Star Trek: Into Darkness. It’s a White Man’s Universe, Spock.

I’m seeing a lot about the sexism in Star Trek, Into Darkness. Mostly about the gratuitous scene of Carol Marcus stripping. And I agree, that was annoying and sexist and just plain cheesy and really badly written, to boot.

But what really bothered me was the utter failure of this movie to pass the Bechdel test, either literally or in spirit. This is a vision of the future in which men are in charge and women are present only in token numbers. In the sequence featuring a room full of command Star Fleet staff, I don’t recall seeing one woman; certainly, women weren’t half the people in the room, as they should have been.

There were a couple of nice touches – Uhura participating a bit in an action sequence (which felt a little bit like token participation, actually, but much better than if she hadn’t participated at all), a seemingly genderqueer crew member on the Enterprise bridge. But on the whole, this was just crap thinking and bad art. It doesn’t take much effort to hire some female extras for the Star Fleet commanders scene, for example. They either consciously wanted to show a male-dominated world, or they simply didn’t give a damn about what the world they were creating was like.

It is bad art, and shows a significant failure of imagination, to show a utopian future with a world government in which nearly every character that matters is either a white man, or a white man’s girlfriend.

* As for the rest of the movie; I love Scotty. I love Scotty’s fear that Starfleet’s brief was being changed from exploration to military. I love that Scotty actually has principals principles.

* Sulu was cool, wish they did more with him. McCoy was funny.

* Some okay action set pieces, although most of the fighting was dull and by rote.

* The actor who plays Spock is really enjoyable to watch. Some nice relationship work between Kirk and Spock.

* Mainly, though, this movie is about the action, which makes it unfortunate that almost none of the action was actually memorable. The best thing was a few moments of Spock running after the villain, which were nicely shot to convey that the two men were running really, really hard. Nothing else sticks in the memory a couple days later.

* Between this movie, the Avengers, and Skyfall, I’m getting tired of “bad guy intentionally gets captured” second acts. Yeah, it’s a convenient way to let the hero and the baddie have some nice face to face talking time, but enough already.

* Lots of jumping from high platforms to lower platforms, just like Iron Man 3. Is this a thing now?

* So many parts of the plot made no sense. Like Spock having to go into the volcano with the bomb to set it off; does the Federation really not have “timer” technology? Or remote controls? Or all those times that it was conveniently impossible to beam the bad guy up, but perfectly easy to beam the good guy down to five feet away from the bad guy so they could have a fight – even if the bad guy is standing on top of a speeding hover car. Or why the heck do you load 72 missiles onto a ship to kill only one man. Also, if we now have a cure for death, that should come up in future films – but I bet it won’t.

* The most interesting parts of the film were the (spoiler alert!) constant comparisons to, and reversals of, Wrath of Khan. But although that’s the best thing about Into Darkness, it’s also unfortunate, because Wrath of Khan is better than Into Darkness in pretty much every way imaginable, so the comparisons just remind me of what a bleak and uninteresting film Into Darkness is. It’s Star Trek with more expensive effects and zero sense of wonder. Who wants that?

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42 Responses to Star Trek: Into Darkness. It’s a White Man’s Universe, Spock.

  1. 1
    queenrandom says:

    The lack of women and POC in Star Fleet command is even more annoying for me as a fan because it’s a departure from the modern franchise (TNG & later) as well: it was far from perfect in this department, however there was a real effort to show a more integrated society. It was one of the things I liked about the franchise.

    Also the sequence where Kahn ‘rescues’ our heroes from the Klingons was fantastic. Our heroes abilities were not great (nor should they have been in that scenerio), but Kahn’s were appropriately impressive and Cumberbach’s movements were graceful. Had it not been shot in such dark lighting it’d probably be the best action sequence in the film.

  2. 2
    nobody.really says:

    Haven’t seen the film, so I surmise Amp’s gripes are on target.

    But could it be that the people making the movie were not trying to depict the future, but rather trying to depict the future AS IMAGINED IN 1966? Much as Disney’s Space Mountain is no longer a depiction of the future, but a depiction of the future as imagined by the past.

    [D]oes the Federation really not have “timer” technology? Or remote controls?

    Hey, there’s a lot less technical mastery than we’d like to imagine. As we see in Next Generation, the Federation still can’t cure baldness.

  3. 3
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Wraith WRATH of Khan ;)

    Then again, Khan is dead. If his ghost shows up, the “Wraith of Khan” would be a good pun.

  4. 4
    Jake Squid says:

    But could it be that the people making the movie were not trying to depict the future, but rather trying to depict the future AS IMAGINED IN 1966?

    Sure. It could be that. It could also be that parasitic brain aphids are behind it. Neither is likely but both are possible.

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    But could it be that the people making the movie were not trying to depict the future, but rather trying to depict the future AS IMAGINED IN 1966?

    I doubt it. For one thing, it seems odd to include an apparently genderqueer officer on the bridge (in a fairly prominent position – the character never spoke beyond “yes, sir” type lines, but was visible in a whole bunch of shots) if that was their intention.

    I also think that if you’re doing the “this film is being made from a deliberately bigoted viewpoint” approach, you need to at some point make that clear to your audience, or your film is a failure.

    G&W, thanks for catching that misspelling – correction made.

  6. 6
    Charles S says:

    But could it be that the people making the movie were not trying to depict the future, but rather trying to depict the future AS IMAGINED IN 1966?

    The funny thing about this idea is that Star Trek already did this. Deep Space Nine has a through-line in which Cisco is actually a science fiction writer in the 1950s, and DS9 is his imagined future. When people in the 1960s imagined the future, not all of them were white men.

  7. 7
    RonF says:

    I agree that the shot of the young woman stripping down to her underwear was gratuitous. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it was completely unnecessary and seemed to be what I believe I’ve seen referred to as “fanboy service”.

    As long as we’re talking about spelling mistakes (that won’t get picked up by a spell checker), this:

    “I love that Scotty actually has principals.”

    I didn’t see Scotty fighting any duels. But he did resign based on his principles.

    In the sequence featuring a room full of command Star Fleet staff, I don’t recall seeing one woman; certainly, women weren’t half the people in the room, as they should have been.

    Would a room full of command staff of any such current group consist of half women and half men?

    It is bad art, and shows a significant failure of imagination, to show a utopian future with a world government in which nearly every character that matters is either a white man, or a white man’s girlfriend.

    Hm. Sex first, then race:

    Is Starfleet world government? Because if it’s world government I can agree that the sex balance would be closer to 50:50. But as a quasi-military force I would argue that it’s a lot less likely. How many women choose a military career or one that will take them away from home and hearth for years at a time as compared to men? It’s not bad art to be realistic about what one can reasonably expect in the future as opposed to depicting what some people think the desirable outcome should be, especially when said desirable outcome is based not on what would make that group function better but on some concept of social justice. I don’t see the logic of “bad art” or “should have been”.

    The criticism of the racial imbalance, OTOH, makes sense to me. Starfleet makes much of selecting the best and the brightest, to the point that numerous denizens of other planets are depicted. In the world they depict I can’t make any sense of the concept that the human component would be so grossly imbalanced towards whites.

  8. 8
    Denise says:

    How many women choose a military career or one that will take them away from home and hearth for years at a time as compared to men? It’s not bad art to be realistic about what one can reasonably expect in the future as opposed to depicting what some people think the desirable outcome should be, especially when said desirable outcome is based not on what would make that group function better but on some concept of social justice. I don’t see the logic of “bad art” or “should have been”.

    Why wouldn’t the women of the utopian future want to join the military or leave home for years at a time? I don’t see the logic in that, either.

  9. 9
    Robert says:

    Some would.

    It may turn out that in a world of total gender equality where every path is open to every otherwise competent person, some percentage of women will choose ‘homemaker and mother’ as their primary career, at least for those years, and some percentage of men will choose ‘homemaker and father’ as their primary career. Given the material wealth of 24th-century human society, in which it is clear that nobody really needs to work for economic reasons, it seems likely that both percentages are going to be higher than they are today.

    What’s not clear is that the percentages will equal one another. They don’t today, under circumstances that are far from total-gender-equality. Will they in the future? Hard to say for sure…but it wouldn’t surprise me at all that, given material security beyond modern dreams, many women would be content to settle in for a couple decades of happy domesticity, and not as many men would. Ergo, gender imbalance in the youth-heavy exploratory and military organizations of humanity.

    On the ethnic group topic, there are hints in Star Trek canon that Europe and North America came out of the wars and famines and Godzilla invasions in much better shape than S. America, Africa, and Asia did. So for historical reasons of depopulation, there are more whites than one would expect from a linear projection of today. But even with that backstory there should be (and in many shows and prior movies, there has been) a pretty solid rainbow of ethnicity depicted, and I’ll be disappointed if there isn’t in the reboot movies. (I saw the first one once, haven’t seen the new one yet.)

  10. 10
    nobody.really says:

    Given the material wealth of 24th-century human society, in which it is clear that nobody.really needs to work for economic reasons….

    Crap. Shoulda started that 401(k) earlier….

  11. 11
    Hugh says:

    Has everyone forgotten that the 2009 movie also had a scene of a woman stripping down to her underwear too? I actually remember a feminist defending it to my criticism at the time, too.

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    Honestly, I’ve kind of forgotten everything about the 2009 movie.

  13. 13
    Grace Annam says:

    nobody.really:

    But could it be that the people making the movie were not trying to depict the future, but rather trying to depict the future AS IMAGINED IN 1966?

    When we’re speaking of the franchise which brought us the first black and female staff officer, the first broadcast interracial kiss between fictional characters, and the first Japanese officer serving side-by-side with the first Russian officer and the first NON-HUMAN (by half, anyway) officer? (I think that all of these are correct. No doubt someone will correct me if I goofed.)

    Doesn’t seem likely. Star Trek was always deliberately, aggressively diverse. Until now, apparently. (I have not seen the movie; maybe when it comes out on video.)

    Grace

  14. 14
    alex says:

    I have to say expressions of concern about a gratuitous shot of a Alice Eve in her underwear and lack of equality in the starfleet top brass seem a bit incongruous next to the stuff that is being defended in the previous thread.

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    Not to mention the production of Pippin praised in the final link of my most recent link farm post, even though that production was full of “hey, look at these people with amazing bodies who are practically naked” appeal.

    Context, however, makes a huge difference – which is why what’s being objected to is not “an underwear shot,” but “a gratuitous underwear shot.”

  16. 16
    nobody.really says:

    But could it be that the people making the movie were not trying to depict the future, but rather trying to depict the future AS IMAGINED IN 1966?

    When we’re speaking of the franchise which brought us the first black and female staff officer, the first broadcast interracial kiss between fictional characters, and the first Japanese officer serving side-by-side with the first Russian officer and the first NON-HUMAN (by half, anyway) officer? (I think that all of these are correct. No doubt someone will correct me if I goofed.)

    Doesn’t seem likely. Star Trek was always deliberately, aggressively diverse. Until now, apparently.

    Deliberately diverse? Yes.

    Aggressively diverse? Well….

    Yes, the bridge of the Enterprise was supposed to be a little United Nations. And so we had the token Asian, the token Russian, the token alien, a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. Except that 1966 predated Jews In Space. And the crippled guy showed up irregularly.

    Yet the bridge never had any more than one token member of each diversity group. True, on a small bridge, that added up to a lot. But the main action consisted of three white guys (‘cuz, wouldn’tcha kno, the aliens look like white guys, too).

    If we really want a measure of diversity, don’t look at the demographics of the bridge; that’s where they pack the tokens. Rather, let’s look at the demographics of the redshirts – you know, the virtually anonymous staff members who live but for to die, often before the first commercial break. How aggressively diverse is THAT group?
    How many Asians suffered a meaningless death?
    How many Russians?
    How many half-aliens?
    How many blacks?
    How many women?
    Both Jews?
    And the cripple?

    Sorry, got on a roll there.

    Anyway, it appears to me that the casting director of the Star Trek TV series believed that all people are able-bodied white males unless and until they have a reason to be otherwise. Ok, there were some women, and maybe even some people of color, walking the halls and bouncing the walls when the photon torpedoes were flying. But that’s about as aggressive as it got.

    By the standards of 1966, perhaps that’s not too bad. But the current movie is supposed to predate the events in the 1966 TV show. So it doesn’t strike me as beyond the realm of possibility that the director was going for a clean-cut 1960s vibe.

    So here’s a test: How skinny are the people in the movie?

    Sure, the women will be skinny; it’s a movie – and the women aren’t the named actors. But are the guys skinny, too? Rather than, say, muscular?

    ‘Cuz skinny is another marker of earlier decades. People in Woodstock footage were skinny. People on That 70’s Show were skinny. People in the time travel sequence of Men in Black III were skinny. Like, protruding-wrist-bone skinny.

    So if the movie depicts an inordinate share of skinny people, rather than muscular people, I’d take that as a sign that the director may have been going for a 1960s vibe.

  17. 17
    mythago says:

    By the standards of 1966, perhaps that’s not too bad.

    By the standards of 1966 it was pretty amazing.

    I keep thinking back to the second Matrix movie and the scene in Zion, where at least half of the populace is brown or black. And it’s not something anybody comments on, or even appears to notice; the movie doesn’t call your attention to it in any way; there’s just this crowd of people who aren’t all white.

  18. 18
    RonF says:

    Why wouldn’t the women of the utopian future want to join the military or leave home for years at a time? I don’t see the logic in that, either.

    Absent the requirement to work in order to support children, perhaps the majority of them would rather stay home and have kids. Or perhaps not. But I see no reason to presume that they would to the point that depicting a future where they don’t is “bad art”.

  19. 19
    nobody.really says:

    Why wouldn’t the women of the utopian future want to join the military or leave home for years at a time? I don’t see the logic in that, either.

    Absent the requirement to work in order to support children, perhaps the majority of them would rather stay home and have kids.

    If I recall correctly, in Europe — where social safety nets temper capitalism’s rougher edges — women’s labor force participation rates are lower than in the US. In short, RonF may have something here.

    “Even a broken clock….”

  20. 20
    Robert says:

    Is anyone else amused by the fact that Amp addressed his lament about the marginalization of nonwhite, nonmale characters to one of the hugely prominent white men in the movie? Yeah, he could have talked to Uhura about it, but nobody would want to watch that. :)

  21. 21
    RonF says:

    It surprises me that it surprises anyone that given the choice women would as a group tend towards wanting to have children over pursuing other life courses that preclude having children. Biology’s pretty powerful stuff, folks. Modern technology and changes in philosophy have given women the choice to not have children if they do not wish to do so (local cultural sanctions and lack of access or the ability to pay for it aside), but that doesn’t change the fundamental nature of women.

  22. 22
    Jake Squid says:

    Tell me more about the fundamental nature of women.

  23. 23
    A.W. says:

    @RonF,

    “Biology’s pretty powerful stuff, folks. ”

    Not in the way you’re claiming. Being able to bear children isn’t an indicator of wanting children. Nor is it an indication of someone being willing to stay at home for years on end to care for said children. Not even if you squint and turn your head to the side. It’s like saying no cissexual males want children because they can’t bear them themselves, and that they’re absolutely opposed to raising them because, again, they can’t bear them. You’re confusing cultural sanctions and lack of access or the ability to pay re; children with what biology can do.

    -You might be interested to know that’s called sexism. And across the board, no less.

  24. 24
    nobody.really says:

    Tim: I like to create, Wilson. Everything I do, I wanna make bigger and better.

    Wilson: Well, Tim, this obsessive desire to create partly happens because men feel inferior to women.

    [Tim grunts inquiringly, indicating "Wha...?"]

    Wilson: It’s because we can’t bear children.

    Tim: Oh, I don’t mind the boys that much.

  25. 25
    Charles S says:

    Also worth noting that both Next Gen and the reboot have shown families with children on spaceships (reboot Kirk was a baby on a spaceship at the beginning of the first reboot movie) , so RonF, even if you were right about the true nature of women, you’d still be wrong about the excuses you are making for the unthinking sexism of minor character casting in the 2nd reboot movie.

  26. 26
    Ampersand says:

    Someone left a note saying that I’ve misremembered, and that there were both women and POC extras in the big officers meeting. That is possible – I don’t have a great memory. The same person mentioned that four extras were played by real-life US military, one of whom is a woman.

    I remember being annoyed that there were two important but not lead characters in that scene, both of whom were cast with middle-aged white men (the head honcho, and Kirk’s mentor), and I had trouble telling which was which, especially once shooting started. But at this point I’ve lost all other memories of that scene (and most of the movie itself).

    * * *

    Regarding Ron’s predictions about the future, let’s remember that people have been saying, in essence, “in the bad old days, there was sexism, and women were unfairly kept out of some positions. But now all those problems are 100% gone, and the male dominance of leadership we now see is just natural, because our dicks just make us that awesome and women don’t actually want to do anything with their lives but raise children and then maybe die or something since women live 70+ years and it only takes 10 or 15 of that to raise children” for generations. (Not that Ron would put it that way, of course.) So far, these predictions have never been true over the long term, although they sometimes seem true if measured over shorter terms (not unlike the claims that global warming has stopped).

    The Federation has almost always been a liberal view of the future; it’s a future where racism supposedly is defeated, where the sexes are equal, where gays are accepted, where socialism prevails and capitalists are anti-semitic caricatures. Where Star Trek fails to live up to that – and it often does – I think that’s a failure to live up to the vision.

  27. 27
    mythago says:

    Tell me more about the fundamental nature of women.

    All witchcraft springs from carnal lust, which is, in women, insatiable. We’ve known that for centuries, dogg.

    nobody.really, I hope you were being satirical, because I’m having a hard time believing that you straight-up argued that, yeah, you have some vague memory that everywhere in Europe is good to mommies and so women stay home, therefore RonF’s essentialist bullshit has a point, QED.

  28. 28
    Robert says:

    It doesn’t appear to be true, at any rate.

    http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.CACT.FE.ZS

  29. 29
    nobody.really says:

    If I recall correctly, in Europe — where social safety nets temper capitalism’s rougher edges — women’s labor force participation rates are lower than in the US.

    It doesn’t appear to be true, at any rate.

    Well, I went with the “If I recall correctly” as a substitute for, “I can’t find a web page that compiles the stats for me….” But if you rank European nations by size, you quickly observe that 75+% of Europeans live in countries in which the female labor force participation rate is less than in the US.

    If you consider all of Europe, you observe that 75% of the population lives in the largest nine countries: Russia, Germany, the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Ukraine, Poland, and Romania. Or if you consider only the social-safety-net-loving Western Europe, you observe that 75% of the population lives in the largest five countries: Germany, the UK, France, Spain, and Italy.

    None of these countries has a female labor force participation rate equal to the US’s. Thus, the thesis holds with respect to 75+% of Europe. And while I haven’t calculated a weighted average, I suspect the thesis would hold with respect to Europe at large – regardless of how large you take Europe to be.

    That said, there are several countries that do not fit the “More social safety net => lower female labor force participation rates” thesis. Darned Scandihovians.

    I’m having a hard time believing that you straight-up argued that, yeah, you have some vague memory that everywhere in Europe is good to mommies and so women stay home, therefore RonF’s essentialist bullshit has a point, QED.

    The data suggest to me that a disproportionate share of European women remain out of the paid labor force. I try to believe what the data tell me.

    However, the data doesn’t tell me that European women stay home in order to raise kids, necessarily; European fertility rates remain lower than the US’s .

  30. 30
    Lkeke34 says:

    @Ampersand: There were a number of women in the scene you mentioned. I don’t recall seeing any POC in that scene but the women are there, sort of hidden in the shadows mostly. It’s a very dark (not well lit) scene.
    I remember this because before seeing the movie I read Felicia Day’s commentary and made a special note to myself to pay special attention to that scene.

    That said, I’m going to hope that Abrams was making the movie with the idea of: the 60′s views of the future. I really enjoyed the movie except for the gratuitous undressing, because I’m getting extremely tired of always having to look at some white woman’s butt every time I watch a TV show or movie. (If my eyes could have rolled out of my head during that scene I would have missed the rest of the movie and wouldn’t be typing this now.)

    It is pretty sad that they put these two very smart women (Uhura and Carole Marcus) in the movie who at no point in it acknowledge each other’s existence. though.

  31. 31
    mythago says:

    nobody.really, why do the data tell you that there is “something” to the idea that in the Star Trek universe, the absence of women is due to their X chromosomes driving them to be at-home mommies? Because, you know, that was RonF’s point.

  32. 32
    nobody.really says:

    That said, there are several countries that do not fit the “More social safety net => lower female labor force participation rates” thesis. Darned Scandihovians.

    Intriguing: A 2010 study entitled “Why Do Scandinavians Work?” concludes that the Scandinavian social safety net is generous, but mostly to those who have a job (or, in the case of unemployment benefits, had a job). Thus, it doesn’t deter labor force participation rates to the same extent as the social safety nets of other nations.

    Nevertheless, while Scandinavian policies might not discourage people from getting jobs, they might reduce the number of hours people choose to work at those jobs. The author argues that centralized policy making/bargaining tend to mitigate this tendency – but I don’t really understand how.

  33. 33
    Robert says:

    “None of these countries has a female labor force participation rate equal to the US’s. ”

    Yes, but with the exception of Italy, all of them are in the same 50-to-60 percent ballpark. (And Italian economic statistics should be viewed, in the main, as entirely baseless; half the economy is underground.)

    Know who else has lower labor force participation rates than the US? Singapore. And Hong Kong. Although they, too, are in that “halfish” range.

    When the most capitalist places on Earth and the most socialist places on Earth have broadly similar rates of something, the first approximation to a conclusion is “that something is not particularly tied to economic system choice”.

  34. 34
    Robe says:

    Lets see of the two male white admirals, one is killed near the start of the movie and the other turns out to be a villain who dies near the end of the movie. Now if either one of these had been female or a person of color their would be complaints. Look the female Asian/African gets killed at the beginning! Look the female Asian/African turns put to be the villain. Sexism and racism!

  35. 35
    RonF says:

    The Federation has almost always been a liberal view of the future; it’s a future where racism supposedly is defeated, where the sexes are equal, where gays are accepted, where socialism prevails and capitalists are anti-semitic caricatures.

    If the proposition that “the sexes are equal” is true, I do not see how it necessarily follows that men and women will make the same choices in equal numbers with regards to the opportunities open to them. I also do not see how representing a future where they do not is “bad art”.

    Women bear children; men do not. Law and pharmacology can change to the point that every woman in the world can choose to never have children. Let’s say that the Federation will be/is such a place. Is it your position that bearing children will cease to have any effect on people’s career choices from either or both of the viewpoints of a) being able to pursue any career equally and/or b) wanting to do so? Understand that I’m not talking about individual women, but women as a group; certainly there are many women who have borne children and gone on to be CEO’s, etc. – I was going to add “Admirals” but it occurs to me that I in fact have no actual knowledge of such.

    I know a number of women who in this day and age choose to be stay at home moms. I know a number of other women who would be stay at home moms if that did not mean sacrificing a certain level of material comfort. It seems to me that if men and women are going to be represented in groups such as Fleet commanders in equal numbers then either a whole lot of women are going to abandon such desires or a whole lot of women are going to abandon having kids. Why do you imagine that either would happen?

  36. 36
    Harlequin says:

    @RonF: You seem to be taking some things for granted that I don’t think you should. In particular, your argument requires that wanting
    to have kids means wanting to stay home with them if you are a woman, but not if you are a man, even absent economic or social imperatives for men to work. (Or at least that the fractions are so widely different that we can ignore the men.)

    As a side note, I’ve recently been rereading the works of Lois McMaster Bujold, a science fiction writer who does an excellent job dealing with the intersection between medical technology and culture. ( Very advanced technology, as she writes s lot of space opera.) interesting stuff if you’re finding this end of the conversation thought-provoking.

  37. 37
    Robert says:

    Wanting to have children does not, for either gender, automatically mean wanting to stay home with them.

    But my experience, which includes knowing a fairly large number of women whose views would range from “pretty feminist” through “really really really damn feminist”, indicates that a lot of women who have children, a majority in fact, really really want to take at least a few years to be a primary caregiver. Some do it regardless, others wish that their economic conditions would allow it, and still others adjust expectations or priorities to make it happen despite unfavorable economics.

    And some men, in my experience, feel the same way and take the same kind of steps. But fewer. Months of physical unity have an effect on people’s psyches and desires. (A lot of the women who I’ve known who wanted to stay home, would have laughed at the idea before they spent nine months with a person growing inside them.) Hormonal changes have an effect. The experiences of infant care, which can be very stressful, can also be very anti-stressful. (They were for me.)

    Someone above mentioned longer lifespans and longer windows for childbearing, and those are true things in the Star Trek universe. But it’s also true that jobs like starship commander and fleet admiral are not usually jobs for which one starts preparing at age 30, or with kids at home. They’re bleeding-edge jobs where people prepare in adolescence if not before, and don’t attain until ten, twenty, thirty years of focused effort. (In TOS, James Kirk was the youngest Starfleet captain ever…he only had a 15 year career as an officer before getting a command.) A person who spends ten years working up in the ranks, then takes ten years off to be a SAHD or SAHM, then resumes their Starfleet career…well, they are likely to not be on the captain track, not because of any prejudice against them, but simply because with 100 billion people in the Federation and a couple hundred captain jobs total, the people who didn’t deviate in any way from a phaserlike focus on career are going to get there first.

    All that said, would it shock or surprise me to find that in a Star Trek universe of equal genders and infinite wealth, that women and men sought and/or attained high command rank in exactly the same proportions? No, it would not. It’s hypotheticals and culturally-mediated assumptions all the way down, here, so my gut and Nobody’s gut and Ron’s gut might be totally off base.

    But I wouldn’t be at all shocked to find radical differences, either, and if I was creating Star Trek-based art I think that, while I would go out of my way to demonstrate the equal competence and equal openness of careers to competence, the universe I drew would end up having more boy captains than girl captains, and more non-parent captains than mommy and daddy captains.

  38. 38
    mythago says:

    It’s hypotheticals and culturally-mediated assumptions all the way down, here, so my gut and Nobody’s gut and Ron’s gut might be totally off base.

    From the point of view of being an actual mother, yeah, y’all are.

    And it’s funny, but most of the people I heard wishing they could stay home with the kids for a few years are men, generally in the context of the belief that it would enable them to live a life of leisure.

    If we can imagine a universe with holodecks and half-Vulcans and machines that can assemble a cup of tea out of apparent nothing, I really don’t get balking at the idea that a roughly equal number of Starfleet officers might be girls instead of staying home with their babies.

  39. 39
    Kai Jones says:

    I’m with mythago: the writers are making all this sh*t up, so why can’t they make it up in a way that is less sexist? I mean nobody is arguing that we don’t have spaceships that can exceed the speed of light so they should just take that out of the film as not founded in SCIENCE, so why does anybody argue that actual history and current reality means women wouldn’t be there? This is fiction! It can be anything we want it to be! It can show us different ways of being human than the ones we know, and even inspire us to be different people!

  40. 40
    Robe says:

    If you want PC fiction there is nothing stopping you from writing it.

  41. 41
    mythago says:

    I don’t want PCs on the Enterprise! I am sure the Federation uses open-source systems.

  42. 42
    Jeremy Redlien says:

    Um, first off there are woman in the meeting of admirals, although the scene is so badly shot and edited that it’s excusable that this might be missed. I also couldn’t tell how many, so it might not have been 50/50 but there was definitely two different feminine hairstyles that I noticed. But also, you have two female characters displaying agency and are given more to do, overall, then they would have been given from what I recall of TOS. I mean Uhurha was given stuff to do here and there in TOS but given the length of the movie, I would say she was given more as a percentage of running length.

    Although I have never seen Wrath of Kahn, so I can’t compare Carol’s, this one feels like she had more initiative/agency than most of the female characters I recall from TOS.

    Not that I’m saying this film was non-problematic (the gratuitous underwear shot for instance) just that you seem to be misrepresenting what had gone on.
    -Jeremy