If you’ve seen any Internets at all in the last 48 hours you’re probably already aware of the controversial statements made by British geek icon Simon Pegg during a recent interview with the Radio Times. But just in case you haven’t here’s a re-cap: Pegg – a famous writer, actor, and self confessed geek, whose notoriety has reached new heights with his involvement in the Star Trek reboots – has long been a darling of the sci-fi scene, but his recent comments have divided opinion.
Pegg may have made a career out of geek culture, but in this latest interview he seemed to be turning his back on it all and insulting his fans, claiming that science fiction movies have “infantalised” us and led to a “dumbing down” of cinema.
“Obviously I’m very much a self-confessed fan of science-fiction and genre cinema. But part of me looks at society as it is now and just thinks we’ve been infantilised by our own taste.”
Complains about the “dumbing down” of cinema. Actively participates in the dumbing down of Star Trek.
I have to admit that when I first read about the interview I was a little miffed. “You’re wrong Simon!” I screamed via Facebook, “Sci-fi isn’t dumbing down cinema, cinema is dumbing down sci-fi!”.
Other fans of the genre have also leapt to its defence, pointing out that science fiction has a serious side, and apparently so does superhero fiction.
“Before Star Wars, the films that were box-office hits were The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Bonnie and Clyde and The French Connection – gritty, amoral art movies. Then suddenly the onus switched over to spectacle and everything changed.”
But as is usually the case with such things, the problem is not with what he actually said, but with the way it is being reported and the way in which the interview has been edited. The more I read, and the more I discovered what Simon Pegg actually said, the more I understood the point he was trying to make. And it’s a point that I happen to agree with, for the most part.
“It is a kind of dumbing down in a way, because it’s taking our focus away from real-world issues. Films used to be about challenging, emotional journeys or moral questions that might make you walk away and re-evaluate how you felt about… whatever. Now we’re walking out of the cinema really not thinking about anything, other than the fact that the Hulk just had a fight with a robot.”
So here’s the thing: Pegg isn’t having a go at the science fiction genre on the whole, just sci-fi movies (and some of the things he’s pointing to are arguably not even sci-fi but rather fantasy). The general dumbing down of cinema is something we’ve all been complaining about for years; it’s just a shame that the public perception of sci-fi has degraded along with the integrity of the movie industry. It would be unfair to blame Pegg for voicing something we all know is true, and for finally – at the age of 45 – wanting to put away childish things.
Pegg has considered “retiring from geekdom”.
So, to paraphrase Monty Python, let’s not bicker and argue about who’s dumbing down who. The point is that cinema needs to try harder, and as consumers perhaps we need to be a little more discerning.
Or would that mean we’re taking it too seriously? Make your mind up, Simon!
“We’re essentially all consuming very childish things – comic books, superheroes… Adults are watching this stuff, and taking it seriously!”
All this is very interesting considering that Simon Pegg has been hired to write the script for the upcoming third movie in the rebooted Star Trek series. Let’s hope he delivers a rich and fulfilling movie brimming over with artistic integrity; if his NuTrek script is as hollow as the previous two movies in the franchise he may find himself munching on his own words.
Geeky websites right across Internetland (including i09) have been quick to criticise Pegg for the interview, accusing him of being a “turncoat” and a traitor to geekdom.
But last night Pegg issued an insightful response to the accusations, clarifying his position and admitting that he was being “a little bit trollish” and “a bit of a Contrary Mary”. He also said that he “did not mean that science fiction or fantasy are dumb, far from it”, and spoke of how the geek demographic has been “cannily co-opted by market forces.”
I recommend that everybody read Simon Pegg’s response here before pronouncing any judgement upon him.
“The more spectacle becomes the driving creative priority, the less thoughtful or challenging the films can become.”
So, what do you think? Does Simon Pegg make a valid a point? Do you agree with him, and should we forgive him for calling sci-fi fans childish?
Should he be allowed to insult their own fans and get away Scotty-free? (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Let us know your thoughts, and feel free to either vent your anger or express your support in the comments below.