For those of you who may have missed one or two movies over the past decade, Simon Pegg has become something of a pop culture figure since his sleeper hit Shawn of the Dead. He's kind of a Kevin Smith, sort of figure, for people who wish that Kevin Smith had an English accent. While he has many solid (and quite entertaining) accomplishments under his belt, he is most recently known for his role as Scotty in the last two Star Trek reboot films. Now, personally, I never saw him as Scotty and had kind of wanted to see that part go to another actor (who really is Scottish) by the name of Paul McGillion. I spoke to McGillion at length about that and he told me that he really did get the role as Scotty, until Pegg suddenly became available. Sorry guys but, McGillion actually looks and sounds like the young James Doohan, and I kind of wished things had not worked out the way they did. Apparently, if Pegg's recent statements are to be believed, then I'm not the only one.
Now that JJ Abrahams is done with his dress rehearsal for his Star Wars reboots, the Trek franchise has been handed over to others and guess who one of them is, that's right, it's Simon Pegg. Well known for having written (or at least co written) his own television show, and his biggest movie hits, Pegg was tapped to help write the third installment of the Trek Franchise. In a recent interview about this, Pegg had some less than flattering comments about, not only his newest job but, the entire genre it belongs too. Pegg noted that Science Fiction and comic book movies are basically the result of an entire generation not growing up. He credits Star Wars for this and notes that movies before that pivotal film were "adult" with ambiguous characters and morally complex, ie grown up. Well, needless to say, there has been quite an explosion on social media about this. It's been bigger than the crap Joss Whedon got from the feminists over the last Avengers movie.
Pegg has now attempted to spin this by, ironically, quoting Han Solo on his personal web page, "hey, it's me." He went on at length, spouting some long sociological mumbo jumbo about how an entire generation did not grow up and why. Then at the very end, after saying why he believed what he said, he told us he didn't mean what he said. Come on Simon, grow up! You can't have it both ways! Well I'm not writing this to blast Pegg for what he said. In fact, I agree with his basic premise that before Star Wars you had a lot of morally ambiguous movies, with anti hero's, grit, and very cynical at their core. Where I disagree with Pegg is the why of the matter. What seems to have escaped Pegg is that those movies were under control of a studio system that was very unresponsive to it's own audience, like a lot of large industries in the US at the time.
In the mid to late seventies, studio executives had assumed that television was making movies a thing of the past so they made movies with a very "I don't care" attitude. Sure they had some hits but, very few, and even those were echoing what was on the horizon. None of their hits would be anywhere near the magnitude of Star Wars or what followed. Those blockbusters, Star Wars and what followed, did not stay in the theater for three years running, get lines of people a mile long waiting to see them, or become known as classics because of any sociological impact that was somehow related to the Vietnam War (yes Pegg espouses this view). They became classics because the studio system had forgotten how to tell good stories and the Star Wars era of movies destroyed that system, opening the door for people who really did.
Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with a little moral ambiguity in my story telling. If you've read any of my fiction then you might just be thinking I sound a little like a hypocrite right now. I think grit has it's place but, so does the hero's journey. If you get too much of either then they both become a little tired and old. If Hollywood has proven anything, it's that. There is a saying in the media business, if something works then beat it to death with a stick. They do this quite often. What I do not believe is Pegg's assertion that echo's the sentiments of an entire host of people that can only be classified as cynics. Unfortunately this crew dominates the artistic field, always has, probably always will. They make the assumption that because something is dark, that it is "adult." Pardon my French but, that's total horseshit. I find those cynical types even more juvenile than the most avid fan boys. I also think they are snobs and that is largely a result of the fact that they usually do not get the large audience they want for their "personal testimony." It's a mechanism of them being self conscious so they just assume, "oh well most people don't get it, it's too complex." Again, speaking in French, what horseshit, oui? Most people don't watch it because most people go to the movies to feel good, not depressed.
This brings us back to Pegg. I'm not really blasting the guy here and the main reason is, I think his comments are not so much a reflection on society, movies, or even his cult audience which has built itself around the "guy who lives in his Mom's basement" routine. Out of everything that Pegg said in the spin piece, on his website, the most important bit was about how he gives a lot of interviews and it gets old. When you talk that much, sooner or later, the random thoughts buzzing around in your brain are going to slip out. Judging by what he said in his spin, I don't think Pegg was trying to insult his fans or the fans of science fiction. What I think was rattling around in there was, "this is what I'm going to be known for? This is childish!" It's not a sign that he hates anything. The kinds of movies that Pegg has made up till now ARE all marketed to a younger audience. Suddenly, now, Pegg realizes he's no longer in that demographic, ie, Pegg has gotten older. This is nothing more than a mid life crisis. The comments that Pegg attributed to society are, really, only describing himself. He just wants to be more and, I can't fault someone for that, it's what drives us all to create.