Star Trek is one of the most openly liberal TV shows of all time, so it’s no surprise that it appeals to liberals like political commentator Ana Marie Cox.

“The original Star Trek universe, for its time even, was pretty Social Justice Warrior-y,” Cox says in Episode 309 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It’s a post-scarcity world with lots of different [skin] colors, lots of different nationalities.”

What’s more surprising is that Star Trek also appeals to staunch conservatives like US senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). When Cox interviewed Cruz, the only question she asked him that engaged his interest was who would make a better starship captain, Kirk or Picard?

“He had a very strong choice, he’s Captain Kirk all the way,” Cox says. “And when I wanted to move the conversation on to something else, he kept bringing it back. So he’s a true fan. It was almost like being on a message board.”

Cruz has a peculiar take on the politics of Star Trek, one that would probably come as a surprise to most fans. “He thinks Kirk is a Republican,” Cox says.

If it seems strange to imagine that a 23rd-century representative of the ultra-enlightened United Federation of Planets would espouse traditional conservative values, Cox notes that conservatives can’t be too picky when it comes to role models, given the way that liberal ideas dominate pop culture.

“You find your conservative heroes where you can,” she says. “I guess you can only read Ayn Rand so many times.”

Listen to the complete interview with Ana Marie Cox in Episode 309 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Ana Marie Cox on Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

Buffy is still one of my favorite shows of all time, and I think Buffy did a great job of playing with the idea that it’s hard to separate evil and good. It seems really easy to do, but Buffy was actually about the in-between spaces. Yes, some people were vampires and you just had to kill them, but her various relationships—and the people in her life—could move in that [more ambiguous] direction, and they had some fairly sympathetic monsters as well. … I think in general genre has a more sophisticated understanding of good and evil than people give it credit for.”

Ana Marie Cox on Harry Potter:

“I think that Harry Potter might be a key artifact in the movement of ‘fantasy being for nerds’ to ‘fantasy being for everyone.’ … In American popular culture, magic itself was kind of nerdy. The idea of fantasy and magic was like, ‘Really? That’s not cool.’ Whereas guns and cars were the things you were supposed to want to play with. But Harry Potter definitely opened up that space, and as I write in that column, I think we have Harry Potter to thank for a lot of the teen activists around Parkland especially. I think without Hermione we wouldn’t have Emma González. That’s maybe saying a lot, maybe saying too much, but it feels like [Hermione] created a space for young women to be powerful, in a way that I don’t remember having, personally, in my life.”

Ana Marie Cox on J.K. Rowling and Stephen King:

“They both seem pretty earnest, and their responses seem pretty real. It’s funny, I feel with both of them, on Twitter they remind me less of authors that I lionize than relatives that I kind of tolerate. I mean, J.K. Rowling can have some sick burns and all that, and I guess Stephen King can too, but with both of them I see my ‘woke’ relatives more than I see someone who I feel is just a master of the craft. … They seem a little like, ‘This internet thing is fun!’ I don’t know how else to put it. In part it’s just because they use Twitter in this very straight fashion. They’re not meme-ing and stuff. They’re just being clever, with words—which is good, that’s a good use of Twitter. That’s for the most part what I do too. I am much closer to Stephen King’s age than I am to Emma González’s age, so I probably should not make too much fun.”

Ana Marie Cox on H.G. Wells:

“My last column was about advertising, and about when corporations kind of colonize our culture. And I was pleasantly surprised when doing my research to find that H. G. Wells actually thought about this, and his description of, I think, the 2400s, includes something that would seem familiar to us today. I mean, he couldn’t imagine women in charge, but he could imagine ever-present advertising. Think about the fact that that was weird to him. I love thinking about that—the idea that you would find advertising everywhere to be something science fictional, that there was a time in human culture where ads were seen as totally intrusive, and it would be strange to be surrounded by them. Whereas today we just live in it, we just live in advertising, and don’t even think about it twice.”

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