Some Mainstream Media Continue To Misunderstand (and misrepresent) Trek Fans

A couple of days ago we pointed to a funny parody news clip at The Onion which poked some good-natured fun at Trek and Trek fans, and how we were up in arms over how the film was ‘fun’ and ‘watchable.’ Trek fans are self-aware and most seemed to get the joke, but in the last day I have noticed a more disturbing Trend from some in the mainstream media trying to to perpetuate the most negative stereotypes of Trek fans, and what is worse they are trying to get me to help them. More below.

 

Media searching for superfans – but some just want attackers
In the last few weeks I have been contacted by a number of local and national and international media organizations to give quotes and do interviews on what I think of the new Star Trek film and how it is playing with fans (see yesterday’s AP article for an example).  I always tell them what I have stated here: that I loved the movie, but also as a Trekkie had some nitpicks (as we do with all movies). I also tell them that most fans are very excited about this film and what it means to Star Trek, but there is a minority of fans who are skeptical or not in support of the film.

However just this morning alone I have been contacted by ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC News, and both of them wanted me to help provide a fan to put on camera to talk about how Trek fans as a whole are against this film. When I talked to producers for both, neither wanted to hear that those ‘skeptic’ fans were only a small part, and in fact one producer (from NBC) hung up on me when I told him I thought it would be disingenuous for them to report that Trek fans as a whole were against this movie. I suggested to both that they could have two fans on with opposing views or at least represent the ‘negative’ fan as being part of just a segment of Trek fandom, but those suggestions fell on deaf ears. Our friend and star/producer of Star Trek Phase II James Cawley tells me that he has also turned down multiple mainstream media requests to attack the new movie.

I get that fans v movie or fans v mainstream is a good hook and controversy and conflict make good TV. However, after being told by James and I that they are barking up the wrong tree I only hope they get the message and don’t just keep hunting until they find that ideal ‘hater’ to put on camera.

Trek fans have suffered for years with negative stereotypes of being nitpicky nerds who live in their mother’s basements, even though research done Sociology Professor (and TrekMovie contributor) John Tenuto shows that Trek fans tend to be more educated, more affluent, more social and more likely to be married than the population as a whole. Now that Star Trek has a big blockbuster movie and the franchise that we love is getting some new credibility, some in the media want to use this resurgence as yet another opportunity to go after Trek fans as anti-social, whiney, nitpicking lunatics. This is just like the ‘THIS IS A DISASTER’ incident when the LA Times and other sources didn’t get a joke on our message boards and really thought that fans were upset over a Cake! 

The Onion parody poked fun but was funny and not cruel (and often true). But this notion that Trek fans as a whole cannot embrace any kind of change or be open minded to a new take on Trek seems to be part of a meme for too many in the MSM. This mean spirited cartoon in the New York Daily News is another example:

Trek fans by the numbers are in support of this movie
I am not saying this to boast but for context, that this website is the highest ranked (via Alexa) independent Trek site. We are visited by hundreds of thousands of fans every month. From comments and polls and attending fan events, I think I have a good sense of the fan community. It is true that we can rarely agree that water is wet and there certainly is no right answer as to what is the best Trek TV show or movie, but there are trends and there are groups larger and smaller on various opinions. And I can say unequivocally that most fans are very excited about seeing this movie. Of course there are some who are skeptical or even hostile, but this is a minority (maybe down to 10% or less at this point). I have spoken to many fans around the world who have seen the film at screenings, including talking to some of the leaders of various fan organizations and fan clubs, and almost all have come away with positive views to the movie.

This is also evidenced by some actual data.

TrekMovie.com poll taken earlier this week:

When will you see the Star Trek movie

  • Already seen it (5%)
  • Before May 7th (4%)
  • Thurs. May 7 (39%)
  • Fri May 8 (22%)
  • Sat/Sun May 9-10 (15%)
  • Later in first week (6%)
  • Later during theatrical run (5%)
  • Wait for DVD (2%)
  • No plans to see movie (2%)

So only 4% of fans in the poll were not going to see the film while in theaters with only 2% saying they had no interest.

How about some real sales data? Fandango has sent over some of their figures and 91% of their current sales (as of this morning) are for the new Star Trek movie. They are also conducting a poll of Star Trek ticket buyers and 91% consider themselves a Star Trek fan. And by the way Fandango’s Star Trek sales for this week are outpacing their sales for Wolverine from the same period last week.

It isn’t all of the MSM
Just like with Trek fans, the mainstream media is not single minded. There are many reports that get their portrayals of Trek fans right and are more balanced, like the recent AP piece and another good piece in Wall Street Journal. And of course the recent cover story in Newsweek showed that love of Star Trek can be treated respectfully. By the way, I will be quoted in a piece in the Globe and Mail tomorrow in Canada and TrekMovie’s Alex Fletcher will be appearing on Canada AM on CTV tomorrow morning.

 

But, I guess we still have work to do with getting some in the media to understand fandom and Trekkies.

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MSM hates trekkies – nothing new.

First!!!

Why does this not surprise me? Trek fans who didn’t care for the film are going to be treated in teh same manner as swine flu: They’re get al the attention, even though they’re smaller and less harmful than most Trek fans.

I have turned down several interview requests for this exact reason!
James Cawley

So much for me being first.

One is left to wonder the accurary of the media in other things, if they can’t get a simple thing like this right.

ugh this is ridiculous. its amazing to see the impact media has on on what we believe. i was starting to feel cool that i was a trek head, but the news is ruining this for me…

AS president of the spanish fanclub, I’m all over the radio here in spain this week, but we’ve been lucky in that. They ask about the fandom, about why we like the series and If we liked the movie (Which I do, and a lot BTW). I suppose the creators of the “Trekkies hate the movie” conspiracy are not managing to put their lie in the head of the world very well.

Still hanging at 94% at Rotten Tomatoes. #1 topic on Twitter (well, until Manny got suspended anyway). I think we’re making some noise.

Actually… I like that pic ^^

But yeah, I was sure that some of them will still get the feeling “Wow… new Film we have to put some really nerdy people in one of our shows” and I know that they will do this just because that anyone else feels better “Oh look… and I thought I have a bad life… now look at this poor poor nerd…”

A great article! I an not surprised some “news” organizations are trying to manufacture a story but it is sad that they aren’t even interested in what Star Trek fans are really like and what they really think. It one thing to proceed from ignorance, and it’s another to be willfully ignorant. Are there some crazies in Star Trek? Sure, every fan base has some real honest-to-goodness crazies.

But most are just enthusiastic, in the same way that those guys who paint themselves up for a Football game are. And frankly even they are in the minority. It’s the same reason I was very wary of the call for pics of people in Trek uniforms. That’s all they want us to be. Personally I think we should celebrate it – kind of like how the news used to only show drag queens when they showed gay pride parades. Celebrate those who dress up in full Trek regalia. They are our brothers and sisters and probably the most courageous of us and I applaud them and admire their unbridled enthusiasm! But… don’t pretend that’s all of us or even the majority of us. Look at the people around you… anyone of them just might be…

A closet Trekkie! (gasp!)

Hopefully this film will erase all that stupidity and then, as the article in Newsweek said, we’ll ALL be Trekkies.

We could always put a fan in front of the cameras and then completely 180 degree the interview.

This is what our illustrious media does in order to slant what the masses hear about, isn’t it? Telling everyone a story about how much Trekkies are looking forward to the film would be “boring,” the rantings and ravings of a bunch of fanatics. Telling everyone how Trekkies are against the film creates “drama,” “conflict,” and all that stuff the media thinks we really get into. Do we really get into that? Is the mass of media-reading public truly only interested in conflict and argument, or could we possibly be a bit more enlightened than the press treats us? This is a difficult question to answer because the evidence seemingly changes on a whim.
The fact that you have brought this to our attention is the evidence of your integrity, Anthony.

4. A little off topic, but when a Pro Wrestler died a few years ago (Chris Benoit, bastard) they go so many facts wrong, and made so many absolutely untrue statements as “Facts” that i also wonder what else they are getting wrong. I turned off the MSM years ago.

they’re probably confusing us with Star Wars and ‘Star Track’ fans

Am I the only one playing the trailers over and over today until I can get off work and go to the theater? lol

Question: Are there any Trek fans in Latvia?

I’m stuck in Riga and going to see the movie tomorrow. But apparently I’m the only Trekkie around…

This is how the media operates in all things…and perhaps our culture now in general. Everything seems to trend toward a “them against us” mentality; a need for controversy. (Loor at politics for example.) Just negativity hyped to the nth degree.

I’ve been in fandom for 3/4 of my life and for the most part, I’ve found fans to be pro-Trek, even if they didn’t particularly like a series or movie in the Trek catalog.

And yes, we nitpick cause we care.

Awww…that makes me so sad. I’m sorry you were subjected to that Anthony. Some people have such a one track mind.

I agree with the closet trekkie note on #9! I have friends who always made fun of me for liking Star Trek, and now I can see them secretly being intrigued by the film. As if they think if they told me that they like it I would say I told you so, which is not the case. I want those friend who always thought Star Trek was long and drawn out to converse with me about it dammit!

SO, whatever, we were all fans and still are!

Reminds me of a report from someone on a con staff decades ago (possibly Bjo Trimble) a TV news team was there looking for a fan to put on the news, and all they wanted was someone outrageous that fit their stereotype. They turned down all the normal folks there and finally found one that was covered with buttons and wearing bad pointed ears and made them look like they represented the entire con.

Nothing new here, it’s the media looking for something sensational. Normal people don’t fit the bill.

The MSM is made up of mostly dim bulbs…

The vocal minority always shout louder than the rest of us.

“STAR TREK FILMS HATE NEW MOVIE”

is a much better headline than

“STAR TREK FANS LOOK FORWARD TO NEW MOVIE”

In fact, the latter isn’t even a story. The media have always dug for dirt. We are no different here. Unfortuantly, the occasional loon spoils things for the rest of us.

And you know, whilst Shatners SNL skit was pretty much on the money – we’ve been tarred with that brush ever since… ;)

Hey James, looking forward to seeing you in the movie.

I’m tempted to go to a 35mm show tonight after class, before I see it in IMAX Friday.

I’d be the sort who would agree to go on a show to blast the movie on behalf of all Trek fans, and then once I got there I’d do the opposite, backing up my claims with facts and figures such as those presented above. (:

So much for the impartial media, mm?

No surprise. It’s media, it’s the largest factor in what shapes and controls most of our social norms in this day and age. There’s no way around it, and like in most cases with the idiots of the business, you have to ignore, defend, expose, and/or confront those who get the facts wrong. Which headline’s gonna provide more material and mainstream feedback? :

“Longtime Trek fans support new movie” or

“Old school trek-nerds revolt!”.

In this case, if you’re fortunate enough to be well-educated and can tolerate this component of the media, just pass it on to others – or – in the simpler, more convenient case – you have to throw a hand up (or a certain finger) and tell them off…because this is Star Trek and we’re the fans, they’re not. If this is what these knuckleheads are looking for, all the more reason for Trek fans to unite, show their longevity, and support of the new movie. To quote a friend, if you’re a Star Trek fan no explanation is necessary and if you’re not, well no explanation is possible. If this movie is a big success, I can’t wait to see new fans and old fans mingle just to make these MSM guys cringe. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to get ready for.

So should we expect CW Lewis or John Sullivan sharing their thoughts on the Today Show in the morning?

One more thing after my previous post…glad to see this issue gets to others too. This has always been one of the biggest, if not the biggest pet peeve I have in the Trek world and I love when others feel the way I do on this and this topic gets attention. Started typing my answer when there were 4 posts, in that little time, we’re already up to 24. Tell those producers to check back here in a day or two, we’ll have some Trek fans for them.

7. Josh – May 7, 2009
Still hanging at 94% at Rotten Tomatoes. #1 topic on Twitter (well, until Manny got suspended anyway). I think we’re making some noise.

Over 109 reviews now… that 94% is going to stick most likely…

Hey, My name is Josh too!

Thank you for the article, Anthony. We are lucky to have you representing us.

Wow. Just…wow. Anthony, I’d like to volunteer my husband and myself to be the pro/con pair facing off in the mainstream. We are both intelligent and articulate, neither of us is grossly overweight, between us we own only about half a dozen items of Trek paraphernalia, we do not live in anybody’s basement, we are both gainfully employed, and we have a gorgeous proto-Trekkie daughter who is not, in fact, named “Tribble.” Yes, we met because of Star Trek, and yes, our first date was a Star Trek convention. But the stereotypes end there. (And for the record, no, we did not go to the convention in costume!) He will not see the movie for very valid reasons, none of which have anything to do with the number of rivets in the Big E’s nacelles, and I will see the movie for equally valid reasons. I think we are more typical of Star Trek fans than the fans the mainstream media want so desperately to portray. It makes you wonder if more of us got our stories out there and self-identified as Trekkies or Trekkers (and frankly, I don’t care which it is) with utterly normal, mundane lives, we’d be a tad less picked on. This is probably just a case of the media trying to whip up a frenzy where none exists. Sure, there are fans out there like the ones in the cartoon above. (A good friend of mine has actually been a bit over the top with… Read more »
Ensign Ro- (short for Roland)

Kudos to you, Anthony for faithfully representing us fans. This site does not pander to the masses….or the often cynical, ratings-grabbing sensationalism of the mass media. I have seen nothing here beyond good, solid reporting and a wonderful sense of humor and optimism. Sort of Gene Roddenberry’s universe encapsulated under a domain name. I offer all my praises and accolades to you and your staff for your hard work, your integrity, and your undying faithfulness to us…the Trek fans. May you all live long and prosper…truly you are all the best of the best.

Water is most certainly not wet Anthony!! That’s never been what water is about. How dare you imply just a travesty, it makes me want to vomit.

Maybe I’m missing something, but isn’t the “mean spirited cartoon in the New York Daily News” doing exactly the same joke as the Onion video which was “funny and not cruel (and often true)”?

Seriously, I’m trying to spot the difference in the joke and in the delivery of the joke. Both show Trek fans in silly costumes. Both suggest that Trek fans will reject a film that’s geared for popularity and accessibility (and do so on those, rather than artistic, grounds). Both show Trek fandom as being single-minded on the matter.

The Onion piece is longer, obviously, and takes even more digs (making fun directly of Shatner, of a fight scene from TOS, and of prior Trek films, etc) … maybe the difference is that it _also_ makes fun of the media? (The bit about Roddenberry being the hack that created Star Trek “in the Forties or something”)? Is that the key difference? Or is it just that we like the Onion so we apply different rules for them than regular newspapers? (I mean that sincerely, not snidely, since I think it may be an actual factor) …

The networks trying to create a story and trying to create controversy within it …I’m shocked.

“I’m shocked. Shocked to find gambling in this establishment”

“Your winnings sir”

“Ah,…Thank you”

– Casablanca

Ensign Ro- (short for Roland)

Oh, and I hold in my hand my ticket to my 12:01am EST showing of Star Trek in a brand new IMAX theater. I am so, so, soooooo psyched!

DAMMIT, MOM! CAN’T YOU SEE I’M TRYING TO WRITE A BLOG COMMENT TO MY FRIENDS!? I’LL TAKE OUT THE TRASH IN A MINUTE!

I have no clue whatsoever what the mainstream media is talking about.

MA!!! DON’T FORGET THE HOT POCKETS AGAIN! REMEMBER, I DON’T LIKE THE NEW FLAVORS, STICK WITH THE ORIGINAL STUFF!

I’m going to have a blast with the film, regardless of the critics and the mainstream media. I’m surprised it’s even NBC trying to dig up some dirt. I would expect FOX News to jump at the chance.

It’s not only Trek that the MSM gets wrong – it’s everything else.

“Media accuracy” is as much an oxymoron as “military intelilgence.”

Reporters don’t report for the sake of getting the facts out there – they report (or, more precisely, opine and assume) in the name of ratings. News managers are only interested in viewers, subscriptions, or listeners, and they’ll do whatever it takes to find them – even if it means sensationalizing or even dreaming up a story. Think J. Jonah Jameson in “Spider-Man.”

MSM media goes for the most extreme representations and the most shocking stories — this is what gets RATINGS. Don’t feel like they have something against us… this is how they operate. It’s called Sensationalism.

FYI, you misspelled “misunderstand.”

Thanks Anthony for bringing up this article and I absolutely agree with you.

We need to educate and change the MSM people and their negative attitudes toward us. Use John Tenuto’s research on Trekkies as a good example.

The disgruntled are making themselves known on other sites comment boards. Guess the disgruntled make comments and the…gruntled? make plans to see the movie.

Here’s a piece I wrote about the inconsistencies between the new movie and the history of the Star Trek Universes. You might find it amusing. http://klogtheblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/inconsistencies-in-new-star-trek-movie.html

I posted this in the feedback section the other day:

Joe Holland – May 6, 2009
Love the site. I thought you might get a kick out of the comparison between The Onion Star Trek story and the NPR Story that ran this morning.

http://www.theonion.com/content/video/trekkies_bash_new_star_trek_film

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103824300

The news media in 2009 has absolutely no integrity left. They try to manipulate election results, drive public opinion, and change our culture to their way of thinking.

Another example, a conservative friend of mine visited a Hillary Clinton rally being held down the street from her house. A mainstream media reporter spotted her and wanted to talk to her after the rally.

Afterwards, when my friend told the reporter that she was not a Hillary supporter, the reporter told her that he was not interested in interviewing her. He came right out and said that he was looking for a particular person who fit a certain demographic and who had a particular point of view. And hers didn’t fit, so thank you very much. Move on, please.

The mainstream media has about the same journalistic integrity as the National Enquirer. It is best to ignore it.

Having worked in the media, I can say that this is no surprise. The day to day operation of a newsroom – small or large – is to find that one story that not only will catch people’s attention but will also have someone who will speak up and cause controversy. And you can bet that, unfortunately, the networks will end up finding someone they can put up there just to say “the fans are up in arms, and they are going try and ruin this movie”. If they have their mind set on the story, that’s what they will find. The sad part is, most reporters slant the news – even subconsciously – to get the story they want. It’s the whole idea of taking a story about a house that burns down, a family who loses all of their possessions, but the family dog just happens to survive, and suddenly it’s the feel good story of the day – even though the family is left homeless with nothing. But just to make a strong point here, the fact that the media is giving Star Trek enough attention to go out of there way and do this only proves how much of an impact this movie is making. Nobody is going to go after “Next Day Air” (which seriously, where did that movie come from?) and try to create controversy. So, just remember, in all of this, good or bad, any news can only boost this movie. In fact,… Read more »

Looks like Dennis got a job doing what he does best.

That cartoon, well it’s kinda not that far off – the most vocal trekkies have done, and will keep on ruining genuine fans who love this franchise reputation – it’s simple – if you don’t like this film don’t bitch about it just leave it alone – there’s 40 years worth of Star Trek that has had you gripped so let this reincarnated version of Star Trek appeal so someone other than you.

Sad stuff, it’s human nature I guess. The media and marketing spends most of its time trying to tell people they should be “cool”, so the flip side of that is to point out what’s seen as “not cool”. It’s pretty childish, straight off the elementary school playgrounds. But does anyone ever truly grow up? Is there such a thing? I think if anything, this new version of Trek has shown how many people have grown up with Star Trek and just have been quiet about it, for fear of being called a nerd. Sadly, a lot of people make themselves feel better by bringing others down…the more I think about it, the more it feels like schoolyard bullying.

The people who insist trekkies are ‘sad’ or ‘losers’ for being obsessed (that is, for devoting a sizeable amount of time discussing, following and purchasing things related to something fictional) are often, I find, interested in ‘cool’ things.

Like, say, following, discussing and buying magazines about the mostly fictionalized lives of celebrities, or discussing at length the latest (fictional!) romantic comedies. Etc. Etc.

So I tend to find such people hilarious to tell the truth. If discussing Star Trek a lot makes me sadder than the majority of people I know who likewise discuss the shows they like at length such as soap operas, screw them. :D Same principle, different genre.

Honestly, do the press have nothing more notable to feature than the fact that, yes, some people are indeed fans of a show? Oh, the horror!

James Kirk's Unknown Son
For any of you network or website journalist types out there perusing this site in an attempt to find some sort of controversy surrounding this new movie and old fans, let me be clear: I don’t give a greasy rat’s ass who thinks I’m nerdy for loving Star Trek for nearly my entire life. I am extremely secure and comfortable with who I am and what my personal likes and dislikes are. If it makes you feel secure in calling me a nerd, go right ahead, although if you saw me, you would probably think of me as a jock rather than a nerd. I train six days a week in the gym (bench press 325 pounds, squat 500 pounds), grew up hunting and fishing, am a management executive at a bank, spend a good deal of time on the gun range, love baseball and football (played both into my adulthood in various forms), grew up on sci-fi, comic books, girls, and the guitar. Upper middle-class white educated male married to a beautiful long-haired brunette with three kids. James Kirk is one of my heroes from the time I was very young. I am proud to announce to anybody, anytime, that I HAVE BEEN AND ALWAYS SHALL BE A TREKKIE. I have never been to a convention and never worn a Star Trek costume, but I have thought about wearing one for Halloween a few times. From what I have seen so far, I am thinking that this movie is… Read more »

Anthony, I think in this case I disagree with your idea, “I guess we still have work to do with getting some in the media to understand fandom and Trekkies.”.

nah, we have done more than enough of that over the years.

It’s THEIR problem, not ours.

Let them think what they want.

I saw an interview with Gene Roddenberry years ago when he was explaining that trekkers were professionals from all walks of life, ordinary people, etc. That was, I think, in 1982.

Let the media think what it wants. We know better, and we can laugh at ourselves and debate the canon and enjoy it all.

We “get” Star Trek. The media never, ever has.

So say we all! (oops, wrong series :)

Thanks for trying to set the news media straight, too bad they’re still fishing for a story where there is none. Anyone else find it funny that both ABC and NBC are trying to produce an interview that shines a negative light on Trekkies right as the movie comes out? Are Disney and Universal really so hell bent on putting a negative image on this movie so that Paramount doesn’t get the boatloads of movie they’re going to make from this? It’s going to be a great movie! And negative stereotypes aren’t going to derail it or make it a little less cool. I think Professor Tenuto is right that Trek fans tend to be more educated, more affluent, more social and more likely to be married than the population as a whole. Personally, I’m not married yet, but I’m only in my second year of college and I’m majoring in aerospace engineering with a concentration in astronautics, and it’s slightly because I loved watching Trek as a kid. From these shows and movies, I have hope that my future may help to improve the human condition and help humanity reach that next step. My point is, I’m educated (or on my way to getting educated), I have a bunch of friends (although I don’t see them as much as I’d like because I’m stuck studying a lot for my major), and I’m not living in my parent’s basement. I’m really excited for this movie, I may leave it with… Read more »
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