At the end of 2015, the teaser trailer for Star Trek Beyond was released. Backed by the song “Sabotage,” as performed by The Beastie Boys, the ninety seconds of footage features quips, explosions, a motorbike jump, aliens, fighting, derring-do, and a space battle – as far as teaser trailers go, it is an impressive little taste of the movie and, seemingly, a big reassurance that the navel gazing seriousness of Star Trek Into Darkness was a misstep that is being corrected. So, obviously, a vocal corner of the Internet hated it.
The internet argument against the trailer was simple: Star Trek was a serious show about science, not motorcycle jumps. Star Trek, it was repeatedly assured, was a serious show with hard science.
They argued that there was too much action and irreverence in the teaser, and it seemed more like Guardians of the Galaxy or Fast and the Furious than a serious meditation about the nature of the universe as their original Star Trek always was.
And it didn’t take much reading between the lines to hear that these fans were actually saying that the teaser wasn’t boring enough, and that it had too much fun.
As someone who loves fun (also known as being a normal human being) I was astounded by this. Who watches a movie trailer and complains that it’s too fun, or that there’s not enough science on display? I would assume no one watched the teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens or The Avengers and said, “Yeah, it’s good, but where’s the mathematics?” but this backlash against Star Trek Beyond made me doubt even myself. Have we come to hate fun? Is fun the enemy?
Let’s look at it from another angle. Geeks currently control the culture. The toys we played with and movies we watched in our youth are now billion dollar movie franchises, and it looks like it will be this way for a long time to come. And a lot of the stuff we geeks like is actually pretty silly. They didn’t seem silly when we were kids, but now, twenty-five or thirty years later, the idea of a man dressing up like a bat to fight crime falls apart if you slightly scratch the surface.
So this puts the geek in an awkward position. We want to like the things from our childhood, but we don’t want to seem childish or immature. We want to go to the movie theatre and watch Superman fight Batman, but we don’t want to feel silly doing it. How do you fix this? You make everything aimed at adults. So rather than Batman fighting Superman seeming like it could be a fun summer blockbuster that adults and children alike enjoy, we get Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a movie that looks so grim it’s like a Scandinavian, heavy metal music video had a one night stand with a Goth conventioneer, and the resulting child married a book of school-shooter’s poetry, and their kid was a movie about superheroes punching each other.
Or maybe, to add another angle, we’re scared of fun. Enjoying something opens you up to criticism. Going on Twitter and saying, “Y’know what, I enjoyed Terminator Genisys,” opens you up to a barrage of idiots asking how you can like that shit, and giving you detailed reasons why you shouldn’t like the thing you like. Which brings us to our old friend, CinemaSins. As of right this second, CinemaSins has 5.2 million subscribers on YouTube. That’s 5.2 million people who think this is funny:
CinemaSins is a prime example of the war on fun. It takes a movie you like and says, “Oh, you like this movie? Okay, let me show you all the ways you’re wrong,” and people lap it up. They lap it up like someone laughing along with a bully because they know that if they don’t laugh then they might be next. I’m all about taking apart things in order to skewer a bad movie, but the mockery has to come from a place of love. Fun has to be had from a sense of a movie being so bad that we can, and must, do better, not belittling a film as being bad sheerly because of a tiny continuity error.
And I could write this article forever, citing example after example. I could write about the middle-aged guy on Reddit who bought out a whole showing of The Force Awakens because he didn’t want to watch the sequel to his favourite childhood movie with kids in the cinema with him. I could write about Neil DeGrasse Tyson spending a day on Twitter debunking the science of Star Wars. I could write about all the stupid behind the scenes stuff about there needing to be therapists on the set of Suicide Squad because the movie, based on a comic book for children, is so intense. I could write about the endless think pieces that appear after a movie is released, with titles like, “Five Ways Gravity’s science is Wrong”. I could write about the writer who, upon seeing a fantastic female character in a big blockbuster, decided the best response was not to just enjoy it but rather to try and tear her down on Twitter.
I don’t know when it happened, when we turned on fun and decided that serious meant grown-up, and liking things was a weakness. But it can still be turned around. Go on Twitter and tell everyone you liked Jupiter Ascending and Blackhat. If you like it, let the world know.