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American Culture - Research Paper Example

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American Culture: the Star Trek Series. The television series Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry and was first broadcast in 1966. Its arrival on American television screens coincided with the Cold War, and the desperate space race between America and Soviet Russia to demonstrate their scientific supremacy…
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Download file to see previous pages They also look forward to a utopian future, where this model is applied to the whole universe, and American culture and values are spread out to other species by a combination of force and persuasion. Star Trek uniquely represents the achievements, and the flaws, of American society in the second half of the twentieth century. Scholars have noted how important the programs have been, not just in terms of entertainment history, but also in wider terms: “Star Trek holds a peculiarly exalted place in American culture,” (Wagner and Lundeen, 1998). These authors argue that the reason for the program’s success and cult status is that “Star Trek serves as a secular American mythology” (Wagner and Lundeen, 1998) This line of reasoning suggests that after the medieval and renaissance periods when religion guided major civilizations, the Enlightenment brought a new way of seeing the world, in which reason and science replace religion as an explanation for the world. In Star Trek, Spock and the Vulcans portray this faith in pure reason, while Kirk, Scotty and McCoy portray a more ambivalent acceptance of this dogma, and a firm belief in emotions such as friendship, loyalty, patriotism and of course ambition. Some of the older programs display rather sexist and racist views, however, which reflects the period in which they were made. The Star Trek series, and the films as well, still have cult status with older people in the United States who have followed them from the very beginning. Many younger viewers identify more with the higher technology of later science fiction programs like Star Wars and regard Star Trek as a somewhat more historic series, but still appreciate its humor, the long running debates and jokes between the characters, and the deep mythical significance of space exploration which is still today a distant goal for modern humans. As the series progressed through the seventies and eighties it adapted to take account of more modern ideas such as feminism with the female captain Janeway, multiculturalism with the space station of Deep Space Nine. Many a child in America and across the world was attracted to a career in science through watching this series on television. Evidence for the permanent influence of Star Trek on real world science can be found in a news bulletin from March 7th, 2011 which revealed that William Shatner, the actor who played the original Captain of the starship Enterprise, recorded a message based on the opening credits of the television program which was then transmitted to the real astronauts on the space shuttle Discovery before they departed from the international space station to make the vessel’s final flight. The text was accompanied by the television series backing music and stated “These have been the voyages of the space shuttle Discovery. Her 30-year mission; to seek out new science, to build new outposts, to bring nations together on the final frontier, to boldly go and do what no spacecraft has done before.” (Williams, 2011) The use of the past tense along with a very small 30-year time span makes the message rather nostalgic, as if to say the American mythology of pioneering exploration to find “new life and new civilisations” is now over. The conquering imperialism of mid and late twentieth century ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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