jmfrey (jmfrey) wrote in swirlygate,


The Aim of the Swirlygate Project
by J.M.
Science fiction exists to investigate, to flay open humanity, to explore our deepest hurts and most soaring elations, to celebrate and to condemn us, to be every bit as human as we; to discuss the now by putting it then.  Satire exists to knock all of that on its ass, and make us laugh as we do it.
SciFi, much as we love it, is just as prone to genre clichés and overused plots as any other literary or filmic tradition. It's in exploring these clichés – in plucking them out of their cozy homes and vivisecting them tenderly – that we can see why they exist, and what they say about us. 

Everything is a cliché for a reason. 

Satire, the same way SciFi does, pokes at the insecurities of our culture by laying them out having our fun with them. Laugh with us, they invite, and laugh at yourself; recognize what is laughable in what we all do, learn from it and enjoy it. The dearly beloved tropes of the SciFi genre tell us as much about being human as SciFi itself.
"Swirlygate" exists to do d) all of the above.
While initially we chose to satirize Stargate specifically due to the opportunities presented by the McKay Contest, a lot of what we poke fun of in Swirlygate occurs in any SciFi program anyone could name: the major action is given to men, heroes have a girl-of-the-week, no one stays injured or scarred, and everything is filmed in Vancouver (even when it's supposed to be set in Toronto). The inanity of the idea of quantum space travel is even playfully mocked by our choice of title – the Swirlygate is just like a Stargate only... swirlier. In pointing out these reoccurring flaws, and in poking fun of them, we are able to open a dialogue with our audience about what they are, and why they exist. "See?" we ask, "see that? How does that make you react? What do you think about it? Why does it happen like that all the time?"
In satirizing, we therefore hope to bring into the spotlight questions about the clichés inherent in SciFi and foster discussion among Swirlygate's viewers. Those discussions, and the investigations we undergo in the writing and creating of the webisodes, will later be distilled into a journal article about gender performance and fannish activity in SciFi. So please, we encourage your comments, your questions, your observations, and your anecdotes.
We also embarked on this project with the intent of playing homage to the genre that has consumed both of our childhoods. Girls aren't supposed to be geeks, but we are. The first episode of "Swirlygate" deliberately challenges this stereotype, because it's a challenge that we face each time we own up to our respective life-long obsessions. The first book I ever purchased was a Piers Anthony Mode novel; Karen's shelves have always been lined with 1940s and 50s space adventure pulps. Karen already mentioned the frustration of never having a strong female lead to emulate as a child; it's a worse frustration to see the world doesn't believe that strong, intelligent female geeks exist, either.
You can't satirize something if you don't already love it desperately, and boy, are we unashamed fangirls of StargateStargate pushes all of our buttons: I consume ancient tales veraciously and minored in mythology; Karen is head over heels for Ancient Rome and did a double major in Classics and Film; we both took Latin * in undergrad and critical theory in our upper years; we both watched Star Trek faithfully. No other show has fulfilled our yearning for History and Future, Fact and Fantasy, Stars and Temples, and meta-filmic witty one-liners quite like Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis (okay, sure, all the pretty actors and brilliant writers don't hurt either). I remember sitting beside Karen in the movie theatre in 1993 and hissing into her ear that they'd gotten some of the Egyptian Mythology wrong. And her telling me to shut up. And me shutting up because really... the movie was too good to allow something as banal as facts to get in the way of such a fantastic story.
But we also embarked on this project to make fun of the genre, too. Where else can you get psychic whales, false gods, narcissistic jellyfish, and serious mentions of Merlin, Time Travel, and the Lost City of Atlantis with perfectly straight faces? Where else can you get characters making fun of themselves for being absurd television fictions, real-life scripted fanboys, and writers who poke fun of their own jobs, their home towns, or the inanity of the situations the players find themselves in weekly. "Look, look!" Stargate says, "We're a SciFi TV show and we know it!"  When you sit back and really think about what the show is about, it's really rather ridiculous, isn't it? But in all the best ways! How can you not want to play in such a well stocked sandbox?
But then, of course, five seconds later in a manoeuvre of spectacular writing, acting, and cinematography, they proceed to rip out your heart, proving that though may be a genre'd show, they were still populated with actors, composers, producers and writers of the highest calibre.
Lastly, we embarked on this project to have fun with – and make fun of – ourselves, as fans. Again, where else can you find such warm and involved actors, such avid fan bases, such interesting and talented participatory readers? Nicholas Briggs and Russell T. Davies, David Hewlett and Martin Gero, Neil Gaiman, and pretty much everybody who works on Star Trek now were fans of what they make before they were professionals. Science Fiction beckons to the creative, the open-minded and the open-hearted, the imaginers and the wishful thinkers and the honest critics. Artists who grow up on SciFi can't help but work on SciFi, and in doing so think the best of humanity. That hope can't help but shine through in everything they do.
We love our genre, we love our clichés, we love discussion, and we love our own unashamed fangirliness.
Love with us.
That's what SciFi is here for.
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