Why Does Hollywood Hate Science Fiction?
By Matt White
The other day I was flipping through my netflix instant watch and started to look at what I had on there and noticed that I had a lot of movies from the science fiction or horror genres. I noticed that a lot of television shows. It got me to thinking about how Hollywood has never really noticed the science fiction genre with either awards or with renewals in the case of television shows. I can see that sci-fi is a smaller niche genre than most, but does that mean that they are not worth watching or worth giving awards or seasonal renewals to? I do not think so. I do know that some series have done well and they will be noted.
First on the list is the sci-fi cult hit, “Firefly”; when I asked some friends about TV shows recently that has gotten canceled too early into their life cycle this title came up first. Now I figured I would hear this title time and again because it does have a good following but didn’t know how quickly it would come up. Fox really didn’t know what to do with this show at the time. I do know that they had changed the time and night that this show was on, which could have led to its demise. With this show coming from Joss Whedon you would think that it would last a lot longer than it did because of this work with “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” television series. “Buffy” ended up running seven seasons while Firefly lasted 14 episodes.
Another Joss Whedon show that deserves to be mentioned is Dollhouse. While I have only seen a few episodes of this show it did have a good premise for a sci-fi show. This title had the same sad fate that “Firefly” did, it was canceled after two seasons. The premise of this show was women that would have their memory wiped out and then “rented” out and imprints placed in their minds for specific tasks or abilities. Kinda reminds me of “The Matrix” when they load up the training programs into Neos mind. Yet another promising show gone before its time.
Next, and the main reason for this article would be a TV show by the name of “Life on Mars”. Now this is a good show with a twist at the end. It is pretty much a cop or detective drama on the outside, but there is a lot more going on as a detective from the year 2008 is hit by a car and lands in the year 1973. It had a great cast including Harvey Ketiel and Michael Imperioli. Great show for 17 episodes and makes you wish there was more after you had gotten done with it. This show had a big thing going for it. Its lead in, “Lost” was in its prime and should have given it enough viewers but sadly it didn’t capture and retain viewers and was forced to switch nights. It is, along with the two other shows mentioned, on NIW.
Probably the biggest title that has done well would be the Stargate series. First a movie, unlike other series that spawned movies. Stargate does hold the record for longest running sci-fi series. It had life breathed into it by the syfy channel who brought over Stargate SG1 from syndication. After SG1 had run its course it spawned off three more series including an animated show. While I was not a fan there must have been quite a few that were.
Now not all is doom in gloom in sci-fi television there are some good ones that did make it quite a while. These are the main titles that people will remember after shows like “Dollhouse” and “Life on Mars” are forgotten. Shows that I believe that would fall under this category and would include shows like “Star Trek” (all variations) mainly because it really shaped the way that good science fiction was to be written; great characters, stories, and special effects. This series of shows, 5 titles, were on television from 3 to 7 seasons each and also spawned many films across the different series(The original series, The Next Generation). Also put into this category would be “Quantum Leap” a series that was actually pretty well written about a scientist that would take leaps from person to person to try to correct wrongs in history always hoping the next leap would be the leap home. The final series that I will mention is “X-Files” while the story would change from week to week there were always back stories that would be playing out. This format lead to longevity of the show and also the ability to put out two motion pictures with the series title.
On the Hollywood front lets take a look at academy awards. Now I know what some would think, why should something with a small niche be considered? Because good movies are good movies reguardless of genre or niche. I personally think after looking back on movies that were nominated for awards like best picture, director, or actor that this genre gets snubbed. There have been great films or actors that were nominated that ended up not winning. Did they not win because there were truly better titles or actors in those categories or for other reasons. Lets take a look at a few nominations shall we? In 1977 “Star Wars” was nominated for Best Picture, Alec Guinness was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, George Lucas(Star Wars) and Steven Spielberg(Close Encounters of the Third Kind) were both nominated for Best Director. None ended up winning, was the movie “Annie Hall” really a better film than “Star Wars” was Jason Robards better in “Julia” than Alec Guinness? Or do we chalk this all up to Hollywood bias?
Fast forward 5 years, 1982, up for Best Picture; “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial”. Steven Spielberg again up for Best Director for this film as well. You would think that an all time great picture like “E.T.” would have no problems with taking home some of Hollywood’s biggest prizes, but along comes a biopic by the name of “Gandhi” and takes both prizes. I truly believe “E.T.” and Spielberg had gotten robbed in 1982 although he did eventually win Best Director for his film “Schindler’s List”.
This just keeps on happening with science fiction movies being reguarded more for “technical” awards such as Sound Editing, and Special Effects. While this does give some credit for movies in this genre, it doesn’t give them the opportunity for a larger portion of people to go out and see these films. I believe that a lot more people watch a movie based on winning a Best Picture or Best Director award than something like a Best Sound Editing or Best Costume Design. Just doesn’t have the same ring to it does it? Some times you just have to ask why all the hate?
In the honorary mention category I would be remiss not to mention “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. All three films were nominated for best picture, only having “Return of the King” winning best picture. While not sci-fi, as I would classify this series of movies as fantasy, I do have to say that all three movies should have won. They were more epic in scope than just about any series of movies I have seen and deserve more than they received.