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.
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.
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