Thursday 25th May 2017,
Televisual

‘Star Trek’ and Millennial Aesthetics

Star Trek glistens with Millenialism

Star Trek glistens with Millennialism

UPDATE: BoxOfficeMojo and other sources now reporting that Star Trek took in $72.5 million domestically and $35.5 million abroad, less than X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but still a good starting point. Next week will be key.

So last week I pop-conjectured that Star Trek might not do as well as Wolverine, since Wolverine, as the tale of blue collar worker screwed over by the government waging a massive revenge trip, fit in much better with the recession mood and would be able to bring in more (unemployed) men. It was a sloppy thesis, admittedly, because it turns out, Star Trek may be on track to outperform Wolverine and that the latter might die fast in the box office while Star Trek lingers longer in theatres. Who knows, right?

Wolverine, much darker than Star Trek, reflects a different aspect of socioeconomic moment.

Wolverine, much darker than Star Trek, reflects a different aspect of our socioeconomic moment.

Star Trek was similarly as timely as Wolverine, perhaps more so. The movie is one of those few major Hollywood films this year perfectly tuned to the aesthetics of Millennials — the throngs of hopeful, ambitious, idealistic yet practice-oriented young people who voted for Barack Obama, and, even if they didn’t, still believe optimism mixed with dedicated work brings the best results. The movie,it has been much-remarked, is glowing. It looks hopeful. The cast, true to the original Star Trek is multi-cultural and multiracial and interracial romance (inter-species!) romance is lauded without comment. The view of a galaxy mostly in harmony, respecting cultural differences — even essentialisms — without condoning violence among them is also very now. But also not new. All these things connect Millennial aesthetics with Boomer aesthetics. 

Yet there are deviations as well. I was surprised but the excessive use of close-ups on the human face, a device as much as result of television aesthetics as Millennial ones — think, your average YouTube vlog, Facebook/MySpace photos: the framing face is very important to my generation. There was the use of handheld camera in these moments, a quiet nod to DIY aesthetics without being as disruptive as in JJ Abrams’ previous Cloverfield. Indeed, Abrams seems desperate to be relevant, and mostly he succeeds in both films. 

The casting of pretty boy Chris Pine — distractingly pretty, I thought — and nerdy-hot Zachary Quinto was also canny. Both are bookish and geeky — see: Pine in Just My Luck — while still knowing how to kick ass and look sexy as hell — see: Quinto in Heroes. It’s the kind of complex yet harmonious identity, challenging as it to stereotype (Barack Obama!), that also feels very much like the kind of men we need now, not Bushy cowboys like Logan or fey hippies, but some kind of happy medium.

There’s more I’m missing — any thoughts? Like any theory, it’s messy. But I do think we’re in one of the moments when art and artistic styles start to shift, or, at least, new forms start to arise, so I’m trying to keep my mind open to the possibilities.

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

3 Comments

  1. Derek Lee McPhater May 11, 2009 at 3:30 am

    it’s an interesting comparison here. Are Wolverine and Star Trek going to be the heavyweights for the summer season? How does a Terminator or Transformers flick fit into this analysis? It will be interesting to be how things shape up come august…

  2. Aymar Jean Christian May 11, 2009 at 4:06 am

    That’s true. I should keep track. I think Terminator certainly falls into the Wolverine camp, that’s clear. Transformers might be a Star Trek kind of film, but who knows?

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