Not The Fox News: ALL Ages Welcome

Earlier today I tweeted this:

Interesting seeing ‘family friendly’ used as a perjorative in connection with Lost in Space, given that’s what 5 decades of Star Trek and every Star Wars movie ever are.

And I’d like to apologize because ‘Interesting…’ is the exact sort of lead you’d expect from:

  • -Anti-Vaxxers
  • -Passive Aggressive racists
  • -Anyone who uses the phrase ‘The Science Religion’
  • -Christians whose whole faith is summed up in that time Jesus said ‘You know what? Fuck everyone who isn’t a middle-classed white dude or white dude adjacent. YES I KNOW WHAT MIDDLE CLASS IS I’M JESUS.’

It’s an opening conversational gambit used, far too often, by the same people who close a tweet with ‘Makes you think.’ Despite the fact you know full well the only thing that has ever made them think is a crank handle shoved into the port behind their right ear.

I’m better than that.

So are you.

So, sincerely, I’m sorry.

The Netflix Lost in Space reboot is very good. It’s very good in stealthy ways that aren’t immediately apparent. It puts one of it’s faults, that the adults are all broken and kind of assholish, front and center, waits for you to call it a fault and then goes ‘HA HAAAAA! FEATURE! NOT BUG!’. The robot design is great. The show expertly balances cliffhanger-every-5-minute-peril with smart perspective shifts and location shooting that feels convincingly alien.

It’s not perfect but no show ever is in it’s first season. It is however fun, and interesting and massive hearted. It puts three genuinely excellent child actors, and a brilliantly realized sibling dynamic, front and centre and tells excellent stories with them.

It’s also family entertainment. And has been decried as such which is peak, self-righteous, backwards rocket genre nonsense. Here’s why.

Star Wars is family entertainment. Oh sure it’s never been explicitly marketed as such but those movies and cartoons especially are designed for children of all ages. You want a morality fable? Sorted. A comedic subplot involving putting the whining droid back together? Yep. A nascent acceptance of adulthood as a mantle and a gift plus cute teddy bears with spears? They got you. Star Wars is one of those pieces of entertainment that gives you what you bring to it. Likewise the Marvel movies. Likewise Star Trek. All of it. And Pixar. All of that. And every Disney movie. And about 15 to 25 acknowledged literary classics.

And countless thousands of comics. And video games. For starters.

Then there’s the fact that when you criticize family entertainment what you actually sound like is this:

‘This was built for kids?! WHY?!’

Well they’ll outlive you for a start. Eventually they’ll grow up and have money and free time. They’ll want to use both to do things they love. And if the things they love are being a fan of a TV show? Or an author? Or a comic? Then that lives on. And with it, a small part of everyone who’s ever felt joy at it.

This is why I always like the Morningstar shortlist at the Gemmell Awards, because it gives you a snapshot of where the genre is heading. It’s why I always despair at the Legend shortlists because, with some exceptions it goes to the exact sort of book that scares away newcomers.

Stories are myths. Books are myths we buy and argue endlessly in subreddits about but they’re myths nonetheless. Myths want to survive. We want them to survive. And much like the frankly concussed belief accidentally expressed by Marvel last year that ‘diversity wasn’t working’, the same authors and same book types winning the same award over and again proves one thing. A small, closed ecology. One that won’t survive without the very new blood it seems completely uninterested in welcoming.

The exact same mindset that, turned a little to the left, looks at a new TV show and goes ‘Yeah this is all ages suitable therefore it’s dull and rubbish.’

Don’t be that guy. (Because nine times out of ten? It’s a guy). Please. You deserve better and so do the rest of us and you know how we get that?

By coming in open minded. By trying new things safe in the knowledge that they won’t invalidate the old. By getting just a little lost, in the best way and trusting that we’ll find our way out to somewhere new, and better, and BIGGER. Somewhere All Ages can feel at home.

Play us out, Joey.

(Special thanks to the lovely Eamonn Griffin who directed me to these BBFC notes regarding Star Wars.)