Thursday, July 9, 2009

Star Trek: Now With More Tired Gender Roles

Open Letter to Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman

A word of warning, there are spoilers in this post. At this point, though, it probably doesn't matter.

Dear Messrs. Orci and Kurtzman,

I remember when I got to watch my first Star Trek episode. It was the summer of 1970 and it was already in lucrative reruns, broadcast at a time when I was awake. I was fascinated by the idea of flying around in space and seeing new places. I thought the planet sets looked totally fake and sometimes the stories were silly but I was in love with the series. I'd act out some of the parts while watching; shooting the bad guys with my pewpew phaser and saving the Enterprise. To this day I still love the original show.

By now Paramount has made back the money they spent on Star Trek 11 plus an ass ton more. I'm sure you're bathing in the praise of the successful 'reboot' of the franchise. You're chortling about the bad reviews of your Transformers: Rolling on the Floor (as a friend calls it) movie because it has also made stupid amounts of money. You gentlemen have even confirmed that you're already working on ST 12, tentatively titled: 'OMFG They totally bought 'Red Matter'!

As for myself, it was a mildly enjoyable actioner with a large helping of handwavium. Not worth a full price ticket. Pro Tip here: Talk to real scientists when you write about Science! They're trained professionals. You're not. Even the original series made some effort to be scientifically sound.

On to the point of my post. Last time I checked the calendar this is 2009. Forty-four odd years after ST: TOS first aired. The original was a product of its culture and times. The men ran around buckling swash and, apparently, there were only three women in Star Fleet. We had Nurse Chapel, swooning over Mr. Spock; Yeoman Rand, whose job is never explained but the context is obvious; and the strongest of the group, the under-utilized Lt. Uhura.

So why did you see fit to have only five women with speaking roles in ST 11; one a doctor (presuming here), a mother who gives birth to the main character then disappears, a mother who dies as a plot device, and two booty calls?

This was your chance to give women a more prominent place in Star Fleet and a more prominent role in the retconned universe. Instead you stuffed them into the most antiquated gender roles available: Mother, Caregiver and Sex Object. Booty Call #1 is a green-skinned girl from Orion (ha ha, the whole Orion slave girl joke never gets old). The first time we see her, she's in chonies and bra about to knock boots with Kirk. If we see her again at the end of the movie, I don't recall. Booty Call #2 is Nyota Uhura. You give her even less to do than Nichelle Nichols had in ST:TOS. We get to see Nyota in her undies in the same scene as the green chick. Can we say pandering Messrs. Orci and Kurtzman? I knew we could.

You sink even lower when you set Uhura up as a potential point of jealous rivalry between Kirk and Spock. What. The. Fuck? I get the whole joke about how Kirk was a tomcat in the original show but in this movie he basically can't score. Who cares?

Weren't there other things women could do in the 23rd and a half century? Couldn't they be instructors at the Academy? Couldn't they captain starships (Hello? Captain Janeway?) What if Kirk's mother was the Kirk who died crashing the Kelvin into the Romulan vessel while his father was evac'd with the recently born baby James? Couldn't Uhura have done more in the movie than be a nag and sex object? Couldn't Uhura have been the one to clean James' clock in the bar for being boorish? I'd pay full price for that.

Another Pro Tip: Showing versus telling is important in novels. It's even more important in movies, a visual medium. There's a point where Uhurah explains something she heard when monitoring subspace signals (even the Wikipedia entry for the movie mentions nothing about the character in the plot summary) that relates to the Romulan vessel. It's apparently important to finding the vessel, but not really because you tell it rather than show it. Showing us her skill as a linguist and comm officer would have helped the audience relate to her as a person rather than a scold or a 'hawt chick'. Oh, that's right. According to Hollywood, men can't relate to women as people, only as a role.

You have an opportunity to give strong women more to do in ST 12. Let them buckle some swash, show them as strong, competent professionals. Let them punch stuff 'til it blows up! Otherwise this is one woman who won't be paying to see the next movie.

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