Results 1 to 4 of 4
  1. #1
    Probie
    Member Since
    Nov 2014
    Posts
    10

    Default Why were the sci fi and fantasy genres heavily stigmatized in the 90s and 2000s?

    Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5 were some of the most intelligent shows I have ever watched on television. Why were shows like that heavily stigmatized at the time periods they were on television? The mainstream thought they were only shows that morbidly obese men who spent most of the time in a basement. Vast numbers of this mainstream are now gushing over Game of Thrones. I did know several military officers who were fans of B5 and BSG but it still seems like most people look at TV sci fi as a joke.

  2. #2
    Chief Master Sergeant
    Member Since
    Dec 2018
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    167

    Default Re: Why were the sci fi and fantasy genres heavily stigmatized in the 90s and 2000s?

    Quote Originally Posted by N7OperativeAlpha View Post
    Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5 were some of the most intelligent shows I have ever watched on television. Why were shows like that heavily stigmatized at the time periods they were on television? The mainstream thought they were only shows that morbidly obese men who spent most of the time in a basement. Vast numbers of this mainstream are now gushing over Game of Thrones. I did know several military officers who were fans of B5 and BSG but it still seems like most people look at TV sci fi as a joke.
    i dont consider GOT or any other fantasy in the LORD OF RINGS theme to be sci fi, it just isn't
    yet, media and places like book stores continue to lump them together!

    i think some of the stigma you refer to was that in 'broadcast tv' days, sci fi just didn't sit well with a lot of netwrok execs, so the shows tha twere own all got shoe horned in to early prime time.. like how for a long while, the big 3 netwroks extended prime time to start at 7pm on sundays- remember that? so, these started to be seen as the "geek hour"

    where other shows- cop shows, dramas, etc. all were more accepted by far more ppl and therefore could be scheduled at almost an time

    then B5 came along and it was basically THE SHOW for a brand new "geek network" - the PTEN network. it had 2 or 3 original shows and 2 of them were sci fi-- B5 and TIME TRAXX

    As a retired soldier, I to have found that many soldiers of all ranks tend to prefer (or did when was in) stuff like sci fi and fantasy shows. but then, in america at least, those of us in the military are a rather small section of the US population over all (no draft ,etc) so is it that there is overlap with those who choose to serve with those who like sci fi and fantasy shows? maybe

    in the 2000's before i retired- soldiers loved stuff like B5 and DS9 and VOYAGER and the nu BSG mini series premiered right before i retired,, that was loved as well

    now b5 and nuBSG and shows like SG1 and SGA all had a strong military setting, that only made soldiers like it more.. especially when you get to 'sharpshoot' all the inaccuracies with the SG military mistakes

    so, yeah, in short i think sci fi and fantasy is in the minority as far as entertainment choices and those ppl who make up its core audience tend to be in the minority slices of society-- military, gamers, computer techs,etc--the mainstream sees us as outliers and so too the shows we like

    of course this isn't encompassing, just a generality

    i think you may find that quite a few sci fi fans are also passionate about history-from the trivia level on up

  3. #3
    Captain Xaeden's Avatar
    Member Since
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    1,280

    Default Re: Why were the sci fi and fantasy genres heavily stigmatized in the 90s and 2000s?

    The answer to your question is the same for why it took until the 2000s for superhero fare to gang widespread acceptance: technology and money. Before "X-men" and "Spider-man," the superhero genre was derided during much of its limited forays into live action because it was difficult to portray many of its most popular comic book characters realistically.

    Before that time, the most adapted superhero was Superman because the technology existed to depict a watered down version of him. They could "show" bullets bouncing off his body, have him bend or break often unrealistic looking props, and he could fly in front of a green screen. The latter helped make the first 1978 Christopher Reeve movie widely successful. Filmmakers promoted it by saying it'll make you believe a man can fly and indeed the special effects were so good for the time that many people were blown away with what they were seeing, enabling the movie to be massively successful at the box office.

    The production additionally went out of their way to hire quality actors. Marlon Brando was a widely respected, high caliber actor who was paid a boatload of money and given top-billing over Christopher Reeve for his limited screen time. He brought a gravitas to the film that other superhero fare couldn't hope to match with their D-list casts. It also helped to have actors like Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, and Christopher Reeve. Reeve often portrayed Clark Kent/Superman as a cheesy sort of fellow, but the acting itself was anything but. The way he shifted between the two personas is often considered the gold standard by which all other Superman actors are compared to this day.

    Later, the franchise devolved into hackney, light budget fare and lost the mainstream acceptance it originally enjoyed. Same with the Batman franchise. Superman didn't do much better on TV, which saw a very forgettable 4 season Superboy show premiere in 1988 and gave audiences "The New Adventures of Superman" with Dean Cain and Terry Hatcher in the 90s. Both had bad acting (for the most part: Hatcher was good in the role), with absurd premises, and contained lots of low budget stunts.

    In the late 90s/early 2000s, this started to change as CGI technology advanced to the point where an increasing range of superheros were suddenly believable based on the amount of money a studio was willing to spend. For the first time, people could see Spider-man swing through the city on webs and buy into the premise (watch clips of the 1970s TV version on YouTube for comparison if you haven't already; it should be easy to see why it didn't connect with the larger viewing audience). Also, for the first time, they saw a classic superhero costume that looked "cool" when made in real life. Future superhero films built on that and although there were plenty of stumbles and characters that weren't yet ready for the big screen, CGI, makeup, and other technologies developed so quickly that audiences were coming around, giving studios more and more reason to spend big on these types of films.

    Science fiction and fantasy had the same problem. Star Wars, like Superman, showed audiences something unlike anything they had ever seen before thanks to its special effects. This catapulted the films into mainstream popularity. Many studios tried to capitalize off its popularity with varying degrees of success depending on how much they were willing to spend (Superman is an example of this), but on TV the genres continued to be relegated to niche audiences because their low budgets meant they often suffered from endless technobabble, poor acting, ridiculous scenarios, and underwhelming action. (Something as seemingly simple as wire work was outside of the budgets of many TV productions. Doing it properly and consistently means longer production times, which means spending more money.)

    "Babylon 5," for example, has a well-written overall story that, in my opinion, makes it an excellent show, but it is very difficult to get into. The early computer imagery can be painful to watch, some of the aliens look particularly silly in their makeup, and the acting is a mixed bag. As a general rule of thumb, the actors playing humans were simply awful, while those portraying aliens were solid to quite good. It was an absolute joy to watch Londo and G’Kar play off each other. On the other hand, listening to people like Sheridan, Garibaldi, and Ivanova speak in any scenario was an extremely grating experience that had to endured for the sake of the story. People can watch soap operas and not be turned off by bad acting, so I'm sure there are B5 fans who were perfectly fine with their deliveries, but it's a problem for many. I had to force myself to sit through that first season, and I like science fiction/grew up on syndicated action adventure shows populated by bad actors.

    The Battlestar Galactica revival was a turning point. That you think it was heavily stigmatized is strange to me as the show very much gained widespread acceptance thanks to it having quality effects, great acting, and an under reliance on existing Sci Fi tropes. When creating the show, Ronald D. Moore looked at things Star Trek did and went in the opposite direction in many instances. He has said this directly in interviews and used as examples the ship design with its interior command center, no captain's chair, etc. Also the limited technobabble, the complete lack of bumpy headed aliens or any aliens for that matter, no time travel, no twin stories, etc.

    His version of Battlestar put people in a universe that they could believe was real. He did this in how he presented technology to the viewer and by focusing on real human drama. The show basically explores how humans survive in an inhospitable and war-like environment. All of that is grounded and real and the science fiction elements are largely ones that audiences can believe are plausible if not right now then in the not too distant future. The show won mainstream awards, was highly praised by the mainstream press, and brought a mainstream audience to the table. To this day, the show is one that people who traditionally steer away from science fiction talk about.

    The "problem" with a lot of earlier Sci Fi TV shows is that they relied on the audience's own imagination. The aliens in Star Trek may look silly, but they're meant as stand-ins for real aliens. At least originally. They have now become iconized, so some fans will scream and cry if you try to update them and need some sort of explanation, no matter how flimsy, for past updates. But the original idea was that you put a human in a costume and just say they're an alien. If possible, some additional visual cues can be offered like different skin color or a splotch of makeup, but of course that's not what an alien would look like, so you have to use your imagination to pretend that you're seeing a non-human character. It's like being a filmmaker and having to imagine the final CGI result when working with a guy in motion capture or watching a rehearsal/low budget stage play.

    Same with technology we're shown on screen and even some of the plots. One of Moore's issues with technobabble is that it was being used as a substitute for drama: "The audience doesn't know what the hell you're talking about, and you're making it up anyway. You make up a problem with the Enterprise warp drive, and then you solve it with a made-up problem, too." He said it had gotten so bad that writers were just filling scripts with the word, tech:

    Picard: "Mr. La Forge, I need you to tech the tech."

    La Forge: "But Captain, if we tech the tech then the tech will override! The tech main engines might tech too much!"

    "It was maddening," Moore said. "The actors hated it. I really tried to sit on the technobabble in Galactica."
    Networks were demanding 24, 26, 28, and in some cases even more episodes a season, but they weren't giving productions the budgets they needed for all episodes to be of comparable quality, nor were they paying writers properly for all this work. The end result was a lot of filler episodes with convoluted ideas that worked within the limited budget allotted, and shows that either relied exclusively on bad writers or contracted out episodes to guest/wannabe writers who may or may not have known the show that well. Now you have TV programs that are often limited to 13 or less episodes per season, have a tight, high caliber writing team, and those writers can see many of their best ideas realized on screen because the budgets and technology support what they want to do. What's more is that all of that (the writing, the technology, the money), attract good actors who can make audiences believe what they're saying when they deliver their lines.


    Science fiction and fantasy have experienced a revival on TV in recent years because the money and technology are finally there to present audiences with visuals/stories/acting that wow them and that they can easily buy into. This often presents itself through a gap in acceptance for ideas shown on the big vs small screen. I used Star Wars and Superman as examples and while those were followed up with a lot of lower budget, subpar films that were meant as quick cash grabs, audiences showed up for things like E.T., Back to the Future, and Batman in numbers that no genre TV show was getting at the time. For fantasy, we now have Game of Thrones and a forthcoming Middle Earth TV show coming up, but general audiences wouldn't have taken either project seriously if they debuted TV at the same time that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was connecting with people at the box office.
    Last edited by Xaeden; May 13th, 2020 at 01:52 AM.

  4. #4
    Major Annoyed's Avatar
    Member Since
    Dec 2014
    Location
    The People's Republic of New York
    Posts
    2,860

    Default Re: Why were the sci fi and fantasy genres heavily stigmatized in the 90s and 2000s?

    Quote Originally Posted by N7OperativeAlpha View Post
    Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5 were some of the most intelligent shows I have ever watched on television. Why were shows like that heavily stigmatized at the time periods they were on television? The mainstream thought they were only shows that morbidly obese men who spent most of the time in a basement. Vast numbers of this mainstream are now gushing over Game of Thrones. I did know several military officers who were fans of B5 and BSG but it still seems like most people look at TV sci fi as a joke.
    Sci Fi fans have always been looked down upon by the general population. This goes back to the early serials and the paperback novels and comics before the advent of television. Sure, you have the occasional breakout hits, such as the Superman comics, Forbidden Planet, Star Wars and such, but even fans of Star Trek were tagged as developmentally stifled hermits living in their parent's basements.

    I've always just figured that the mass audience just doesn't understand it, and as a result, feared it. Which led to the derisive attitudes.
    "It may seem pointless but small talk is a vital dating skill. It helps to establish a rapport with your companion."
    - Starship Voyager's Holographic Doctor
    "Perhaps there's something to be said for assimilation after all."
    - Former Borg Seven of Nine

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 3634
    Last Post: September 24th, 2018, 10:30 PM
  2. Overplayed heavily?
    By Captain Obvious in forum Warehouse 13
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: September 28th, 2009, 07:43 PM
  3. Replies: 4
    Last Post: September 16th, 2008, 05:44 AM
  4. sci-fi sub genres
    By Rail'k in forum Sci-Fi & Fantasy Television
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: January 9th, 2007, 09:15 AM
  5. Fantasy VII Due On U.S. DVD?
    By NowIWillDestroyAbydos in forum Sci-Fi & Fantasy Television
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: May 5th, 2006, 02:11 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •