Do you get a thrill when you find a ret-con?

I do.  Man I love it when the writers miss something or revise something.  Or at least when I notice.  Then I get all self-righteous and say, “I would have known that.  No ret-cons for me.”  And of course, I’m angry too.  Why couldn’t the writers and producers have the same wellspring of Trek/Star Wars/Buffy/Sports Night/… knowledge that I have?  The first time I saw Jadzia Dax (DS9 for those not in the know), my head almost exploded.  Whaaa?  But the Trill on TNG didn’t have spots!  It’s the thrill of having superior knowledge.

Imagine what that feels like when one of the authors you’re reading commits such a blunder.

In researching a paper on B’Elanna Torres as a tragic mulatta, I kept coming across media scholars who got Trek plot details wrong.  Key details.  The errors were like fingernails on a chalkboard.  They also provided excellent fodder, both for my writing and for my nerdy superiority complex.

In discussing hybrid characters in Star Trek, Denise Alessandria Hurd wrote that Simon Tarses “is arrested for his willful deceit.”  I blanched.  I thought for a moment.  I was pretty certain Tarses was never arrested (see TNG “The Drumhead”).  I doubted myself.  After all, this was a scholarly publication, and it would not get a basic fact like this wrong.  I checked Memory Alpha which, of course, confirmed my suspicion.  And there I sat, in all my glory, gloating over an author who probably would never know who I am.  This happened repeatedly in the course of this research.

I complained about this in a meeting with my professor, and she told me that many media scholars only look at a sample of a series or episode and only do that once or twice, and my comprehensive knowledge of so many shows would serve me well as a media scholar.  Oh the joy of righteous indignation vindicated!

One day I will have to post some of my notes from this research.  They are delightfully expletive-filled.  And the mockery!  This project has trained me in text-based mockery.

Oh the pangs of being a fan….


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3 Responses to “Do you get a thrill when you find a ret-con?”

  1. Jason Says:

    I feel that pain too – and the sense of superiority. I don’t know Star Trek well enough to comment, but I am the worst person to watch the Lord of the Rings movies with. My friends point out that it is a different media: they have to change it and that as the director gets to add his own artistry to the film. It still bugs me though. The movies do not fit my mental imagery I created from reading the books and the additions and subtractions of events and dialogue drive me crazy. Is that retcon though? I feel the same way about the Star Wars prequels. I always thought it was the little fundamentalist in me, but maybe not.

    That artists and fans make changes (retcon) seems more acceptable to me than scholars “only look[ing] at a sample of a series or episode and only do that once or twice.” That seems more like bad journalism. With fans and artists, it seems that they are creating and re-creating a tradition. What is the relationship between fans and writers/directors in Star Trek-dom? I wonder how they affect each other’s views of Star Trek tradition.

    Your paper topic sounds more fascinating after reading The Tragic Mulatto Myth. It seems disturbing.

    Aside: I think that is interesting you recalled first then looked up facts concerning Simon Tarses. Ong and others suggest recall and memory are symptomatic of orality and that “looking up” is a literary activity. Orality on my brain

  2. nerdstudies Says:

    And of course, television is the “secondary orality” or whatever.

    I know what you mean about book adaptations too. I think we all have a certain tolerance for people messing with our favorite fetishized media.

    As to fans and writers/directors, Henry Jenkins and Camille Bacon-Smith have written extensively about fandom and “participatory media.” It’s quite prominent now with the ubiquitous internet, but Star Trek fandom, according to Jenkins, pretty much started it all back in the 1960s. The fans would not only create ‘zines and mail them to each other, but they lobbied the network to keep Star Trek going and later wrote the writers with suggestions for how the show should pan out. Years later Star Trek writers, but even moreso Joss Whedon and the producer of Babylon Five have used the internet to keep track of what their fans want to see, to communicate their fans during off-seasons, and even encourage their fans to commit piracy (Joss Whedon did this when the WB postponed a season finale of Buffy due to the Columbine shootings, and he urged Canadian viewers to “pirate that puppy” to share it with their American neighbors). Next time you write a comment on a blog about your favorite show…beware, the network may be watching.

  3. Jason Says:

    I am going to start a campaign to resurrect Billy. Heh. Pretty cool of Joss Whedon.

    I am skeptical about the idea of secondary orality. I feel like Ong used it because he did not know where to place the verbal art (or art generally) from the media of radio, television and film. I wonder if the “great divide” of oral and literate can really describe these things: the expressive economy is so large in these media and in our culture.

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