Actually, Simon Pegg is Right About Sci-Fi and Here’s Why
“It’s not hard to ruffle the feathers of the collective geekdom. Fans of comic books, sci-fi, and everything in between are passionate, vocal, and more than a little opinionated. It stems from a place of love for good art, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. But it’s also why the Internet pretty much exploded the second news broke that Simon Pegg made comments that on the surface seemed derisive of their beloved culture. But despite some hard truths he dished out, he was spot on.
So let’s dispense with the rage right away, and unravel what was (and wasn’t) said. Pegg has been a vocal fan of all things science fiction. The depth of his knowledge and expertise borders on scholarly, and to call his nerd-cred into question would be off the mark to say the very least. And yet somehow, all it took was one interview with Radio Times before an entire fandom went up in arms. In a clarification on his website, he goes on to note, he “did not mean that science fiction or fantasy are dumb, far from it. How could I say that? In the words of Han Solo, ‘Hey, it’s me!'”
The comments in question that were particularly incisive regarded Pegg’s theory that sci-fi blockbusters have “infantilized” consumers, further promoting the idea of permanent adolescence. And you know what? He’s not wrong. It doesn’t mean that sci-fi culture is destroying America, or even that you shouldn’t go see Age of Ultron. It’s merely the result of two decades worth of movies, TV shows, and literature that have taken us out of reality and into the relief of fictional universes. But pair that with a clickbait Internet culture, and we have a perfect storm of taking quotes of out context to serve a narrative.
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) May 19, 2015
It’s important for any subculture to be able to look inward and recognize its own flaws, and sci-fi is no exception. Pegg further opines, “I guess what I meant was, the more spectacle becomes the driving creative priority, the less thoughtful or challenging the films can become.” Go see something like Transformers or the newest Expendables movie and try and argue against that point. Spectacle has taken root as the key storytelling device in not just sci-fi, but in virtually all our big-budget cinema. Sure, movies like Mad Max: Fury Road are out there to at least espouse a much-needed feminist lean, but the depth and breadth of fantasy and science fiction isn’t as vast as we might think.
But that’s not to say there’s no value in the genre as a whole, something Simon Pegg whole-heartedly acknowledges too. “Fantasy in all its forms is probably the most potent of social metaphors and as such can be complex and poetic,” he accedes. In many ways though, it’s become co-opted by an industry less interested in potent social metaphors, and more in “soften(ing) the edges, so that toys and lunch boxes can be sold.” Cinema is an industry committed to the bottom line, and no one should demonize Pegg for simply acknowledging that.
In the end, the Internet will always go to war for their beliefs. But if we can’t stomach even the lightest constructive criticism of the things we love, than we can’t truly claim to love them in the first place. Science fiction has a long, storied history that dates back to the dawn of film itself. Let’s not sully that by trying to throw darts at someone who’s just as passionate about it as we are.
Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest