The Glamour Of Star Trek

FuturebeginsParamount recently released the poster for the new Star Trek movie, opening May 8. The black and white composition and almost abstract suggestion of speed make an interesting contrast to the clear forms and primary colors of the original show.

Long-time DG readers may remember this quotation, comparing James Bond and Mr. Spock, from Jeff Greenwald's 1999 book Future Perfect: How Star Trek Conquered Planet Earth. Like Ayn Rand's novels, Star Trek traffics in glamour that appeals to people who generally think they're immune to such frivolous nonsense (and, conversely, whose obsessions seem decidedly unglamorous to most of the fashion crowd). Greenwald's book has a number of good passages that deal with Star Trek's glamour, without using the word. Here's one of the best, which follows his girlfriend's insight that the book "is about longing," the subject of all glamour:

When I began this book, I naively imagined that everyone I spoke to would echo my own intuition: that Star Trek has become successful because it awakens a collective human yearning to get out into space and explore the “final frontier” in earnest. A number of people on my list did indeed feel this way—but they were in the minority. Star Trek, I learned, inspires longings of many kinds. It’s a mirror that people tune like a radio, focusing on the aspects that attract them most.

Star Trek invokes an almost primal wanderlust—a hardwired compulsion to break away from the familiar, and plumb the depths of outer and inner space. It inspires a desire to build a society where technology is partnered with conscience. It evokes a yearning for family and friendship, which is played out in a thousand different fan clubs and Web sites around the world. And it fulfills a deep and eternal need for something to believe in: something vast and powerful, yet rational and contemporary. Something that makes sense.

One of the trailers for the new Star Trek movie features someone’s voice telling young Jim Kirk, “You’ve always had a hard time finding a place in this world, haven’t you? Never knowing your true worth. You can settle for something less, an ordinary life. Or do you feel like you were meant for something better? Something special.” In the trailer, that enticing suggestion accompanies this evocative shot, which beautifully captures both the centrality of the individual and the longing to belong to something larger than oneself:


The promise of becoming someone special is at the heart of much glamour, from the allure of beautiful dresses to the appeal of the U.S. Marine Corps. Particularly for people who feel out of place in their surrounding community, the idea of belonging to an ideal fellowship (Camelot's Round Table, Ayn Rand's Galt's Gulch, the Enterprise crew) is particularly powerful—and, as Greenwald documents, able to sustain real-world fellowship among devotees who share the same enthusiasm.

ADDENDUM: "What most appeals to me about Barack Obama is his Spock-like quality."