Fiction

SyFy is Dead

This isn’t about the woman looking contemplatively at one of the worst programming slates on television , she doesn’t exist except as a heavily photoshopped model who probably thought she was posing for some ad that required her to be mildly amused, maybe at her new phone or the plight of children somewhere.

This is about what SyFy thinks she represents and what it wants ad buyers to think she represents.

This isn’t just another ad pitching SyFy to viewers, this is an ad pitching it to media buyers. This is the audience that SyFy wants to have.

Let’s start out with the obvious. She’s not a man. That’s not coincidental. Women are where the ad dollars are now.

She’s an “Igniter” who “sparks trends”, which means the ad dollars go further because she influences the buying habits of others. That’s a load of crap, especially when it comes to SyFy Channel viewers, but this is the brass ring of advertising.

Now imagine the exact opposite of this coolly amused young woman who influences her friends to buy major brands by making them seem cool? If you answered a viewer of Science Fiction television, as imagined by SyFy executives to be a fat middle-aged man, you are correct. And that is the audience SyFy doesn’t want, because it’s the audience their USA bosses don’t want.

But don’t take it from me, take it from the SyFy pitch.

Syfy has a target audience in mind: people with a shared mindset of curiosity, optimism, creativity and open-mindedness that drives them to take risks, push boundaries and challenge the status quo. They call these people—who are the first to find and try new things and share those finds with others—”Igniters.”

This their target audience. It’s not people who like Science Fiction, it’s people who watch SyFy shows about ghost hunting and makeup because they “push boundaries” and “challenge the status quo”. They’re exactly like Occupy Wall Street, except they buy stuff, instead of protest.

If you want to promote your new Samsung phone or non-alcoholic cranberry drink to an audience that will convince other people to try it, come and pitch to the viewers of our cooking shows and makeup shows and stuff we put together as cheaply as possible in order to build that quality “Igniter” audience.

Founded in 1992 as SCI FI Channel, Syfy is celebrating its 20th anniversary by embracing the innovation of Igniters. What exactly is an Igniter? To develop the psychographic profile, Syfy has used both Simmons data and a custom study conducted with PSFK. Simmons demonstrates that Igniters are the first to find, try and buy new products and then influence the masses to do the same. The PSFK study adds that Igniters are a powerful force in today’s market because portability and social media have given rise to new tools.

This is a ton of nebula gasses, but SyFy needs to sell this to position its viewers as savvy post-television influencers who will go out and have an impact on social media.

Look at what’s missing from the picture.

The words “Science Fiction” and “Fantasy” never appear in this piece. Superhero and supernatural are okay. Those aren’t, even when HBO is doing great with Game of Thrones. (HBO is also careful to avoid the “F” word when talking about Game of Thrones.) The name change wasn’t an accident. The former SciFi channel doesn’t want to be associated with Science Fiction. It wants to be associated with an audience it can’t have.

SyFy can’t get the flavored vodka and hot nightspots audience it’s pretending to have. It can’t have it because it’s cheap, its programming is risk free and crap. It wants to pretend that it offers million dollar value to advertisers while running a 99 cent store full of crap that no one else wants and its original programming is indistinguishable from the reality TV on every other channel.

The audience it has is not the audience it wants. It wants models who smile ambiguously at unseen things in the air. SyFy has an abusive relationship with its audience. Eventually it will drive away the last of its unique audience and be stuck with the kind of people who want to watch idiots pretending to chase ghosts around a set or who will sit through a show about makeup artists and a third-rate cooking show.

And then finally SyFy will have the audience it deserves. The 99 cent store of cable television will have 99 cent store viewers. Maybe they’ll even ignite a ghost chasing trend and then “share” it on social media.

Three Reasons Why Half Life 3 Isn’t Coming

It’s not impossible that Half Life 3 will show up at some point, but despite the fan campaigns it probably won’t. Why not?

1. Valve doesn’t need Half Life 3. The most obvious reason to make Half Life 3 is for the money and between Steam and its other successful franchises, Valve doesn’t need to invest a lot of time and money into making HL3. It can do other things. If it does HL3 it will only be because it chooses to, not because of fan pressure or financial pressure.

It’s been five years since anything Half Life has come out. Before then Valve didn’t have much going on that wasn’t Half Life or one its spinoffs. Since then it has two new franchises and a huge success with Steam.

2. It’s not the kind of game that Valve is interested in making. Half Life 1 and 2 were single player shooters with some puzzle action. Valve has switched to social co-op and multiplayer games with larger puzzle solving elements and more humor. Valve isn’t interested in spending a lot of time on a single player first person shooter. Not when it can do things like Portal or L4D.

3. There’s nowhere else to go. That’s probably something Valve decided around Episode 2. Half Life 2 turned the entire world into Half Life 1. What is Half Life 3 going to do?

Valve isn’t all that interested in pushing graphics to the limit. It’s already done a planet overrun with aliens. It can do more of the same. It isn’t interested in incorporating the RPG elements that gave depth to games like DEHR. It can Portal it up all the way, but that would be redundant.

And here’s a bonus reason. Half Life 2 was released in 2004. That’s eight years ago. Today’s teenagers never played it. Half Life was released in the last century. Fourteen years ago. Sure Valve could still roll out Half Life 3 with a tweaked engine and some more puzzles and co-op. They might have in development right now. But they probably don’t.

Is Publishing an Author’s Short Stories Collection a Good Idea?

I’ve been reading through some short story collections by major Science Fiction authors and after a few volumes of that, I’m not so sure that these collections are even a good idea.

Why? Authors repeat themselves, reworking the same themes and ideas. The story that looks unique in a copy of Fantasy and Science Fiction or in an anthology about alien dragons or telepathic fantasy worlds or alternate history heroes, looks a lot less unique when it’s sandwiched side by side with a dozen others with the same author’s perspective.

For the “Where do you get your ideas” crowd, it can be interesting to see that Anderson’s Goat Song is a reworking of the same themes and ideas as Queen of Darkness and Air (wielding archetypes to manipulate people, a war between technological order and chaos using myth, etc) but it’s also somehow disappointing.

Magazines and anthologies bring together different approaches on a theme. John Campbell used to hand out the same idea to different writers to see what emerged. But one writer reworking the same ideas can feel stifling after half a dozen stories.

More Copyright Wars

From a book review of an industry friendly copyright book in the New York Times

That’s what happened with the music industry, which, spooked by the proliferation of pirated file sharing on Napster, struck a bad deal with iTunes that allowed Apple to replace the sale of $15 albums with 99-cent songs. “Even if they continue to grow,” Levine writes, “those 99-cent-song sales won’t come close to making up for the corresponding decline in CD sales.”

The average album had 10-15 songs on it, which comes to about the same thing to 99 cents a song. How much did the industry really want people to pay per song? And if you eliminate the cost of actually packaging and manufacturing the albums, then 99 cents a song may even be a better deal. Apple takes its chunk, but does it really take more than Wal-Mart and K-Mart?

The real deal is that the industry didn’t want to change its business model of packaging whole albums that people had to buy to get a few songs they wanted. That business model helped encourage piracy. Sure manufactures would make more money if they forced people to buy printers with every computer or floor mats with every car. But that business model was killed by the internet.

Similarly, the best TV shows, like “Mad Men,” are produced by cable channels like AMC that hold back their content from Hulu, a network-owned platform for distributing TV over the Internet. The Hulu model has succeeded on the premise that “if someone was going to make their product available online for nothing, it might as well be them,” as Levine says of the networks.

I don’t know that Mad Men qualifies as one of the best shows on TV, but Cable has been sinking more money into developing shows that appeal to a more upscale audience. Hulu distributes shows that are mostly free to watch on TV already.

Levine says, is an open Internet model of free video that, by denying the networks any revenue to invest in shows like “Mad Men,” would instead produce the likes of the viral video “Charlie Bit My Finger.”

I’m not so sure one is that much worse than the other, but networks get revenue from advertising, cable networks get revenue from advertising and from their gated community. But free to watch networks spend money on shows, and can pay for it with advertising too.

Recently, France has begun to revive a business model that thrived in the 19th century: a collective or blanket license that, by adding a fee to Internet connections, would allow the convenient downloading of copyrighted music and divide the money to compensate producers and artists.

The fee based internet thrived in the 19th century? Wow. That is some revisionist Steampunk history right there. Must have been that Babbage based internet.

Anyone praising a media internet tax is a shameless shill for the entertainment industry. It’s completely indefensible, not least because it asks paying consumers to pay twice, once for what they buy and once as a confiscatory tax for the industry.

Let’s say we have a universal internet tax/fine, who should get it? Anyone who makes content that is distributed on the internet? Yeah right. Sorry we’re not going back to taxing cassette tapes for the music industry.

Germany has laws forbidding the aggressive discounting of books in chain stores, which has preserved independent booksellers while making it harder for Amazon to introduce the Kindle.

While keeping books more expensive. I like independent bookstores, but does this law do anything to promote reading or help writers?

But regardless of your position in the business-of-culture wars, it’s hard to resist Levine’s conclusion that the status quo is much better for tech companies and distributors than for cultural creators and producers. That status quo may benefit consumers in the short term. But if it continues, Levine argues, the Internet will increasingly become an artistic wasteland dominated by amateurs — a world where music, TV and journalism are virtually free, and where all of us get what we pay for.

My own position is skeptical toward both sides, which means I am skeptical that industry advocates care about creators. Creators are collateral damage for both sides. I am even more skeptical of the idea that the industry will stop making professional music, books and movies because of internet piracy. They had plenty of time to stop in the last ten years.

What the review and probably the book does not mention is that piracy encourages the industry to target the dumbest consumers even harder because they are less likely to have the know how to pirate. The industry has dumbed down its own product, but that is only one of the reasons.

The specter of amateurs is not all that horrifying, what is horrifying is that the future will belong to Cory Doctorow and Lana Del Rey, people who have nothing of worth to offer but strike a convenient pose that connects with a demographic. Creators who are much better self-promoters than they are artists.

Why People Hate Star Trek Voyager

GiantFreakingRobot has a list of six reasons why he believes Voyager never really worked. His first mistake is pointing to Voyager as the beginning of the end for the franchise. Actually DS9 was the beginning of the end. It was the first TNG spinoff and its ratings plummeted badly requiring repeated reboots. Toward the end it had a fraction of its former ratings.

The reasons themselves? Janeway was more Kirk than Picard, at least a crazy unbalanced version of Kirk. She charged in a lot of the time and threw her weight around. Except for the last two reasons, the others are too stupid to comment on. The only one that matters is did Voyager really make full use of its premise. No it didn’t and the easiest way to see that is to compare it to Stargate Universe which took a similar premise and tried to live it. Or Enterprise’s third season. Neither of them were perfect but they were much more committed to the concept.

Some of Voyager’s best episodes used the premise, like The Void. But it also managed great standalone episodes that didn’t, like Blink of an Eye, which could have popped up on any of the Star Treks. Voyager doesn’t get enough credit for its good episodes, but at least unlike DS9 it wasn’t constantly being rebooted from Exploring the Wormhole to War Show to Sisko as the Chosen One Fighting the Red Devil Orbs.

Robot is close enough when he says that the problem was the characters. They were a big part of the problem. None of the post-TNG shows ever had a cast that really meshed together naturally. It was a bigger problem on Voyager, because unlike DS9 and Enterprise, not only didn’t the cast mesh, but most of the characters were either unlikable or not very interesting.

DS9 had actors who could carry the bad material. Enterprise’s actors were congenial enough that the bad stuff wasn’t as irritating. Voyager had few buffers except for the HoloDoc and Picardo’s prickly charm. Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, Kim, Tuvok, Seven and most of the cast were irritating one note characters and the actors couldn’t or wouldn’t bring anything to tone them down.

Robert Picardo and Ethan Philips seemed to be the only actors on the show trying to be sympathetic. Mulgrew went the other way. Beltran had occasional flashes of charm but mostly phoned it in. Robert Duncan McNeill decided to go as obnoxious as possible. Garret Wang couldn’t really act too well. Jeri Ryan was playing an emotionless sexbot with minimal nuance. Tim Russ has a great sense of humor, but chose to disregard a lot of what Nimoy did with Spock, and between the abrasive writing, made Tuvok as unlikable as possible.

It may not be completely fair to blame the actors for a show’s problems, the premise and the uneven writing were at fault, but the cast really did not step up to the task. Sure they mostly had one note characters, but they didn’t really try to bring any nuance to the material. They never made it come alive and they never made the show come alive.

DS9 didn’t really have great writing, but it had a supporting cast of people like Coombs, Robinson and Alaimo who would make the most of a single throwaway line. And that made up for Brooks and Visitor’s bad acting. It had Colm Meaney who could walk through the most banal material and still make you feel something. It had Rene Auberjonois who did with a similar character what Tim Russ failed to do, make him seem vulnerable despite his abrasiveness.

Imagine the actors switching places for a moment and suddenly Voyager would start looking better and DS9 would start looking worse.

When Every Movie Became a Cartoon

It’s hard to say when exactly Hollywood’s main product became 250 million dollar CG cartoons. The Phantom Menace was probably the opening shot and then came everything else and here we are where the movie factory is just turning out people running around against a green screen and shouting at stuff.

Whether it’s Rise of the Apes or The Phantom Menace or Transformers or Wrath of the Titans, these are just really expensive cartoons with cartoon logic and plots. Tintin makes sense since it’s what Hollywood has been doing for over a decade now, grabbing a recognized brand name, building a loud explosion filled cartoon around it.

Past the 200 million range it doesn’t seem like movies are even being made anymore. It’s modern day versions of comics and serials with huge budgets and worldwide distributions. Stories get in the way of foreign box office sales. Any dialogue more complex than a punch line doesn’t translate as well. And no one really wants to see it anyway.

Movies have become what television used to be. A way to get a bunch of people in the same room and then shut off their brains. It’s not as if there’s a point to these anymore. They’re getting more and more disposable, there’s no acting and no reason for them to exist. Spielberg’s blockbusters at least made you feel something more than bored. These are just cartoons, lavish expensive cartoons.

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