Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Lunefeld felt this was worth mentioning because for awhile now there’s been a cultural separation between what is perceived as popular art or entertainment, and what is ritually considered high art. The difference between pulp science fiction and Literature, say, or rock and classical music, TV drama and Greek drama, and…Star Trek and Shakespeare.

For example, a new biography of the Beatles was just published---it’s almost a thousand pages long, with a hundred pages of footnotes, a scholarly tome and, according to the New York Times review, very well written. The review authors expressed wonder at how things had changed since the early 1960s: “Rock 'n' roll was considered marginal and disposable; the way to learn about its practitioners was to scour fan magazines or pore over sparse album liner notes. When the Beatles began, it would have been unthinkable to read a well-written biography about rock 'n' roll performers that was as serious and thoroughly researched as an important book about Faulkner or Picasso or Mao. For better and for worse, the Beatles changed all that.”

So in its way did Star Trek. It was just a television drama, just science fiction, and dangerously close to a kids show--- the combination was about the lowest you could go. Star Trek became a serious part of the culture the same way the Beatles did---by becoming very popular and making a lot of money for a long time. But like the Beatles, in other ways as well.

(Before we get too far away from the Beatles biography, it’s worth saying that I’ve thought more than once how sorely we lack a really good biography of Gene Roddenberry by a trained biographer or journalist, not either a show business friend or a show business enemy. His authorized biography is respectable, while the other more scurrilous one basically repeats every grudge anyone had against him. There are lots of points of view in lots of books, but no means to figure out what’s what. Evaluating information objectively and placing it in an historical perspective in a biography like one on Faulkner or Picasso or the Beatles has yet to be accomplished.)

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