Amazon’s ‘Stinky & Dirty Show': Teaching Tots to Work Together and Never Give Up

stinky-and-dirty-show-amazon

What if?!

What if there was a new original kids series that captured your young children’s attention by encouraging problem-solving through out of the box thinking, persistence and a positive spirit? What if this show modeled the benefits of listening to and working with others, talking your way through challenges and powering through failures until you find success?

These are the basic ideas behind “The Stinky & Dirty Show,” an Amazon Prime Video series following Stinky the garbage truck, and Dirty the loader truck. It became available to viewers with Amazon Prime earlier this month. When I was pregnant, the first piece of advice I got from a fellow mom was “Get Amazon Prime.” With my subscription, I was pleased to see how easy it was to log in to my account, find this new offering and share it with my little boys.

Based on the “I Stink” book series by authors Jim and Kate McMullen, the show was written and developed by Guy Toubes who co-created “Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book,” and who has a long list of writing credits in children’s animation including “Pink Panther and Pals,” “Handy Manny” and “WordGirl.” In keeping with the books, viewers will see Stinky and Dirty confront obstacles in each episode by repeatedly asking the question “What if…?” The likeable trucks then test out their proposed solutions until the problem is solved.

Season one consists of ten 22-minute episodes, but each episode is divided into two separate stories lasting roughly 11 minutes. While I was worried that the runtime would be a little long for my two-and-a-half-year-old twins, they were fully captivated by the adventures of these animated trucks — adventures like figuring out how to move a massive boulder that falls into the middle of their city’s major intersection, how they can use the materials at their disposal to travel across water or how they will team up to complete Stinky’s trash pick-up route when the garbage truck isn’t working properly. Other fun challenges in season one include coming up with clever ways to get across town when both trucks run out of gas. and using their other senses to find their way home when a thick fog obstructs their vision.

Though problems like these would drive most adults up a wall with frustration and anxiety, Stinky and Dirty keep things light, confronting each issue with curiosity, optimism and a MacGyver-like spirit. I think this is absolutely a lesson all parents would like their children to absorb. The positivity and fun is aided in part by bright-colored animation, cute music (that’s not annoying!) and the voice acting talents of recurring guest stars like Wallace Shawn, Whoopi Goldberg, Jane Lynch, Joan Cusack and Andy Richter.

If you’re looking to give your pre-school or kindergarten-age kids a little quiet time and want to avoid the guilt that often comes along with letting them watch TV, I think “The Stinky & Dirty Show” really is a nice and safe new option.

See for yourself with a look at the trailer…

Korbi is a former full-time TV blogger writing for sites such as E! Online and Yahoo!. She is now a full-time mom of twin boys. In her free time, she moonlights as a Marriage, Family & Individual therapist. 

Image: Courtesy Amazon Video

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‘Storks': All About Babies, But Not Necessarily for Your Kids

storksWe all know the old myth that storks deliver babies — often used as a way to explain away the facts of life to kids too young to understand.

Normally, our friends in Hollywood love to teach kids about the birds and the bees in any way they can, as young as possible. The exception is the new PG-rated animated film “Storks,” coming out Friday, Sept. 23. It endeavors to rewrite human biology in a way that not only disconnects having children from sex between men and women — it detaches it from any human effort at all, beyond writing and mailing a letter.

In the world of “Storks,” the birds have given up dropping off infants to dropping off packages for an Amazon-like company. Andy Samberg voices up-and-coming stork Junior, whose job it is to fire Tulip (Katie Crown), an 18-year-old human employee who wreaks havoc wherever she is. Tulip is the last baby produced at the stork facility, who, through some strangeness with her assigned stork, was never delivered to her human family.

Finding it too hard to just fire Tulip, Junior deposits her in the mailroom, where written requests for babies have been piling up for some unspecified period of time. In her usual bumbling way, Tulip manages to feed one letter — a new one, written by the neglected young son of workaholic parents (Jennifer Aniston, Ty Burrell) — into a long-dormant machine.

The letter somehow becomes cells which multiply and grow. Eventually out pops a pink-haired baby in what looks like a orbital space capsule (and who appears to be several months old). Hoping to salvage his impending promotion, Junior enlists Tulip to secretly deliver the baby, and keep his boss (voice by Kelsey Grammer) from finding out.

The madcap adventure takes Junior and Tulip — presented as an odd couple halfway between pals and interspecies romantic partners — to a frozen landscape. There they encounter a wolf pack that inexplicably has both ropes and fire, and can transform itself into suspension bridges, submarines, minivans, etc.

There’s something in the movie about finding your family, and some warm feelings about the wonderfulness of babies, but they’re utterly buried under the loud, frenetic, breathless, endless string of sight gags and jokes, with nothing approaching sense knitting them together.

Also, we’re not entirely sure how babies are still produced in this fantasy world, where humans are created in the bowels of a giant, Rube Golbergian machine and popped out, fully formed, in metal contraptions. There’s no attempt to talk about how babies actually come into the world, how long the storks’ facility has been idle, and whether it’s the only source of human life.

At one point, untold thousands of letters from the past are fed into the machine, and babies of every hue, with hair in the colors of the rainbow, are spewed out. The storks then deliver them all over the world, to adults of every sort — including both same-sex and opposite-sex couples — who all seem thrilled to get them, despite perhaps having waited decades for a letter to be answered.

(The couples also all appear to be between 25 and 40, even though any kind of logic would dictate that some of them would be a lot older and wondering how they’re going to parent a child in their golden years.)

In an interview after a “Storks” screening, writer Nicholas Stoller explained that he and his wife had had one baby naturally, but had to go through extensive fertility treatments for their second child. One can admire his desire to be a father and evident delight with everything about babies — who are shown as having near-miraculous powers to enchant adults — but “Storks” manages to turn the production of new lives and souls into a literal production line.

One sequence shows mother love throughout the ages, as women protect their child from attackers. It’s a little hard to assert maternal instinct in a movie where babies have neither natural mothers nor fathers, but “Storks” appears to want to have it both ways. It wishes to celebrate the joy of families while ignoring how God and nature intend children to be created.

There isn’t any bad language or sexual content (unsurprisingly), but there are also few laughs. The movie tries tries so hard to be funny that it only succeeds at being exhausting.

As for faith content, there’s zero, either positive or negative. This is also not surprising, because where’s God in a world where people are created within a giant paper shredder.

I don’t expect all animated kids’ movies to have outstanding plots and make perfect sense, but compared to “Storks,” movies like “Toy Story” and “The Lion King” are high art.

Skip “Storks” and show your kids some nature documentaries instead. Maybe you can even find one where little storks are made — in the old-fashioned way.

Image: Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

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Should You Let Your Child Be a Model or an Actor?

stella-hoptonYou have a beautiful, photogenic child — or so you’ve been told. Should you let that child get into modeling or acting? With ad agencies all over the country looking for kids to appear in local campaigns and commercials, and TV/movie production spreading out to almost all U.S. states and Canada, it’s not just a question for folks in Hollywood anymore.

I sat down recently with entertainment publicist Alfred Hopton, whose redheaded nine-year-old daughter, Stella, has been modeling and appearing in TV commercials and small parts since she was very young, beginning with modeling for a friend’s clothing line as a baby.

Due in part to her distinctive red hair — and that unpredictable chemistry that makes someone photograph well — Stella wound up getting an agent.

Take a look:

And a more recent Q&A:

Hopton shares some thoughts on what it means to be the papa of a budding performer.

On keeping his child a child:

My kid has the desire to stay a kid as long as she can. We went to the Getty Museum, and we ended up going into this ‘Great Sculptures’ exhibit, and, well, they’re nude. Stella was mortified. She would not look at any of it.

And when she and her father accidentally went past a racy photo exhibit:

Stella spun around and said, “Inappropriate.” Sadly, the most inappropriate thing my daughter has seen in Hollywood was me taking her to the Mapplethorpe exhibit.

On not leaving her on her own (one of her parents is always there when she’s working):

She’s made friends with the other kids, and most of what she’s done on set has been just a one-day fun experience for her. I read stories and see things about kids that have gone into the industry, and bad things have happened. Stella being between two parents, it’s me or mom. When I’m with Stella, I’d usually focus on her, because I’m as entertained by her as she is with me. As long as I’m around, I don’t think anything bad would happen to her or make her time on set not be fun.

Even though her mom and I may not be together, her mom is an attentive, caring-about-her-daughter mom. We both focus on Stella, and I don’t think she would allow anything bad to happen.

On making sure she doesn’t get a big head:

She’s professional about it. Part of it is, she’s been exposed to being an entertainer because [I work in entertainment PR] and she’s been on TV shows. She sees how things are done. She knows how to sit in the chair and have stuff done. She knows how not to be a “snap her finger because I need this” pain in the butt. Parental guidance has a lot to do with that.

You have to be constantly reminding them that they’re not as big as they think they are. Stella goes, “Yeah, I tell people things I’ve done.” I’m like, “You’re not famous. You haven’t done anything to earn a drop of fame. You’ve been on TV. You’ve been a model, but you’re not famous, kid. Get over it.”

Then she gets it. Kids can get it. If a parent plays like, “Oh, you are famous. Look at you!” I’m not that kind of a parent. I live in reality. Stella lives in reality. Stella knows she’s not some rich kid living in Dallas who gets flown to L.A. just to do a shoot every now and then, then she goes back to throw her baton in the air and be Little Miss Texas. That kid’s going to have issues.

On dealing with the not-so-glamorous side of showbiz:

You want to expose your child to everything about the business, so that when they’re on set, it’s business. Stella gets that, because she’s had to take directions so long.

The casting process for a kid is where you just go on a big cattle call. There are a bunch of other kids. You walk in the room. They hold up a card, they take their picture, and they walk out. Then the casting directors decide who to call back.

I take her to a ton of those. If parents want to do this, just be prepared to drive all over town.

Regarding money, there is a law in California and other states that ensures that a minor won’t have their guardians take all their money. It’s named after Jackie Coogan, a child star in the 1920s, who arrived at adulthood to discover that his mother and former manager had spent what he’d earned.

From the “Coogan Law” description at the home page of the acting union SAG-AFTRA:

At present, Coogan Accounts (a.k.a Blocked Trust Accounts and Trust Accounts) are required by the State of California, New York, Louisiana and New Mexico. In most instances, you will have to supply proof of a trust account prior to receiving a work permit. 15% of the minor’s gross wages are required to be withheld by the employer and deposited into the Coogan account within 15 days of employment. The parent must supply the Coogan account number to the employer.

Click here for a page at ActorsInfoBooth.com about some important things to remember if your child wants to be a model, actor or any other kind of performer. A lot of young careers have crashed and burned, with former child stars falling victim to drugs, alcohol, adult sexual predators and their own rebellious impulses.

Some child actors transition into adult performers, but just as many, if not more, don’t. A lot of times, what helps a child performer become a successful adult — whether they continue in showbiz or not — is strong family support, good money management, a realistic outlook, getting your schooling in, and avoiding having an oversized ego.

As former child actor Mara Wilson says in this piece about why some kids go off the rails:

That’s my suggestion for kids who want to act, by the way: Make sure it’s really your choice, get out of it when it stops being fun, and get an education.

Image: Courtesy Alfred Hopton/FishyFoto

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Catholics in Hollywood: Where Do We Stand? What Can Be Done?

TV-productionCatholic Website Aleteia recently did an interview with screenwriter and teacher Barbara Nicolosi, the founder and chair emeritus of Act One, Inc., a nonprofit program to equip Christians to work in Hollywood as writers and executives.

Nicolosi has also analyzed scripts, produced and consulted (and also taught a Hollywood-based RCIA program), so she stands squarely at the intersection of orthodox Catholicism and practical Hollywood knowledge.

Via Variety, here’s her latest screenwriting project:

In the latest of a growing crop of major faith-based films, several prominent U.S. indie players, including Origin Entertainment, Frida Torresblanco (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) and Rose Ganguzza’s Rose Pictures (“Kill Your Darlings”), have teamed up on “Fatima,” to be directed by Italy’s Marco Pontecorvo and shot at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios.

“Fatima” will mark the most ambitious attempt to reconstruct the solemn supernatural events surrounding the supposed apparition of Mary to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, since Warner Bros.’ classic “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima” in 1952.

Nicolosi, currently an associate professor in the Honors College at Christian (but not Catholic) institution Azusa Pacific University, dishes out some tough love in the two-part interview. But, it’s stuff that Catholics need to hear.

Right now, we’re mostly religious window dressing, the target of sex-abuse stories, or depicted fighting the Devil (that last one’s good, but that’s not all we do).

Fortunately, Mel Gibson hit it big with “The Passion of the Christ.” Unfortunately, nothing has come close to matching the 2004 movie’s combination of serious Christianity and commercial success (witness the latest box-office flop, the well-meaning but seriously flawed “Ben-Hur”).

As Nicolosi points out, our Evangelical brethren have stepped into the breach with low-budget, sermon-heavy films like “God’s Not Dead,” but that’s hardly an unqualified blessing.

Here’s Nicolosi, from part one of the interview:

Every studio now pretty much has a faith division where they’re looking for content for that niche market. This is good and bad. The good part is the mainstream industry is talking to people of faith instead of thinking of us as what’s wrong with the world. The bad part is that it’s ghetto-ized us, such that when you bring a really good project like Mary Mother of Christ or A Severe Mercy to them they say: #1, “This is too smart for the Christians; they don’t want to be challenged,” and #2 “You can serve this audience for a lot less than this movie will cost.” I’ve had both things said to me by studio executives.

So, in other words, they say, “Why should we spend 40 million on a movie with faith or transcendent aspects when we can make it for two million with no stars, no great director, no good script, and all you have to do is put some Bible quotes in it and come out as a sweet little melodrama and it will make 30 million for us?” So that is devastatingly bad for the Church, for art, and for the society as a whole, because it’s keeping any beautiful faith-inspired work from getting a serious treatment.

So, what’s to be done? Just stick a priest or two in a movie, show a church, slap a crucifix on the lead actress and be done with it? Not at all.

It’s not enough for a story to have faith; it’s also got to be good.

Nicolosi, from part two of the interview:

So, we give young people a rigorous writing program and compel them to engage the big ideas, through the Great Books. We help them become aware that modernism is a freak, and help them understand the particular lostness of the people of their time — the confusions that are deeply infused in them by the water we’re all swimming in. Then, once they have a good solid foundation, we identify the good writers among them and work with them so that they can learn the basics of visual storytelling. I did an intensive this summer with nine writers —three were our APU students — they have talent and they get it and they’re interesting.

Interesting story comes from interesting people. And being Christian by itself doesn’t make you interesting. You need to be Christian and thoughtful. So when we talk about the Church addressing this problem about the dearth of story-telling, it’s not going to be a quick fix.

Christ sent us forth to evangelize the world, and we won’t do that by just talking to each other — which is what too many Christian films do today. They thrill the faithful, but they don’t percolate out into the larger culture.

Nicolosi also points out that a lot of the Catholics that are already in Hollywood are either weak in their faith formation, or just not sure what it means to be a working person in the entertainment industry AND an evangelist (or keep their faith under wraps for fear of not getting work).

Also, Nicolosi points out, the USCCB hasn’t been much help:

I gave a speech at [the bishops’ own] Catholic University of America years ago, and at the end they told me it was the last class they were having on screen writing — they were shutting it down. And I thought, “Did I miss the memo? Are movies going away?!”

But, Nicolosi says, she doesn’t want the Church to get into the business of making movies:

The Church is supposed to commission art, not make it.

Indeed — and there’s a lot more where that came from. Click here and here to read the whole thing.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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‘Stranger Things': Should You Let Your Kids Watch Netflix’s Serial Thriller?

stranger-thingsJust because a show stars kids under 14 doesn’t mean it’s suitable for their peers to watch.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

On July 15, streaming service Netflix released the eight-episode first season of “Stranger Things,” a serialized thriller set in a small Indiana town in late 1983. It’s best described as a love letter to ’80s movies, with heavy doses of Steven Spielberg (“E.T.,” “The Goonies,” “Poltergeist”) and John Hughes (“Breakfast Club,” “Sixteen Candles”), along with just about any Stephen King novel you care to name.

A 12-year-old boy, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), disappears, and his Dungeons-and-Dragons-playing pals  — all about the same age — get caught up in the search for him. Along the way, they meet a psychokinetic girl, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who has escaped from secret experiments and claims to know where Will is.

One of the boys, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), hides Eleven in his basement rec room. Meanwhile, Mike’s older sister, Nancy (Natalia Dyer), a high-school student, embarks on a romance with classmate Steve (Joe Keery), with her pal Barb (Shannon Purser) reluctantly tagging along.

Eventually, all of them get caught up in the dangerous and deadly supernatural happenings surrounding Mike’s disappearance — which also involve Will’s quiet older brother, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and distraught single mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder).

The series is rated PG-13, meaning it’s suitable for teens 14 and up. After having seen the whole thing, I agree — with caveats.

The kids playing the kids (who are about the same age as their characters) had a big advantage over the viewers, in which they definitely knew and saw that it was all movie magic and make-believe. The series works hard to be scary, and it succeeds, so a lot of younger kids might wind up with nightmares. Intensifying this is that the kids are in real peril. Now, they handle it with pluck, guts and resourcefulness, and that’s good, but know your own kids’ tolerance for shock and suspense.

There is some bad language, including the Lord’s name taken in vain, but it’s not out of line with the way a lot of kids talk. What may startle some youngsters — especially those with hyper-involved helicopter parents — is the level of physical freedom the kids of a few decades ago had, as they zoom around the town on their bikes, while their parents seem blissfully ignorant of what they’re doing.

One outgrowth of this freedom is that Nancy goes to a party at Steve’s house — while his parents are away, with no adult present –drinks beer and has sex with Steve. It isn’t shown, but Nancy confirms it to her mother later, although, as we go very quickly into chills and thrills, there is no parent-child discussion about it.

In fact, at the end, Steve is seen with Nancy at her parents’ home at Christmas, seemingly still her boyfriend and not dead at her father’s hand.

Honestly, the script could have gotten away with a heavy makeout session and never went for the actual sex — especially since it wasn’t shown — but perhaps the Duffer Brothers, who are the creators and producers, assume, as many do in the modern age, that teenage sex is just a given.

I will say that I did like that Steve was portrayed not just as a teen Lothario but as an actual person with some redeeming qualities, but real parents may want to have a much more involved discussion about Nancy’s choice — and it’s a choice, as it’s definitely no case of date rape — than her fictional parents did.

On the flip side, the preteen romance that evolves between Mike and Eleven is handled with delicacy and charm.

There are also issues of parental drinking, infidelity and drug use, offset by a positive portrayal of caring teachers and adult/parental courage (especially in the case of the troubled but determined Joyce). The Dungeons and Dragons fantasy gameplay shown in the series doesn’t appear to have any occult overtones. If you’re OK with your kids reading and watching “The Lord of the Rings,” the stories that Mike and his buddies make up shouldn’t cause any issues.

As a side note, one of the buddies, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), is missing teeth as a result of a congenital condition called cleidocranial dysostosis. The actor also has the same condition, showing kids that even if you’re not perfect, you can still have friends — and star in a TV show.

One big downside — even though Christmas is mentioned in the script, the only real mention of faith is during a funeral. It would have been nice if one of the characters was seen praying or talking to a priest or pastor, but no dice.

Bonus points if you can name — down in the comments, the literary source of the series’ title.

Image: Courtesy Netflix

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‘Star Trek’ at 50: How a Humanist Story Can Also Be Catholic

star-trek-bread-circusesSept. 8, 2016, marked the 50th anniversary of the premiere of “Star Trek” on NBC. After a generally undistinguished three-season network run, the series moved into daily syndication, where it eventually became one of the most powerful influences in modern pop culture, spawning TV sequels and a string of feature films.

But I’m here only to discuss “Star Trek” — which, with the rest of the “Trek” universe, is available for online streaming — and what this avowedly humanist series has to say to Catholics.

And, by the way, if it says anything, that may be more accidental than intentional, since creator Gene Roddenberry didn’t follow any organized faith. Here’s one quote from him on the subject:

“I condemn false prophets, I condemn the effort to take away the power of rational decision, to drain people of their free will — and a hell of a lot of money in the bargain. Religions vary in their degree of idiocy, but I reject them all. For most people, religion is nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain.” (Gene Roddenberry)

On the other hand, there were moments in the series, including an episode in which a “science lab Christmas party” is mentioned. Here are a few more instances from the same online article cited above:

The rebels on Magna Roma, a nearly perfect “Parallel Earth”, seem to worship the “sun”, which is actually God’s) “Son”. More precisely, Spock rules that “Sun worship is usually a primitive superstition religion”, whereupon Uhura corrects him: “Don’t you understand? It’s not the sun up in the sky. It’s the Son of God.” So the episode is remarkably supportive of Christianity (TOS: “Bread and Circuses”).

Another astonishing reference from TOS is a dialogue between two researchers, of whom at least one is clearly religious, when there is a quake on Minara II. Dr. Ozaba: “In His hands are the deep places of the Earth. Psalm 95, verse 4.” Dr. Linke: “Looks like He was listening” (TOS: “The Empath”).

Kirk says: “Scotty doesn’t believe in gods” and also “Man has no need for gods. We find the one quite sufficient”. This almost sounds like Kirk is supposed to be Christian, Jewish or Muslim (TOS: “Who Mourns for Adonais”).

(Capt. James T. Kirk’s from Iowa, and his middle name is Tiberius, but William Shatner is Jewish — so you decide.)

We can start with what Catholics have said about “Trek.”

Yesterday, L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, honored the show (as cited at Crux):

But the brief homage by Giuseppe Fiorentino, second-in-command at L’Osservatore Romano, is not so much about the show’s artistic merits as it is about the message that “Star Trek” conveyed to a world afflicted by so many tensions – a world much like the present day.

“Millions of people loved the intergalactic adventures of Captain Kirk and his faithful crew because during those years of the Cold War – while builders of atomic bomb shelters were raking in money, especially in the U.S. – ‘Star Trek’ presented a model of true cooperation,” Fiorentino writes in Friday’s edition of the Vatican daily, which was on Roman newsstands late Thursday.

The goal of the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, Fiorentino says, was to discover new civilizations and “propose peaceful relations on the basis of equality.”

Fiorentino writes, “Star Trek” was “an interstellar journey that was completely human, that is, searching for new ways to understand ourselves – a journey that we must always be undertaking.”

A 2011 piece in the U.K. Catholic Herald expands upon one of the episodes cited above:

Every Christian Star Trek fan recalls Stardate 4041.7. That was the day that I realised that, with very few exceptions, Star Trek is consistently the most pro-Christian and pro-Catholic show in American television history.

In “Bread and Circuses”, the episode that took place in Stardate 4041.7 (AD 2268 for planet-bound humans), Captain James Tiberius Kirk, valiant captain of the good ship Enterprise, in the midst of their five-year mission, came across planet 892-IV, a draconian 20th-century version of the Roman Empire, complete with gladiators, senators and nefarious politics. The empire sponsors state executions of renegade slaves who practice a pacifistic religion of “total love and total brotherhood”. Sound familiar?

The twist is that the slaves imprisoned for practising the religion of their choice are sun worshippers. As Mr Spock, the ship’s Science Officer and Captain Kirk’s logical foil, points out: “It seems illogical for a sun worshipper to develop a philosophy of total brotherhood. Sun worship is usually a primitive, superstitious religion.”

And then the fateful and faith-filled moment memorialised in the hearts of all Christian Trekkers, Lt Uhura pipes up from her communications console to correct her superior officers: “I’m afraid you have it all wrong, all of you,” she says. “I’ve been monitoring some of their old-style radio waves, the empire spokesman trying to ridicule their religion, but he couldn’t. Well, don’t you understand? It’s not the sun up in the sky. It’s the Son of God.”

At that, Kirk addresses his bridge crew: “Christ and Caesar. Wouldn’t it be something to watch, to be a part of? To see it happen all over again?”

Yesterday, Catholic film critic Steven Greydanus wrote this at the National Catholic Register, recalling an episode in which Kirk opted not to kill a vanquished alien foe (it’s worth reading the whole piece):

“Arena” was also about a moral leap — the leap from self-interest and concern for one’s kin and clan to universal empathy and compassion. “By sparing your helpless enemy, who surely would have destroyed you,” Kirk is told in the end by a super-powerful alien sitting in judgment, “you demonstrated the advanced trait of mercy — something we hardly expected. We feel there may be hope for your kind.”

This backhanded compliment is a good representation of Star Trek’s utopian but not necessarily Pollyanna humanism. Roddenberry imagined the United Federation of Planets as a shining bastion of Camelot-like glory, implausibly free of poverty, prejudice, violence, disease and other social ills — but he could also acknowledge that it might not be so easy to leave behind mankind’s uglier impulses.

As Catholics, we know what the Catechism teaches us:

The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties.

So, whether a writer is Catholic or not, if he or she has an active conscience, looks at the world clearly, and tells an honest story that explores the reality of human existence, a Truth of the Faith will come through.

The subsequent “Star Trek” incarnations, especially the TV ones, showed increasing influence from the ever-growing PC culture. But if you can get past the 1960s look and spotty SFX quality of the original “Trek,” the show, and and its movie sequels (the even-numbered ones are generally better than the odd-numbered ones, and the fifth one should be entirely avoided), Catholics can find much wisdom.

Images: Courtesy Paramount Studios

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