I’d been wanting to watch “GalaxyQuest” again after quite a long time, and finally made the chance last night. Yes, it’s just as much campy Trekkie fun as it was before, but this time, I was paying attention in a different way, because the film not only pokes some fun at fandom, it also speaks to some very real truths about being an entertainer, whether you are an actor (as they are in the film) or a novelist.
Actually, the first point applies whether you are an entertainer or just about any kind of professional grown-up, and that’s Imposter Syndrome. This is when you find yourself in your public role, say signing autographs at a convention, and keep thinking that someday, someone will find out your secret: you’re really just an ordinary guy, not special at all. Not worthy of all this attention, not worthy of that promotion.
It’s easy to see how this feeling of being an imposter could come about in an area like writing, where most of us are having a great time as authors, and still suffering from the secret guilt of being paid to do what we love and share it with others. However, the more people I talk to in various walks of life, the more I think almost everyone suffers from this kind of anxiety, from teachers who feel inadequate to the task of leading a high school class, to software developers who are keeping just one manual ahead of their job’s technical requirements. And most of these professionals are not called on, as the actor-heroes of “GalaxyQuest” are to save an entire race of aliens who believe they are heroes.
And this leads me to point two, that of the everyday hero. At the start of the film, Tim Allen’s character is treated like a hero, in spite of just being an actor, and at the end, he has become heroic through his actions. He has become worthy and overcome his imposter syndrome. Cool. But what about those crazy aliens who believed in him?
They stand in for the hope of every entertainer, every author who crafts a work of heroic fiction, and that is to inspire others to greatness. Entertainment is fun, sure, just as the humorous aspects of the film are laugh-out-loud funny, but the greatest entertainment holds higher ambitions. While there are many authors who read someone else’s disappointing book and thought “I could do that,” I think the real source of the drive to create is in reading the kind of work that gives you something to aspire to–“I *could* write a better book than the crummy one, but what I want is to write a book as excellent as the best.”
And these great works have the potential to inspire the greatness of their readers. The movie aliens had lost their way, until they found their inspiration, a model for a new approach to life, in the television series Tim Allen starred in. In the same way, when someone reads a great book, he or she invests in the characters, and wants to be like them. When they close the cover, some of that aspiration lingers, encouraging the reader to a new level of strength and courage, offering models of heroic behavior that may lead that reader to strive for things they didn’t know were possible, just as Tim Allen begins the film as an imposter, and becomes a hero, when he sees the potential for heroism reflected in the brave aliens he once inspired.