Remaking the Future Profane: The Kairotic Cultural Commentary of Swear Trek
by KT Torrey — Independent Scholar
January 04, 2017 – 10:08
Launched in July 2016, the Swear Trek Twitter account has gained over 22,000 followers. Founded by Aaron Reynolds and curated by his friends and colleagues, the site’s gifs put profanity-laced riffs in the mouths of the Enterprise crew. Though the gifs draw from many corners of the Trek universe, Reynolds’ favorite source is Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS), a trippy 70s cartoon with a flair for the absurd. This combination of bizarre visuals and enthusiastic explatives has afforded the site a wide audience on Twitter and tumblr.
Over time, however, what began as an R-rated remix of Captain Kirk and company has evolved into overt commentary on contemporary social and political issues. From the outset, the site hadn’t shied away from cultural critique, using TAS gifs, for example, to ridicule the rhetoric and affect of so-called men’s rights activists. In light of the US presidential election, this commentary has become even more pointed, portraying Trump as a “steaming poop monster,” for example, and Abraham Lincoln as the last, disappointed gasp of democracy. Much like the TOS, which took on the Vietnam War, racial tensions, and matters of diversity and acceptance, Swear Trek offers kairotic commentary on dire current events, a present that feels to many even more bizarre than any depicted in TAS. Although some have taken offense to this turn, Reynolds notes that the Presidential debates and election night accounted for the site’s "biggest single days of growth" to date.
The optimism of the Star Trek universe is fundamental, and in some ways, it seems ironic that this vision of a diverse and mostly peaceful future would find a new purpose at a time of great uncertainty by adding dick jokes, drug references, and expletives. Indeed, the utopian dream of TOS feels farther away today than it has in decades. But rather than mourning this loss, Swear Trek helps makes the present palatable for its creators and followers by reimagining the future—Star Trek’s future—profane. Swear Trek is the Star Trek its followers need now: a re-vision of the future where humor and a spirit of no fucks given offers a means of coping with and communicating about very dark times. Through its gifs, the site’s created a surreal visual language that more effectively and affectively expresses the grief, anxiety, and determination of its creators and readers than mere (non-sweary) words could.