By Mike Medeiros
Welcome back to the Spirit of Trek, a column where I will identify and celebrate Gene Roddenberry’s vision for humanity by discovering how the spirit of Star Trek has started spreading throughout humanity’s collective consciousness by looking for it on the Internet and within popular culture. Over the past few weeks, we’ve learned about some of the ideals that embody the Roddenberry vision, including diversity and multiculturalism, collaboration and cooperation, compassion and mutual respect, and hope among others.
During my recent convention experience, I saw a lot of young fans who had discovered their appreciation for Star Trek through their parents. Last week I mentioned a friend of mine that had introduced me to his son. Recently, he had submitted a question to the G & T Show’s Ask Dayton segment asking what he could do to help expose his child to Star Trek. Star Trek author Dayton Ward offered a few great suggestions, involving toys, games, the animated series, books, and so much more. It made me wonder, if there were other ways that parents could use to instill the values and morals that were identified in Star Trek to the next generation. I got an answer when I got home from the convention while visiting my three year old niece.
While at the convention I had picked up a couple of tribbles from the Roddenberry booth for my niece and nephew. Since my niece lived closer, I went to see her first. At first, she was a little leery of the hot pink, cooing and vibrating hair ball, but soon warmed up to it. My nephew, on the other hand, loved his from the moment he first saw it.
During previous visits with them, I had shared my Star Trek: The Animated Series DVD set with them and we had watched More Tribbles, More Troubles together. We didn’t get through to the end of the episode, before they were off and running again, but that short exposure had opened them up to Star Trek, and most importantly introduced to them Tribbles. On a later visit, we watched the Trouble with Tribbles episode together. Surprisingly, my niece actually sat through the entire episode. Afterwards, she continued to surprise her parents and I, when she picked up my e-reader, took it to her father, and asked him to read her a Star Trek story. That was the moment I decided to pick up a tribble for her during my trip to Las Vegas.
When I came to see her, with tribble in hand, she was watching a show on Nick Jr. called Yo Gabba Gabba. I had never seen this show before, but she was enthralled. So, I began watching it with her. The show featured a human male character as the lead and narrator for the show, named DJ Lance Rock, played by Lance Robertson. He had several monster-like friends that he kept inside his boom box and magically joined them on adventures in their miniature world. Muno, voiced by Adam Delbert, was a clumsy red Cyclops wearing eyeglasses. Foofa was a pink and bubbly flower, voiced by Emma Jacobs. Amos Watene provided the voice of Brobee a green and yellow-stripped monster with long arms. Toodee is some kind of blue artic cat-dragon hybrid and is voiced by Erin Pearce. And, the final member of this interesting cast of characters is Plex, a magic yellow robot voiced by Christian Jacobs. Yo Gabba Gabba was created by Christian Jacobs, the lead singer of the Aquabats, and Scott Schultz. It was produced by The Magic Store Productions and Wildbrain and has been aired on Nickelodeon since August of 2007.
Yo Gabba Gabba is a fun and entertaining kid’s show that used a diverse cast of characters and guest artists and performers to help convey its lessons through music. The episode we watched featured special guest Leslie Hall. They sang a song that introduced many of the supporting costumed and animated characters and environments. When I heard it, I knew I had to discuss it in my column. Below, I’ve linked the song that they had sung during the episode I watched with my niece as an example of the show and how it is indirectly molding the hearts and minds of the next generation to the ideals of Gene Roddenberry and the spirit of trek.
Yo Gabba Gabba’s usage of music to bring the diverse cast of characters together fits into the spirit of trek. The characters on the show seem more like monsters under the bed than likely friends, but as the song linked above describes, “All my friends are different, but I love them all the same.” What is more trek than that? The characters are diverse and varied, and they have come together to help one another and make music.
I wondered if there was a direct link to Star Trek’s values within Yo Gabba Gabba or was it merely coincidence that the show shared many of the same ideals as Gene Roddenberry’s creation. With a little research into the creators of the show, I discovered that they had listed Star Trek as one of their notable influences for their other show Aquabats. Therefore, by extension, it was easy to assume that Yo Gabba Gabba’s lessons in diversity, tolerance, cooperation, collaboration, and mutual respect were inspired by the spirit of trek and its creators’ desire to pass those worthy values to all of our children.
There have been many kid’s shows over the years that attempted to teach similar values. However, what makes Yo Gabba Gabba different from other children’s shows such as Teletubbies or even Barney is how the diversity is handled. In Teletubbies, the characters were all the same despite differences in their skin color. It’s an important lesson, but it didn’t account for those that didn’t fit into their standard mold very well. What about children with deformities, or that been injured in some way? There was still the possibility for excluding others that were different. In Barney, we saw a diverse collection of human children with their purple dinosaur companion and his friends. Each week, they would take turns teaching each other valuable lessons. However, there was a clear division between them. They were friends but they were never seen as equals. All of these shows had similar themes of diversity, mutual respect, and cooperation, but Yo Gabba Gabba’s approach moved them forward and I believe brought them more in line with the spirit of trek by showing very different creatures working together as equals with varying capabilities and skills.
Take for example, DJ Lance’s role of protector of the group; he begins each episode by opening his magic boom box, revealing their world and his friends. He is bigger than life and is seem looming above all the others almost like a super being of some sort. However, it is through the character of Plex (the robot) that he is able to come down to their level and stand on equal footing with them. This relationship alone implies that people may have different roles, with different abilities and capabilities within the circle of friends, yet they can still find the common ground in which to interact. From all of the children’s shows that I have seen, this one is more inclusionary that any of the others that have come before it.
The way Yo Gabba Gabba handles diversity, equality, mutual respect, and cooperation makes this children’s show a prime example of the Roddenberry vision and how the spirit of trek is transforming our society for the better by passing these values onto future generations. I cannot sure say with 100% certainty that the show’s creators were influenced by Star Trek, but its thumbprint can certainly be found within it.
The time has come for me to wrap up another column. Thank you for joining me once again on my journey to discover how the spirit of trek has started to permeate throughout our culture with the hope that one day, Gene Roddenberry’s vision for humanity’s future will become a reality. If you come across something that you believe embodies the Spirit of Trek on the Internet or within popular culture, please don’t hesitate to share it with me. I may discuss it in a future article.
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