Wednesday, November 30, 2005

So Star Trek took plots and ideas from everywhere, from a submarine movie to Joseph Conrad, from Captain Video to Shakespeare. Viewers even got a taste of what classic Greek theatre was like, because (as William Shatner said) the budgets were so small they were essentially putting on plays, but plays with meaning, like the Greeks did. Much of the cast in both the original series and TNG were theatre trained. If a writer suggested a classical allusion, they knew how to play it.

It truly was in the 60s, with the Beatles and other popular music, with Star Trek and a few other TV shows, that popular art and entertainment reinterpreted high art forms and narratives, and made them more accessible. Like those old Classic Comics books or movie versions, they also became conduits to the classics themselves. They made them relevant and easier to approach. They provided a kind of introduction. And the classics, in turn, illuminated aspects of a Star Trek story or a Beatles tune. Bob Dylan learned from an established (if notorious) poet like Allen Ginsberg, and Ginsberg recognized in him his successor.

In fact, ideas, encounters and engagements relevant to the times were more likely to be found in pop culture than in high art, and were accessible to more people, particularly the young.

Practitioners in forms old enough to be high art forms, like the novel, also became underground and popular successes dealing with ideas and issues that seized the imaginations of a popular or cult audience. A lot of young people got turned on to mystical and Eastern religious thought by J.D. Salinger and Jack Kerouac. Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, Doris Lessing and others became both popular and cult. They also turned readers on to writers they admired and emulated.

There was so much energy in popular forms in the 60s—in music, movies and television as well as more experimental theatre, novels and poetry---that a fair number of young people who’d majored in English literature became pop culture commentators, rock critics, film and TV reviewers and pop journalists. Who also played in a band, or made super eight movies.

So the cross-fertilization became pretty natural, and pretty healthy. Thanks as well to wide availability of paperback books, old movies on TV and foreign and experimental films on campuses, people began to make their own explorations, perhaps to go where no one in their families or neighborhoods or high school had gone before.

You could start anywhere and get everywhere, as the cross-fertilization of popular and high art continued. Leading to situations like: my Moby Dick story.

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