Genre Movies Are Not Failing Us: A Response to Simon Pegg

It’s well known by most nerds that Simon Pegg is one of the most outspoken and supportive creators within the science fiction and fantasy genre. He just gets nerds, which is what made him such a wildly popular choice when it was announced that he would be co-writing the next Star Trek reboot film. It’s also why it came as such a shock to fans when he made some disparaging comments about the genre in a recent Radio Times interview.

“Obviously I’m very much a self-confessed fan of science fiction and genre cinema but part of me looks at society as it is now and just thinks we’ve been infantilised by our own taste.” he said in the interview. He continues, claiming big-budget, effects-driven movies are “dumbing down” of nerdculture, saying, ”we’re essentially all consuming very childish things – comic books, superheroes. Adults are watching this stuff, and taking it seriously [...] It is a kind of dumbing down, in a way, because it’s taking our focus away from real-world issues. Films used to be about challenging, emotional journeys or moral questions that might make you walk away and re-evaluate how you felt about… whatever. Now we’re walking out of the cinema really not thinking about anything, other than the fact that the Hulk just had a fight with a robot.”

Fans, understandably, responded negatively to Pegg’s comments, some pointing out that the modern Star Trek and Mission: Impossible franchises he’s known for fall into this category, as well as movies he’s penned himself like Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End.

On Tuesday, Pegg clarified his comments in a long blog post.

“Now, maybe I was being a little bit trollish, I can be a bit of a Contrary Mary in interviews sometimes,” he admitted after referencing a few other occasions when he’s made controversial comments. He continues, ”When you do lots of them, you get sick of your own opinions and start espousing other people’s. Having said that, the idea of our prolonged youth is something I’ve been interested in for a very long time.”

He elaborates, describing his “infantilization” comments as a reference to our youth when we would use recreational pass times such as toys, comics, and games as shields from “painful truths,” pointing out that Twitter was far more abuzz with news related to the Star Wars and Batman v Superman trailers than it was with the Nepalese earthquake or British general election.

He then backed down from his “dumbing down” comments: “I did not mean that science fiction or fantasy are dumb, far from it. How could I say that? In the words of Han Solo, ‘Hey, it’s me!’”

He continued to exemplify Mad Max: Fury Road and Ex Machina as brilliant demonstrations of science fiction in how they were both wildly entertaining while being very cerebral. He links genre films like these, as well as other pop culture phenomenons such as Game of Thrones and The Dark Knight trilogy, back to his original “shield” argument, claiming that while these works are indeed full of important themes and serious allegories, he questions whether they would’ve been as successful or even been made if they had simply been historical pieces and not been of the genre.