I didn’t know Simon Pegg shoved his foot into his mouth until last Friday. I knew some sort of controversy had occurred because one of my friends on Twitter (who is a cosplay goddess and got to be in a scene in Avengers) made a remark about Pegg belittling her comic books interest. I spook easily in terms of drama of any kind, so I didn’t even Google the terms “Simon Pegg” and “comic books” to see what she meant. Ignorance can be bliss when it comes to beloved actors getting themselves into controversies. I simply didn’t want to know. But then I was scrolling through my Hootsuite feed a couple of days later and spotted an article from The Guardian whose title began with “Simon Pegg is wrong…” and I couldn’t resist. Had to read it.
It made so little sense to me. The first movie I ever saw Pegg in was Shaun of the Dead, which is a spoof on zombie movies, and saw him again in the Star Trek reboot. (And, yes, it’s a reboot. I will fight you to the death if you say otherwise.) Reading the article with those memories in mind was like watching a VW Beetle drive through a store that sold cymbals and gongs. It was dissonant and made no sense. How could Pegg say these things and yet be in science fiction movies? Hell, I think he helped write some of them!
So, I Googled it and discovered a blog post he wrote about what he said, aptly titled “Big Mouth Strikes Again”. I read it. Then read it one more time just to be sure I got it right.
In his blog post, Simon Pegg made the case that he didn’t mean fantasy and sci-fi are childish. He meant that when these genres become devoid of meaning. and are driven by capitalism and spectacle. they become childish. And it is a devotion to those childish things that prolong our adolescence. He goes on to discuss films and an author named Jean Baudrillard and pretty much proves he isn’t only a pretty face. Here’s an important bit from his post:
I guess what I meant was, the more spectacle becomes the driving creative priority, the less thoughtful or challenging the films can become. The spectacle of Mad Max is underpinned not only [by] multiple layers of plot and character but also by an almost lost cinematic sense of ‘how did they do that?’ The best thing art can do is make you think, make you re-evaluate the opinions you thought were yours.
While I very vehemently disagree about the latest Mad Max film containing “multiple layers [of] plot and character” (see my critique for my thoughts on that), I do agree with that last sentence.
While I don’t go into my novels with the intention of making my readers think about a particular issue, I do hope that they will. A lot of times in my novels, I’m thinking an issue over with myself and the result is what I share with my readers. With their reactions, a novel becomes a conversation between author and reader. Movies are no different. Any art form can do the same and that is the greatest benefit of art, the ability to carry on a conversation about important topics between audience and creator and between the audience members.
However, while I abhor a lot of the commercialism surrounding today’s movies and how it seems to drive most of them, I also think that pure escapist fiction does have its place. I don’t think it should be the only thing people consume, of course, but sometimes we do need something that allows us to leave life behind and not have to think for a bit. And even that pure escapism has a discernible meaning, even if it only reflects back on the people who made the piece. But Simon Pegg does have a point in his blog post and one that won’t cause me to never watch Shaun of the Dead again (which would be a tragedy).
I hope this whole controversy teaches Simon Pegg to be careful of the words he chooses and to be careful about what he decides to be “a little bit trollish” about. I am also glad that his real opinion wasn’t as bad as the media made it out to be.