On Sunday, Oct. 6, Neil Degrasse Tyson was fresh off of seeing Gravity and, bent on fulfilling his role as Premiere Pop Scientist, he slathered Twitter with scientific correctives. He later clarified that he viewed the right to scientific criticism as a big compliment to any science-fiction movie, but the damage had been done, and criticisms of scientific accuracy now plague discourse surrounding a humanist sci-fi spectacle movie.
One can only endure the needling of philistines so long and, as a lover of Gravity, I’m not ashamed to admit that tears of outrage filled my eyes. I blinked them dry and focused on the troglodytes’ misinterpretations of the factual duties of “hard” sci-fi. “Do you enjoy poetry?” someone said, and when I looked up I saw a stranger speaking to me. “Yes,” I lied, though I had never enjoyed it; it seems to me that without the law of grammar there’s no real point to language.
She kept on, asking, “Do you speak French?” “No,” I said. Then, with ill-informed politesse, “But please go ahead anyway.” She started reading, and her pronunciations drifted over me without meaning. I was halfway through having her translate and explain each line when the bus stopped. As I got off, I weighed the experience’s value, and concluded that it was a wash. Then I remembered that time is fleeting and realized that the whole affair was probably a net loss.
Soon, I was in the office and online again, scouring comments on Gravity and its orbital inconsistencies. Where they seemed especially misguided, I posted replies that concisely detailed my view on the limits of suspension of disbelief. This got tedious, and I was relieved when my pocket buzzed with a message asking when I was free. It’s hard to know how to turn down someone you have only dated once (sort-of-twice), but I decided that a text was too impersonal and meeting in person too grandiose. I opted to do nothing; anyway, gradually trimming off their expectations seemed better than sudden disappointment.
It was a good time-kill; in the meantime, someone had responded to one of my comments on Gravity. As the argument blossomed and branched, more and more inconsistencies in logic and tone went up for grabs. I dove into my role with pride: too many people lean on intellectually dishonest hairsplitting to fill their wasted lives. Someone has to show them the light, and if not me, who?