“Am I getting the sense that you guys didn’t enjoy this episode?” – Amal
“Enjoyment…is a multi-level thing.” – Scott
“Like a car park!” – Liz
– from Down & Safe Podcast #24*
This is both related to the current political reality of tending toward unreality, and also unrelated. Let’s start with the latter.
The news today that The Orville is picking up production after Thanksgiving not only made me happy because I freakin’ love The Orville, but because it repudiates a lot of rumor-mongering that spring up in the spring and early summer months that the third season was never going to be finished, the show would never return, it had already been cancelled by [Disney/Hulu/20th Century Fox], blah blah blah. It’s kind of sad that it’ll be nearly a year before we see the fruits of this labor, but I’m just happy to have the rumors refuted definitively.
Now…where most of these rumors came from is this whole corner of YouTube that has sprung up since 2016 and early 2017, and has just grown louder and louder with each passing year – very Fox-News-styled “here’s the real news of what’s going on with [sci-fi or superhero property that has a sizeable following] with no spin!” And invariably, the “news” is just dead wrong. It’s baseless rumor or it’s just stuff someone wishes would happen.
Supposedly CBS has “secretly fired” Alex Kurtzman from overseeing the Star Trek franchise on at least 19 different occasions, usually at about the same time that the BBC has “secretly fired” Jodie Whittaker and/or Chris Chibnall from Doctor Who, all while no one notices that Disney has “secretly fired” Kathleen Kennedy from Lucasfilm. (“Secretly fired” is, in itself, a concept that really seems to betray a complete and total lack of understanding of how, really, any business works – supposedly their services will be no longer needed after MM/DD/YYYY but in the meantime the “secretly fired” party is somehow compelled under contract to keep fronting for show/franchise/studio/etc. in public, and can’t admit that they’re been “secretly fired”. Nobody and nothing actually works like that. Not even Hollywood.
But here’s where it gets…I almost said interesting, but maybe depressing is a better term here. With no exceptions that I’ve seen thus far, these YouTube “news” channels – which are, of course, trying to monetize as much as possible with all of this rabble rousing – all fall into one very familiar political stripe. They’re railing against Discovery’s Michael Burnham because she’s a black woman. They’re railing against the current Doctor Who because the Doctor is now a woman. They’re railing against the most recent Star Wars trilogy because it centers on – wait for it – a woman and, to a lesser degree, a black man. Inevitably, the commentary turns into rants about “social justice warriors” and “political correctness gone mad” and yet, somehow, every time Star Trek: Discovery gets renewed and proves that everything the YouTubers have been spewing is a lie, no matter how many times the BBC says “Doctor Who will be back, and Jodie is still the Doctor and Chris Chibnall is still the showrunner” or Disney/Marvel says that Brie Larson will be back as Captain Marvel, no matter how many times they’re exposed as bald-faced liars who are just making shit up, they somehow always backpedal through the entire lexicon of weasel words – oh, hey, obviously our informants on the inside didn’t know everything or misinterpreted something – and they retain their audience.
There are probably lots of areas – sports, less genre-focused mainstream entertainment, etc. – that have similar commentators that I’m not aware of. It’s the sci-fi version of it that really blows me away though. “When did Star Trek get taken over by the SJWs?” (Gene’s first draft of the series bible is dated March 11, 1964, I usually give that as the answer.) “When did Doctor Who become so liberal-leaning?” (Did they even watch the Jon Pertwee era, or did they just assume it’s in line with their worldview because the star and showrunner were white men back then? Are they not aware that Doctor Who started with a female showrunner and a gay director?) I get that not all sci-fi is like Star Trek, sure; there’s plenty of dystopia and, as the whole Sad Puppies faction that tried to overrun the Hugo Awards in recent years demonstrates, there is most definitely a regressive minority (albeit a loud one) among both fandom and creators. But if there was a genre where you’d expect the majority of the audience to know better than to learn all the wrong lessons from the past five years…
Well, so much for lighter topics. After all these years, I turn to sci-fi for an escape. The last thing I want is to have to elbow my way through a bunch of wanna-be sci-fi Breitbarts.
If there’s anything that we need to desperately try to reverse in the coming four years, it’s the ability for purveyors of conspiratorial agitprop to stand toe-to-toe with facts and yet someone still somehow takes them seriously and believes them. It’s annoying when it’s about TV shows and movies. It’s dangerous when it concerns election results. It’s deadly when it’s about safety during a pandemic.
P.S. My cats secretly fired me five times in the time it took to write this, because that time could’ve been better spent feeding them. Obviously, I couldn’t talk about it until now.
* This series of quotes has absolutely nothing to do with this topic, but it’s from a podcast I love about a show I love, and that really just reminds me to wonder why these people on YouTube spend so much time on stuff they seem to hate. The fact that they don’t put that time and effort into something they love would seem to provide ample proof that the shows themselves are irrelevant; sowing discord and stoking anger is what these YouTube “personalities” love.
P.P.S. Want to see something really cool on YouTube? The BBC’s new animated miniseries centered around the Daleks begins this coming Thursday. It’ll be nice to watch that and kind of be transported back in time to when the Daleks really seemed like the real villains.