There are a lot—a lot—of reasons that fandom culture in the modern age has been tarred with a general air of toxicity thanks to the actions of select groups. One of those myriad reasons, is, well, bigots and racists getting mad that progressively minded fiction is a Thing That Exists. And Jason Isaacs has no time for them shielding that hatred as fandom.
Speaking to the Radio Times about Star Trek: Discovery’s upcoming network broadcast debut in the UK (while it airs concurrently on Netflix with its release on CBS All Access, the first season is set to run on the UK’s Channel 4 starting this weekend) Isaacs briefly discussed the critical reaction to Discovery’s debut season.
The show faced a lot of criticism from many angles, whether it was Star Trek diehards nitpicking at canonical retcons or reviews and critics engaging with the show’s attempts at portraying a morally murky Federation at a time of conflict, and how successfully it executed that idea.
But then, as Isaac notes, a particularly vocal area of complaint among some “fans” was that—heaven forbid—a Star Trek show believed in progressive values, put a black woman front and centre, and engaged in issues of social justice. A Star Trek show, how dare it! As patently hateful this criticism was, Isaacs at least had no time for these people masquerading bigotry as an alleged passion for Star Trek as a source material.
“Initially when we launched Star Trek there were a bunch of voices pretending to be Star Trek fans online, complaining that we were social justice warriors, and that it was all too right-on, the MeToo generation, that we had a young black woman lead,” he told the Radio Times. “And they were exposed very quickly as a bunch of non-Star Trek fans, racist right-wing lunatics—because the real fans took to them as soon as the show started running.”
As Isaacs went on to say, the charade of these bigots falls apart pretty quickly when they claim to be diehard, “gatekeep-worthy” fans of a source material that they apparently could not understand on its most basic level: Star Trek is set in a future utopia where humanity has put aside division and discrimination (in the wake of horrific nuclear war) to unite itself in the lofty aims of exploration and understanding of its place in the stars.
It’s always been an inherently progressive and hopeful lens on our potential future. “That’s not what Star Trek fans think,” Isaacs added about the negativity he experienced. “It was people who were jumping on the bandwagon to espouse these disgusting views thinking that they had a platform for it.”
“And very quickly they were drowned out by people telling them…if they thought the makers of Star Trek were social justice warriors, they were absolutely right! Because that’s what it’s all about. They had a Russian on deck right at the heart of the Cold War. And they had the first interracial kiss!”
The latter of those has been a long-debated factoid, and Star Trek’s history with wider progressive issues is something that’s always going to be discussed and analysed, but Isaacs point still stands: Any Trek fan espousing accusations that Discovery “catered” to some sort of secret cabal of socially-minded progressives at the expense of “true fans” is apparently really kind of bad at interpreting what a thing they’re allegedly such huge fans of in the first place.