When I ask someone if they like sci-fi, the general response is a scoff.
Over the years I’ve gotten used to that. Sci-fi might be one of the most underappreciated genres in all of art. What most people don’t know, is it’s the most important.
First off, I want to separate fantasy and sci-fi. If it has a dragon, unicorn or magic this is not what I’m talking about. If it has superpowered humans, space exploration or lasers, we’re getting closer to the bullseye.
More recently, sci-fi has been co-opted by special effects and the box office. Like “Soylent Green,” a good sci-fi flick doesn’t need lens flare and lasers at every corner (yeah, I’m talking to you, J.J. Abrams).
Don’t get me wrong, I like the new “Star Trek” films and I’m excited to see what he can do with “Star Wars.” Abrams isn’t the problem.
And I just lost half my readers.
If you went to see “Iron Man 3” because you wanted to see Robert Downey Junior blow stuff up, you’re not only missing the point of sci-fi movies, but movies in general.
The “Iron Man” trilogy isn’t about some guy is a super-suit, it’s about a human who struggles with real problems that we as an audience can identify with.
“Star Wars” isn’t about lightsabers and the Force, it’s about daddy-issues, father figures and a messiah complex. “Star Trek” isn’t about spaceships, it’s about internal and external exploration.
Sure, other genres allow writers and directors to explore these themes, as well, but they can’t and don’t do it in a totally fictional universe. They can’t create ideas and objects (and sometimes even characters) out of thin air.
The metaphors in sci-fi are so sandwiched and elegant, you don’t even know it’s a metaphor until the movie or episode is over and a week later you realize Professor Xavier wasn’t just modeled off of Martin Luther King Jr., but he represents so many other historical figures and future leaders.
Sci-fi is about taking “What if?” to the next level. Yeah, sometimes they have to sell toys to children, but in the process of selling a Neo action figure, we might as well introduce children to some cool philosophical ideas.
I truly believe that good science fiction gives us the chance to examine our lives and ourselves without hinderance.
Done correctly, a sci-fi character should inspire us or beholden us to a higher standard, not just make us laugh or cry or cheer.
So, if you’re the type of person who has always thought sci-fi is geeky and you’d rather watch the Real Housewives of Wherever, at least give it a shot.
One last thing. It’s sci-fi, not SyFy.