“what else is on?”
On July 21, 1969, man landed on the moon.
It was an incredible achivement in human history.
And the moment was televised for the entire planet to see.
A short three years later, man left the moon for the last time.
It has now been 35 years, and no one has since bothered to make the trip back. Yet each night, the moon sits there, tantelizingly before us. We have the technology to go. It is, in fact, old. But still, we don’t.
In 1966, three years before Apollo 11, Star Trek blasted off into space as well. Today, 41 years later, the franchise is still going strong, from a Vegas theme park to a reputed 11th feature film in the works. One might guess that the net worth of all Star Trek related events, films, books, TV shows, cartoons, lunchpails and assorted memorabilia probably exceeds the cost of putting a man on the moon.
Why is it that real trips to the moon generate so little public support, while the adventures of Captain Kirk and his ilk touch so positive a nerve?
My own guess has a lot to do with TV.
Both events were televised.
That is, the lunar landing was televised – black and white, grainy, a few steps.. a bounce. Badly lit. But so too were the adventures of The Enterprise. “Warp Factor 8 Mr. Spock”. Now that was exciting – far more exciting than watching some guy in a Michelin-man suit hit a golf ball on the moon.
And when both fiction and reality are viewed through the same lens, the same prism, it is hard if not impossible sometimes to dissociate ‘fiction’ from ‘reality’.
What ‘wins’ in the world of TV is… excitement.
Star Trek was ‘exciting’.
The Moon Landing was (after 2 or 3 times), ‘boring’.
So, like any boring TV series… it was cancelled.
The average American now spends more than 4.5 hours a day (a day!) in front of a TV set. And my guess is that they are increasingly unable, or unconcerned about, distinguishing reality from fiction.
Anna Nicole Smith dominates the headlines.
Global warming? Boring!
American Idol updates! Yes!
As a culture, we will surely pay a price for this one day; this dissociation from reality.
But then again, maybe we won’t care.
We won’t care that we never went back to the moon; that polar bears are extinct; that we have squandered our national wealth and the lives of our children on a war based on lies.
So long as we can watch something exciting.. real life, whatever that is, does not matter.
As the Romans proved, empires make their way to oblivion one small step at a time.