In the Blog

Race and Star Trek

June 1st, 2009     by Michelle Schwartz     Comments

Since the discussion has been so lively on my previous post about sexism in the new Star Trek movie, I thought I would open up the discussion of race in the new movie and in the series.

While I thought Sulu’s dramatic sword fight was awesome (and pretty sexy, too), I was disappointed by Uhura’s reduced role in the new movie. Already saddled with a legacy of being a glorified receptionist, this new Uhura lost even more power by becoming not much more than Spock’s girlfriend. A franchise that had once been praised for its diversity (which was impressive for the ’60s) has once again become the playground of white heterosexual men.

Diversity in space?

Danielle C. Benton has written an interesting article (note: contains spoilers) for The American Prospect about the history of minorities in science fiction shows, connecting Uhura to Petty Officer Dualla of Battlestar Galactica by their occupation – answering the phone.

She also points out why a future society envisioned by white writers as being “post-racial” is so dangerous:

Most Hollywood sci-fi presents a “post-racial” world in which we’ve moved from fighting each other over cultural differences to fighting some bigger intergalactic evil. On its face, this type of film should allow for more colour-blind casting and minority roles. Yet even in the Star Wars and Star Trek universes, where the humanoids are “beyond race,” black and other minority actors are rare. Morton calls such tokenized roles the “new Mammy”

Another blogger, Center of Gravitas (note: also contains spoilers!), has also tackled the less than impressive diversity of the new film:

Unlike 1967, it is no longer revolutionary to just acknowledge the presence of people-of-colour or women. They can’t be the tokens who promise future inclusion, but then step aside when the “real” decisions need to be made. This new Star Trek only sneaked around questions of gender and racial equality. In the end, it is still a boys’ franchise that no longer wants to think about contemporary problems of racism and sexism.

I do hope that if there is a sequel, and I’m sure there will be, that some of these problems will be addressed. What was considered groundbreaking in the ’60s just looks dated today.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi characters of colour? What about queers in space?

Tags: film reel, race and racism

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