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Star Trek, pedophilia, garage rock

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Thursday, Aug 18, 2005

A few bloggers have today noted this astounding statistic: Toronto detectives have found that all but one of the more than 100 pedophiles they have arrested in the last four years are “hard-core Trekkies.” Ellen Ladowsky, a psychologist, offers a pretty intriguing thesis as to why this might be, that Star Trek posits a utopian world where all sorts of inescapable boundaries (gender, race, etc.) are broken down, which would have an obvious appeal to the pedophile.


This reminded me of another quasi-utopian subset, the garage-rock obsessed music nerd who is on a messianic mission to save rock and roll. Last summer when I went to a big garage rock festival in New York, I was struck by how much the average Cavestomper was like a Trekkie. The show convinced me once and for all that rock and roll is utterly dead as a genre, quickly going the way of traditional jazz to become a solemnly lauded museum piece, a specialization for avid superfans eager to tunnel into a subculture of nostalgia. With its eccentric fashion statements, an uneasy mishmash of Carnaby Street flash and Austin Powers parody, and its vigilant gatekeepers preserving the sacred knowledge about things like vintage fuzz pedals and the teen-rock scene in 1960s Wichita, garage rock can satisify fans with arcana while allowing them to criticizing anything not sufficiently faithful to the strictures delimited by the Beatles and the Stones and the Who. Rock and roll might have once been about rebellion and teenage angst and youth and new horizons of cool, but now it is undeniably a geek scene, and the festival was a Star Trek Convention with amplifiers. Like Trekkies, garage fans are absolutely shameless about their love for their obscure niche but perhaps unlike Trekkies, they are apparently unaware how marginalized their passion makes them and seem to believe instead that they are on the vanguard of a cultural movement instead of the comet’s tail.


People, mostly in their thirties and forties, came dressed up in costumes—their fake-vintage mod trousers and their tour shirts for bands whose last meaningful tour was twenty or thirty years ago and their Cavestomp shirts, testimony to their having gone conventioneering before and their white go-go boots and their mintskirts and the rest) and they passionately swapped cherished bits of hopelessly obscure information that no one else in the world cares about while their aging, decrepit heroes emerged from retirement to go through the motions of their heyday thirty or forty years ago and mouth platitudes about the significance of the audience’s enthusiasm, collectively vindicating what often seems to be an insane preoccupation, perhaps even to those laboring under it. No angst, no innovation, just a reiteration of well-cherished truths, a kind of day-long sermon. Band after band testified to the all-important power of rock and roll—to do what? Inspire you to “rock” more? Usually rock and roll is supposed to have changed the world, and we the audience, were making it happen still, keeping the tradition alive, as though it were a suppressed religious faith and we were contributing to some as-yet-unfulfilled prophecy. How has rock and roll changed the world, though? It changed some fashions and it altered the contours of pop music for a while, but “changed the world?” It may once have been the soundtrack for young revolutionaries plotting to throw monkey wrenches into the workings of consumer society, but that revolution was squelched and co-opted in 1968. These days, garage-rock fans are intent not on changing anything about the world but on consuming as much as possible from their tiny niche. Whatever computer hackers are listening to as they are retooling their viruses, that is the revolutionary music of today. (I’m guessing it sounds like Four Tet, which is as uncompromising and unlistenable as I would expect truly revolutionary music to be).


I mention garage rock (which, incidentally, flourished at roughly the same time Star Trek originally aired) because more than a few of the 40-something music nerds I’ve encountered have had an unhealthy fixation on young girls. Part of this may stem from the fact that the music they love fetishizes youth, is made by teenagers and glorfies teenagerdom as the end-all and be-all of existence, it’s incandescent and melodramatic moments rendering all adult dilemmas humdrum and a bit pathetic. But as with intense Star Trek fans, intense music nerds seem to refuse to accept the intractability of adult problems, seem fixated on the uncomplicated ideals of their childhood that can nonetheless be elaborated endlessly with the limited set of symbols the object of their fan love affords. Which is to say, basically, what Ladowsky argues in part, that pedophilia, like being a Trekkie or music nerd, is a form of escapism, a regression to a simpler time of childhood, but one that has ceased to be benevolent. That pedophiles are specificallly Star Trek fans is possibly a matter of the correspondance with when today’s pedophiles were adolescents. The pedophiles of the future will probably turn out to be big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanatics.

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