Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Are "Let the Right One In" and "Let Me In" metaphors for puberty?

Why are we so obsessed with vampires?

While Bram Stoker got the ball rolling on the whole vampire phenomenon back in 1897 by creating the (both figuratively and literally) immortal Count Dracula, vampires have seen a resurgence in our culture in the past two decades. One can lay blame at Anne Rice, whose novel Interview with the Vampire and the subsequent 1994 movie adaptation starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, helped pave the way for looking at vampires in a modern context. Or maybe it’s a resurgence of Bram Stoker’s original masterpiece, as evidenced by the success of the 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Gary Oldman in the title role. The resurgence of the original Victorian nature of the novel has inspired other 19th century interpretations of the vampire mythology, most notably Seth Greene-Smith’s novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Or maybe we can blame those pesky teenagers for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Vampire Diaries, and yes, Twilight. Or maybe we can blame horny adults for True Blood.

Because if anyone should be blamed for imagery like this...

The fact of the matter is all of these interpretations are successful because vampires speak to our most human fears and our most exotic (or erotic) fantasies. They’re immortal. They feed by killing. They share a relationship with the occult, the supernatural, and rebel against social norms, the church, and societal doctrine. But, perhaps most importantly, the idea of the vampire has always been associated with sex and sexuality, whether it’s Count Dracula seducing Lucy and her subsequent transformation into a less-pure, more sexual attractive being, the homoerotic tension between Lestat and Louis in Interview with the Vampire, or, yes, even Bella and Edward in Twilight. Note that vampires are also obsessed with fluid exchange for purposes of fulfilment and reproduction, but that fluid is blood.

With that said, let’s talk about two of my favorite vampire adaptations of the past few years (and possibly ever). Let the Right One In is a 2008 Swedish vampire thriller directed by Tomas Alfredson, written by John Ajvide Lindqvist and based on his novel of the same name. The story follows Oskar, played by Kare Hedebrant, who is a bullied 12-year-old boy who develops a relationship with a strange little girl name Eli, played by Lina Leandersson. What Oskar begins to discover is that Eli is a vampire, and she is aided by an adult caretaker (whose origins and relationship with Eli are left unknown) who drains blood from murder victims in other for Eli to feed. Eli and Oskar develop a relationship, but several close calls cause Eli to try to escape. Meanwhile, Oskar’s bullies have decided to gang up on him in retaliation for a time when he fought back against them, and attempt to drown him in a pool. Eli saves Oskar, and the film ends with Oskar on a train, escorting Eli, who is hidden in a box.

A haunting poster for a haunting movie...

The film was remade for an American audience in the form of Let Me In, released in 2010, written and directed by Matt Reeves. This time, Chloe Grace Moretz plays the little-girl vampire character, renamed Abby in this adaptation, while Kodi Smit-McPhee plays her human friend, renamed Owen. In terms of plot and structure, both films are pretty much the same, with Let Me In having minor deviations from the plot of its Swedish predecessor. For example of these is that the adult caretaker character, played in the American version by Richard Jenkins, is definitively set up as being another boy who developed a relationship with the immortal Abby when he was little, and subsequently grew up to be her guardian.

Innocence dies. Abby doesn't, and neither does America's taste for remakes of foreign horror movies!

Like other vampire media, there is an underlining sexuality to these two films. However, it is made troubling by the fact that the characters (as well as the actors that portray them) are so young. Therefore, rather than being a metaphor for sex or sexuality, I believe the character’s relationships, actions, and Eli/Abby’s vampiric qualities serve as a metaphor for puberty. Both Oskar/Owen and Eli/Abby are 12 in both adaptations, and are pubescent. Like other vampire media, sex and sexuality seems to be an underlining theme of both Let the Right One In and Let Me In, but rather than being focused on the act of sex, several scenes, lines of dialogue, and images in both respective adaptations promote the idea of an emerging sexuality for both characters, as well as Eli/Abby’s bodily changes when her vampire nature is revealed help to invoke a sense of growth, change, and metamorphosis.

Physical changes:
“You smell funny.”- Oskar, Let the Right One In 
“You smell kinda funny.”- Owen, Let Me In 
“Do I smell better now?”- Eli/Abby, Let the Right One In/ Let Me In
There’s a scene in both interpretations where Oskar/Owen tells Eli/Abby that she smells “funny,” and when they meet again, Eli/Abby asks if she smells better now. The IMDb FAQ section for Let the Right One In says the following:

“At the time Oskar asks her this, she was starving because the dog/people had scared Hakan [the caretaker] away from blood he was collecting for her. A bit later, after she has eaten, she asks Oskar if she still smells strange, and he says no. The book offers two other suggestions that would explain Eli's smell: she gives out corpse-like odor as she gets hungrier and her body decays…”
 However, in regards to reading the films as metaphors for puberty, one could interpret the scene to be about the development of body odor that occurs during puberty.

Go easy on her, dude! She's a vampire, after all!

As I will discuss later, particularly in the American version, Abby goes through a series of monstrous physical transformations beyond her smell when she gets a sense for blood. These could also be indicative of pubescent transformations, but I will discuss where Abby’s monstrous nature comes into play later.

Blood and the female form:

Unlike the protagonists of other vampire stories, Let the Right One In/ Let Me in are unique in that the protagonist vampire character is a female. Moreover, Eli/Abby’s age becomes important when attempting to understand the sexual dynamics of the story.

The definitive moment for female puberty is a girl’s first menstruation. Obviously, it involves blood. The purpose of Eli’s interaction with blood, including a scene where she bleeds through multiple orifices all over her body when Oskar refuses to invite her in, take on a much more different meaning if one associates Eli/Abby’s interaction with blood as a metaphor for menstruation, puberty, and the dynamics of transformation.

It probably doesn't help that Eli/Abby frequently looks like Carrie after the prom...

What I think is so interesting about the relationship this film has to the concept of blood is that all the vampire characters are female. In both versions, Eli/Abby bites a local woman in the area, but the woman survives her vampire attack. Because of this, she too becomes a vampire. She is eventually killed by the sunlight in her hospital rooms, as vampires are not to be exposed to natural sunlight.

The fact that all the vampire characters in both adaptations are female make me think that the author and screenwriters wanted to tie the concept of blood with the female form and bodily functions. This contrasts with most other vampire stories, because the vampire characters are usually male, probably because of the enduring popularity of the archetypal vampire, Count Dracula. By tying the concept of blood to something feminine, the story makes a greater effort to appear to be a metaphor for puberty, and puts the focus on Eli/Abby and her struggles.

Male strength and the coming-of-age confrontation:

Oskar’s major arc in the movie is about a conflict with bullies. While the Swedish version shows the mental toll the bullying is taking on Oskar, the bullies don’t do much besides call Oskar a pig and occasionally throw him against lockers. 

And pick his nose, apparently...?

The bullies in the American version are quite vicious, and curse at Owen and give him excruciating wedgies. However, both versions do have a scene where Oskar/Owen is whipped and suffers a cut to his face, which he later tries to hide the cause of from his mother by lying.

Oskar/ Owen decides to start lifting weights, and it is here that we see the puberty-arc extended to his situation. Pubescent boys define themselves in part by perceived masculinity. As their bodies grow and become more toned, things like athletics and exercise begin to become a focus. Not only that, a lot of young men define a major milestone in their life as being their first fight. Oskar has his confrontation with the bullies, which results in him hitting one of them on the ear with a pole.

Rather than the bodily changes that affect Eli/Abby, Oskar/Owen’s arc is about social changes that happen with male growth during adolescence. He wants to be strong, he wants to be able to fight back against the bullies. In stark contrast to Eli/Abby’s arc, Oskar/Owen’s arc deals more with societal pressure and a masculine desire to be physically strong.

Sexual identity:
“I’m not a girl.”- Eli/Abby, Let the Right One In and Let Me In 
“You’re not a girl? What are you?” “I’m nothing.”- From Let Me In
                A concept that is stressed in the Swedish version, but not as much in the American version, is the concept that Eli struggles with her sexual identity. She repeatedly tells Oskar that she is not a girl, and Oskar is confused as to what that means. In a moment that is not carried over to the American remake, Oskar glances at a nude Eli to discover that she lacks any sort of genitalia. While this is supposed to be a nod to the original novel (where Eli is actually a castrated boy), the fact that this isn’t explored means that in addition to her supernatural nature, Eli is also supposed to be sexless. It could be interpreted that this is supposed to represent unsure feelings of her own sexuality, as non-normative sexualities such as homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, etc. usually emerge or become known to an individual during puberty.  

Emerging sexuality:
“You’re not wearing anything.”- Oskar
“Sorry. Is that gross?”- Eli
“No.”- Oskar
-From Let the Right One In

Both films deal with the characters’ emerging sexualities. In the scene referenced above, for instance, what is surprising is that these characters are not so far removed from juvenile understandings of love and sexuality. The characters are around the age that “cooties” would be a popular term, and Eli even asks Oskar if it is gross that she’s lying in bed naked. The fact that Oskar responds “No” represents that he is maturing and coming to grips with a more adult, more mature understanding of the opposite sex and of the nature of sexuality.

The equivalent scene of the Oskar-glancing-at-Eli-nude in the American version doesn’t show us what Owen sees, just an expression of awe as he watches (what the audience should infer is) Abby’s nude body. Unlike the Swedish version, the American version doesn’t use this scene to make Abby more monstrous or sexually androgynous, but rather to show Owen’s reaction to her. Abby is never seen, but we see Owen, and the audience understands that he is looking at her differently than he was before.

Finally, in both versions, Eli/Abby and Oskar/Owen engage in what as usually seen as the beginning of a young person’s romantic and sexual existence: a first kiss. In both versions, they are initiated by Eli/Abby, and in both versions it is right after she has killed to feast on blood, so she still has blood on her lips. One could see this as the girl leading the boy into temptation, which leads to an end of his childlike innocence. This is not unlike the biblical creation story about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis.

Apple, anyone...?

Conclusion: Why do we think there is something monstrous about female puberty?

One of my favorite movies is the 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist. It is a scary, riveting, engaging film that asks questions about the nature of evil, the perceived powerless of man in comparison to the supernatural, whether that be God or the Devil, and corruption of innocence. Like Eli/Abby, the main character of The Exorcist is a 12-year old girl named Regan MacNeil, played by Linda Blair. Regan is a sweet little girl who is doted upon by her mother, and engages with an imaginary friend named Captain Howdy. However, this all changes when Regan becomes possessed, and suddenly she has a deeper voice, she shouts obscenities, and has supernatural powers. This is reminiscent of Abby’s transformation in Let Me In in particular. Just like in the case of Let the Right One In and Let Me In, one can ask: Is The Exorcist also a metaphor for puberty?

The case is a little harder to draw with The Exorcist. It is very much a horror movie, with some of the most iconic images in horror cinema. It is not a coming-of-age story the way Let the Right One In and Let Me In are, because there are no other young characters besides Regan. By all evidence, The Exorcist seems more about the adults in the story as the struggle with Regan’s transformation. Also, the film makes no attempt to disguise the fact that Regan is not herself and is, in fact, truly possessed by something evil and something beyond her control. Eli/Abby’s behavior in the two movies is supposed to be her usual behavior. She is acting like herself throughout the movie.

God help us if this is Regan's normal behavior...

Whether it is Lillian Hellman’s play The Children’s Hour, or more contemporary depictions like the 2004 film Mean Girls, our culture likes to associate the adolescent ages in a young woman’s life with the “monstrous feminine.” Whether it’s Mary Tilford or Regina George, our culture has depicted teenage girls as plotting, scheming, cruel, unemotional, and occasionally sociopathic. Teenage boys, on the other hand get Holden Caulfield from J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, or, more contemporary film characters like Ferris Bueller. Male teenage characters are shown as rebellious, sure of their status and place in the world, and skeptical and cynical of the adult world around them.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop, look around, wear a red hunting hat, go to New York, talk to a prostitute, get weirded out by spending the night at your teacher's house, and take your sister to the Central Park Zoo, you could miss it. 

Obviously, these are broad generalizations, and do not in any way refer to all works in all media. But I use these examples to prove a point: that culture, whether it be for the sake of fantasy and horror (like The Exorcist) or for the sake of comedy (like Mean Girls) or serious drama (like The Children’s Hour), increasingly depicts female puberty in monstrous ways. In the realm of fantasy and horror, this takes on the form young female characters who are possessed and become something unhuman. In other examples more firmly set in the real world, this takes on depicting young pubescent girls as cruel.

Stop trying to make the monstrous feminine happen! It's not going to happen!

Let the Right One In and Let Me In ground the fantasy/horror idea of the “monstrous feminine” into the context of puberty. The American version even shows Abby becoming a more monstrous entity, something more akin to Regan in The Exorcist, when she gets the need to feast on blood. Her voice becomes deeper, her pupils become big and brighter, and she growls like a wild animal. Because of this, and because of other issues in both adaptations of the story, the way these films present gender roles should be seen as rather problematic. Eli/Abby is shown to be the monstrous girl with issues of blood (as a metaphor for menstruation and female puberty in general), questioning of her own sexuality identity, and physical changes. Not a lot is addressed about Oskar/Owen’s sexuality beyond the context of his relationship with Eli/Abby, and not a lot of symbolism or imagery is used to show what he is going through in his puberty, like there is about Eli/Abby. Ultimately, Eli/Abby falls more into the Regina George or Regan MacNeil category of “young, monstrous feminine” while Oskar/Owen is defined only through his social relations, both with Eli/Abby and with the bullies. The girl character’s struggle is with her physical body, the demands and issues it creates, while the boy characters only struggles with love and confrontation with other boys. That is a very problematic gender convention.


Because of this, I can’t definitively say these two movies are metaphors for puberty. I will say instead that I believe they are metaphors for the way Western society views puberty. To the untrained viewer, one who is not studied on the way pubescent young people are portrayed in media, or even has studied vampire mythology to see how tied it is to sex and sexuality, I can understand why these movies would be viewed as metaphors for puberty. But like Lucy’s transformation in the original novel Dracula from the pure, chaste girl into the beautiful, lust-worthy monster after her vampiric transformation, the idea of the vampiric is tied with these idea of maturity, emerging sexuality, and metamorphosis. Both Let the Right One In and Let Me In play with these conventions. Had the characters been that much older, I feel like a lot of the meaning of the story would be lost. But it is crucial to the understanding of both of these films that the characters are so young, because it would have been just another sappy, melodramatic vampire-meets-human romance if had they been high schoolers instead. 

Looking at you, Stephanie Meyer. 

Their youth informs the story, informs where they are in their lives and how love, transformation, and questioning of your surroundings and your identity are crucial to their development. Unfortunately, a lot of media still would love to portray young women as “monstrous feminine”, but Eli/Abby’s strength as a character is that she is able to overcome that, as well as inform several metaphors and symbols about the general themes of both films. If one looks at both films, one can infer that both are surprisingly critical of gendered generalizations of how young people should act (like that it's Eli/Abby who saves Oskar/Owen, not the other way around), and has no shame in depicting the two lead characters as intellectually deep, sexual, flawed, and curious young people. The fact of the matter is, despite being a vampire, Eli/Abby is probably more real than a lot of other young female characters in film and television, and both films seems to be dealing with that in their own respective ways for their own respective countries of origin. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The American-ness of Star Trek vs. the British-ness of Doctor Who, Part 1- Introduction

The American-ness of Star Trek vs. the British-ness of Doctor Who
Part 1: Introduction- Why Star Trek and Doctor Who are more similar than people give them credit for

Why is everyone focused on Star Trek versus Star Wars? It is one of the most enduring debates in popular culture. Documentaries have been made on the subject, and the argument even has its own Wikipedia article (which you can check out at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_Star_Trek_and_Star_Wars).

As far as I can tell, they are two very different franchises. First of all, Star Wars is much more in the Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon template of space opera. In addition, calling Star Wars science-fiction doesn’t seem entirely accurate. It is much more science fantasy, with some elements, most notably the Force, being something far more associated with fantasy than what the science fiction genre is typically known for. Star Trek, on the other hand, was inspired by Westerns and naval-adventure novels (like the Horatio Hornblower series). There is some solid science in the science-fiction of Star Trek, with great time being devoted to how warp speed, the energy sources of spaceships, and other aspects of the Star Trek universe work. Little to no explanation is given in Star Wars about the science of how things in that universe function. Vehicles in that franchise serve two purposes: to get to point A to point B, and occasionally participate in space battles.

Moreover, Star Wars was conceived as a motion picture trilogy (which was then expanded when those pesky prequels came to fruition). Star Wars had very little exposure on television, with the exception of the Clone Wars series and the often-maligned Star Wars Holiday Special.

Yeah. The one where they all sang...

Star Trek, on the other hand, was originally a television series that ran for 3 seasons in the late 1960s. After a decade-long hiatus which included an animated series and a failed attempt to get a retooled version of the show back on the air, Star Trek returned as a film entitled Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Ultimately, there were 6 films starring the original case of the TV series, ending at 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. After the success of the film series, Star Trek returned to television in 1987 in the form of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a sequel to the original series set 70 years after the original series. The Next Generation ran for 7 seasons, and its characters and setting were used for four theatrically released movies, starting with 1994’s Star Trek: Generations and ending with 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis. The Next Generation was followed by three further TV spinoffs: Deep Space Nine (which ran for 7 seasons from 1993-1999), Voyager (which ran for 7 seasons from 1995-2001), and Enterprise (which ran for 4 seasons from 2001-2005). After a lull in the franchise, it returned in grand fashion as a summer blockbuster reboot directed by J.J. Abrams in 2009, with a sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, following in the summer of 2013, and more films promised to be on the way.

Hopefully, they'll come up with something better than ripping off the most iconic and best of the movies...

Why do I find it necessary to recount the entire history of one of the most storied sci-fi franchises in American science fiction, you ask? To make a point. If you asked me (and if you’re reading this, you might as well have), a far more appropriate debate is between Star Trek and the long-running British television program Doctor Who, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. In terms of comparative longevity, influence, popularity, number of incarnations, media adaptations, and origins on television as opposed to film, Star Trek and Doctor Who share a lot more in common than Star Wars and Star Trek do.

Doctor Who is focused on a Time Lord from planet Gallifrey who travels the universe (usually with a human companion or two) and can go anywhere in space and time with the help of his magical box, the T.A.R.D.I.S., which takes the form of an old blue British police box. The show ran continuously from 1963 to 1989, featuring 7 different incarnations of the Doctor character. A 1996 made-for-TV movie was meant to jumpstart the franchise, but it did not meet the outstanding success necessary to continue the franchise. Then, in 2005, the show returned. Like Star Trek, Doctor Who has also produced many spinoffs, most famously Torchwood, but also The Sarah Jane Adventures and K-9.

You can't see this and NOT start whistling the theme song...

Doctor Who and Star Trek probably share a lot more in common than Star Trek and Star Wars do.

                -Both franchises are about the same age. (Doctor Who debuted on the BBC in 1963, while Star Trek debuted on NBC in 1966.) Memory Alpha, the Star Trek Wiki, lists that there have been 728 TV episodes and movies from all incarnations of the franchise. 798 Doctor Who episodes have aired since 1963, so the shows have roughly the same amount of content in addition to being around the same age.

                -Both franchises, during their most famous and iconic incarnations, are best known for being cult TV shows. In contrast, the first Star Wars film became the highest grossing film of all time at the time of its release, and its massive mainstream appeal is very different than both Doctor Who and Star Trek, both of which, at times, struggled to stay afloat in the ratings and stay relevant in the popular culture.

                -Both have had multiple TV incarnations. There have been 5 (6 if one includes the animated series) incarnations of Star Trek on TV, each featuring a different captain and crew. Doctor Who has had 11 different incarnations, with a new actor, Peter Capaldi, set to take over the role as the 12th Doctor sometime in late 2013. These incarnations have been played by a diverse group of actors in terms of age (William Harnell, the 1st Doctor, started playing the role when he was 55, whereas Peter Davison, the 5th Doctor, started playing the role when he was 28), longevity in the role of the Doctor (Tom Baker, the 4th Doctor, famously played the role for 7 years, while Christopher Eccleston, the 9th Doctor, only played it for a season), and background (Sylvester McCoy, the 7th Doctor, was a comedian, while David Tennant, the 10th Doctor, is a trained Shakespearean actor). 
Lots of different actors. Lots of different ages. Lots of different backgrounds.

This is not unlike the 5 Star Trek captains, who include a young man (James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner, and later by Chris Pine), an older man (Jean-Luc Picard, played by Patrick Stewart), an African-American man (Benjamin Sisko, played by Avery Brooks), a woman (Kathryn Janeway, played by Kate Mulgrew), and a middle-aged man (Jonathan Archer, played by Scott Bakula.) Like the 11 actors who have portrayed the Doctor, Shatner, Stewart, Brooks, Mulgrew, and Bakula come from different background. (Shatner, Brooks, and Mulgrew all came from supporting tenures on TV. Bakula was the lead actor on 1990s cult show Quantum Leap, and Stewart, like David Tennant, is a trained Shakespearean actor.)

Reunited and it feels so good...

                -Both of them have massive presence in non-TV media, including movies, novels, radio dramas, video games, etc. There have been 12 Star Trek movies at this point (6 featuring the case of the original series, 4 featuring the cast of The Next Generation, and 2 in the new “rebooted” franchise.) There were 2 obscure Dr. Who (with Doctor abbreviated to differentiate it from its TV counterpart) films in the 1960s starring Peter Cushing (coincidentally, Cushing is probably most famous for playing Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars). Rumors persist of current Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat attempting to bring the Doctor back to the big screen. In addition, each franchise has countless novels, several video games, and other media. (Doctor Who in particular has a massive collection of radio dramas and plays to its name.)

-Both of them have smaller budgets that tend to focus on smaller stories. In the early years of both franchises, the lack of big budgets and the deficits in special effects led to a lot of elements, including set designs, character design, props, etc. being considered “campy.” A lot of the strength of early episodes actually involves how well the shows were able to overcome these limitations to craft intriguing storylines.
Beaming was actually invented as a concept for the show so the show didn't have to waste valuable money on showing the ship landing every episode.

                Finally, probably the most lasting comparison between these two respective franchises is the impact they have had on the popular cultures of their respective countries, the United States and the United Kingdom. Both Doctor Who and Star Trek have had a tremendous impact on popular culture. They’ve been the subject of parodies (like the film Galaxy Quest in the case of Star Trek, or the Inspector Spacetime segments on the TV show Community in the case of Doctor Who). Millions of dollars of merchandise have been sold for both franchises.

Moreover, they had an incalculable effect on the science-fiction genre, particularly on television and film. Star Trek’s “space western” formula paved the way for other media like the TV series Firefly and its follow-up film Serenity. The idea of space as a frontier that needed exploration set the stage for Farscape, Babylon 5, and Battlestar Galactica. Finally, it proved that a science fiction universe could be ever-expanding and complicated, which set the stage for iconic space operas like Star Wars, Avatar, Aliens, etc. Star Trek remains a symbol of the American space-age, and along with the concurrent TV series Lost in Space, opened the science fiction genre to a new generation of Americans.

                I don’t believe there are as many sci-fi tropes associated with Doctor Who, however, I do believe that what media the show did end up influencing shows more of a relation to it than works derivative of Star Trek do. The most prominent example I can think of is Douglas Adams’ novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and all of its sequels and adaptations. In fact, one of the novels in the series was based on a failed pitch for a Doctor Who storyline. Like Doctor Who, Hitchhiker’s Guide features a massive universe where characters travel through space, to planets both bizarre and surprisingly Earth-like/ normal. Both franchises retain a dry British wit about them, and are focused on the craziness of the universe more so than Star Trek, which seems to be focused on the order that the Federation brings instead. In fact, one could draw a surprising amount of parallels between the Doctor and Ford Prefect, one of the main characters of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series. Both are extraterrestrials that look human, have an intricate knowledge of the universe beyond Earth, and both have a tendency to befriend and take on as a companion simple British folk, whether they be Arthur Dent or any one of the Doctor’s numerous companions.
Doct... Doctor...?

                However, more than just comparisons and influence, I believe both shows reinforce the values of their respective countries. With 50 years of content to look back on and examine, one can associate various issues and similarities between the two franchises from the perspective of how these two different cultures dealt with the same storylines and problems. Because of the numerous similarities and parallels between the two series, there can be comparisons made as to how each respective nation and culture dealt with a certain issue. In Star Trek, the post-World War II vision of the future is one of optimism, diversity, constant teamwork, and one that doesn’t fully see an end to conflict, but is bright nonetheless. Doctor Who deals with one man as he examines the best and the worst of human history, as well as an equally complicated future. Both of these indicate cultural trends in both nations, and helps to shine a light on how both cultures crafted their science-fiction epics, as well as why each nation decided to emphasize the values they did.

This is merely part 1 of what I hope will be a 4-part series. I hope you will join me for the next three installments. (I may or may not write a conclusion as well, depending on what sort of feedback I get, and whether or not I feel like I’ve written everything I want to say.)

Here are the names and topics of the next three installments:

Part 2: Shoot ‘em Up vs. Keep Calm and Carry On- The American Maverick and British Reservedness

Part 3: Space, The Final Frontier vs. Wibbly Wobbly Timey-Wimey Stuff- American Optimism and British Caution

Part 4: “Of All the Souls I Have Encountered In My Travels” vs. “Hello, I’m the Doctor”- American Diversity and Teamwork and British Identity and Individualism


In the meantime, live long and prosper.