Star Trek, Fandom, and Mythos: The Themed Convention
by Daryl G. Frazetti — Western Nevada College
September 09, 2010 – 00:01
Star Trek represents modern myth, and as such it legitimizes fan participation in numerous activities, particularly themed conventions. Myth explains the meaning which fans have assigned to both Star Trek and the archetype characters it has created. Star Trek acts as a secular myth for contemporary times by providing cultural symbols and meanings that serve as a model for the formation of a distinct subculture. Themed conventions represent the way in which fans come together to more fully participate in the myth, solidifying the place Trek holds in their daily lives, and allowing for the continued evolution of a vibrant subculture. 1
Myth acts as a model for all aspects of human behavior, all cultural practices, and ultimately assigns value to life. The Trek myth is quite real to members of fandom, and like all myth, it is subject to continued reinterpretation on the individual level at varying points in time by the believers in the myth. Despite this, it is possible to identify core meanings in Star Trek. The utopian future, concept of IDIC (infinite diversity in infinite combinations), and the humanistic study of the humanity are ideals shared across fandom. Star Trek is a futuristic portal, allowing fans to learn from the past, make changes in the present, and strive for a Trek future. Fans have found compatibility between the messages of Trek and personal beliefs, incorporating the myth into their daily lives with ease. 2
Themed conventions provide a platform for understanding the utilization of myth. Fans gather and translate the myth into a cultural binding force, legitimizing their subculture. Fans agree that participation is required, that the myth must be experienced. Fans participate in the myth in several ways. They create alien personas, take on the persona of their favorite Trek character or species group with whom they identify with ideologically, collect merchandise for the purposes of owning a piece of the myth, perform songs and plays, and seek out their favorite actors in order to complete the meeting of the myth experience. These conventions allow fans to escape the constraints of contemporary society and fulfill their desire to exist in and experience the utopian future of Star Trek.
Star Trek Conventions offer an arena for fans to share their interpretations concerning stories and characters and to more fully participate in the myth. Convention participation strengthens the place of myth in their daily lives. Star Trek as modern myth possesses the power to bring meaning to life and to transform life according to all patterns inherent in myth. Themed conventions are a celebration of that power and of the desire of fans to harness that power to change their world.
1. For more on myth and the anthropological perspective, see, Claude L`evi – Strauss, Myth and Meaning: Cracking the Code of Culture. 1979. Shocken Books. New York; Camille Bacon-Smith, Enterprising Women: Television, Fandom, and the Creation of Popular Myth. 1992. University of Pennsylvania Press; Wendy Doniger, Other People’s Myths: The Cave of Echoes, 1988. Macmillan. New York. Bronislaw Malinowski, “Myth in Primitive Psychology”, In Magic, Science, and Religion and Other Essays.1992 . Waveland Press. Illinois.
2. For more on Star Trek and fandom, see, Peter J. Claus, “A Structuralist Appreciation of Star Trek”, In The American Dimension. Montegue and Arens, editors. 1976. Alfred Publishing. New York; Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. 1992. Routledge. London and New York; John Tulloch and Henry Jenkins, Science Fiction Audiences: Watching Dr. Who and Star Trek. 1995. Routledge. London and New York.