Sime~Gen Inc. Presents
"INTIMATE MEDAL OF HONOR"
INTIMATE MEDAL OF HONOR:
PART ONE OF FOUR PARTS
I came in to breakfast this morning and heard the last few seconds of a news item on a new Broadway play. It showed clips of the actors exchanging dialogue and a voice-over explaining what the play was about. I rarely go to Broadway plays. I generally succumb to the temptation only when there's a particular actor I really want to see in person or in a particular classic part.
I don't expect to see this Broadway play on Broadway or on tour. All I know about this play is what NBC saw fit to put on television for the pre-breakfast crowd (before The Today Show).
The significance of this play to me is that the news item on it greeted me on the very morning I was planning to write this column. I had awakened assembling the column in my mind. I saw this item and threw out everything I had to say.
The play is about the emotions surrounding mid-life crisis. The scene I saw was two women journalists, one older and married for 32 years to the same man (and I have been married 32 years to the same man). The younger is astonished that anyone could stay with the same man for 32 years longer than the younger woman has been alive, I think. I don't find it astonishing. My parents almost made fifty.
The older woman in the play struggles to explain this bizarre phenomenon of long-lasting relationship to the younger. There is a serious attempt at communication here, and I found that interesting.
One snatch of dialogue focused on the idea that "love" in a long-term relationship includes the concept "pain." The older woman can't get this point across to the younger: Life isn't all pure pleasure. I know from exchanges with younger people that there is a prevailing cultural myth among the young adults these days that life is supposed to be good, kind, and without pain and conflict. If you experience discomfort in a relationship, it's because you're in the wrong relationship and therefore you "should" leave because you've made a mistake. And you shouldn't feel guilty about making mistakes like that. Just leave the relationship behind and that will fix everything up.
So the author of this play has zeroed in on one important cultural megatrend. And I suspect this play is intimate adventure manifesting as a mundane Broadway play with no fantasy or science fiction overtones. Not even one non-human character.
Aside here: I started this column over five years ago with a two-part article titled Intimate Adventure: A New Genre. I've defined what I believe is a new genre that has been emerging from sf into the mundane world. It appears in so many forms, within every genre and style of fiction, usually hidden under some sort of smokescreen. You can find my original articles (from 1993 through today) posted on the Web, on http://www.lightworks.com under connections. Or at http://www.simegen.com/RathoritesRetreat look in the index to my columns and read the first ones. Or go to http://www.simegen.com/TectonCentral and you'll find a version of the article slanted for a feminist audience.
The third main character in the play is the husband of the older woman who is being interviewed by a younger journalist for a story. As I understand from the merest flicker of a hint in the news item, the story revolves around the man falling for the younger journalist (probably a younger version of his wife). That's where I lost interest.
But the play is titled brace yourselves. Honor. And the TV news item was long and detailed. The author of this play (I don't know the name, nor even the name of the theater where it just opened), or the producers, have pegged this megatrend I've been investigating in this column recently. Honor. The subject of honor sells you can make money discussing honor in public. Do you know how drastically different that is from, say, the 1960s and 1970s?
With this play, the concern about honor defining it, living it, earning it, understanding the need for it seems to have come out of the closet. It's been given a name, hung up on a marquee, and TV journalists seem to think the issue is important enough to deserve more than a passing mention (other plays get less coverage on the news). That signifies a huge, major, basic, underlying change.
One of the reasons sf was scorned and scoffed at when Star Trek first came on the air in the mid-1960s is that sf focuses traditionally on heroes, and heroes must have honor to be heroes. Honor is part of the definition of hero. Kirk and Spock were honorable. That made them seem unreal to the basic mundane TV viewer, and thus uninteresting. (Aside here: This is an observation that I didn't make when writing the Bantam paperback Star Trek Lives! because I didn't see it then. It has only become clear to me now, in the late 1990s.)
So, this morning I thought to myself, "Huh. Well, I'm not the only one who's noticed. What a surprise. Huh." And I sat down to breakfast, flipped on the tape I'd cued up to watch, and got hit between the eyes again. This time brace yourselves from Star Trek: Deep Space 9. (What an unusual coincidence: ST has something important to say on an abstract philosophical point that I'm thinking about at the moment.)
The episode I saw this morning is titled "His Way." Odo experiences jealousy when Kira makes a trip to see a man she's had an affair with. He (with true heroism on the field of intimacy) consults a new hologram character, a famous singer from the 1960s, and gets some advice on how to impress and win Kira's attention (Odo is adorable in a tux). The hologram is unusual for a hologram it knows it is a hologram. And it's an interfering busy-body so Odo gets not only advice on how to cut a romantic figure but also some match-making interference in his life.
Kira reacts just exactly as I thought she would when she discovers the hologram's duplicity. Still, she brings to the situation all the heroism honed in years as a resistance fighter and charges right back into the heat of the battle on the field of intimacy and tackles Odo head-on risking immense emotional pain to win a point. So they end up opening a new intimate dialogue with each other. And we shall see where that dialogue leads.
This episode works for me on two levels. The most obvious was that the script was a "vehicle" for presenting some of my absolutely all-time favorite songs. Kira and Odo get to sing, too. I enjoyed the music and since most of the air-time was spent on it, if you really hate the '60s music, and the Golden Oldies of that era (music from the 1940s and 1950s, too) then you probably will be too irritated with this episode to get the point of the rest of the story.
Most of the time, when they use an episode to present music, it's "modern" popular music that I really don't like, or jazz that I'm fairly neutral on. This time, the music pushed all my buttons. And as a writer, I appreciated the pieces chosen because they set the mood and underscored the action perfectly and I mean perfectly.
So I was thinking to myself the whole time, "This script should win an award. It really should. This is what science fiction is actually all about." This episode embodied the reason I write sf. What an odd coincidence that right after the news item on the play titled Honor, I have all my other buttons pushed hard.
Well, while I was enjoying the great songs and the mushy love scenes, all of a sudden we're watching an example of pure and I mean really pure intimate adventure right there on the TV screen. There was no "physical action" in this episode, and I'm sure a lot of the DS9 fans drawn into this show by the war with the Dominion story-arc really hated this episode and considered it a total waste of expensive air-time and utterly implausible, too.
There wasn't a single battle scene. Nobody got punched out. Nobody fired photon torpedoes. And the wormhole didn't explode. But I have never seen more sheer, raw, brute courage displayed on a television screen. And for me, the action was fast-paced, heart-stopping, adrenaline pumping, fantastic! psychological action.
Odo and Kira deserve the Intimate Medal of Honor.
For those who don't watch ST:DS9, I should note here that Odo is a "Changeling" a non-human whose natural form is a puddle of liquid that looks sort of like the element mercury. He can take almost any form, even those of lesser total mass, though that's a learned skill. He and Kira have a relationship history that is inordinately complex, and all that subtext is encoded underneath the drama in this episode. The episode seen out of context as your first DS9 episode wouldn't make a lot of sense.
Kira is not human either, though she looks human except for the bridge of her nose. There is another inter-species couple, Dax and Worf. Neither of them are human either and if you think a relationship with a puddle who has lived through a time-loop is complex, think about one with a person carrying a symbiote that is intelligent and centuries old. The third couple on the show is human/human but what our century would consider a "mixed racial" couple.
ST in general is presenting us with a thematic statement codified in relationship. And here I'll end Part One of this four part column on that cliff-hanger note. Find the books listed above, and try to see reruns of ST:DS9, etc., think about honor in intimacy, and we'll discuss it in greater depth and breadth next month.
Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg,POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952.
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