The featured story on the website of city planning magazine City Journal is "How Science Fiction Found Religion" by Benjamin A. Plotinsky. (I'm not sure how it fits into the journal's scope, but nevertheless, there it is.) Plotinsky's thesis is that SF movies and TV, which have historically focused on political allegory, are increasingly rooting themselves in Christian symbolism. The article features a quote from yours truly (a bit from The Gospel According to Science Fiction on the inherent messianism of superheroes), which is flattering, but I can't help but take issue with some of Plotinsky's points.
I think his division of SF's thematic elements into "political" and "religious" is a bit sloppy, particularly since the article ends by saying that Battlestar Galactica, one of the most religious SF shows pretty much ever, represents the genre moving back into "politics" and away from "religion." If BSG shows us anything, it's that a show can combine complex politics with mythic depth. (Then again, we already knew that from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a show that Plotinsky quite unfairly dismisses. Indeed, that's where BSG re-imaginer Ronald D. Moore cut his religious-and-political teeth.) Not only that, he undermines his own argument that Christian symbolism is a growing factor by citing examples of SF Christ-figures as far back as The Day the Earth Stood Still. And though I agree about the de-mythologizing of the Force in the Star Wars prequels, I don't see much connection between that retconning and the waning popularity of New Age spirituality (at which Plotinsky takes a couple out-of-place stabs). Nevertheless, it's an interesting read.
What bothered me more is the simple fact that Plotinsky's taste is just... well, idiosyncratic. In his estimation Enterprise was the best Star Trek series since the original; he describes The Next Generation as "phenomenally boring," which I take as an almost-personal insult. Meanwhile Terminator 3 is a "fine film." At times this results in overly simplified or just-plain-wrong readings of important works: the aforementioned Deep Space Nine is dismissed out-of-hand; the epic good-and-evil struggle of The Lord of the Rings is "political, not religious;" The Empire Strikes Back is written off as merely "entertaining" but lacking any religious themes worthy of discussion. (Han Solo frozen in carbonite doesn't at least rate a death-and-resurrection mention?) It's nice to see someone championing Superman Returns, but if that attitude has to come at the expense of The Next Generation, it begins to look like the point has been missed.
Read Benjamin A. Plotinksy's "How Science Fiction Found Religion" here.