Trekkies (film)

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Commentary
Title: Trekkies
Commentator: Roger Nygard
Date(s): 1999, 2004
Medium: film
Fandom: Star Trek
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Contents

cover of the second film's dvd
cover of movie poster/dvd for first film

Trekkies is a set of two documentary films directed by Roger Nygard about Star Trek fandom. Both starred Denise Crosby and contain interviews with Star Trek fans.

The first was released in 1999. The 2004 sequel, Trekkies 2, travels throughout the world, mainly in Europe, to show fans of Star Trek from outside the United States. It also revisits memorable fans featured in the previous film.

On the cover of the first film package: "A hilarious look at the universe's most fervent fans" and "The biggest laugh generator since 'There's Something About Mary.'"

Judging from the reviews on Amazon, the reactions were mixed, and contain the usual mix of expected comments.

Reactions and Reviews About the First Film

This is a documentary about Star Trek fans, and, as Jenna said in the June 1999 issue, it is, for the most part, a positive portrayal of its subjects. One thing that really comes across in this film is that there are a lot of different ways to be a “Star Trek fan.” There are people who are into costumes, people who are into gadgetry, people who are into the military aspects of the show, people who like the inclusive, tolerant philosophy of Star Trek, people who wish they were Klingons, people who wish they were Vulcans, people who are into zines (as we well know), and on and on and on. I already knew this, of course, but it was still quite an experience to see so many aspects of fandom collected into 90 minutes and put up on the screen. When you step back and look at it objectively, the whole phenomenon is amazing. I guess at least part of what’s going on is that Star Trek is modern mythology with mass appeal. Or maybe it’s just that the show contains lots and lots of important and relevant lessons for everyone. Or maybe it’s just that the universe created by Gene Roddenberry is so rich that anyone who takes a close enough look can find something he or she likes. Or maybe it’s just that we’re all nuts. And speaking of being nuts, I loved what Brent Spiner said in the movie about everyone being “peculiar” in some way. I also loved the way he reacted to some Data/Yar artwork. But I agree with Jenna that it was sad that the K/S writer felt (maybe correctly?) that she had to disguise herself. That really stood out as a big exception in the midst of a lot of general freedom and a “be yourself” attitude. Still, I suppose in a way it’s amazing that K/S even got mentioned! At any rate, this is likely to be a fun movie for any Star Trek fan. If you get a chance to see it, go. [1]
On paper, it would read favorably about Star Trek fans. The actors, on the whole, say nice things about Star Trek fans: that they're intelligent, warm, friendly, and involved in the community. The fans themselves say repeatedly that they are active in community service, raise money for charity, and actively working for a better world. But oh, those pictures. Certainly wearing a costume is a harmless pasttime, but the camera focuses obsessively on the costumes—as if the fans are the costumes—and seldom shows fans wearing street clothes. (The host, Denise Crosby, and most of the actors and producers are in street clothes. The pictures say that the host and celebrities are "normal" but the fans are not.) At one point, the camera is focused on a group of fans dressed as Klingons walking down the street. The lead fan is talking about their charity-raising events, particularly an upcoming miniature golf fund-raising event, where they will play dressed as Klingons. The audience laughs—at them, not with them. The impression they get is from the pictures: "look at the geeks" rather than "how wonderful they're involved in the community and raising money for charity ... I saw a notice on alt.tv. star-trek.ds9 today promoting this film and giving quotes from reviews. More than one reviewer compared it to Something about Mary. I have not seen this film but understand that audiences found it incredibly funny because of a number of grotesque happenings. I am not surprised that those who are not Trek fans would come away with the same impression about this documentary, particularly from the six fans highlighted the most: (1) a teenage male who wears a First Contact uniform and has made up a computer animation of a space battle for the Star Trek script he wrote for his club to produce; (2) the woman who wore her uniform when she was under consideration for the Whitewater jury; (3) a Brent Spiner fan, who refers to herself as a "Spinerfemme"; (4) a family wtere the father, a dentist, has decorated his dental practice office using a Star Trek theme; (5) a man who wears a Star Trek II movie uniform and says he'd get his ears surgically pointed if he could afford it; and (6) a young man who makes technical gadgets resembling those on Star Trek. One could say (and I would say) that the teenager has a bright future as a computer animator, that the young man who"s a regular at Radio Shack has a future designing technological items with practical uses, and that the dentist has added an element of fun to his practice. One could say that the man who wears the Star Trek II movie uniform has a point that people that wear sports jerseys in public get no comment, but someone wearing an ST uniform in public is considered weird One could say that while the prospective juror presents herself in an atypical fashion, at base, her behavior is entirely harmless, and vastly preferable to activities such as gunrunning or drug dealing. But these thoughts are rarely, if ever, expressed in the film, overwhelmed by the "look at the geeks!" pictures...and derisively laughed at by the audience. The overall effect is that the Star Trek fans featured in Trekkies are presented as "typical" fans. Indeed, this is the impression one gets not only from this film, but also from most press coverage of Star Trek fans. It keeps average Star Trek fans from getting involved in any Star Trek project because they think that this is the sort of fan they will typically run into or that they will have to imitate such fans in order to participate in Star Trek fan activities (which is not the case at all, as fans who have made the connection find). The result is that there are only a handful of people in this film with whom the truly average Star Trek fan can identify: there's the practicing psychologist, the four friends who have reunions at Star Trek conventions, and the women radio talk show hosts... Those who are Star Trek fans will not find much to identify with, and those who aren't may not want to come just to "look at the geeks." ... It's rated PG-13, probably, I think, because it shows some erotic fan art (Tasha Yar making love to Data), and discusses K/S. Whether that will draw a larger or smaller audience than it would with another rating, I couldn't say." [2]
Overall, it's an enjoyable 90 minutes. As I watched I was torn by conflicting ideas, such as: "Gosh, this makes us look like jerks. Boy, is that guy/girl/group nutty! Hmmmm, what a person of good taste; I have that/think that, too."

I was surprised there were so many stars in it, either talking to Denise Crosby or just being shown. Shatner never spoke directly, but Nimoy did a lot. Shatner was shown with his look alike and, also, with his Hollywood Charity Horse Show group of fans. He's looking good. They all looked pretty fine. Even "Bones" looked nice. (And, now sadly, DeForest Kelley is no longer with us. Thus, I'm guessing parts of this filming took place two to five years ago. ) Scotty is fat, but we all knew that. Both Shatner and Nimoy are 68 (or close), and neither looks it—but Nimoy should have had a better makeup job. For some reason the faces filled the screen, and when Nimoy's was blown up to the size of a small bungalow, his wrinkles and the poor skin under his eyes were just too evident. I noticed Scotty's double chin was effectively cropped. I've seen Nimoy in person (1998) and he looked better than he did in this film, but then, of course, his face wasn't 15 feet high. It was an entertaining movie, but I'll admit at times it seemed longer than its 90 odd some minutes. The stars missing were interesting: Avery Brooks & Patrick Stewart being the biggest missing names. It tended to be Next Gen and Classic oriented—though Mulgrew had a bunch of screen time. Fan literature was briefly mentioned near the hour mark. The lady named who has fiction on the net is someone I don't know at all, and it never said (I don't believe) exactly what she wrote herself. Maybe 5 minutes was spent on fan fiction, net fiction, fan art, sexy fan fiction & art, and K/S. Aside from K/S, the emphasis was on Yar/Data and Mulgrew as a dominatrix. I thought Denise and Brent's conversation about a sexy picture of the two of them was really darling. But, the homosexual or slash aspect was really just glossed over. Several fans were concentrated on, among them a young teenage boy who's designing a computerized Star Trek original story with his fan club group, the dentist and his family who make both their home and office a monument to Trek, and the woman who got kicked off the Whitewater jury for wearing her Trek uniform. The fans in general were for the most part obsessed, and I can really relate to that. I've spent thousands of dollars on Trek and on K/S fanzines myself. Even though I'm selling almost all the K/S, I still have tons of the Trek stuff, including two Masterpiece Kirks and two Barbie Star Trek sets as well as two complete GOLD KEY ST comic collections. So, hey, I can't throw a stone at anyone up on the screen. When the one woman was showing her zillion photos of Spinner, I thought of all my Shatner ones. One thing I thought that would have made it better would have been to have had more clips or photos from the early cons. Also, I kept wondering what all the emphasis on people dressing up was. I would no more wear a Star Trek uniform than walk naked down the street—and yes, I own a HALLOWEEN Kirk command shirt. And really, did we need to have the chubby wubby male with the deep deep voice made up like a woman trying to sign a filk song? I realize Trek and K/S have people who with "gender confusion" (I'm not quite sure this is the right word), but I would think this was a small per cent. And if they wanted this in the movie, I would have preferred someone less ridiculous. There are men who make very wonderful women. It's stuff like this that makes us look really wacko. Well, probably, if I were honest, all the stuff makes us look really strange because in the eyes of most people we are. One thing I didn't know was that Joyce Mason (president of the WSC) did a radio show called TALK TREK on some station called CRN, which I assume is local to Los Angeles. (She no longer does this and hasn't for several years.)

I'd heard a lot of this before, but it was presented in a fresh manner. There are a lot of quick cuts and not much time is spent on any one thing. For instance, let's say ten minutes was spent on the teenage boy. This time was probably split into 10-15 segments throughout the movie. This was the blender approach to interviewing. Instead of stringing things together one after another, everything was intermixed around general topics. This was even done with the stars, as it appears in places that they are finishing each other's sentences as they tell one story. [3]
I enjoyed it thoroughly. For those who might not have heard about it, the movie is a documentary about 90 minutes long, made by independent film makers about 3 or 4 years ago, I think, and then sold recently to Paramount. It’s gotten good national reviews, with most I’ve seen saying it’s funny, and that it paints the Trekkies it profiles with consideration and respect. And generally, I agree with that. There were a few times when we were being poked fun at, but that was the exception and not the rule.

The most striking aspect of the movie, though, was that it mentioned K/S! Even though I’d been warned by Heidi, (thanks!) I was still stunned when Richard Arnold started talking about it. I am determined to go back to see the movie again so I can fix for certain what exactly was said about us, and I hope to include the exact words in the next issue of The K/S Press. The segment, which was quite short, included an interview with some “fanzine writer” whose voice and visage were both disguised, and then there was an interview with some woman who wrote kinky bondage stories about “Mistress Janeway.” She was named and was unashamed to talk about her work, and I thought it so sad that the (possibly?) K/S writer did not feel the same freedom simply because it involved same-sex relationships. I certainly wouldn’t want to be interviewed about K/S in the same way, though. What I am especially interested in, though, was what Richard Arnold said. He claimed that “we” kept expecting Paramount to stop it (I presume he was talking about when he was Gene’s aide and an employee of Paramount? and I also presume he was talking about K/S and other adult Star Trek fan fiction) but that the studio never did and by now it is way too late. Then he added that there were “thousands” of K/S...I think he said zines, but it might have been stories. Since this movie is owned by Paramount and distributed by Paramount, might not this be taken to be a declaration of intent by the studio? Especially if there is ever any legal action? I don’t know, I’m just wondering....

Also, there was one male fan who was interviewed during a part of the movie that was emphasizing the practice of IDIC who said that “gay males and lesbian females” found a haven in fandom because of the inclusive tone. There were more than a few snickers in the audience then, which bugged the heck out of me. [4]

Reactions and Reviews About the Second Film

Jacqueline Lichtenberg talks in 2003 about being interviewed for this film:

The Trekkies 2 crew went around the world to Trek conventions interviewing fans of the show. They wrote to me asking if I'd come and do an interview -- but I wasn't scheduled to be at any of the cons they were at when they would be there. So we negotiated and as it happened I was scheduled to be in LA on other business when they would be passing through on their way somewhere else. So they mobilized their unit into a truck and came to my hotel (not a convention in progress, just me there) to do the interview. We sat out on the patio with people gawking from inside the glass -- and did the interview -- over an hour. I saw in a chair and they used one stationary camera, and the producer asked questions and the sound guy did what sound guys do, and the camera man was pleased. And I talked and talked and talked -- I answered questions they way I'm answering them here -- only I had show-and-tell to point to. Now the whole film will be about an hour and it has hundreds of people in it. The DVD will contain much more material compiled from their interviews. I have no way of knowing at this point what I said that they'll excerpt. I kept asking them if they had enough or if they were getting what they wanted and they kept inventing new questions and being very pleased with the answers. Joan Winston is also one of those listed on their website... so she's going to be quoted too.[5]
Another fan, Mary R writes of her experience:
Actually, Lynn Syck and I are in Trekkies. Don't blink your eyes. But we were interviewed with two other friends in California several years ago (96 or 97). The interview took nearly two hours. It was quite interesting seeing Denise Crosby and her energy and enthusiasm. But the final cut was interesting too. Our friend, Joannie had one line, Lynn has one line and I had one line also which made no sense whatsoever. That's after two hours of intense interviewing and taping! I think we must have represented semi-normal fans and therefore we were boring in retrospect. However, when it was shown on HBO a few years ago, you wouldn't believe the people from my work that came up to me and commented on me being on the movie. [6]
Susie B, a fan, writes:
I would need to watch Trekkies again to compare the qualities of the two documentaries, but of T2 I would say it was well done, overall. It made me laugh and cry through my perma-smile at the incredibly far reaching influence of Trek. The international representation of this fandom was great (though why not Toronto Trek in Canada?). The "weirdness" or fringe quality of fans seemed more subdued (or perhaps I was identifying more this time!). Extras include a film commentary, deleted interview scenes and two fan films, one by fan Brian Dellis and two of Gabe Koerner's rather funny short films. Highlights were putting names to faces like Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Joan Winston, Leslie Fish, seeing Shelley's brief spot and recognizing Shore Leave, the high technical quality (if not acting!) of fan films and the eloquence of international fans, particularly in Serbia. I am still simply amazed at how the philosophy, camaraderie and creativity of ST fandom unite fans worldwide. I would have to disagree with Lichtenberg's and Winston's distinctions between "Trekkie" and "Trekker" in their interviews. To fans I consider myself the latter, simply because they understand what I mean. It was my understanding that the term "Trekker" was someone who was active in fandom in some way (though I am marginally so lately, I do have several art pieces and stories from my youth which evolved into K/S—and no, Jenna, I don't mean slash drawings!). To the rest of the world, if it comes up, I reserve the term "Trekkie". As for answering the question of the movie's subtext: How Much is Too Much, it seemed to me that there was a fair balance of opinion which juxtaposed nicely in the film. There isn't too much. There is. It simply depends on the fans and their community. All of these fans and their opinions are perfectly indicative of the diversity that is ST fandom. I believe ST fandom has been "outed" enough that it is becoming more "acceptable" to society as a whole, and the fans who have grown up to work in the entertainment industry now have a forum to share their love of the series, as we have seen on commercials, SNL, Frasier, The Simpsons and Futurama. It is why I recognize with delight two local vanity plates in town: STRGZR and TREK55. People can make ANYTHING meaningful; that is what creates fans and fandom. Truly, the question of how much is too much can be asked of anything anyone has strong convictions about and Trekkies have taken the brunt of that disparagement for years. Yet ST continues to be attractive for so many reasons for so many ages. Is Star Trek dying? Not by a long shot. Trekkies 2 is IDIC personified and globalized. As one fan said: How boring is normal? May we all find glory in our abnormality. [7]

References

  1. from The K/S Press #35
  2. a review by Joan Marie Verba in the May 1999 issue of Multi-Species Medicine
  3. from The K/S Press #35
  4. from The K/S Press #4
  5. StarTrekFans.Net from a chat with Jacqueline Lichtenberg, 8 March 2003, accessed 9 May 2012
  6. from The K/S Press #84
  7. from The K/S Press #98
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