“How Science Fiction Found Religion”

An interesting analysis… This article caught my attention since I’m especially interested in what they’ll do with the story line for the Star Trek prequel coming in May.

That story, though, [George Lucas] inverted. Anakin will be not the world’s savior but its destroyer, more Antichrist than Christ. He will slaughter nearly all the Jedi knights and—after almost dying at Obi-Wan’s hands and enduring a sort of rebirth as the masked Darth Vader—help remake a galactic republic into a dictatorship. Still, in one respect he is explicitly a Christ figure. A bit of early dialogue between Qui-Gon and Anakin’s mother, one Shmi—names aren’t Lucas’s strong suit, either—reveals that Anakin is the product of a virgin birth:

Qui-Gon: You should be very proud of your son. He gives without any thought of reward.

Shmi: Well, he knows nothing of greed. He has a—

Qui-Gon: He has special powers.

Shmi: Yes.

Qui-Gon: He can see things before they happen. . . . The Force is unusually strong with him, that much is clear. Who was his father?

Shmi: There was no father. I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him. I can’t explain what happened.

What did happen? Not to Shmi, whose curious reproductive history the Star Wars movies also never bothered to explain, but to the Star Wars movies themselves—whose earlier trilogy mostly avoided biblical inspiration but whose more recent installments shifted so sharply toward Christianity? More generally, why has mainstream sci-fi and fantasy as a whole become so religious? One reason may be the religious revival that the United States and much of the world have been undergoing since the 1970s. This “revenge of God,” in French scholar Gilles Kepel’s phrase, has seemingly begun to be felt even in secular Hollywood.

But another reason surely lies in geopolitics. During the sixties and seventies, popular American science fiction looked to the stars and saw a Cold War there. Consider Star Trek, the franchise that, as a TV show from 1966 to 1969 and later as a series of movies, chronicled the adventures of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and the crew of the USS—“United Starship”—Enterprise, representatives of a democratic United Federation of Planets that held an uneasy truce with the warlike, autocratic Klingon Empire. The real-world parallels were unmistakable. “Of course Star Trek was about the Cold War,” critic Paul Cantor recently observed. “The United Federation of Planets was the United States and its free-world allies, the Klingons were the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc.”

The original Star Wars films were similarly political at heart. Like Star Trek, they portrayed a universe caught between two great rivals, one free and democratic, the other hierarchical and autocratic. Not for nothing did the first film use “evil Galactic Empire” to describe Darth Vader’s dominion. (One wonders whether Ronald Reagan drew his famous excoriation from Lucas’s hit.)

When the Soviet Union began to thaw in the mid-eighties and collapsed entirely in 1991, however, that neat good-versus-evil scheme resonated less, and mainstream science fiction started to cast about for alternative inspirations. Often it failed. Star Trek, for example, continued to imitate geopolitics as it launched a phenomenally boring new TV series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, in 1987 (it would end its run in 1994). The Federation and the Klingons were now at peace, and the Enterprise resembled a spaceborne United Nations, a bustling enclave safe enough for the crew to bring children with them. So yawn-inducing was the galaxy that the show frequently sought to introduce drama with a device called the “holodeck,” a virtual-reality entertainment area where the characters could cavort in more exciting locales—the Wild West, say, or 221B Baker Street. Two more Trek series, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, tried to restore excitement—the first was set on a frontier space station, the second in a galaxy far from our own tedious one—but with little effect. Too often, the Star Trek franchise called to mind the end of history on an intergalactic scale.

read the rest here…

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One Response to ““How Science Fiction Found Religion””

  1. “How Science Fiction Found Religion” « Father Hosea’s Concerns | SciFi Picks Says:

    […] More here: “How Science Fiction Found Religion” « Father Hosea’s Concerns […]


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