This week, an infographic was released that brought about the fervor for the Star Wars/Star Trek debate back with a vengeance. You can see it in its full glory here.
The winner that was proclaimed was Star Wars. This, does not surprise me because I’m a Star Wars fan. However, looking at the data, I realized that it wasn’t a very clear cut story, and was definitely not a way to decide a conclusive winner. And since I can’t let anything slide by, I’m going to look at each data point, one by one, and determine if any of these are actual measures that can decide definitively who wins in this very silly, but fun, argument.
The data may seem very clear, but data manipulation, purposeful or not, is an age old story, and it doesn’t stop even when it comes to this infographic. For example, did you know that towns with more churches have more bars? Why? Because obviously, religion drives people to drink.
Except, well… it doesn’t.
Correlation does not mean causation, and the reason there are more bars in towns with more churches is because the higher a population gets, the more of both there will be. Thus, when I look at this data, I can’t help but be skeptical of how telling any of this actually is.
So let’s take this infographic step by step and understand what this all actually means.
SW: 6 Movies | ST: 11 Movies
Star Trek wins. It does have more movies, but this data means nothing without quality being a key subject.
1 out of the 6 Star Wars movies were fantastic. 2 more were simply good. If you find this number to be inane, I can defend it by saying that this is a permutation I find to be rather static regardless of which movies are put in the top three slots. However, it is definitely debatable. But as I’m being conservative here, you’ll also note that I’ll be conservative when it comes to the quality of Star Trek movies in just a moment.
In any case, that means only half of the franchise is actually something all fans love.
For Star Trek, it’s a little more debatable. In my estimation, about 5 of the 11 movies were good, and 2 of those were out right fantastic. That’s about 45%, which compares unfavorably to Star Wars‘ even 50%. So, then, if I want these numbers to mean anything aside from quantity, Star Wars would win, though with a significant margin of error. Significant enough to make calling it a tie more appropriate.
If you really want to make this a bloody fight, though, I’d pit the cream of their respective crops Wrath of Khan against The Empire Strikes Back. Now that is a brawl ain’t nobody leaving alive.
My point in this is that it shouldn’t matter how many movies were made, but come down to a debate about quality, which… I think we all know is a debate that can’t be won.
SW: 2,225785,673 | ST: 1,014,325,878
This number is meaningless unless you take into inflation into account. If you do that, Star Trek grosses $1,913,350,200. Of course, with inflation, Star Wars reaches a significantly higher number as well, which is $4,611,041,200. However, this does change the statistical significance. It goes from about 2:1 ratio in Star Wars favor to a 2.5:1 ratio.
However, this number is not indicative of greatness as it seems. The domestic box office gross of Star Wars includes all the theatrical re-releases, which if put all together, make it so Star Wars has 14 releases in theaters. Average that out across movies, and the number changes dramatically. The ratio, when you divide 4.6 billion by 14 and 2 billion by 11, becomes even smaller, and less statistically significant with a ratio of less than 2:1.
Star Wars still wins. True. But, then again, if you average out the domestic box office gross of Twilight and pit against Star Trek, Twilight would win at about the same ratio as Star Wars. Some would argue that means Star Trek is really that awful, though I doubt many of our readers here would. To me, however, it suggests that maybe mass popularity doesn’t necessarily indicate quality.
SW: 4,417,329,762 | ST: 1,463,272
First of all, I really had no idea what this number was, so I didn’t think I could address it. Is it total box office sales worldwide? Does it include profits from advertisements in the show? The cost of syndication? DVD? Is it all the books and toys included?
That being said, after researching total franchise profits (Star Wars at 27 billion, and no one seems to know how much Star Trek makes), I’ve come to conclusion that this refers to movie profits worldwide. Unfortunately, that’s not a very fair standard of comparison, and therefore probably doesn’t belong in this debate at all as a cold hard number.
Star Trek is largely an American phenomenon and was never really marketed internationally. Only six Star Trek movies were ever released worldwide. So, seeing as half of the film franchise wasn’t even released to most of the world, and certainly most of the shows weren’t, it significantly undercuts the importance of this number. Add into that, Star Trek wasn’t intended to be a movie franchise (though that may be changing) and number becomes even less substantial.
The only way this number means anything is if one states that Star Wars was deemed to have international appeal, and was marketed internationally successfully. Though, that can be argued against as well.
SW: 0 | ST: 5
This seems like a very silly thing to compare the two, seeing as one wasn’t meant to be a television franchise at all. Star Trek may win, but it’s unfairly done.
SW: 3 | ST: 1
Being animated doesn’t mean a show is successful, or unsuccessful. Also, why separate the category from television at all? Are animated series suddenly not television? The cynic in me thinks it’s to negate the Star Trek win in the last category of live-action series. If that were the case, it would still be 3 against 6 television series and Star Trek would still win. However, since the numbers have isolated from one another on the basis of cartoon, I will address it as such.
Really, though , are you going to count Ewoks and Droids as winning in this? I wonder if this why a category “Christmas Specials” wasn’t included, because no one wins in that even if you are the one with the Christmas Special.
Quality-wise, The Clones Wars would win against Star Trek‘s animated series, admittedly, but the time periods are vastly different and it does seem a bit unfair to use the same measuring stick for Star Trek: The Animated Series and The Clone Wars when technology has changed, and attitudes towards animation has changed as well.
In short, I find this category completely asinine, and unimportant to the debate.
SW: 10 Awards, 25 Nominations | ST: 1 Award, 10 Nominations
I’ve always felt that the Academy Awards aren’t really a fair way to assess anything in terms of movies. If the year after year out cry of Best Film is anything to judge by, you consider at least 75% of people are crazy regardless of which movie you back.
But let’s talk about how inane the Academy Awards can be. The best Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan, was never nominated for anything. Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a huge flop, was nominated for three awards… against Alien and Apocalypse Now. It should be immediately obvious why Star Trek didn’t win, seeing as those movies were simply groundbreaking. But come on. What the hell?
Though, I will admit that the awards aren’t as fatuous as I just written them off as. It is telling that Star Wars: A New Hope won against Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind for best art direction.
That being said, I don’t think the data of nominations and awards is telling without consistently going in and seeing what awards were nominated for, and who they were up against. But even then, it wouldn’t be that telling due to the fact that sci-fi is consistently snubbed in the Academy Awards.
Still Star Wars is the clear winner in this case, though it should be noted how rare it is for any movie based on a television show to win an academy award… unless it’s Transformers, apparently, and that’s just sickening to me. Even Serenity (the movie sequel to the ill-fated Firefly), which is better than most Star Trek movies, didn’t get an academy nomination.
My point? Academy Awards are not the best representation for this part of the debate, especially when they are known to be consistently dismissive of science fiction.
SW: 0 Awards 1 Nomination | ST: 33 Awards, 155 Nominations
This doesn’t mean anything at all, seeing as the main medium of Star Wars isn’t television. It’s not something fair to compare the two franchises on whatsoever.
That however, doesn’t mean I can’t make some sense of this. Let’s just take nominations. Star Trek has 155 nominations. 155 divided by five series makes a total of 31 nominations per series. Divide that by seasons, and you get an average of 7 nominations per season of each series.
Star Wars had 25 nominations in the Academy Awards, which is a field, I feel it necessary to note, that is a lot less saturated. Divide by number of movies, six, it makes an average of less than 5 nominations per movie.
If I wanted to, I could then take this data and say that Star Trek wins the awards categories altogether. Though, not entirely convincingly. Though, maybe, if I shout loud enough.
SW: 3 Awards | ST: 0 Awards
Also, a little unfair. When your music is written by John Williams, of course you’re going to get a Grammy, or be nominated. It’s like the law of the land. Also, no one ever says “I wanted to like Star Trek, but that soundtrack was awful.” Though, with Michael Giacchino writing the music for the next Star Trek movie, we may see a win for the franchise.
The exception I really take to this data point is that it is misleading. Note how the other award categories included nominations, but this one did not. The Star Trek reboot was in fact nominated for a Grammy. It is very curious to me why this fact was glossed over in this part of the infographic. Suspiciously curious, actually.
But yes, if you want to argue that Star Wars is better on the grounds of soundtracks, one could very easily make this case, though I think this could be done without actually listing Grammy awards. But to argue a movie is better on the grounds of soundtrack alone, that’s much harder case to proove.
SW: ~60 | ST ~40
I cannot figure out where these numbers are from. When I count, there are a little over 80 Star Wars games, and 57 Star Trek games, not including expansions for either. The ratio is then 4:3 and instead of 3:2, making it less statistically significant.
So, Star Wars still wins, but I couldn’t help but notice that other types of games are missing from the infographic completely. It turns out that Star Trek has 10 more board games than Star Wars, 1 more card game, 6 more tabletop wargames, and 3 more tabletop roleplaying games.
This contest of quantity, then would be a much closer call if those were added in in their own separate categories.
SW: 70 million | ST: 70 million
Yet again, quantity shouldn’t matter. Though I would like to see how much books gross in sales for each franchise. Quality, in this case should be the deciding factor, and let’s face it, they both have some awful stinkers in there.
Still, Star Trek has great series like The New Frontier and Star Wars has The Hand of Thrawn. If I wanted to decide which was the better series when it came to extended canon, I’d likely go that direction…. and then never answer the question because I like both of them far too much. I would essentially hem and haw until I got to the grave, and then no one would know my answer.
SW: 9 Billion | ST: 4 Billion
Proportionally, the highest grossing part of the Star Wars franchise is its toys, which can mean any number of things. One, it can mean that Star Wars toys are better, which they are. Though, I don’t think that’s really corollary to sales. Two, being the largest grossing part of the franchise can also mean that Star Wars is specifically marketed to kids.
If your money is on the latter, then you know exactly why I find this data misleading. Star Trek was, and has never been, something meant for kids exclusively. Star Wars wasn’t initially, but I think we can all agree that the Ewoks in the third movie was meant to capitalize on the fact kids like it. Star Trek, on the other hand, invites kids to join the adventures, but it never once thinks to talk to them like they aren’t adults, which I think was sort of the opposite philosophy taken in Phantom Menace. In other words, the Star Trek franchise has room for kids, but it doesn’t focus on them as a marketing strategy. In fact, you’ll find most Star Trek figurines are owned by adults.
My point is that Star Trek made a choice not to go after these particular profits, and thus this number doesn’t really matter unless you want to argue that Star Wars is better because little kids like it. That, however, is not what this infographic is about, and I don’t really want to get mired into that debate at this moment.
SW: 8.1 Million likes, 231,000 followers | ST: 1.9 Million Likes, 38,000 followers.
There isn’t really anything to say about this aside from if you want to win an argument about whether or not Star Wars or Star Trek is better, this is the only data you would likely need to make a somewhat compelling arguement. The rest of infographic is completely superfluous, if you think about it.
But, since I’ve been contrary to every data point and it’s winner from the beginning of this article, I will offer these few criticisms.
Firstly, popularity doesn’t always mean something is good. Point and case: Two and Half Men ranks higher in the Nielsen ratings than 30 Rock, and that continually confuses me. Popularity, then, still doesn’t really convince me of quality.
Secondly, using Facebook as a metric isn’t actually as definitive as one would think. Star Trek has a general page, pages for series, pages for characters and pages for movies. It’s impossible to find actually how many likes Star Trek actually has, and the same thing can be said for Star Wars. It should also be pointed out that the Star Wars fanpage on facebook is far more interesting than the Star Trek one, though. It posts things like internet memes, ala George Takei, and thus is more likely to draw followers than the Star Trek page.
In addition to this, if you want to take a look at cultural impact of a series, visiting the fanpages of the cast is a good idea. The number of likes for Star Trek cast members like William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and George Takei are either equal or higher than that of Star Wars cast members, like Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamil.
That all being said, I still think that is a fairly solid arguement to make in favor of Star Wars.
So who wins?
And anyone who says there is a winner is just somebody who likes to force their opinions on people. And that’s why, more than every little petty thing I brought up in this article, this debate is silly. As for what side of the fence I’m on? I only actually really enjoy one Star Trek series consistently, and I only really truly enjoy one Star Wars movie. I patently cannot be a sore loser about any thing, and maintain that I have a certain lack of bias should anyone try to challenge me on the ground of an ad hominem fallacy.
Thanks be to George Takei for calling for Intergalactic peace between the two fandoms (who, I would like to add, share fans more frequently than not). I think then, as long we have this argument for fun, we should always have it. But, really, how is it to be done is the most important question. Should it be on the grounds of quality or quantity? If quality, how does one debate that succesfully? On intellectual merit? Action? Explosions? Characters?
You start asking those questions, the debate gets a whole lot more fun, and dramatic. It’s also how I prefer to go about it. How do you?