Geek Thought: Star Trek and Big Fan

Other people have probably beaten me to this observation, but I think there’s a connection to be made between Robert Siegel’s recent film Big Fan and the classic Star Trek episode “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.”

In Big Fan, Patton Oswalt plays Paul Aufiero, a rabid New York Giants fan who isn’t above painting his face blue on one side and red on the other to support the home team. Things get interesting later in the film when Aufiero, in an attempt to infiltrate a Philadelphia sports bar, paints his face in the colors of the Philadelphia Eagles–dark green on one side and white on the other. In the dim light of the bar, his face appears to be half black and half white–perhaps a nod to what big Star Trek fans might recognize as the senseless tension that divides the people of planet Cheron in “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.”

Everyone on Cheron is black on one side and white on the other. The only problem is that some of them are black on the left and white on the right, while others are black on the right and white on the left. And each group hates the other because of it. The point of the episode, of course, is that it’s ridiculous for people to hate each other based on race–or on any superficial differences, for that matter. As it turns out, this is also the point of the scene from Big Fan where Aufiero passes through the Philadelphia sports bar; everyone in the bar is spouting the same brand of violent rhetoric against the Giants that he and his buddies back home would be spouting against the Eagles.

What makes the scene so powerful yet also disturbing is that the vitriol of the sports fans isn’t necessarily all in fun, as events in the movie later make clear. There’s real hatred between fans of the different teams (at least as far as the movie is concerned). And the fact that Aufiero doesn’t realize that he and his “enemies” are exactly the same only underscores how ridiculous people can be when we allow superficial differences to stand between us.