When “The Dark Knight” took off at the box office last summer, Andrew Klavan, a screenwriter and novelist, didn’t just see a comic book franchise at its best; he saw President Bush.
Specifically, he wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the movie “is at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W. Bush in this time of terror and war.”
Bush haters scoffed, Hollywood liberals laughed and Democratic fans of the Caped Crusader rushed out op-eds countering the claim.
So in the same tradition of finding the polemical in pop culture, here’s my theory of this summer’s blockbuster, “Star Trek.” It’s embedded message is President Obama and his New Foundation, the catch phrase that the administration is hoping will take hold in the lexicon as standing for his efforts in energy and the environment, healthcare and education. Plenty of commentators already have linked the president to Spock, but why not take it a step farther, into the actual nitty gritty of policy?
Here’s what “Star Trek” says about the urgency of Obama’s agenda:
Energy and the environment: The Romulans run rampant, seeking to destroy the planets in the Federation, by a means that will be familiar to anyone who remembers the favored chant of choice at last year’s Republican National Convention: Drill, baby, drill. Using a cable-and-fire drill bit that extends from orbit down to the surface of a planet, they manage to puncture to the core, enough to activate a device that vaporizes the planet. When the alien creatures set their sights on Earth, they choose as their target San Francisco Bay, within view of Starfleet Academy and (presumably) the city’s population of latte-sipping progressives. The message: Only intervention from the UN-like Federation can prevent this assault on our planet. And beware of bald men who look suspiciously like Joe the Plumber.
Health care: Captain Kirk’s hands inflate, caused by a severe allergic reaction to one of Bones’ innoculations, and solved only by another of the doc’s shots. The Romulans torture Captain Pike by sending a tarantula-like creature down his throat, but upon his rescue he is seemingly cured of the viral infection after some rehab at Starfleet. The message: The government can make health care work.
Education: In his Iowa youth, Kirk trashes classic cars, gets in bar fights, even has a propensity for cheating. Spock spends his formative years on Vulcan ingesting science. math, philosophy, history and the like. The message: Left unchecked, we’ll be a nation of goof offs, even long into the future, unless non-emotive beings set us straight.
You may just see pure entertainment in the latest “Star Trek,” or any other major summer blockbuster. But remember this: On Friday, just days after California voters are expected to go to the polls and reject a host of ballot propositions backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, comes the release of “Terminator Salvation.” I’ll try not to read anything into it.