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-   -   In Star Trek -- Looking like humans = Being civilized? (http://www.trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=195175)

JirinPanthosa November 26 2012 06:29 AM

In Star Trek -- Looking like humans = Being civilized?
 
I just watched Nemesis, the Voyager episode that turned this cliche on its head. That the more human you look, the more civilized and less savage you are.

But in general, it's always the human-looking aliens who are kind and helpful and the less human-looking aliens who are violent and savage. For instance, think of some of the most aggressive races we've seen: The Nausicaans, the Shelliac, them Jem Hadar.

And who are the most victimized, the most sympathetic races, who make such good friends with the Federation? Betazoids, Bajorans, Vulcans, Ocampa, Talaxians, Trill. (Mostly light skinned) Humans with pointy ears, wrinkled noses, spots, hobbitlike facial hair or other minor differences.

And all the violent, deceptive races are more monstrous looking to us, and generally darker skinned, like the klingons, romulans, farengi, kazon.

Is this strictly a result of costume budget and the fact the majority of actors available are caucasian, or is this something subconscious on behalf of the writers, that more like humans = more moral. Is Star Trek guilty of the same kind of exoticism it argues against?

Even in Nemesis, we would not have successfully been brainwashed into siding with the Vori if we hadn't been programmed into us to assume the more human, lighter skinned looking race was more sympathetic.

Nerys Ghemor November 26 2012 07:21 AM

Re: In Star Trek -- Looking like humans = Being civilized?
 
It's interesting to note--and this does seem to add to your point--that even Tora Ziyal's appearance seems to change to fit the stereotype. The more we are encouraged to sympathize with her, the more the "Cardassianness" of her makeup is downplayed and the more her Bajoran features are emphasized.

t_smitts November 26 2012 07:44 AM

Re: In Star Trek -- Looking like humans = Being civilized?
 
Quote:

JirinPanthosa wrote: (Post 7304161)
I just watched Nemesis, the Voyager episode that turned this cliche on its head. That the more human you look, the more civilized and less savage you are.

But in general, it's always the human-looking aliens who are kind and helpful and the less human-looking aliens who are violent and savage. For instance, think of some of the most aggressive races we've seen: The Nausicaans, the Shelliac, them Jem Hadar.

And who are the most victimized, the most sympathetic races, who make such good friends with the Federation? Betazoids, Bajorans, Vulcans, Ocampa, Talaxians, Trill. (Mostly light skinned) Humans with pointy ears, wrinkled noses, spots, hobbitlike facial hair or other minor differences.

And all the violent, deceptive races are more monstrous looking to us, and generally darker skinned, like the klingons, romulans, farengi, kazon.

Is this strictly a result of costume budget and the fact the majority of actors available are caucasian, or is this something subconscious on behalf of the writers, that more like humans = more moral. Is Star Trek guilty of the same kind of exoticism it argues against?

Even in Nemesis, we would not have successfully been brainwashed into siding with the Vori if we hadn't been programmed into us to assume the more human, lighter skinned looking race was more sympathetic.

-The Sheliak are highly territorial and consider humans inferior, but in their one and only appearance, nothing about them said they were aggressive (i.e. invading other systems).

-The Ferengi have under gone such a character shift that the ones seen in the first few seasons have virtually nothing in common with Quark and ones who come after him.

-The Talaxians certainly look nothing like humans.

-The Jem'Hadar only do the dirty work of the much more human-looking Vorta. And while individual Jem'Hadar have been shown to have some sense of honor, the Vorta (except for Weyoun-6) have typically been shown to be irredeemable.

-The non-Cabal Suliban in "Detained" were unjustly imprisoned by the Tandarans, whom the episode noted look a lot like humans.

-The Kazon were formerly enslaved by the Trabe, who proved to be untrustworthy in their own right.

-The Medusans were said to be so hideous as to drive someone mad, yet were supposedly a highly enlightened species.

-Most of the Triannon in "Chosen Realm" were religious extremists.

-We've seen unsavory individuals from the human looking aliens you mentioned: Betazoid Lon Suder was apparently a sociopath. Kai Winn, Jaro Essa, Colonel Day, Tahna Los, and Basso Tromac were unsympathetic Bajorans. Tanis was an unsympathetic Ocampa (so was Kes, for that matter, in "Fury"). We've seen deceptive Vulcans like Valeris and V'Las. Joran Dax was a murderous Trill.

Quote:

Nerys Ghemor wrote: (Post 7304260)
It's interesting to note--and this does seem to add to your point--that even Tora Ziyal's appearance seems to change to fit the stereotype. The more we are encouraged to sympathize with her, the more the "Cardassianness" of her makeup is downplayed and the more her Bajoran features are emphasized.

We've seen sympathetic Cardassians: Daro, Marritza, Ghemor (the guy in your avatar), Natima Lang, Joret Dal, Gilora Rejal, Mila. Even Garak and Damar proved redeemable, despite doing some terrible things.

Nerys Ghemor November 26 2012 07:56 AM

Re: In Star Trek -- Looking like humans = Being civilized?
 
Certainly we have seen those other Cardassians who were good people. That said, what happened with Tora Ziyal and the makeup choices made for her, is pretty telling.

jayrath November 26 2012 11:52 PM

Re: In Star Trek -- Looking like humans = Being civilized?
 
I don't know about this. I know TOS best, and in that series we had an intelligent gas cloud, a living rock, several non-corporeal beings (including several made up only of pure energy) plus the Metrons (GOD knows what they are). Only one of these was evil. We also had the Medusans, a very, very ugly race that was very, very good.

I could be wrong, but I like to think that the lower FX budget made for greater inventiveness.

TNG gave us smart sand and nanites. But I agree with the general observation above, that pretty=good and vice versa in all of Trek. (Still, let's also not forget that NBC initially so freaked out over Spock that the network airbrushed Nimoy's eyebrows and ears in publicity materials. He was the original good-but-icky Trek alien.)

MacLeod November 27 2012 01:47 AM

Re: In Star Trek -- Looking like humans = Being civilized?
 
Well changes in Ziyal's apperance might be in part due to using a different actres.

The Wormhole November 27 2012 02:30 AM

Re: In Star Trek -- Looking like humans = Being civilized?
 
Yeah, it's a common trope. Hell, look at the Xindi. The human-esque primates and monkey-descended Arboreals turned out to be the good guys while the reptiles and insects were the bad guys. Of course, the fish were also good guys, but that doesn't support my argument.

t_smitts November 27 2012 02:45 AM

Re: In Star Trek -- Looking like humans = Being civilized?
 
Quote:

The Wormhole wrote: (Post 7308691)
Yeah, it's a common trope. Hell, look at the Xindi. The human-esque primates and monkey-descended Arboreals turned out to be the good guys while the reptiles and insects were the bad guys. Of course, the fish were also good guys, but that doesn't support my argument.

What about the numerous examples I cited above?

The Wormhole November 27 2012 03:03 AM

Re: In Star Trek -- Looking like humans = Being civilized?
 
Honestly, I didn't bother reading through the thread. I skimmed the OP, then posted a common complaint I remembered back when the Xindi story first aired.

Xhiandra November 27 2012 09:06 PM

Re: In Star Trek -- Looking like humans = Being civilized?
 
Quote:

JirinPanthosa wrote: (Post 7304161)
I just watched Nemesis, the Voyager episode that turned this cliche on its head. That the more human you look, the more civilized and less savage you are.

But in general, it's always the human-looking aliens who are kind and helpful and the less human-looking aliens who are violent and savage. For instance, think of some of the most aggressive races we've seen: The Nausicaans, the Shelliac, them Jem Hadar.

I think you're seeing a pattern that just isn't there.

1. You oversimplify races.
You (thankfully) can't simplify Trek into "good vs evil", save for some of the dumber DS9 propaganda elements (prophets, pah-wraiths, Bajorans and all that junk).


2. You sort examples to fit the pre-established pattern rather than forming a pattern from the examples.

How are the Romulans "monstrous" or any more alien than the Talaxians? Or the Kazons for that matter?
They're just guys with wild hair! If that's monstrous, you must've been cryogenically frozen throughout the 80s.

Are the Tellarites and Rigelians less alien than the Nausicaans and Jem'Hadar? The answer would be subjective, I'd say.
Personally, if I had to select one Trek race that I find repugnant, I'd pick joined Trills, no hesitation.
It might not be visible when they're fully clothed, but the idea that they have a worm* in their chests is "uglier" than any forehead ridge to me.

Should the Xindi reptilians be included because they fit the bill but not the Xindi aquatics because they don't?

Was that Boslic freighter captain treated more sympathetically than the "ugly" Ferengi (hint: it's Quark) she deals with? Not at all.

if you were to repertory all examples and counter-examples, I think you'd arrive at a rough 50/50 split, tbh; one problem with the human brain is that it's over-trained to notice patterns where there are none.



*Yes, yes, it's sentient and you're no doubt thinking of using it as an example of how -I- am biased against non-humanoids; so: pre-rebuttal: appearance irrelevant, need to live inside someone else very relevant.

JirinPanthosa December 1 2012 03:20 AM

Re: In Star Trek -- Looking like humans = Being civilized?
 
Okay, maybe looking like humans isn't the rule. Maybe the rule is "****ability". ;)

I don't find the idea of trills too repugnant. You're hosting millions of friendly bacteria yourself who help with your metabolism.

And, maybe being 'Evil' is an oversimplification. But look at the Trabe versus the Kazon. The Trabe are just as bad as the Kazon, but look at their roles. The Trabe are to the Kazon as 15th century Europeans are to 15th century Africans. And the Kazon are portrayed as wandering groups of warlords with crazy superstitions and fathers who kill their children for showing weakness. The Trabe are probably even worse than they are, but they're bad in a more 'Modern' way. And the Klingons are just as absurdly superstitious and irrational, even if for most of the modern series they're protagonists.

Romulans are TNG's cold war Communists, another 'Modern' evil, and a rational unsuperstitious one.

Same with Vorta vs Jem Hadar. Vorta are just as dangerous, but they're the rational manipulative evil, not the violent superstitious evil.

Less ****able = More superstitious, more tribal, more arbitrarily violent.

Melakon December 1 2012 04:39 AM

Re: In Star Trek -- Looking like humans = Being civilized?
 
I think you're reading too much into the artistic decisions made by makeup designers. The scripts usually were limited to describing alien characters as 'humanoid' (bipeds resembling ourselves) or 'monstrous' (Armus, Sheliak, Morn, special effects/cgi). Nearly all alien races emphasize some aspect of human nature, whether it be violence, honor, furtiveness, spiritualism, or greed for dramatic purposes.


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