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Friday, March 26, 2021

Hark! Utopians! I Wanna Rock! • by Chris Naron

It’s hard for me to admit that I was at one time a Star Trek fan, but in my defense, I wasn’t quite aware of the levels of fandom that existed above me. Everyone has their thing, and that’s cool. But even Star Trek fans have to admit that it gets way out of hand.

Where’s the line, you ask? The line for me isn’t dressing up like a Klingon or getting married at the Star Trek thing they have in Las Vegas. Some chicks actually look better as Klingons, and if I could have gotten married in a Mississippi State Bulldogs uniform—pads and all—I would have. No, for me, the line is where you stop enjoying the Star Trek universe for the adventure and imagination and start believing in its Utopian vision.

I could never buy the notion of an Earth united internally and with distant planets for one simple reason: such a future never includes rock and roll.

Mind you, I’m not saying that the writers of Star Trek don’t include rock and roll in their stories. Star Trek: First Contact included some Steppenwolf and Roy Orbison, but the sight of Zefram Cochrane dancing to Orbison’s “Ooby Dooby” would make me long for a future without rock myself. Barring those exceptions, the utopian vision of Star Trek does not include rock. Jazz and classical, yes. But in a perfect society, no one wants to rock.

There are plenty of other examples, of course. In the Logan's Run utopia, really bad music seems to rule the future. Not surprisingly, Jerry Goldsmith composed the soundtracks for both Logan's Run and Star Trek: First Contact. The man is a great composer, but a rocker he is not. And I’m not really commenting on the soundtracks as much as whether or not these sci-fi universes with utopian themes include rock music. In Star Trek, for instance, it’s assumed that Classical and Jazz survive as art forms enjoyed by the characters. For rock, such is not the case.

Interestingly, dystopian visions often do include rock, but mostly in the soundtrack. Movies like the animated Heavy Metal and the 1980 version of Flash Gordon make great use of hard rock and metal bands for their soundtracks, but the characters don't play the stuff. (Now, at this point I must admit that my knowledge of sci-fi movies is somewhat limited, so if my assertions are off in that technically there are movies where the characters play rock music, I’m more than willing to accept it. However, the main point I’m making is that Utopian visions in sci-fi do not include rock. Obscure examples in obscure movies do not necessarily contradict this point.)

So if we can concede that rock is not a part of sci-fi’s more optimistic visions, why is this the case?

Perhaps the world outgrows rock. Musical fashions come and go, so it’s not far-fetched that hundreds of years from now, people will have no desire to express themselves in power chords, growling vocals, and skull-splitting drumbeats. Hmm, could be. I think it’s more likely that the writers of these visions assume that in a future where we’ve finally achieved harmony and equality, there will be no need for aggressive, sexual, violent, and passionate music. Well, at least not the kind of passionate music produced by the masses. In the future, everyone is an elite. Their tastes are all refined beyond that which might cause one to bang one’s head.

In the Star Trek vision, music is just another excuse to show how much more emotionally and intellectually developed the characters are than us. Data plays classical tunes to perfection on his violin, giving another character an excuse to bloviate about how important emotions are when playing a piece of music. Data doesn’t have emotions, you see. I bet if he cranked out Randy Rhodes’ solo from Revelation Mother Earth to perfection, no one would whine about his lack of emotions. Or, when Commander Riker plays his jazz trombone, I guess we’re supposed to marvel at his intergalactic street cred. Is he trying to impress black people or white people? Someone ought to tell him that Geordi La Forge is the whitest man in the galaxy.

It’s a shame, too. There is no fictional race better suited to carry heavy metal music to the rest of the universe than the Klingons. Their whole planet is an Iron Maiden video. I’ll wager that the whole unpleasantness between the Klingons and the Federation could have been solved much sooner had they contacted Earth in the mid- to late-1980s, when hair metal was its height. They would have recognized the look at least, and even if hair metal wasn't hard enough for them, Thrash and Speed Metal were coming into their own, and even harder stuff was just a few years off. You can’t tell me a Klingon wouldn’t have felt right at home in the front row at a GWAR show.

Heck, come to think of it, even Vulcans would have loved Dream Theater and Rush. Very logical stuff.

Finally, I know there is one obvious exception to the “No Rock in Utopia” rule: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. You thought I forgot, but I didn’t. While the plot of Bill and Ted centers around a peaceful and prosperous future that owes its very existence to rock and roll, I don’t think it is considered to be serious science fiction. But ask yourself: would you rather live in Bill and Ted’s future, or Star Trek’s?

Wedgies for those who answer incorrectly.



Chris Naron is a father, husband, strength coach, football degenerate, and erstwhile writer. He starred in a Three Stooges commercial with Tracy Morgan, and the wife of Green Day’s drummer recorded one of his songs. Though he lives in Southern California, he’s most proud to know the owner of Shipley’s Do-Nuts in Greenville, Mississippi.


Nanner said...

You are over the top enjoyable to read. Great job and very entertaining.

pjonesteach75 said...

Please keep writing. I've missed reading your thoughts.

pjonesteach75 said...

Please keep writing. I've missed reading your stuff.