I just got back from a glorious six-day stay in Las Vegas, where I went to the big Star Trek convention there for the very first time. Before I went, I was embarrassed to tell people at work where I was going and why. “Don’t laugh,” I’d say before filling them in. I’m working from home, but I’m pretty sure I could hear some eye rolls.
Of course you did, Laurie, said my inner voice. You just admitted you were taking time off to go to a Star Trek convention.
Whether they were really rolling their eyes or not, it got me thinking about all the teasing I’ve taken about being a Star Trek fan throughout my life. At one point I just stopped talking about it, and only when I joined the team at TrekMovie, a website I’ve been writing and editing for since 2016 and where I now co-host a weekly podcast, did I start letting my nerd flag fly in all its glory.
When I arrived in Vegas, it took me about a day to adjust to not only hearing the phrase “Star Trek” uttered by strangers around me with increasing regularity, but also to the frequent discussions, jokes, and banter that took place among both friends and strangers, none of whom thought it was anything but really, really fun to talk about the franchise I’ve loved since childhood. It was a revelation!
While Star Trek probably gets more ridicule than other loyalty-inspiring franchises like Star Wars and Harry Potter, we all end up in the same boat eventually, getting made fun of by people who think it’s silly to care about a bunch of movies and/or TV shows as much as we do. (Marvel fans have it a lot easier, due in part to A-listers like Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and the late great Chadwick Boseman.)
If we just sit there and take it, it seems like we agree that we should be embarrassed, but if we protest, we just sound silly. Cue the next phase of mockery.
And yet… Why isn’t it the same for sports fans? They exhibit all the same behaviors! They cosplay, decked out in jerseys and caps— they even accessorize with pins, pennants, and badges.
They talk about what happened on the field (or the rink or the court) the same way we talk about episodes and plot points, they talk about the players, their positions, and their triumphs and failures the same way we discuss actors, writers, and producers. They talk about coaches, we talk about directors. They cover their rec rooms, cars, and home offices with branding from their favorite teams.
They’re invested, getting wrapped up in the athletic prowess of people they’ve never met, and have been known to get violent thanks to team rivalries, unpopular referee calls, and both losses and wins. But Star Trek fans are the ones everyone laughs at? Come on.
And how about Halloween? I know people who go nuts on Halloween, elaborately decorating their houses, planning their costumes far in advance, and then staying in character when October 31 finally hits. Where are the comedy sketches about those people?
Personally, I think passion should be celebrated.
Isn’t it important to care about something outside yourself, to have expert knowledge of something, to be curious, and to connect with other people who also care about it? So what if it’s centered on fictional characters in a fictional universe?
It’s obviously resonating with large numbers of people, many of whom wouldn’t have connected otherwise.
I look at my fellow TrekMovie team members and I’m astounded by the variety of people we have. Our group includes a NASA scientist who studies volcanoes, a news editor at NBC, an IT pro, a pastor, and a vegan grandmother, among others.
Isn’t it COOL that we’ve all become friends, despite living in different places and having different backgrounds? A huge part of the fun of my Vegas trip was renting a house with these folks, spending early mornings by the pool with coffee and conversation, hanging out in the evenings with everybody, grabbing meals together, and playing Star Trek trivia games while drinking lit-on-fire cocktails at a tiki lounge.
Their eyes are rolling again, Laurie. You were fine until you said “playing Star Trek trivia games.”
Here’s what I say: Stop making fun of people who love things. If you have passion, you’re lucky, living life with enthusiasm, no easy trick in a calamitous world.
I can think of no better example of this than Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. This is a guy who spends the same amount of time fighting the Star Trek stigma as he does embracing it, who holds the crowd in the palm of his hand at conventions (and on Broadway, and anywhere he goes), but also did that famous Saturday Night Live “get a life” sketch.
He’s 90 right now, and spends his time doing personal appearances, writing books, recording hit albums (for real), hosting TV shows, working on documentaries, acting in movies, and went swimming with sharks this year for the Discovery channels’ Shark Week. He’s an animal lover, a horse enthusiast and expert, a philanthropist, and an NFT entrepreneur. He does more in a month than most people do in six. In his 2018 book Live Long and…: What I Learned Along the Way¸ when he was a mere youth of 86, he wrote these wise words:
I have great news for you: I can report to you from eighty-six years old that no matter how passionate you are, you will never run out of it. There is no limited reservoir of passion. To this day, to this moment, I am still in the thrall of physical and emotional passion. You don’t have to hold any of it in reserve until the right person or Thai restaurant comes along. No matter how much passion you display, there’s a lot more where that came from—but only if you learn how to accept it and enjoy it.William Shatner
I’d rather be the one enjoying my passions than the cynic who mocks them. And you should too.
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