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Feminspire | April 19, 2014

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Star Trek Into Darkness: Another Misogynistic Summer Blockbuster

Star Trek Into Darkness: Another Misogynistic Summer Blockbuster

Since seeing it for the second time on Monday, I’ve thought a lot about the new Star Trek movie. After dissecting the hell out of it, I have concluded that is not really a Star Trek movie at all. It’s just another misogynistic, racist, run-of-the-mill summer action movie. I don’t have the authority to speak too much about the huge racial problems in this movie (casting choices gone horribly wrong), but I can speak about the way the female characters were (mis)treated.

A lot of progress was made for women on TV when the original Star Trek aired. The character of Lieutenant Uhura was played by Nichelle Nichols, a woman of color. Her position as a major character in the TV show and six movies was groundbreaking — at the time, only a few other black women had ever portrayed anything other than a servant on TV. She kisses Captain Kirk in an episode during season three, one of the first interracial kisses on television.

uhura kirk kiss

In the show, Dr. Carol Marcus is a single mother who leads a team of space biologists to create the Genesis Project, a program that creates habitable planets out of those that have no life. Then there’s Nurse Chapel, who is an extremely talented nurse, close friend of Uhura, and who eventually becomes a commander. Do we learn any of this in the new movie? Kind of.

In the Star Trek Into Darkness universe, Uhura can speak a dozen languages, is a trusted officer and confidant of Capt. Kirk, and Dr. Carol Marcus has a doctorate in Physics and extensive weapons knowledge. They are not afraid to do the jobs they are sent to do, or to speak their minds. Dr. Marcus takes the lead in de-arming the missiles when no one else can. Uhura speaks to the Klingons by herself when there’s not much hope of any of them getting out alive. Dr. Marcus mentions her friend Nurse Chapel when speaking to Captain Kirk. So far so good, right? Nope.

Carol Marcus gets no backstory, other than the fact that she is the daughter of a general and is really good looking. And in the end, both those attributes completely overshadow the fact that she’s a physicist and weapons expert. She ends up in her bra and underwear for absolutely no reason, and her desire to not be stared at by Captain Kirk while she is changing is completely ignored. Quoth one of the producers of the movie:

“Last time, Zoe needed to wear underwear, and this time it was Alice Eve’s turn. You know, it’s a rather large male fanbase, and JJ wanted to appeal to that.”

He has since apologized for that remark and the general uselessness of that scene, but the sting from the blatant sexism still lingers.

Lieutenant Uhura’s brief shining moment in this movie is when she goes out to speak with the Klingons, a terrifying warrior race of creatures that show no mercy. She speaks to them because it is their only chance of making it out alive, and she does so by herself. Captain Kirk never says it to her face, but he doesn’t believe she can do it. Then, instead of discussing Uhura’s skills and bravery and allowing her to defeat the Klingons, we have to spend most of her screen time discussing her romantic relationship with Spock.

uhura spock

Nurse Chapel doesn’t make an appearance in this movie at all, except as a passing mention. (Apparently two major female characters was enough for this movie.) And worse yet, she becomes a punchline to a joke about Captain Kirk’s promiscuity and womanizing. Kirk does not remember her, and she has apparently left the Enterprise to be stationed out in space far, far away from Kirk. For an original character who becomes a commander, this is an incredibly sad watering down.

Speaking of Kirk’s sexual conquests, I have a real problem with the fact that the twins he sleeps with at the beginning of the movie are Asian cat women.

Oh, and it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test.

Star Trek Into Darkness does not carry the same support of independent spirited women as the original series does, and this spirited independent woman thinks that’s a load of bullshit.

Written by Peggy Korpela


  • BotanyBuff

    Oh dear. So glad I didn’t give up a Saturday afternoon to see this movie.

    • Maddie

      It is worth a saturday afternoon. Still a wonderfully entertaining movie. At this point, there is rarely a movie that can be found without some sort of sexism at play.

  • femlove

    Seeing naked or shirtless women is not sexist. As a lesbian woman I enjoy seeing Alice Eve’s curves.

    • Jessica

      How come we almost never see naked men? I enjoy seeing male figures and so do a lot of other people. If only women are sexually objectified then it is sexist.

      • Jeff

        “How come we almost never see naked men?”

        Because men in positions of power are sexier than their bodies. In that way men are objectified, as distributors of resources and not as individuals.

        In short, people–i.e., women, more so–find powerful men more attractive than their bodies.

        This is basic biology, apparent to everyone who hasn’t been ruined by feminist shithead indoctrination…which is to say, not many in America.

        • JonathanNathan

          Oh really, Jeff? Unless you’re gay, and you’re not, you really aren’t in a position to tell women what sort of men they’re attracted to. Back to Reddit with you.

  • Deejay

    Rather dissapointed in this movie.

  • JSP42

    More important, this trend of using “misogynistic” instead of “sexist”.

    Has the word “sexist” lost its venom so much that you guys have switched to the more ominous “misogynistic”?

    If you think a movie that features a woman in bra and panties that does nothing to advance the story is a indicator of hatred of women you have zero understanding of how male desire works.

    • Jessica

      I think you’ve really just proved her point. She’s saying that women’s accomplishments are devalued. A woman’s value is based on whether she can awaken a man’s desire. And why does male desire get so much attention and female desire gets so little? Don’t give me that crap about how women aren’t visually stimulated because that’s a huge lie.

      • DeeMar

        Are you blind? Are you unmoved by the hot men in this movie?

        • Kels

          Seriously. I am always waiting for those beautiful close ups of Chris Pine.

    • Ninto21

      Indeed. How is it “misogynistic” to show a sexy woman on screen? The director thinks she looks good in underwear… therefore he hates women?

  • Grant Ellis

    Having walked out of the movie, and seeing this on a friends facebook I went in expecting the worst.

    But I have a few questions for the article writer, probably best asked here publicly:

    “Carol Marcus gets no backstory”

    Which characters get backstory in this movie? Maybe only the villain?

    “Lieutenant Uhura’s brief shining moment in this movie is when she goes out to speak with the Klingons, a terrifying warrior race of creatures that show no mercy.” ….

    … what about warping down on a flying vehicle and shooting Khan point blank in the face a dozen times?

    • Lauren Slavin

      You do have to factor in the previous film, where we learned a lot about Spock and Kirk’s backgrounds, far more than Uhura. Which reflects on “Into Darkness,” where her only role is to be Spock’s girlfriend (yes, even when she warps onto the vehicle).

      I would agree the main relationship the movie works to move forward is Spock and Kirk’s, which is does very well, in my opinion. So why can’t women have similar arcs?

      • Grant Ellis

        A woman can be a major character and undergo dramatic story arcs. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are not women though, and we shouldn’t force gender requirements on any character’s role in the story.

        I think it is important to look past gender at the lifeblood characters of this movie: Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock. The major antagonistic force of the movie is Khan.

        There’s quite a few supporting characters in the movie: Chekov, Sulu, Scotty, McCoy.

        We do not see their backgrounds.
        We did not see them in the first movie either.
        In the interest of time and story flow, we probably shouldn’t

        They are to support and work as factors to move the story forward, and the story being told is between Kirk and Spock.

        Uhura may be in a relationship with Spock, but she is also playing roles in the crew and performing her duties. I don’t think she earns the right to usurp the story based on gender.

        In fact, if she was a man in a homosexual relationship with Spock, what would the response be? What if Kirk was a woman who was going around sleeping with men, getting into bar fights, and sloppily captained a starship in bull-headed fashion?

        I think it would change the emotional overtone, but not damage the movie or the story.

        However, the choice was made to keep Kirk, Spock, and Uhura in line with their roles from the Original Series. Name one episode or movie moment that features Uhura and there are several dozen that will feature Kirk and Spock, not because of gender, but because of story importance.

        I don’t think we should be forced to explain a character’s role in a story because of their gender, I think we should emphasize the characters and story moments that are most critical, and in the case of cinematic storytelling it is usually the two leads.

        The fact that we are making the gender of the characters an issue at all says a lot really.

  • Shaun

    Well said Peggy.
    Gene Roddenbury would turn in his grave!
    He so tried to make the world wake up to sexism and racism and they just stuff it up this way.

  • tpring

    Couldn’t agree more with EVERYTHING said in this article. Thank you for the succint and well-written summary of everything I was thinking.

  • yuenquan

    That’s because the old Star Trek was still stuck in conservative times. The gratuitous nudity here just makes it better.

  • Paula Henderson

    Thank you. I walked out of this movie most of the way through, feeling sick. I just checked online to see if anyone else was affected this way. The roles of women were shocking. This speaks to a lack of female presence in the production of the film too. This hearkens back to the original James Bond movies. Please, haven’t we women made any progress? Do we need to burn our bras again and start all over?