Author: has written 217 posts for this blog.

Guest Bloggers are most welcome to diversify the range of views and experiences presented on this blog. The opinions of Guest Bloggers do not necessarily represent other bloggers on Feministe: differing voices are important to us. Readers are cordially invited to follow our guidelines to submit a Guest Post pitch for consideration.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

87 Responses

  1. JBL55
    JBL55 June 4, 2013 at 9:18 am |

    Three thoughts:

    1. For me, changing the bad guy from dark-skinned to light-skinned actually removes all negative racial connotations. Now the good white guy can always triumph over the bad white guy w/o race factoring into it. Granted, it has the effect of removing one more dark-skinned character from the story, but it is not completely without merit.

    2. The original pilot for “Star Trek” featured Majel Barrett as the impassive Number One, second in command to Captain Pike (played by Jeffrey Hunter). It was thought people would not accept a woman in such a position of authority, so they gave Spock her impassiveness and promoted him. Majel Barrett then was cast as Nurse Christine Chapel, a more acceptable female role. Thank God they ditched Yeoman Janice Rand after the first year — I still cringe when Kirk draws a protective arm around her when the Enterprise is threatened.

    3. There is a wonderful moment in the original series (I forget the episode) when Uhura takes Chekov’s seat at the helm — George Takei gives her quite a look as she settles in next to him. :-)

  2. FeministTrekkie
    FeministTrekkie June 4, 2013 at 9:48 am |

    You raise a number of compelling ideas, but I find the credibility of your argument is strained by your having failed to actually watch the film. Problematic as it is, the film nonetheless complicates the issues you raise, in particular the infallibly of Kirk vis-a-vis ‘bad guy’ characters. I would like to read an updated post when you have seen the film and can therefore comment more authoritatively on it.

  3. Emily
    Emily June 4, 2013 at 9:59 am |

    It doesn’t alter the wrongness of casting Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of someone named “Singh,” but Ricardo Montalbán wasn’t a person of color either. Both his parents were Spanish immigrants to Mexico. Having said that, it says something about American perceptions of race that he was racialized and cast as “brown” in the 60s–and seems to be perceived in that way even today.

    Ironic that Star Trek in the 60s casting a white man of Spanish descent as a Sikh from Asia was more progressive than what we get today!

  4. Karen Brown
    Karen Brown June 4, 2013 at 9:59 am |

    As the above noted, we do have to look at the studio system and what Roddenberry was allowed to do in the series. If you watch the desired first premiere, they had a female first officer, and very impressive and professional (a bit insulted for it in the plot, but still an advance), and both she and the other female SCIENCE officer wore PANTS as their uniform, including being in an ‘away mission’.

    This was seen as something that would never make it in the ratings, so they made changes.

    And I’d agree. I don’t think much is lost by not having an ‘ambiguously brown’ (given the contrast between the supposed race and the actual one in the original work) evil psychopathic terrorist.

  5. Anon21
    Anon21 June 4, 2013 at 10:07 am |

    I don’t really agree with your aside about Benjamin Sisko, played by the great Avery Brooks, on DS9. Yes, for the first two season he wasn’t officially a “Captain,” but in storytelling terms there was no difference between the role he played on DS9 and the role Kirk played on TOS. Both were the sole commanding officer, which sort of undermines your contention that the show “has never strayed from the message that White masculinity is the only appropriate form of leadership.” And I’m not sure what significance the fact that “Deep Space Nine, was not a ship” is supposed to have.

    The Star Trek franchise is far from flawless on race. But Commander, later Captain Sisko was a big step in the right direction in terms of portrayals of people of color in positions of authority. I don’t get why you’d want to skip over that portrayal for what seem to be pretty flimsy reasons.

    1. Erin
      Erin June 4, 2013 at 10:15 am |

      I agree 100%. Whatever the word before his name, there was no effective difference between Sisko’s role on his show and Kirk’s, Picard’s, and Janeway’s roles on their shows. Give credit where credit is due: Sisko is a wonderful example of a black man in a powerful leadership role.

      1. Gomiville
        Gomiville June 4, 2013 at 11:14 am |

        Seconded.

        And on top of that, he was in command of a very complex situation. For all the excellence of Kirk’s cowboy mentality or Picard’s reasoned diplomacy, Sisko had to balance numerous and contradictory factions of politics, religion and even commerce. It was a powerful example of command.

        Plus he was a single father.

        He shouldn’t be so off-handedly dismissed.

        1. chava
          chava June 4, 2013 at 2:42 pm |

          he was also allowed to have some pretty serious flaws, while not descending into either the Angry Black Man or the model minority. complex character ftw.

        2. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen June 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm |

          Thirding all of these comments.

    2. miga
      miga June 6, 2013 at 11:58 pm |

      They also left out Janeway, who is white but not a man.

  6. XtinaS
    XtinaS June 4, 2013 at 10:28 am |

    No post on ST:ID is complete without this spoiler-FAQ:

    http://io9.com/star-trek-into-darkness-the-spoiler-faq-508927844

    1. Tim
      Tim June 4, 2013 at 12:42 pm |

      Thanks for that link — now I really don’t have to think about ever shelling out $ for this movie, or even spending two hours of my life watching it streamed on Netflix.

  7. chava
    chava June 4, 2013 at 11:10 am |

    I….think we can throw Sisko at you, honestly. He functions as the show’s “captain,” and attains that role (and *godhood*) later in the series.

    Re: Khan, I was happy that they did not cast a Pakastani or Indian man, because of the terrorism sub-plot. Like we need to see another coded-Muslim brown man blowing shit up in the name of his ideology. That said, the critique of the “white man’s triangle” is totally valid (Bones, Spock, Kirk) although I feel compelled to point out that Nimoy and Quinto’s otherness is coded as Semitic/Jewish, which is why they fail as “true” white leaders.

    The true fail of the film for me was its treatment of women, sp. women of color. Uhura was reduced to a gay couple’s beard, and Chapel just made the point (again) that Kirk was Oh So Not Gay Ladies. Sulu did have a nice moment in the captain’s chair, though.

    1. moviemaedchen
      moviemaedchen June 4, 2013 at 11:22 am |

      I’m not sure that Into Darkness avoids the ick of having a ‘brown man blowing shit up’ even WITH the casting of Cumberbatch. Harewood, the Starfleet officer Khan talks into blowing up Section 31 for him, is definitely not white. Cumberbatch just gets more screentime.

      1. chava
        chava June 4, 2013 at 11:29 am |

        Eh, but he’s not part of the terrorist cell, he’s manipulated into it. You can argue its another failure to show black men as courageous, but I don’t think it shows Harewood (aka Mickey) as a terrorist, exactly.

        1. moviemaedchen
          moviemaedchen June 4, 2013 at 1:13 pm |

          Yeah, you can make an argument either way I suppose. He’s definitely not a villain the same way Khan is. But the visual is still there. I guess for me it still fits into a broader pattern of racefail on the movie’s part. But Harewood is a sympathetic character for the short time he’s there.

    2. wrane
      wrane June 4, 2013 at 1:10 pm |

      Chapel just made the point (again) that Kirk was Oh So Not Gay Ladies.

      That was Carol Marcus – she actually mentioned that Christine Chapel had taken a job on the outer frontier after a relationship with Kirk (good for her :P). I don’t know if Carol Marcus and Kirk are going to have a relationship or a son in this timeline, but I like that we get to see her more. One of my friends was arguing with me that it would be a better movie if she wasn’t in it at all but that actually really bothered me because there are so few women already, and if there was no Carol Marcus, her part would still exist, the admiral would probably just have a son instead – parents/children/captain/crew are the repeated themes in the film.

      1. chava
        chava June 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm |

        yeah, I noticed that I swapped them after I wrote the comment. I don’t think it would have been better without Alice Eve, but I do think letting the women exist for themselves and not failing the Bechdel test would be a damn good start.

        1. wrane
          wrane June 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm |

          it would also have been nice to see Gaila again (Uhura’s Orion roommate from the 2009 movie).

        2. chava
          chava June 4, 2013 at 1:31 pm |

          http://archiveofourown.org/works/5205

          http://archiveofourown.org/works/817597

          You’re welcome. (both are worksafe, at least in terms of not being obscene)

        3. Librarygoose
          Librarygoose June 4, 2013 at 5:39 pm |

          I’m pretty sure Galia died in the killing field near Vulcan in the first reboot.

        4. chava
          chava June 6, 2013 at 8:27 am |

          Eh. Fandom Gaila is kind of awesome, and I choose to believe that she survived and organized a daring rescue of the surviving escape pods, etc.

  8. chava
    chava June 4, 2013 at 11:14 am |

    (and don’t get me started on how Kirk can somehow beat up a 2x-stronger Klingon or Romulan, but poor! tiny! Uhura! is completely incapable of defending herself)

    1. NInjamedic
      NInjamedic June 4, 2013 at 8:45 pm |

      Uh. Didn’t she save Spock from Khan?

  9. Nobody
    Nobody June 4, 2013 at 11:19 am |

    Like others here, I’m not really buying the “Sisko doesn’t count” argument.

    I haven’t seen Into Darkness, but I’m pretty ambivalent about the reboot in general. The first movie certainly worked as an action film, and the way the new actors channeled the original cast was fun.

    But it seems like the new series sees itself as getting “back to basics” where “basics” is essentially Kirk smirking and kicking ass. The original show’s utopianism and the fact that it was pushing boundaries of inclusiveness for its time seem to take a distinct back seat.

    It’s like the makers are nostalgic for everything that didn’t make the original show unique.

  10. NickN
    NickN June 4, 2013 at 11:21 am |

    I’m partial to the idea of Khan being portrayed by someone with a darker skin tone because can be done as a statement against racists by having the genetically augmented “superior” human be someone who isn’t white — or better yet having him be mixed race.

    I didn’t like the nuTrek’s version of Khan mainly because other than the name there is no real resemblance to the original version. Khan wasn’t someone who was just physically and mentally superior to Kirk, but someone who oozed charisma and could out Kirk Captain Kirk. Cumberbatch came across as just another generic movie villain who uses non-ideology based terrorism to achieve his goals.

    The way Kirk originally beats Khan has nothing to do with Kirk being a “flawless, strong white male protagonist”. Khan beats him to the point where Kirk is forced to use his experience to win rather than rely on luck and circumstance; being superhuman doesn’t trump practical knowledge and experience.

    I think the main problem is in the script. I don’t think I would be offended if another person of color was playing a villain who was as charismatic and competent as Khan was originally. However when Khan runs around planning bombings and crashes starships into cities then yeah, I see the problem in having him being played by a person of color.

  11. amblingalong
    amblingalong June 4, 2013 at 11:25 am |

    Benjamin Sisko took command of Deep Space as Commander Benjamin Sisko and in the third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, he became Captain Benjamin Sisko. This is still however problematic because all other captains, were captains of their ships at the start of each series (Janeway, Kirk, and of course Jonathan Archer) and were all White people.

    Well, that’s inane.

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune June 4, 2013 at 12:07 pm |

      Well, if that’s the basis for their analysis – “where the characters started” – I suppose James Kirk spent all the movies being a carjacking, alcoholic douchebag. And also ten years old.

      Also, apparently according to social justice(TM), black people can’t have character arcs now. They have to start the series as King And Tyrant, or they’re just a racist cardboard copy of the REAL (white) captains.

      Of course, if a black person is King and Tyrant, I’m going to assume that’s also racist. Somehow. I can find a way.

    2. piny
      piny June 5, 2013 at 11:28 am |

      Even if he does count as a captain, he’s still the only one. They found Scott Bakula for Enterprise.

      Commander Sisko was in charge of an entire space station. You can make some points re: the custodial rather than command role, or how annoying it is that they finally got a black head guy and took away the final-frontier part, but his role would be more analogous to general or lord mayor. He had to lead Starfleet personnel and maintain good working relationships with everyone else on the station – in some ways, he had more of a leadership role than a simple captain.

      The show also had some really cogent politics around all of that – maybe even more sophisticated than the baddie-of-the-week format of the traveling ships. Sisko had to demonstrate a lot of sophistication, and couldn’t just defeat the enemy, and then he had to deal with the worst villains since the Borg.

      He stands out as the only non-white person to lead a show. But he was a developed character and was always shown to be an excellent leader. The show also included his family, more than with any other captain, which I liked.

      As far as Benedict Cumberbatch…Khan was a villain, but he was a sympathetic and intelligent villain. That role, the role of the criminal mastermind, the guy we’re supposed to partly identify with, typically goes to white people. Lex Luthor, Dexter, Hannibal, Ozymandias: when we’re supposed to be interested in the workings of a villain’s mind, and repsect their intelligence, they get to be white. Original Khan was evil, but he also had some good character notes. He was an emperor, and then got sent into exile and living death as a kind of human war crime, and then this jackass exiles him again and then gives him a chance to get revenge.

      This Khan was mostly just emo. The writing for Into Darkness was terrible – and the whole film was like a systematic shot-by-shot ruining of the original – but New Khan was meant to be an evil genius with a (somewhat) sympathetic backstory. And he repeatedly outsmarts Kirk, who comes off as pretty stupid and naive until the very last part of the movie.

      JJ Abrams didn’t whiteify Khan so that there would be one less non-white villain in the Trek universe. He did it because he wanted to claim an interesting character for white people. He even introduced another white villain to draw the audience’s attention.

      There was another big instance of racism in the movie, I think. The Klingons look much more African (and seem to have some pseudo-African costume design stuff going on?) than in the original series or the subsequent TV shows. They’re also a lot scarier: they don’t negotiate and seem mostly interested in killing. And they died like Orcs; in fact, Cumberbatch dispatched about fifty of them. They seemed very much like the kind of villain we’re not supposed to respect. It would be awesome if they became an opportunity to have a whole bunch of black actors in interesting, complicated roles – maybe a challenge to the exceptionalism of the Federation – but based on the way they were introduced, I’m not holding my breath.

      Oh, and the opening scene, where Kirk and Spock save a bunch of natives (who are speaking gibberish, jumping up and down, and carrying spears) from an exploding volcano and achieve godhood? …Yeah.

      1. wembley
        wembley June 6, 2013 at 10:49 pm |

        Oh, and the opening scene, where Kirk and Spock save a bunch of natives (who are speaking gibberish, jumping up and down, and carrying spears) from an exploding volcano and achieve godhood? …Yeah.

        I love how the creative team gave the natives literally white skin (or skin covered with white dust or something, it was hard to tell which it was supposed to be) because that means they’ve covered their ass! Except not.

  12. Valdi
    Valdi June 4, 2013 at 11:33 am |

    I think this post is a good summation of some issues Star Trek has had with gender and race. Represented as Indian and played by a Mexican actor, there are several issues with this depiction, including the idea that race and skin tone are easily interchangeable in depiction and the fact that leadership at Starfleet is often depicted as being racially and sexually homogenous.

    I don’t think that the treatments of gender and race are as simple as they have been made out to be here. Deep Space Nine is given short shrift even though Benjamin Sisko possesses a clear leadership role. I don’t think helming a huge space station near a stable worm hole is any less awesome than cruising around on a starship, the marketing around DS9 sold it as a full series, and the writing was perhaps the most interwoven and political work in Star Trek.

    Similarly, it was a huge triumph to have Ricardo Montalbán play such a prominent villain, and someone who has come to be so loved in Star Trek lore. Having a Sikh actor play Khan would have been the most appropriate solution, but I can’t cut short shrift to his accomplishments.

    Another thought that’s been circulating – the idea that Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan avoids all those racial problems with a bad villain of color being defeated by a good white hero. That is true, but the less problematic depiction of conflict is at the cost of diversity in the movie, and at the cost of whitewashing yet another character in Hollywood. Given the way the lore is already determined, and given the tastes of typical authors in Hollywood, Star Trek will remain good at representing diversity at some points and bad at other points.

    1. moviemaedchen
      moviemaedchen June 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm |

      the less problematic depiction of conflict is at the cost of diversity in the movie, and at the cost of whitewashing yet another character in Hollywood.

      This. There are so many different ways for it to be problematic. Whereas if we already had many people of color in a range of visible, important roles in media to the same extent that white people have those roles, there would be much less riding on any single role.

  13. a lawyer
    a lawyer June 4, 2013 at 11:42 am |

    It has been deemed better to have a character of colour off cast than to see a White face instead and that way of thinking is highly problematic because it inevitably makes people of colour disposable, without unique and beautiful cultures.

    Disposable? Off cast?

    What about the fact that POC actors can, you know, ACT? I don’t understand how you could take a view which appears to pigeonhole POC actors into a restrictive set of race-matching roles.

    Is this satire? Seriously, look at what you’re suggesting here.

    They may not have had to darken John Cho to play Sulu but having him cast in that role, regardless of George Takei’s consent and approval is yet another example of Star Trek’s willingness to simple insert people of colour into specific roles regardless of their culture, but hey, one Asian is like another right, regardless of the historical tension between the Japanese and Koreans

    .
    Rewritten: “Sorry, John: you can’t take that part because the professional actor who used to play that part has ancestry from a country which has bad foreign relations with the country of your ancestors. And hey–you and George Takei DO hate each other right? Since you’re Korean and he’s Japanese, I just assumed.”

    This has got to be a joke, right? Right?

    1. A4
      A4 June 4, 2013 at 12:02 pm |

      Yes, this piece is missing any analysis of this issue from the perspective of the actor rather than the viewer. It is an unfortunate trend in our entertainment culture to objectify our entertainers and the impact of their performances without taking into account their own subjective natures and experiences of the issues being discussed.

    2. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune June 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm |

      What about the fact that POC actors can, you know, ACT? I don’t understand how you could take a view which appears to pigeonhole POC actors into a restrictive set of race-matching roles.

      Long ago, we had this notion that being of a certain race didn’t necessarily mean that one had to play exactly that culture and only that culture, regardless of the actor’s own background, or the role’s own culture.

      But everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.

      1. A4
        A4 June 4, 2013 at 1:33 pm |

        LOLOLOLOL

    3. thinksnake
      thinksnake June 4, 2013 at 3:11 pm |

      Insisting that Sulu was always meant to be specifically Japanese because of casting Takei seems unresearched at best. What with Sulu being named after the Sulu Sea, which doesn’t touch Japan. And his character being made as ‘all of Asia’ (which is problematic in all sorts of ways in itself, but seems to have been ignored by the OP?).

  14. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 4, 2013 at 12:04 pm |

    I’ll just leave this here: Complaining About Shows You Don’t Watch

    Also, I’ve never watched DS9, but I find it unconscionable that you have neglected to mention Benjamin Sisko punched Hitler and single-handedly killed every Nazi ever, and I find this abominable. And don’t throw any pesky history at me. Don’t point out that Deep Space is a station, and bigger and arguably more important than any single ship in the fleet, and Sisko couldn’t possibly have had time to fight Nazis single-handed while commanding Deep Space. Sisko did what I say he did, how I say he did, and it had exactly the significance I say it did. That is apparently how literary critique works now.

    1. chava
      chava June 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm |

      Now I wish there had been an ep where Sisko punched a Nazi.

      1. Anon21
        Anon21 June 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm |

        There was that time he punched defenders of racist/classist near-future American society (in “Past Tense”). (At least, I think he punched them?) Not Nazis, but not bad!

        1. miga
          miga June 7, 2013 at 12:06 am |

          I hated those episode arcs. They had them in every damn Star Trek series and I always tuned out.

          If I wanted to watch a period drama I would’ve changed to Dr. Quinn!!!

      2. moviemaedchen
        moviemaedchen June 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm |

        Yes, that episode needs to exist.

      3. wembley
        wembley June 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm |

        He punched Q, but I don’t think that counts.

    2. shfree
      shfree June 5, 2013 at 12:13 am |

      I also have not seen the reboot of the Khan movie, because I think the last thing the Star Trek universe needs is a Kirk even smirkier than the original. And I would like to complain about Simon Pegg playing Scotty, because he is NOT Scottish but English, and that shit just can’t stand.

      1. Willard
        Willard June 5, 2013 at 1:09 am |

        Actually James Doohan was Canadian of Irish extraction so that makes exactly like the new/old Sulu thing. \rolleyes

  15. Tim
    Tim June 4, 2013 at 12:20 pm |

    While we’re at it, what about the basic premise of the show, and for most popular culture, to begin with? A technologically advanced, expansionist culture sets out on “peaceful exploration” in ships that just happen to be armed to the teeth with unimaginably powerful weapons. They encounter “good” alien cultures and entities who agree to follow their rules and bad ones who don’t. The good ones get to join the Federation and the bad ones, after supposed efforts made to try to get them to be good, are killed and blown to smithereens, relunctantly, of course, as a “last resort.” Sound like anything in real life?

    Look, I loved the original ST series and all of the spinoffs, but the “reboots”? Meh. Come up with something new, already.

  16. chava
    chava June 4, 2013 at 12:26 pm |

    Here are just some of the racial problems within Star Trek:
    –Klingons are nearly always coded as black/dark skinned.
    –Ferengi are coded as Semitic
    –‘soft’ imperialism, secularization and colonization is often presented as a Good Thing, despite efforts to address it in TNG and DS9. ditto white man’s burden and exploration where “no man has gone before.”
    –the captain of the Kelvin is killed in the first five minutes.

    You know what is not a racial problem with Star Trek?
    –John Cho being Korean.

    1. Willard
      Willard June 4, 2013 at 1:15 pm |

      the captain of the Kelvin is killed in the first five minutes

      I’ll admit I had to look that up since I remembered the ship, but not the details. He gets shanked by the Romulans then the Kelvin gets blowed up real good in less than 5 minutes (real time, obviously longer in lens-flare-baby-naming-time). I didn’t see anything racially problematic in it at all, but I’m not a POC. What jumped out at you there?

      1. Willard
        Willard June 4, 2013 at 2:02 pm |

        If we’re doing trope analysis though this one falls kind of flat. There’s a woman that gets sucked out into space after one of the torpedo barrages, and I generally assumed that the engineers engulfed in a fireball when the warp reactor went out didn’t pull through. His is the first named character death, but the trope doesn’t make that distinction.

        Rewatching the scene on the lookout for race stuff it was pretty awesome actually. You had a lot of diversity on the bridge (including speaking parts), and Robau was an exemplar of selfless leadership under fire. Lumping it in with how the trope has been abused predominately in the horror genre ignores a lot of what’s actually going on on the screen.

        1. chava
          chava June 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm |

          mmm, fair enough. I’d argue that it still plays into the trope somewhat, but in the list of Iffy Stuff about ST, it isn’t up that high.

  17. Henry
    Henry June 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm |

    You know, I haven’t actually commented here in years, but this one might be worth the effort.

    Don’t even bother to roll your eyes and throw Benjamin Sisko at me because Deep Space Nine, was not a ship and he was most certainly not a captain, despite being the main protagonist of the show. When it comes to people of colour, Star Trek has long been happy to sit on the laurels of the past and not move forward racially.

    Consider my eyes rolled. Sisko’s rank is completely irrelevant. He was the Boss, clearly and without question. Honestly. I’m having a hard time thinking of a franchise that’s made more of an effort to showcase diversity than the run of Star Trek series. It was to the point where it was bit ham-fisted; every other plot line was an alien metaphor for tolerance and inclusion. In any case, I think the idea that “White America” is uncomfortable with people of color in positions of authority in popular media is a bit outdated – there’s plenty of examples besides Ben Sisko.

    Clearly, even casting Montalbán in this role was highly problematic because he was neither sikh or Indian. It was the classic case of one brown person filling in for another, which is commonplace in the media even today. As long as the actor is Brown, they are cast as: Latino, Native American and Indian, regardless of what their true ancestry is.

    Just as any white actor can play Russian, Scottish, Irish, German, French, etc. How is this not a good thing? It means they can work more. How is it better to say to a Mexican actor, “we can only hire you for ‘Mexican’ roles?” It’s acting; it’s not important what they are, just how they look. How many Japanese actors appear in Chinese films as Chinese characters and vice-versa?

    The idea that it’s apparently reasonable for Japanese people to get pissed off that John Cho (who’s a good actor) is playing Sulu because he’s Korean, or that Khan somehow HAS to be played by a Mexican because he once was, is the entire problem. It’s just tribalist bullshit – no different from the assholes who were all fired up that Heimdall was played by Idris Elba.

    Maybe if we could see James Kirk, Gifted Yet Flawed Officer instead of James Kirk, White Man we wouldn’t need to have this discussion.

    1. pheenobarbidoll
      pheenobarbidoll June 4, 2013 at 1:00 pm |

      It’s just tribalist bullshit

      Fail.

    2. A4
      A4 June 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm |

      Maybe if we could see James Kirk, Gifted Yet Flawed Officer instead of James Kirk, White Man we wouldn’t need to have this discussion.

      +1 bingo checkbox for “If you stopped talking about race then racism would disappear”

    3. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune June 4, 2013 at 1:48 pm |

      In any case, I think the idea that “White America” is uncomfortable with people of color in positions of authority in popular media is a bit outdated

      …I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you fell through a wormhole and have recently arrived here from the 25th century.

      1. A4
        A4 June 4, 2013 at 2:07 pm |

        You’re very optimistic about our future.

    4. amblingalong
      amblingalong June 4, 2013 at 2:48 pm |

      I think hidden among the dreck was one good point:

      Just as any white actor can play Russian, Scottish, Irish, German, French, etc.

      Saying you should only hire, say, a Korean actor for a Korean role (and never a Chinese actor) sounds social justiceyful, but if white actors can step into a wide range of white roles, but (again, for example) Asian actors are limited to only playing the Asian roles that also match their ethnicity/nationality/national origin, what you’re arguing for is actually directly harmful to everyone in the business who’s not white.

      1. Emma
        Emma June 5, 2013 at 8:13 am |

        It is frequently very irritating when an American actor incapable of doing whichever accent or speaking whichever language is cast as Russian, Scottish, Irish, German, French etc – see Johnny Depp in Chocolat, Mel Gibson in Braveheart and absolutely everyone who’s supposed to be German in Die Hard. But you’re right that no one writing from a social justice perspective sees it as an issue.

  18. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll June 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm |

    I can’t critique the movie because I fell asleep 10 minutes into it. It was god awful boring.

  19. Ubuntucat » Blog Archive » Blaming actors of color isn’t productive change

    […] some value in this critique of Star Trek: Into Darkness, but I definitely take serious issue with this section: In the end, this really comes down to […]

  20. Willard
    Willard June 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm |

    Having not seen Star Trek into Darkness yet

    Another one of these? Considering a lot of the argument hinges on just how the role of Khan is portrayed in the movie I’d think that would be important. The whitewashing is ridiculous and unnecessary, but the characterization of the role was never (and continues not to be) “hungry for power, has no respect for life, and is corrupt.” Well, maybe the first one, but you don’t get to be warlord of a quarter of the Earth by not exercising power.

    Also George Takei had only nice things to say about John Cho.

    Finally, kicking Sisko under the bus because he started a rank below captain and commanded 10 million metric tons of heavily armed space station? I’d take that over a measly ship any day of the week.

  21. Ann
    Ann June 4, 2013 at 1:05 pm |

    the head of a giraffe against a bright blue sky: its mouth is pursed sideways

    ::: I WANT TO THREADJACK! PLZ PLZ PLZ PLZ PLZ! Posting at blogs using a totally fake email address with paragraph after paragraph of known hot-button “clueless” assertions gives my bleak flamebaiting heart a thrill. PHEAR M3!!1!11! :::

    [Moderator note – ORIGINAL COMMENT CONTENT HAS BEEN FLUFFINATED]

  22. amblingalong
    amblingalong June 4, 2013 at 1:31 pm |

    Honestly, and I do mean this in good faith, I have no idea why this article was even allowed here. There are plenty of thoughtful critiques of this movie at places like Racialicious, by people who actually took the time to watch it, and who can bring a degree of analytical firepower to bear.

    Lastly, because I’m slightly petty and because it made reading the post extremely difficult, please note: http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas.htm

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune June 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm |

      Yes, well, at least they managed to google the spellings this time. From their Game of Thrones failmeta that they posted on here before, I was half expecting this article to talk about Kork, Speck and their adventures on the Corporation.

      1. Willard
        Willard June 4, 2013 at 2:13 pm |

        I had to go back and read that one mac, worth the lulz.

      2. pheenobarbidoll
        pheenobarbidoll June 4, 2013 at 2:33 pm |

        I was half expecting this article to talk about Kork, Speck and their adventures on the Corporation.

        *just dies*

      3. amblingalong
        amblingalong June 4, 2013 at 2:41 pm |

        Macavity you are on fire.

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune June 4, 2013 at 2:49 pm |

          Thank you ^__^

          Honestly, these “analyses” annoy the hell out of me. It would be one thing if they actually had some nuanced analysis to offer, but it seems to boil down to “White people did a thing. I OBJECT.” I mean, come on. I hate on the Institutional Whitey as much as anyone, but this is fucking ridiculous.

    2. C.D.
      C.D. June 4, 2013 at 4:38 pm |

      I’m with amblingalong here. There have been brilliant analysis of why whitewashing Khan is problematic at Racialicious and Racebending (among other places). By people who have watched the movie.

      I particularly liked Marissa Sammy’s piece up on Racebending, where she concludes that: “In the original Trek, Khan, with his brown skin, was an Übermensch, intellectually and physically perfect, possessed of such charisma and drive that despite his efforts to gain control of the Enterprise, Captain Kirk (and many of the other officers) felt admiration for him.

      And that’s why the role has been taken away from actors of colour and given to a white man. Racebending.com has always pointed out that villains are generally played by people with darker skin, and that’s true … unless the villain is one with intelligence, depth, complexity. One who garners sympathy from the audience, or if not sympathy, then — as from Kirk — grudging admiration. What this new Trek movie tells us, what JJ Abrams is telling us, is that no brown-skinned man can accomplish all that. That only by having Khan played by a white actor can the audience engage with and feel for him, believe that he’s smart and capable and a match for our Enterprise crew.”

      On another note, I find it hilarious that earlier commenters are like “now we just have a white guy defeating a white guy, and all the racial stuff is gone.” Uh… no? Even if there wasn’t the whitewashing, white people have a race! It’s so telling that as soon as you turn an entire cast white, people – even on progressive websites – are like “oh, well, racial issues are gone.” Just by having a white cast, and by making a conflict AGAIN between white people, you are indeed playing into racial politics. Racial politics ALWAYS exist. White is not a neutral space.

      Here’s the thing: maybe it’s too problematic to have Khan played by a POC (I don’t actually think it is, but let’s pretend). But if you (and by you, I mean “Abrams and co”) are not willing to navigate those issues in a respectful, thoughtful way, then DON’T WRITE A MOVIE WHERE THE VILLAIN IS KHAN. If you can’t do it without whitewashing, DON’T DO IT AT ALL. Just cast Cumberbatch as a new villain and walk away.

      1. chava
        chava June 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm |

        he was also a scandalously scandalous ladies’ man, something which we didn’t get to see in ITD, unfortunately. I did think he was going to seduce Marcus for a bit there, but no, alas.

      2. piny
        piny June 5, 2013 at 11:34 am |

        The original Khan also had some really good reasons to kill Kirk: Kirk sent him into exile on a planet that ended up killing most of his people. Remember the space slugs in Chekov’s ears thing? That was how a lot of them died.

  23. Ametra
    Ametra June 4, 2013 at 5:52 pm |

    The line that Kirk had to be forced to kiss Uhura strikes me as odd. Yes, he had to forced to kiss her. Kirk may like women and loved to bed them, but it had to willing. If given the chance I think Kirk would have slept with Uhura, if she was willing. He was her Caption. He job was to protect her and ever other person under his command. He was not to use his position of power to force them. In the episode “Mirror, Mirror” were Kirk and other cross to another dimension. He finds the idea to trading sex for power disagreeable. It offended him. He states that we should not be forced, that people should have choices. So, yes he had to be forced to kiss her, because he respected her, that it was not their choice.

  24. Librarygoose
    Librarygoose June 4, 2013 at 6:06 pm |

    A few thoughts:

    Benjamin Sisko was kiss-ass, DS9 is the most underrated of the series. Seriously, in my mind way more intricate and better acting than Voyager.

    Star Trek math- ST:OS=ST:TNG<ST:DS9<Voyager<All the movies<All works of fandom<the cartoon< enterprise.

    Racebending.com has always pointed out that villains are generally played by people with darker skin, and that’s true … unless the villain is one with intelligence, depth, complexity. One who garners sympathy from the audience, or if not sympathy, then — as from Kirk — grudging admiration. What this new Trek movie tells us, what JJ Abrams is telling us, is that no brown-skinned man can accomplish all that. That only by having Khan played by a white actor can the audience engage with and feel for him, believe that he’s smart and capable and a match for our Enterprise crew.”

    This, I think, is a better analysis.
    Benedict Cumberbacth made a fine villain but a fucking terrible Khan. I think the movie was a success because it made my old trekkie dad cry.

    1. tigtog
      tigtog June 4, 2013 at 6:27 pm | *

      Benjamin Sisko was kiss-ass

      ??!1!11?! I really hope that was meant to be kick-ass?

      [eta: from a full-on DS9/Sisko fan]

      1. Alexandra
        Alexandra June 4, 2013 at 6:39 pm |

        Haha, I did a doubletake too, Tigtog.

      2. Librarygoose
        Librarygoose June 4, 2013 at 7:03 pm |

        Hahahahaha, yeah I meant kick-ass.

    2. Willard
      Willard June 5, 2013 at 2:02 am |

      I’m just confused by the math?

      Original series equals The Next Generation, then a series of “less thans” that puts Enterprise at the top? Or are those arrows pointing in the direction of good?

    3. miga
      miga June 7, 2013 at 12:15 am |

      I was going to say “YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH ABOUT MY CISKO”

      – but then I read your correction. Carry on.

  25. 1701
    1701 June 4, 2013 at 9:59 pm |

    regardless of George Takei’s consent and approval is yet another example of Star Trek’s willingness to simple insert people of colour into specific roles regardless of their culture, but hey, one Asian is like another right, regardless of the historical tension between the Japanese and Koreans.

    I’m really not comfortable with the way this article just blew past George Takei’s opinion of a character he originated and fought like hell for (he’d been campaigning for Sulu’s captaincy since the second Trek movie, and it took until the sixth for it to happen). Certainly I don’t think Takei’s comments are off-limits to criticism, but this article doesn’t actually make a criticism. Takei spent years of his childhood interned with other Japanese-Americans in World War II. To trample his opinions on your way to “hey, one Asian is like another right,” is… questionable at best, disrespectful at worst.

    1. Willard
      Willard June 5, 2013 at 2:07 am |

      I just reread their statement and realized “regardless” in the context may not have meant “without regard for” like I thought. Either way, Takei’s opinion on the character should carry some modicum of regard

  26. Mildred
    Mildred June 4, 2013 at 11:40 pm |

    It reads as though no matter how hard said person of colour works, or how long they plan, that they will always and forever be less than the White character.

    Aaaah. Weeds.

  27. Andrew
    Andrew June 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm |

    The article also doesn’t ring true vis a vis the original series. There were many POC in high command positions; admirals, commodores, high-ranking scientists, planetary leaders, throughout the run of the series. Guest stars, yes, but clearly demonstrating that the Star Trek universe was diverse racially and sexually.
    For its time and given the Civil Rights atmosphere it was brewed in, it did an amazing job (or shall we say Roddenberry did when not undermined by the network) of showing a multi-cultural/ethnic future.

    Pointing to one character, albeit the lead, in a sea of other faces, smacks a bit of dis-ingenuousness.

    Also, tell me the episode where Kirk has sex with the green woman. It’s an old Kirk joke, but never actually happened.

  28. Cedric Prime
    Cedric Prime June 6, 2013 at 7:43 am |

    I feel you evade any nuance in your use of the ‘White’ man here. One of the major tropes of cinema – arguably post-Star Wars – has been the nefariously well-spoken British White Male villain.

    This is not to say there is an oppressive prejudice towards this group, however. The nature of the villain and how he is perceived seems just as important. This ‘sort’ of baddy is very often brilliant, charismatic, borderline-unhinged yet somehow a gentleman.

    Whereas, Black or Asian villains are regularly portrayed as the ‘enemy,’ either religious fanatics or communists or dumb thugs, or all of the above.

    I think that more telling is the choice of hero. Can anyone think of a significant Asian protagonist in Hollywood?

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong June 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm |

      I can think of a ton, but pretty much limited to martial arts movies.

  29. Friday’s Reading List | Smoke & Stir

    […] This reading of Star Trek: Deep Space 9′s depiction of Benjamin Sisko’s command strikes me as flawed. Rob Briken has a hilarious take on the new Star Trek movie’s many, many plot holes [spoilers]. […]

  30. April
    April June 9, 2013 at 2:36 pm |

    A good article I read argued that the problem was that villains who the audience was mean to identify with were always Caucasian.

    Think of all the shows which have villains as the main characters. They are all white e.g. Dexter, Hannibal, the Sopranos etc.

    Same, as in this case, if the villains are geniuses (and so the audience is meant to admire their intellect on some level). For example Sherlock and Hannibal.

    Villains who aren’t white tend to be thugs or terrorists, people we’re not meant to identify with.

    Thus you can argue that, in an odd way, it is progressive to have an identifiable non-white villain.

    On the terrorist problem, they could have written something else for him to do. Or not have Khan as a character. I’d personally rather not see Khan at all rather than see him half assed.

  31. John Cowan
    John Cowan June 23, 2013 at 10:43 pm |

    I’m here to complain about a U.S. character like Kirk being played by a Canadian like William Shatner, totally ignoring the traditional tensions between the U.S. and Canada.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.