Star Trek: Into the Darkness – Progressive fail

I recently went to see the new star trek film ‘Into the Darkness’ and I enjoyed it (I am a bit of a trekkie) as an action film.  But for me it has forgotten its heritage of progressive values (in this blog I’m focusing mainly on gender).  Let me explain what I mean by this.  The original Star Trek (1967) was ground breaking in so many ways.

Roddenberry envisioned race and gender as non-issues. He put Japanese-American George Takei, as Lt. Hikaru Sulu, at the helm; African-American Nichelle Nichols, as Lt. Nyota Uhura, in the communications chair; and even attempted to make the Enterprise’s first officer a woman (studio executives rejected that unsavory idea, so the alien Spock took the job). The equality on the U.S.S. Enterprise’s bridge was a watershed moment, both in television history and in Americans’ understanding of social equality – WIRED

Roddenberry’s (the creator of Star Trek) vision was continued and developed over the other series.  In Star Trek the next generation (1987) we see in the first series 3 women characters (head of security, the doctor and a counsellor).  In Deep Space 9 (1993) the second in command was a woman (plus female science officer).  And in voyager (1995) saw the first female captain (plus female chief engineer).

So I have laid before you the Star Trek credentials on pushing forward gender equality often far ahead of its time in each case.  Indeed as you can see in the quote above Roddenberry tried to have the first officer in the original star trek as a woman but the NBC executives didn’t think it would be plausible to have a women in a position of command!!  So now let’s return the new film ‘Into the Darkness’, what’s my problem with it?  Well first of all have you heard of the ‘Bechdel Test’?  The ‘Bechdel Test’ is a simple test that can be applied to any film.  It has three criteria:

  1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something besides a man

So does the new Star Trek pass?  It has two named female characters: Uhura and Dr. Marcus so it passes the first, but I am afraid fails on the next two, no women speak to each other in the film!!  (Actually they do in one scene Kirk is in bed with two naked twin alien women who ask each other if he’s really going to leave them to answer his phone, epic fail).  The first Star Trek film in the re-launch (2009) does actually pass the test unlike ‘Into the Darkness’.  I say it passes I will let you judge for yourselves if you think if promotes a positive view of women, the only scene where two women talk to each is where Uhura has a conversation with her room-mate (an Orien, a green alien for non-trekkies).  The conversation is not about a man therefore it passes but they are both in their underwear with Kirk hiding under the bed!!  In ‘Into the Darkness’ they also manage to contrive a pointless scene to get Dr. Marcus into her underwear.  I could go on, I could talk about how both Uhura and Dr. Marcus characters are mainly define by men, most of Uhura’s scenes are based around her relationship with Spock and Dr. Marcus is only there because of her Admiral Dad.  I could talk about that more, but you get the point I’m making.  The new Star Trek is a good action film but has gone backwards in terms of its progressive values.  The film certainly doesn’t empower women if anything it does the opposite.  Come on Star Trek you can do better.

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