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Social media is forcibly giving celebrities a lesson in manners—a lesson they probably would rather not be learning. For some—like Megan Fox, Christopher Nolan, or Simon Pegg—it’s a harsh lesson full of undesirable consequences as celebrities are finally learning that fans can, and do, talk back. Trash-talk a beloved franchise, and you’ll hear about it—sometimes in the worst possible way, like via your box office numbers.
What’s surprising is that Simon Pegg didn’t think about this before he spoke. Pegg is actually a geek at heart—after all, he co-wrote and co-starred in the popular British TV program Spaced, a show full of nerdy references and moments. He’s also a talented writer—his writing credits include the Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End), the alien road trip comedy Paul, and Run, Fatboy, Run. When he speaks in interviews, he normally comes off as genuine and sincere. You would think he’d have better sense than to tell fans everywhere to “f**k off,” and he’s going to be eating his words now that he’s at the mercy of those fans as someone who’s responsible for shaping the next big-screen Star Trek adventure, because fans have very long memories.
It’s very likely Simon Pegg had no idea he was going to be juggling writing duties on the next Trek film when he made those comments. After all, J.J. Abrams had just left the franchise to direct the next Star Wars film and Roberto Orci had been discussed as a replacement. At the time he made those comments, he was just an actor playing a beloved character. It’s possible that if Pegg was in the shoes of Abrams or Orci he maybe would have thought twice about dissing an entire fanbase. While most fans have responded positively to Pegg co-writing the film, he has a lot to live up to now.
By the time Simon Pegg had made his comment, fans were already dubious of Abrams and the leaders currently shepherding their beloved sci-fi series, disappointed with what they perceived as a lack of respect for the franchise. His dismissal of their anger didn’t play well. In Pegg’s defense, he would later expound on his comments, saying he wasn’t telling the fans to “f**k off”—just the people that had voted it the worst Star Trek movie ever (even worse than Galaxy Quest, which isn’t even a Star Trek film to begin with).
In a way, Pegg’s comments were understandable. He was defending the work of countless thousands who labored tirelessly over the film—including Abrams—who all spent an invaluable amount of time bringing it to fruition. However, they were difficult to justify, at least in the eyes of the fans. They also came too late. By the time Pegg tried to calm the treacherous waters, the damage had already been done. When a film you worked on is called the worst in a series—spanning 11 additional feature-length installments—the writing is already on the wall.
Pegg has a chance to make things right, if he plays his hand well. He’s in the navigator’s seat now, and responsible for dictating where the crew of the Enterprise goes next. Star Trek Into Darkness might have been voted the worst Trek movie by fans, but now he can change that with the next one, helping ensure Star Trek 3 is voted one of the best. A part of that also means not insulting the core fan base—a group of people that want nothing more than to love something they cherish deep in their hearts, but will tear that very something apart to shreds if they feel the masters have turned against them.
When Pegg tried to explain his comments, he said he was trying to defend the hard work of those that put endless effort into the last Trek film. Now, he’s going to understand those comments all too well. When Star Trek 3 warps into theaters on July 8th, 2016—on the eve of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary—he will have to contend with the expectations of the entire fanbase like never before. With Into Darkness, he was just part of the cast. Now, he and several others will be speaking dialogue he helped write. When he reads comments online about fans talking about plot points of the film, it’ll be plot points he helped create. Perchance, if he stumbles upon fans dissing his work if it’s not well-received, it might sting a little more than it ever did before—kinda like getting stung by a phaser.
Dan Marcus is a geek culture reporter based in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in First Showing and Trek Movie.