Here at Dorkdady.com headquarters we are very up-front about where we stand on the Star Wars/Star Trek spectrum. I don’t have anything against Star Trek, per-se. I would even go so far as to say I respect the franchise and hold it up as a top-tier member of the DorkDaddy pantheon of dork-worthy endeavors. I can even say with relative certainty that I have seen every episode of every branch of the Star Trek media conglomerate. I have my certificate of Star Trek competency, even if the certificate itself is stuffed in a drawer somewhere – as opposed to my Star Wars competency certification, which hangs on my wall in a custom mahogany frame alongside my gilded credentials, signed by R2-D2 and C3PO themselves, identifying me as a founding member of the Star Wars Fan Club.
OK, I may be talking in hyperbole there. But I WAS a founding member of the Star Wars Fan Club (in 1978) even if I’ve lost my original membership card. But I digress.
The other night, after reading our nightly dosage of Harry Potter it was time for our routine 10 minutes of Netflix/YouTube before lights-out. We’ve pretty much torn through all the age-appropriate stuff you can stream online (for free). On a whim I typed into the Netflix search box “Star” on the off chance that the original trilogy was available for streaming (fat chance). To my surprise, in the “available for streaming” screen popped up the original 1966 Star Trek series (digitally re-mastered versions).
I looked at my two little cherubs, snuggled at the end of the bed in their pajamas, under the covers, waiting for movies, and did a quick “appropriateness” assessment of my memories of the original series. There’s very little blood (beyond Kirk’s legendary chest scratch). There’s no sex (unless you have a problem with 60’s go-go-dancing outfits), and the “violence” is laughable by today’s standards. Seriously, have you watched Kirk’s epic battle with the Gorn lately?
So I decided it was time. I selected Season 1, Episode 1 (skipped the pilot), flipped my iPhone around, and my big kids got their very first taste of classic Star Trek. If you’ve got kids the same age as mine I must say, truly the only issue you’ll have watching classic Star Trek with them is the pacing. By today’s standards the plot points move incredibly slow. Each of those hour-long episodes could easily be compressed into a half-hour. But my kids stuck it out for 15 minutes or so, enough to warrant giving it another go tonight.
Watching Star Trek with your kids isn’t about indoctrinating a child into another level of nerdiness (as much as UnDorkMommy might think it is). It isn’t even about the lofty socio-political commentaries of the series(es) that academics like to point out. It’s about cultural competence. It’s about being able to hold a conversation with that stranger at the office Christmas party.
In that same way I have used Netflix to educate my children on some of the cultural touchstones of my childhood. We worked our way through the entire “Transformers” and “Voltron” animated series long ago. Recently we’ve covered most of the “He-Man” and “She-Ra” cartoons. Episode IV even powered through all three seasons of “Jem and the Holograms”. (So, so, so cheezy. We had no idea how bad they were when we were watching them. Trust me. They’re bad.) Next on the list: “Thundercats”.
Certainly “He-Man” and its ilk don’t register quite as high on the cultural-competency scale. But I loved “Transformers” and “He-Man” back in the day, and it gives me and my children something else in common. And even though I never watched “Jem”, my sisters certainly did, and now my children have something in common with their aunties.
That… and the look on the lady’s face after school when she heard Episode IV singing “Woah-o-o Jem is truly outrageous… truly, truly, truly outrageous…!” was priceless.
Like it or not, no matter where you register on the nerd-spectrum, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and “Beam me up, Scotty” are part of the American lexicon. It’s like football, Loony Tunes, or Elvis. You don’t have to be all crazy into it. You don’t even have to like it, but you have to be aware of it. And if you want to be functional in social situations, you have to have at least a passing knowledge of what it’s about.
Because no matter how averse you may be to the greater dork sciences, the fact of the matter is we have taken over. You can either get on the train or get left behind.