I feel fortunate to have had a mentor like Professor Mark Seals, who teaches at UW-Baraboo. His knowledge of all things nerdy and pop-culture helped me see the world in a new way.
He taught that science fiction and fantasy helps us look at the challenges society faces in different ways and ask the bigger questions about existence and what it means to be human.
During one of our recent visits, we talked about the lack of humanity of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, the failure of “Game of Thrones Season 8″ and what they did to Dany and had a major talk about the new “Star Wars” movies.
In our talk about “Star Wars,” he expressed how the space opera has never been so inclusive. It cast such characters like Finn, Rey and even Rose, who he defends on Twitter of all places and got some good feedback from actress Kelly Marie Tran who plays that character.
His view was that “Star Wars” represents the rebelling army of diversity going against the status quo fascist Empire. Seals said the theme of the new “Star Wars” is really true to the culture we live in now.
When asked how he feels about titles like SJW (social justice warrior) or woke, Seals said if he is going to fight for anything and feel proud of it, he is glad it’s social justice.
As for the label of being someone who is woke, Seals said he is glad to be someone who is empathic to the lives and experiences of other human beings.
We went on to talk about the state of Hollywood and pop culture and their connections to social politics. He compared how “Bride of Frankenstein” was the first gay pride film in the history of science fiction. It featured a group of men defying nature to create life. No surprise its director was one of the first openly gay filmmakers in Hollywood.
Seals also talked about how science fiction has changed since his childhood. He remembers the space age and the early days of “Star Trek,” as those were times of wonder.
But in decades following we’ve experienced the Cold War, Vietnam, the income gap of the ‘80s and the attacks on 9/11. This has led to films such as “Blade Runner” and the dystopian genre we all know now.
He said he wants that sense of wonder back. When he watched recent Mars rover footage looking up at the universe from an alien planet, he felt that sense of hope again. He feels that it is reflected with the next generation of “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.”
Science fiction should give us hope for the future, Seals said, but we should hold on to the caution that films like “Alien” give us, as that film is literally about corporations taking over man’s growth into space and owning the patent on our future.
He said films like “Dune” and shows like “Foundation” could be the shift, not only for Hollywood but also our culture.
Overall, I would highly recommend taking classes with teachers like Professor Seals. But on a much larger scale, that is what these stories mean to so many of us. Never look at the world for it is, but what it could be if we can only dream it.