Geek Role Models, Our Kids, and Science Fiction



Image © MGM, Inc.

As a parent, I know that my words and actions define the type of role model I am for my kids. And obviously the same is relevant when considering the ‘walk’ and ‘talk’ of my friends and family, not to mention the associated parents of my kids friends. But we are geeks, by noodles’ sake! Who are our fictional heroes? And how are they role models for our children? In amongst our myths of the 21st Century, all the robots and aliens, the shambling zombies and the wielding of frying pans, who are our equivalents of Arjuna and Galahad?

This occurred to me as I was watching Stargate (1994). The scene which inspired me was the one where Sha’uri is standing at the gate, watching this strange foreigner (Daniel Jackson) wander off into the dunes with his more martial friends. After being initially confused by his refusal to sleep with her, he had then spent the evening with her in a dusty catacomb looking at ancient hieroglyphics, as well as learning her language.

I wasn’t sure if my son got the significance in the look in her eyes, so I leaned over and said “Son, this is a part of ‘Secret Men’s Business’. If you really want someone to like you, talk to them and listen to them. And most importantly, treat them as an equal”. And we then went back to “Star Wars meets Ben Hur” and much fun was had by all.

The next day, I showed the kids the first episodes of Series One of Stargate SG-1, and it was my daughter’s turn to get hooked. Whilst my son sort of watched, and half-heartedly twiddled with something on my iPhone, my daughter was transfixed by the adventures of Captain Samantha Carter, and those blokes that seem to trail along after her. After a while, both of them began to focus on Teal’c.
Now this got me thinking. Part of me wants me to get my kids to watch the, um — cough — classics, but the parenting portion of me wants to present my kids with good role models within our geeky cannon of the visual arts. I know I have to be patient, as some things might just require a bit of time before they are old enough. For instance, I would love to introduce my kids to the crew of a particular Firefly class transport ship. But not yet. It is a little early in the piece to explain to the kids why battery power is not the optimal thing for Kaylee’s “nethers.” Or Jayne, at any point in the story. But, what about Star Trek? Kirk is well, Kirk. But Spock, in my opinion, rates as a good role model. Try telling me that none of you identified with some of Spock’s ethical dilemmas, for I know I did. And then there are the rich pickings within the fine band of the Fellowship of the Ring, with Legolas, Aragorn, and Sam.

I suppose this all is a long rambling rhetorical question for our community. But the crux of it is thus, in that in amongst the silicon bling of robots, and the visual effects of epic magery, good stories are about the human (and nonhuman) condition, and the ways that individuals relate to each other. I just know that from now on, I am going to take a weather eye to what I have seen the past, and any new offerings which may arise, and consider them in regards to my kids.

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