Exploring The Orville

Essays on Seth MacFarlane’s Space Adventure


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About the Book

This is the first book to take a deep dive into the philosophical, social, moral, political, and religious issues tackled by Seth MacFarlane’s marvelous space adventure, The Orville. These new essays explore what The Orville has to say on everything from climate change, artificial intelligence, and sexual assault, to gender, feminism, love, and care. Divided into six “acts” (just like every episode of The Orville), with the show as its backdrop, the book asks questions about the dangers of democracy and social media, the show’s relationship to Star Trek and the puzzle of time travel.

About the Author(s)

David Kyle Johnson is a professor of philosophy at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He also produces lecture series for The Teaching Company’s The Great Courses and has edited several volumes of works on popular culture.

Michael R. Berry is an associate professor of mass communication at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. His research interests are in presidential debates, superheroes/pop culture figures, and their representations in mass media. He has published on deception, academic debate, and superheroes.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by David Kyle Johnson and Michael R. Berry

Foreword by André Bormanis

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 295
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8192-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4252-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Foreword by André Bormanis 1

The Teaser and Theme: What Is The Orville?
Is The Orville … Star Trek?
L. Brooke Rudow 6
Introduction: How The Orville Does Philosophy
David Kyle Johnson 23

Act I: Gender, Sex and Feminism
Finding the Female: Gender in Moclan Society
Catherine Nolan 34
Darulioian Assault: The Orville and Sexual Consent
Michael R. Berry 48
Toward a Queer Utopia: Alien Alterity and Sexuality in The Orville
Liz Fairchild 62
The Orville: A ­Meta-Pop Culture Phenomenon for Feminism
Francesca Putignano 75

Act II: Religion and Reason
Avis Vult! Krill and the Dangers of Religion
Darren M. Slade 98
Resisting Dogma and Damnation with The Orville
L. Brooke Rudow 122

Act III: Science and Politics
“If the Stars Should Appear” and Climate Change Denial
David Kyle Johnson 140
“Majority Rule” and a Critique of Pure Democracy
Patrick Welsh 165

Act IV: Love, Care and Nepotism
Loving Isaac
Mimi Marinucci 180
The Space Between and Beyond: Timeless Depictions of Care
Shaun Respess 196
Nepotism on The Orville
Joe Slater 209

Act V: The Funny and the Final Flyout
The Ethics of “Sophomoric” ­Sci-Fi: The Orville, Pop Culture, and Lacan
Leigh E. Rich 226
Thinking About Bad Taste in a Funny Way
Christopher M. Innes 245
Making Sense of Time Travel in The Orville
David Kyle Johnson 261

The Credits: About the Contributors 273
Index 277

Book Reviews & Awards

“I created The Orville because I felt that Hollywood’s science fiction offerings for the 21st century had left a large void when it came to the kind of allegorical, speculative, thoughtful episodic storytelling that I had enjoyed from the genre while growing up. It seemed as though ideas that left the viewer with something to chew on had been replaced by twists, trading intellectual nutrients for quickly burned calories. With that gap left wide open, the circumstances seemed right for a show like The Orville, which, tonally light though it could be, to set out to honor the classic model of science fiction storytelling. Exploring The Orville is exactly the kind of response I hoped would emerge from what we were doing. This book identifies and dives deeper into the issues presented in the series, and does so with skill and precision, thanks to a variety of voices offering philosophical analyses and carefully considered takes on the material that in some cases presented a fresh lens even to us, the writers. It’s a fun, invigorating, and inspiring read, providing a better understanding and appreciation of both The Orville and the moral, political, societal, and philosophical issues it addresses. Exploring The Orville is a must read for any Orville fan.”—Seth MacFarlane