Taking the meaning

by Richard on August 16, 2005

Lee wonders at the meaning of this episode of Star Trek: Enterprise.

It’s clear to me that the story arc is supposed to be symbolic of the United States’ so called pre-emptive war on Iraq and Saddam Hussein. No doubt the writers are trying to show the supposed fallacy of such a war from their liberal worldview. But I interpret the allegory from another point of view, of course. In my view, the story arc is indicative of how the radical Islamic imams, clerics and Islamofascists have lied to and manipulated their Muslim followers into a jihad to turn their own blood lust into conquest and power.

Call me a Trekkie (“You’re a Trekkie!”), but I think this raises a really interesting question about the meaning of a text. If, as Lee implies, the scriptwriters intend to convey what he describes as a liberal message, is his “alternative reading” equally valid? In other words, does the meaning of a text reside in the author’s intention, or in the reader’s response. And is the answer to this question different if the text is a Star Trek script or a Biblical passage? What do you think?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1

howard 08.16.05 at 10:18 pm

It depends, right?

I mean, if you’re speaking the truth (just because it’s true) and the inference that’s naturally drawn from it relates to current events, well that doesn’t have to be in the author’s head when he writes it. But if it was, the only real question (still) is whether or not the principal or truth of the statement is, well, true.

In comparing Star Trek to the Bible, one could argue that even those things that God inserted into the Word thousands of years ago may well have had intentional relevance, therefore being intended implications — and/or inferences to be drawn by discerning minds.

Other than that, I was thinking as I read this entry that the source is not as important as we sometimes make it out to be, as in the tale (not “tail”) of Balaam’s ass. Of course that only seems to relate in instances where there’s a disagreement of a political or otherwise partisan nature, where wisdom or truth often gets discounted simply because of its source.

Okay, I rambled, and not entirely on point either, but the premise you bring is interesting…

2

Rob 08.17.05 at 4:09 am

Human beings are really good at pattern recognition. We see images in clouds, yet no one put those images there.

The authors attempted to create one pattern. How valid it is can be evaluated on two levels. One, how well does the pattern of the Star Trek episode match our own experiences? I might say “Lieutenant Uhura is female and on the bridge of a military Star Ship. That’s not very realistic in my 1967 world. But it is a pattern that could be viable in the future. Perhaps I will work toward it.”

On the other hand, I could look at Spock’s Brain and go “Uh huh.”

If someone looks at Star Trek and discerns a different pattern, then that is the pattern they see, much like an inkblot test (I am not going to try to spell Rorschach this late at night!). Is the pattern logical? Does it result in real-world applications? Can it predict anything?

Original intent is over-rated.

3

John 08.17.05 at 7:22 pm

If, as Lee implies, the scriptwriters intend to convey what he describes as a liberal message, is his “alternative reading” equally valid? In other words, does the meaning of a text reside in the author’s intention, or in the reader’s response.

Logically, the answer would be no.

4

Wood 08.17.05 at 7:50 pm

This would of course presuppose that an episode of any flavour of Star Trek is actually worth applying any meaning to.

Now Doctor Who, on the other hand…

5

John 08.18.05 at 2:41 pm

Are you trying to start a fist fight, Wood? That’s Trek you’re dissing ;)

6

Wood 08.19.05 at 3:20 pm

Yeah. It’s not like it’s anything good I’m attacking. :p

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