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The Orville is a new sitcom that beautifully pairs comedy and science fiction tropes to discuss issues our society is facing today. Seth MacFarlane, creator and star of The Orville, has not so subtly taken large aspects of Star Trek to develop the show’s optimistic sci-fi atmosphere, but MacFarlane has taken those positive aspects of the sci-fi classic and paired it with his own unique brand light-hearted humor, to create something with its own unique aesthetic and feel. Artfully teasing your brain in the span of an hour, The Orville has a lot to offer its viewers.

The Orville, Star Trek, and Sci-Fi

Star Trek, though first released in 1966, used science fiction concepts to highlight gender, racial, and societal issues concerning a 1960s American society. Notably, Star Trek (especially the Original Series) uses sci-fi tropes to not only highlight issues occurring in their own society but to sustain a hopeful outlook for our future. So, often sci-fi captures dystopian societies where everything is bleak, grim, and hopeless. This has been true for many sci-fi novels/films today such as The Hunger Games Series, The Maze Runner Series, The Testing Series, The Book of Joan, etc.

Much of sci-fi today is so focused on discussing an established dystopian society, but MacFarlane’s “The Orville” challenges that notion…

In opposition of dystopian-like sci-fi, Seth MacFarlane has incorporated Star Trek’s most admirable feature into his new show – the ability to incorporate feelings of hopefulness into every episode. Much like Star Trek, the concepts discussed in an episode can make us feel uncomfortable. However, in the span of an episode viewers watch characters exhibit optimism, perseverance, and hopefulness as they tackle gender, racial, and ethical issues. Therefore, Seth MacFarlane is using Star Trek as an inspiration for taking his show in a more positive direction than many of the other sci-fi mediums today. Much of sci-fi today is so focused on discussing an already established bleak and grim society, but MacFarlane’s The Orville challenges that notion by tastefully meshing comedy and sci-fi in order to comment on modern society.

Orville and Society

A sitcom that incorporates light-hearted comedy while artfully teasing your brain, all in the span of an hour.

MacFarlane’s The Orville, from its debut in September 2017 until now, has blossomed from being a parody of Star Trek to forging its own unique identity. MacFarlane uses race, gender, sexuality, and technology to discuss an array of topics. So far, these topics include sex change, same-sex mating, female empowerment, childbearing options, as well as discussing racial and intellectual differences. Therefore, MacFarlane’s colorful blend of sci-fi and humor allows the show to openly comment on mainstream issues while using fictitious situations and characters. This technique allows The Orville to remain modern, relatable, humorously tasteful, and intellectually stimulating for all audiences.

©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co.

The Orville On Racial Issues

“The Orville” has opened a new door. One that may be the eye-opener we need to discuss difficult topics and reflect on our own society.

Across several episodes, The Orville uses different species to discuss racial and intellectual issues present in our society, and the episode that most clearly discusses this topic occurs as early as episode two. In this episode, * slight spoilers * an advanced race (the Calivon) captures Captain Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) and Commander Grayson, and place them in a zoo-like exhibit. This exhibit is unlike anything viewers have ever seen (for each exhibit contains individuals from serveral other species).

On the surface, this episode seems like pure science fiction. However, I believe it is bringing our attention to the racial/ethnical discrimination issues present within our own culture. Throughout the episode the Calivon bluntly express their belief in being the ultimate superior race. Therefore, because of their supremacist ideology, the Calivon dismiss all other species. As a result, individuals are kept in captivity, called “inferior,” and treated unequally because of their racial differences.

©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co.

The Orville Tackles Gender

The topic of gender appears to be present in every episode. However, I believe the most powerful discussion of gender occurred as early as episode 3. * slight spoilers * This episode discusses the ethical dilemma parents of an all-male Moclan race face when they give birth to a female. Although this episode seems like a fun sci-fi concept, it highlights an issue that is present in our society today – gender identity. Throughout the episode, individuals must choose whether or not to change a child’s sex.

…a society involved in our personal choices can hinder an individual’s ability to choose.

This ethical dilemma quickly becomes complicated as the decision of choosing the child’s gender becomes the main topic. Throughout the episode, the decision is split between three variables: the parents, society, or the newborn child. However, despite the desires of the parents or the voice of the child, the child’s identity was decided by society. Allowing a fictional society to decide a child’s gender reflects our society today. Our society has established a strict polarization between masculinity and femininity. This polarization often hinders young children from expressing themselves as individuals. However, as this episode exhibits, a society involved in our personal choices can hinder an individual’s ability to choose.

Orville and Our Future

“The Orville” is a marvel… enticing you with laughter, keeping you emotionally invested, and stimulating your mind.

These episodes are a few of many that exhibit how MacFarlane uses sci-fi tropes to reflect our own society in ways that need to be discussed. The Orville has opened a new door. One that may be the eye-opener we need to discuss difficult topics and reflect on our own society. Artistically meshing comedy and sci-fi, articulating these issues in an eloquently way, pushes the common viewer out of their comfort zone in a positive manner. The Orville is a marvel! It is a show that entices you with laughter, keeps you emotionally invested, and stimulates your mind.

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