Stories are just stories…nothing more

Posted: June 28, 2018 by Ty in Spirituality

I just hope Nog and the rest of the heroic idiots come back alive. 

-Quark (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Finale) 

Pop culture/literature can be seen as not more than brain popcorn. Consumed for mere entertainment and nothing more. Fortunately, this is partly true, but most decent pop writing whether it is in novel, short story, comic (graphic novel) or film can be taken on multiple levels. Some short examples, that I will let you explore on your own for discussion. 

In the 2000 presidential election, DC Comics ran a “3rd Party” candidate in their comic universe: Lex Luthor. The multi-billionaire arch-nemesis of Superman, who was willing to do whatever it took to end the Man of Steel. He was now out to seek the highest office of the adopted nation. I remember tidbits where Luthor challenged the legitimacy of the free press, where different characters believed it may be a good idea, and others balked that anyone would vote for the man as president.  

And guess what? In 2000, in the DC Universe, Lex Luthor became President of the United States of America. The backer of absolute evil and corruption, the created anti-thesis of Superman’s quest for truth and justice, was now in charge. It showed the greatest reveal that the best villain never truly sees them as evil but as the hero of the story.  It was not a flash in the pan event, or an Elseworlds or imaginary tale. It had repercussions for almost a full term as he now knew secret identities. He let his striving for power corrupt others who were taken in believing they could make the administration healthier by serving. The journey towards authoritarianism, the corruption of those that existed in the grey, and some that were good. As absolute power grew closer to consolidation…it was the outcasts, the heroes now vilified- Superman and Batman, that had to stand up and take a stand. 18 years ago one story was told…and no one, even readers, thought it would happen…but it did. 

Much like the decades long stories of the X-Men (and all their spin-offs) telling the struggles of many human rights struggles housed within the metaphor of Homo Superior and Homo Sapien relations. The seminal run of Green Arrow-Green Lantern, and in some respects Mike Grell’s Green Arrow run. Telling stories that matter in formats many did not see it coming in (sure many have other stories or runs to share). 

Simple mystery novels can also expose readers to other issues. Robert B. Parker opened up in his earliest novels that the sex trade so shamed, was actually exploitation and abuse of children. Is but one example, many others would be touched upon by different writers and in different ways. 

In the 2018 Christian Bale western, Hostiles, you have a cavalry at war with the different aboriginal nations now having to return the elder to their nation. In the midst you find a survivor of an extremist attack from one side; and during the journey kidnapping by the extremists on the other side. In a western fashion, shoot outs, grand scenery. The exploration of the core of what makes us human together. The exploration of what happens when the core is corrupted to the extreme of seeing our fellow family as “other” and “enemies”. And before you decry it as a “new age genre corruption” look to John Wayne’s The Searchers or True Grit to name but two that show, the exploration of deeper topics are always just below the surface of any good cowboy or history movie (one of the reasons Robin Hood, Zorro, King Arthur and Lone Ranger still persist to this day).

As always, I will share a story of Star Trek (cause you knew it was coming). One of the bonuses of Deep Space Nine taking place on a space station is you got to explore changes in entire civilizations dynamics, both micro and macro changes. One of these was the Ferengi. A microcosm within the family that ran the bar on the station: Quark, his brother Rom, and Rom’s son, Nog. A society built completely on the pursuit of wealth, survival of the fittest, patriarchal rule, and the only rule is the rule of latinum (just take a read of the Ferengi rules of Acquisition that they built their society both secular and religious upon). 

The series looked at Reformation within the society and how it affected one family. From Nog’s relationship with Jake Sisko, and moving towards a Federation point of view (even joining Starfleet). To Rom who was not a good capitalist, but was an engineering wizard finding meaning working on the station’s engineering team and in a relationship of equality with a dabo girl, Leeta which was unheard of.  

Quark struggled with what his brother and family were doing, especially as he learned belonging, and made friends that supersceded capital. Then the foundations of the macro society were rocked, their mother Moogie, married to the Grand Nagus (think of a mix of Emperor-Pope)…and suddenly women were allowed to be clothed, to be involved in commerce, seen as equals. 

Further reforms would happen. Social safety nets, taxes. Poor taken care of. Health Care. Democracy. Commodity and profit were no longer the driving influence. The rules of acquisition had fallen out of being taught in local schools for the more equitable just society path. Quark discovers this when he believes he will become the new Nagus, and he wants to roll back the clock. Strip back to the old ways no matter what it took… 

Time for the ceremony of passing leadership came. Quark the businessman still struggling with the idea of friendship. And the chosen successor was… 

Rom. One who had found belonging. Who knew that profits could not superseded care for neighbour, wealth could be made, and all could be taken care of. An equitable and just society. 

One mother, in the lobes of an elder Nagus started the reform…and the scepter was passed to a brother, who gifted the bar he had just bought back to his brother…because, they were family and he loved him. 

Some stories are after all simply stories right? 

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