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Serenity (2005)

Can't stop the signal.

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Old Oct 11, 2005, 12:23 PM   #1
HighWiredSith
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Libertarian Vs. Liberal

I must see this movie again and again I hail this as the best science fiction movie I have seen in years and years and years. And yet, there was something about this film that stuck with me, something that would seem, at least on the surface, elusive. Here was a science fiction world that was as much an anti-Star Trek world as once could conceive of and still be in the same genre. I have concluded that Serenity is the anti-Trek.

Star Trek was every bit a pieced together mesh of 60's liberal idealism. A mix of anti-war multicultural ideals beneath this grand banner that centralized authority in the form of an organized government (the Federation) is the great god of the future age, the entity by which peace, prosperity, and enlightenment shall flow. The prime directive, though on the surface contradictory, was the great gospel of Roddenberry's vision, the Starfleet handbook the Bible, the captains it's prophets. Trek was, in effect, liberal utopian Marxism to it's fullest extent, a religionless society lording over less enlightened races with it's creed of noninvolvement while openly forcing it's culture and ideals on anyone or anything in its path.

Serenity takes the same basic three ingredients: a ship, a crew, a final frontier and concocts and entirely different dish altogether. Here we have the all-intrusive, ever meddling alliance, forcing its will on those it view the less enlightened and crushing (or at least trying to crush) all who stand between itself and its ultimate goal. From the bash at organized, government run education to its relentless pursuit to force its one size fits all culture and ideals on those it deems unworthy, The Alliance is the epitome of the freedom crushing government machines of communism and socialism. Our heroes are the flies in the ointment, the scruffy good guys who aren't above breaking laws they feel restrict their freedom to break away from the status quo, to embrace this idea that a man can make his own fate and solve his own problems if the government will let him do so. Here we have a group of people who choose not to sit idly by while the common sense of natural law and basic freedom is usurped by a government machine who defines natural law and freedom in and of its own whims and desires, whims and desires claimed to be for the benefit of its people yet curiously beneficial to only the bureaucrats and power players who pull the strings.

I declare Trek dead.
Long live Serenity!
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 12:28 PM   #2
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

Does Deep Space Nine have that same elitist attitude (60s liberal idealism)?
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 12:43 PM   #3
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

I didn't think DS9 did, particularly during the Dominion War, especially with Sisko's more underhanded manipulations getting the Romulans involved.
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 01:09 PM   #4
HighWiredSith
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

Although I continue to hail DS9 for it's inventivness and uniquness as of yet still unequalled in the Trek canon, the basic ideal still underlined that series. The Federation was the great mediator between the Bajoran's and the Cardassians, both inferior, religion drenched cultures whose centuries old conflict was blatantly blamed on their inability to let go of their own cultures and embrace the ideals of the Federation. The presence of Sisko was clearly an attempt to bring both sides into the Federation fold so all of their collective problems and conflicts could be resolved.

"Voyager" and "Enterprise" continuously underlined the predicament the universe is in without a great governing body and the need for an all powerful Federation.

Last edited by HighWiredSith : Oct 11, 2005 at 01:44 PM.
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 01:24 PM   #5
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

That's actually sort of an interesting point, though. I mean, isn't it isolated religious-based cultures the ones that develop a stronger sense of superiority of others not of the same faith? It seems like a more integrated society is a superior one, that is, one that recognizes the underlying moral ground inherent in foreign religions and the similarities they have with their own, rather than reacting to interaction with foreign peoples with a reactionary and close-minded view of one's own religion and hence of cultural differences as well.

I guess I would have to see DS9 to see what you mean, but couldn't it be possible that a more democratic form of government is the more superior one?

Well, actually, I recall now that there are other concepts of government that people believe are better than a capitalist-based one, but does Star Trek really work from the premise that what is best of alien cultures needs to be undermined?

I do remember an episode of DS9, I think, where an alien couple refused to give their dying son medicine because it was against their beliefs, so they let him die. The doctor gave him the treatment anyway, and the boy lived as a result, but the parents ended up killng the boy in a ceremony because they believed that his using treatment killed his soul and turned him into a shell. They gave a respectful ceremony for the boy, with candles and the like, but they killed him because they honestly believed that his being alive was an abomination. I think also that they had an interesting reason for believing what they did, but I don't recall exactly.

It seems complicated to me, but interesting subject to be pursued in a series.

Quote:
Originally posted by High Wired Sith
Our heroes are the flies in the ointment, the scruffy good guys who aren't above breaking laws they feel restrict their freedom to break away from the status quo, to embrace this idea that a man can make his own fate and solve his own problems if the government will let him do so.

That is a really good point, contrary to the support I expressed of the ideal government that you argued against.

Last edited by toomuchcoffee : Oct 11, 2005 at 01:33 PM.
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 01:34 PM   #6
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

There is little evidence to support the idea that The Federation of Planets was a democracy. In fact, it was highly anti-capitalistic. That it was superior can certainly be debated but since the writers of the show were decidely pro-Federation it would be difficult to make any kind of rational argument. After all, the Federation exhibited the ability to solve all the problems of the universe in 60 minutes. It is interesting that the underlying moral ideal of The Federation was multiculturalism, an embracing of all ideals, beliefs, and cultures...as long as they agreed to assimilate themselves into the Federation as a whole and give up those characteristics of their culture deemed dangerous or unenlightened. In how many episodes did we see the Enterprise and its crew enforce Federation ideals on unsuspecting cultures, from women's rights to capital punishment and yet did so under the guise of the Prime Directive. After all, was not most of the conflict created by the Prime Directive itself?

I noticed this a great deal in watching the first two seasons of TNG, how conflicted Picard and Company would become over a very simple creed - do not get involved. Yet they did get involved becuase their sense of moral enlightenment seemed to demand it as they looked down their collective noses at cultures who failed to embrace their beliefs. Face it, they were snobs and elitists who clearly felt they had reached some apex of elightenment.
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 01:52 PM   #7
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

Apologies for the Trek discussion the Serenity forum, but I was thinking how clearly the concepts in this discussion was evidenced in the Vulcans. In the pilot episode of "Enterprise" it was explained that The Vulcan, ever the superior elitists of the universe (no wonder the Romulans hate them!), intentionally restricted Earth from developing and utilizing warp drive until us poor, dark age, earthlings could prove we were worthy of such technology. I liked the way Bakula's character was openly hostile to this outside meddling. And yet, it would ultimately be The Federation who would become the enforcement of so-called Vulcan elightenment.
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 01:58 PM   #8
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

Working from the assumption that the diversity of alien cultures is a metaphor for the differences of human cultures, couldn't it be said that there are basic moral principles that are universal, which is to say, it seems that the best way to judge a culture is to ask whether or not its mores revolve around a principle of mutual respect? I don't think because a culture has conservative and clearly defined roles for men and women that it is an inferior idea, but if one sex is treated as property and without rights, I think that it is appropriate to make moral judgements.

If a culture oppresses any members of its society, I don't think that they should abandon their cultural heritage for a western lifestyle, but I think it is their responsibility to alter their society to be able to work harmoniously with the rest of the world, in a way that recognizes similarities rather than make judgements against because of differences, and in a way that permits every individual to live as they choose. Diverse cultures should be supported because they add insight on how to live to other cultures. I personally would have a lot to learn, I think, from a culture that is morally conservative.

I'm not sure if this is exactly what you are talking about, but I just mean to say that I don't think I agree that allowing another culture to oppress other members of it's ethnic group is responsible, even if its done with the intention of not interfering with a different cultural perspective, understanding that shotgun judgements shouldn't be made about why another culture does what it does.

Maybe it would be different with alien races, though. It is touchy ground, though, now that I think of it.

[EDIT]: Maybe we should just take care of our own and interfere only if another culture's oppressive cultural practices interfere with our own. Which, I guess, is what happened on 9/11.

Last edited by toomuchcoffee : Oct 11, 2005 at 02:18 PM.
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 02:31 PM   #9
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

I think there is a clear difference between freeing people from opression and imposing morals on them. Maybe I'm naive in viewing freedom as a God given right (which in our current context is certainly absurd, but I think we are discussing the relevant idealism driving the fiction and not the fiction itself...) entitled to all peoples or all races and nations and perhaps even more naive in believing freedom is the entity that truly resolves most of societies problems. Beyond that, we are doing nothing but making relative moral judgements and imposing those judgements on people who may or may not share our relative moral views.

I agree that there are a number of basic moral conecepts that are not relative, that cross all cultures, that are inherent in the human condition but I've never trusted a government who actively chooses to impose any moralistic ideology on another culture. This certainly highlights the thin line between giving people freedom from tyrranical regimes and forcing them to conform to our own idea of society.
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 02:36 PM   #10
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

So, in the Star Trek universe (I think this is useful in the Serenity thread for compare/contrast purposes), do you think that the Federation would perform the equivelant of putting a trade embargo on a country that requires that all of it's women wear a (what is the muslim cloak called that women wear?) and stay at the home and raise the family?

That is contrary to our ideology, but doesn't seem to me that it is an ideology that is oppressive (though perhaps that is debatable, but if the women believe it as well . . .)
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 02:40 PM   #11
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

Quote:
Originally posted by toomuchcoffee
So, in the Star Trek universe (I think this is useful in the Serenity thread for compare/contrast purposes), do you think that the Federation would perform the equivelant of putting a trade embargo on a country that requires that all of it's women wear a (what is the muslim cloak called that women wear?) and stay at the home and raise the family?

I would go further than that. Trade embargos are passive actions. I don't feel it beyond the scope of the Federation to impose itself in far less subtle ways when it deems such action necessary.
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 02:43 PM   #12
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

But then that, essentially, is the way that the Federation judges other alien species and is the crux of your criticism?
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 02:49 PM   #13
HighWiredSith
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

Bottom line, in the Star Trek universe, the ultimate goal of any intelligent species is to conform to the ideals set forth by the Federation. It's the same litmus test the Vulcan used in deeming Earth worthy of interstellar travel. A race must prove itself enlightened beyond the point of accepting or allowing any number or practices or beliefs The Federation deems barbaric, like capital punishment for example.

Inasmuch as The Federation actively imposes its will on other cultures is inconsistent at best but such actions are most certaily driven by a so-called moral enlightenment they claim to have exclusive rights to.
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 02:54 PM   #14
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

Hence the appeal of Firefly, which is supposed to arrive tomorrow but which I haven't seen a single episode of, in which the characters make no pretensions of being morally enlightened, or, at least, whose charcters do not operate from a decided system of morality that is incapable of incorporating other ways of seeing and therefore becomes corrupt or whatever. Man, just like the Empire.
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Old Oct 11, 2005, 03:15 PM   #15
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Re: Libertarian Vs. Liberal

In Serenity the characters function from what I see as an inherent sense of morality, a clear juxtaposition from the government imposed morality. The fact that the individual's morals are at clear odds with those of The Alliance speaks to the inevitable evil inherent in all forms of government, most especially those not ultimately beholden to the individual (i.e. democracy). Our founding fathers felt the pangs of such conflict, conflict that will always happen when the ideals of government do not synch with the ideals of the individual. The result - revolution.
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