Star Trek Continues to Satisfy America's Quest for Moral Clarity, Says Kellogg School of Management Consumer Anthropologist
Good Versus Evil With a Technological-Spin Suited for Complex, Uncertain Times
EVANSTON, Ill., Dec. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Star Trek as mythology for the post-September 11 world? A consumer anthropologist at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management believes it is so.
"Star Trek is an ideal bellwether of our times," said Robert Kozinets, an assistant professor of marketing at the Kellogg School who has been studying Star Trek consumer behavior since 1995. "Right now, it is expressing American society's hunger for a sense of direction, of right and wrong, good and evil. Star Trek has always been good at telling us that we can use powerful technology to do good, to prevail over evil by waging war."
It is for this reason that Kozinets believes that the December 13 release of Star Trek Nemesis, the tenth feature film in the science-fiction series, will probably resonate with American audiences. The movie, one of the most dark and violent in the series, comes at a time when the American public is seeking the reassurance that comes with clear moral guidance, and also anticipates the outbreak of a war based on moral differences.
Just as Star Trek's code of non-interference has often been thrown aside by two of its characters, Captains Kirk and Picard, Americans are currently dealing with a threatening new world in which tolerance must be tempered by pre-emptive action. In fact, Star Trek Nemesis is being released at a tense time similar to when the television series was first launched.
"The population today is very divided about what to do in the world," said Kozinets. "In uncertain times such as the present, fiction is favored because it can provide Americans with a reassuring sense of certainty, and it can offer a sense of past and tradition."
Examples are fables like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and, of course, Star Trek.
"Star Trek actually portrays a very violent, warlike future, but, rooted in the 'flower power' sixties, it is also ultimately utopian and optimistic. It tells us that we have to fight for our utopia," added Kozinets.
It is this utopian vision and optimism that Kozinets believes provides Star Trek with much of its resilience and marketability. "To say the future is going to be better than now is a very powerful message, and in the Star Trek world it sells lots of book, mugs, and T-shirts," he said. "Consumers are eating up the world of fantasy right now, and I don't think that's mere coincidence."