Monday, 11 May 2009

Star Trek Rocks my World

If mainly for reminding me of how much I used to dig the original series. The movie was good – not amazing – but the kind of stuff that’s always pure pleasure for the fans (not all bitter, hostile trekkies fit into my definition of “fans”). I had already had an idea that the moviemakers were serious and knew what they were doing, but it was still a pleasant surprise to find that actually pretty much all of the actors were bloody good. I’m going to assume Kirk and Spock’s successfulness is common knowledge by now and give a special shout-out to Simon Pegg’s Scotty and Karl Urban’s Bones McCoy. Eric Bana was completely unrecognizable but otherwise a fairly unremarkable villain.

This is the second J. J. Abrams movie I’ve watched in the cinema (after M:I:3) and I’m having a kind of similar reaction; it seems that the same way Abrams makes cinematic television, he makes kind of televisual cinema. This sounds like a bigger put-down than it should. This movie feels like a long, good episode of Star Trek – kind of similarly to The Simpsons movie – and I think that’s great. Still, cinema has a potential that TV can never fully approach – here’s hoping that next movie (for which I wait incredibly eagerly) makes fuller use of the media in which it’s presented.

But the thing is, this isn’t really about cinema. I was a fan of Star Trek for different reasons than I am a fan of movies. It’s the excited, giggly type of fanhood – the type where you fawn over the characters and the mythology and become really stupidly happy whenever you get to come back to it.

I really dig this new “reboot” era. It’s awesome how so often along with rebooting a franchise a movie can also reboot your excitement. It’s a kind of bizarre and unreasonably enjoyable experience. The best example of this is still Casino Royale. There’s something almost mystical (humour me) about the way it taps into something really great from your past, and then proceeds to claim, convincingly, that it can do better. I know I’m getting carried away, but it seems to embody a kind of universal, deep message of hope: What was good about your past will be even better in your future.

What’s kind of taken for granted here is that your present and recent past really suck. This is probably usually the case for most people – I know it is for me. But there’s no reason at all why you shouldn’t be able to make your future like what you’ve enjoyed of the past – at least to insert that which you have enjoyed of the past into it. I, for instance, would like to see more Star Trek. That’s the main thing I’m trying to say here. It seems kind of bewildering to me that I could forget how much I used to enjoy this stuff. I am obviously not even remotely attuned to what makes me tick, in terms of planning. The past’s a treasure trove. Use it. Pop culture’s just the easy stuff. Most likely what you’ve enjoyed and liked and appreciated in the past you still will today. We don’t change that much.

Additionally, and entirely unrelatedly I suppose, I figured out what connects religiousity and Zionism. Religion had been my excuse for never seriously considering Zionism in any critical capacity.

Being Jewish (which requires a very active effort) has always seemed to me kind of idiotic if you're not even going to bother to be a part of the Jewish state. Being Jewish means refusing to be a full part of the country in which you live, by segregating yourself from it to one degree or another - from self-imposed ghettoes to refusing to marry into the general populace. It's always been separation for the sake of future self-determination. This separation, in turn, would be justified (could only be justified, as far as I could see) by the wish to keep to a very strict religious standard.

The religious standard has ceased to cut it, for me, in terms of a reason to be apart from the rest of the world, and following that comes the inevitable - at least to me - question of what is actually the point then of being Jewish? I'm not talking just about keeping a bunch of customs and celebrating religious holidays with the family - but also about the by any standards fanatic commitment to keeping the Jewish people going as a powerful and distinct "ethnic identity".

Most of the world seems to take it for granted this is a positive and important thing, but I can never understand why. More than any other ethnicity, Judaism (or Jewishness?) emphasizes in its members the quality of not being part of the general environment or the world - it's always in conflict with the temptation to become a fuller part of the world. And what's fucking wrong with this temptation? What does Jewishness have that could possibly approach it in aspiration?

I don't know, and yet I can't disregard it out of hand. I feel like I'm missing something. Are they only delusory comfort and laziness that are keeping me from breaking free from this imprisoning paradigm, or is there an actual, sensible reason to continue being a part of this, as I so far am? Why can't I see it?


  1. The more you set yourself apart, the more important your part is in the world. A person who's trying to fit in is a person who doesn't matter. So I find your whole line of argument ridiculous.

  2. The funny thing is, I seem to know where you're coming from though. I'm not talking about fitting in so much as being in interaction with. It seems to me that the attempt to be - or more precisely stay - Jewish, is a compulsive attempt to fit into an ethnicity which sacrifices - yes - your ultimate, practical worth in the world; it seems to me like a behaviour that would make you matter less.

  3. So you have no problem with Jews who go out and try to convert other people, then. It's just the lack of interaction with non-Jews that's bothering you. So fine, go invite some non-Jews to the Shabbat dinner table or something.