Big things exploding, forever

I was reading about the militarization of space, and ended up pondering the militarization of science fiction TV. Take the Star Trek franchise, for example – a set of shows whose heroes are almost without exception members of the military, working compliantly within military structures to achieve the goals it sets for them.

Building on that, I went through the other military based / related SF shows I’ve seen. Immediate ones that sprung to mind were Babylon 5, Stargate SG-1, Andromeda, Battlestar Galactica, Quantum Leap, Timecop, The X-Files and Space: Above and Beyond.

These are some of the key US SF shows, and all of them support a view of society in which the military – or related civil institutions – represent the finest exemplars of that society, and are battling to preserve its coherence from one kind of threat or another.

There’s an implied worldview there that’s both fascinating and rather worrying. These are very popular shows. Their viewers (myself included) are clearly happy to buy uncritically into the concept of military or militarised action as the final solution to any problems in dealing with any external, ‘other’ threat.

That’s worrying, for obvious reasons – and it’s also one more symptom of our more general obsession with violence as entertainment. If TV has its way, we’ll all come to see the future as big things blowing each other up, out of a deep rooted and unchallengeable sense of personal righteousness; or, at a more intimate scale, agents of governance stepping in to solve problems before which civilians can only ever be passive.

2 thoughts on “Big things exploding, forever

  1. The militaristic American SF on television today is certainly a mirror of present-day attitudes…

    …but if one is to take it as serious futuristic speculation, it comes off as absurd. The very idea that the U.S. military will conquer the universe is laughable.

    They very IDEA that WASP-ish, English-speaking, heavily armed infantry will occupy the entire galaxy and enforce a single monolithic culture in its own image is utterly, utterly laughable.

    Space is much, much too big to conquer. To quote Charlton Heston in PLANET OF THE APES, it crushes the ego.

    And that’s what I find so annoying, arrogant and infantile about most American TV sci-fi today: shows like Battlestar Galactica or Stargate shrink the universe, ignore the vastness of space. They try to make it seem “conquerable”.

    The millions who receive this delusion of a “teensy-tiny universe”… will they ever have their Rude Awakening to how awesomely huge space really is? I doubt it…

  2. There’s an interesting question buried in all this – what do people really want from space? Makes me think of Stanislaw Lem’s comments in ‘Solaris’ that what people really look for out there is a mirror for their already existing lives.

    And to be fair to the shows, not all of them operate on the same level. Star Trek / Stargate reflect the military paradigm back very unquestioningly. (New) Battlestar Galactica does spend a lot of time questioning the civil / military relationship, tho’ I think you’re absolutely right that it makes space far too *human*.

    On the hugeness of space – was chatting with an astronomer friend the other day, and his take on it is that there are three reactions – 1) Kind of ignore it, 2) Authentic awe / sensawunda, and 3) Lovecraftian horror at our utter insignificance! I’m with the third, anything that costs you that many sanity points has to be the most worthwhile…

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