The Mundane

June 21, 2009

We have lost our sense of the mundane. That was one of the great things about Philip K. Dick. He didn’t make science fiction about the Space Prince or the World Conqueror or the President of the Universe. He wrote about the janitors, the technicians, the laborers. The ones who get stuff done. They were the ones dealing with the extraordinary. And no one seems to be carrying on the legacy.

Case in point, what was the overarching theme from The Incredibles? “There are only a few special people in the world. And you are not one of them.” Why would the fastest being on the planet need to compete in track and field, except to rub our noses in our own ordinariness? And why would his parents need to see him do that? At the beginning of the film, they didn’t want Dash to compete because they feared exposure, not because it would eliminate any sense of competition to the proceedings (i.e., he would mop the floor with all the kids who were actually trying). On the other hand, Syndrome was a modern-day Prometheus, hoping to bring exceptional qualities (fire) to us ordinary people. And he was the bad guy.

Moving on, I thought Star Trek the franchise needed a mundane makeover. Dispense with the Captain Worship. Especially after the top-down disaster that was Star Trek: Enterprise. Focus on the men and women who really make the ship run – the people cleaning the air ducts, mopping down the transporter rooms, polishing the communications consoles. Really, Captain Worship is just one step above Wesley Worship, and no one wants that.

Well, the new Star Trek film (which I thoroughly enjoyed, by the way) still carries our obsession with those at the top. I had my initial doubts about the movie, mainly because Alias was a show about worshipping Jennifer Garner, and I feared J.J. Abrams would carry that over – Kirk would wear a fluorescent-orange wig, cop an attitude to infiltrate the Klingon High Council, and the rest of the crew would have nothing to do but marvel at his mad skills. Star Trek didn’t go that far, but still, I feel we’ve lost our appreciation for the mundane, which is doubly troubling because one, most of us have to live in it and two, we are growing blind to the important stuff that happens in this space. Maybe that’s why everyone nowadays thinks they’re going to be famous.

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