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Old August 28 2012, 04:11 PM   #44
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Re: "Code of Honor" Ligonians: Humans or Aliens?

Spock/Uhura Fan wrote: View Post
And what actually happened was really bad if you consider that a large number of people were turned off from it. My guess is that wasn't the intent either. What offends some people might not offend others, but to call that offense "distortion" and "oversimplification" sounds like a distortion and an oversimplification in and of itself.
That's absolutely not what I'm saying, and I'm saddened that you've so profoundly misread my intent. I do not disagree at all that there is much about this episode that is worthy of criticism, and that it raises important issues about racial and cultural prejudice that deserve to be confronted. But the very importance and emotional impact of those issues is exactly why it is incumbent upon us to evaluate the facts of the matter carefully so that we can know exactly what it is that we're judging and critiquing. It's important to critique things that are done wrongly, but that's why it's so important to make sure we're focusing our critiques on the right things instead of on imperfect recollections or hearsay.

I am not trying to debate the morals here. I'm just trying to clarify the facts of the event. If you put someone on trial in a courtroom, you don't just make up charges or ask people what they heard about it secondhand by the water cooler; you present the evidence, you present the testimony of firsthand witnesses, you make sure the jury is considering the actual facts of the case so that they can make an informed and responsible judgment. All I'm trying to do here is present the specifics of the case of "Code of Honor" as accurately as possible. I'm not saying we shouldn't judge it; I'm saying let's judge it based on a detailed understanding of what it actually is.

But you blamed Ms. Powers for writing a bad script, or at least that's what it looked like.
Again, I'm not doing anything as simplistic as looking for a single scapegoat. I think there are many contributing factors here, a concatenation of things that produced an unfortunate result, and I'm simply trying to evaluate and understand what happened.

What's that saying? "You can't make a good movie with a bad script, but you can make a bad movie with a good one." If she wrote a bad script, then the episode was doomed to begin with. If she wrote a good script and, through the approval process, it was rewritten into something she never meant for it to be, well then that's different. Do you know if that's what happened?
Again, you're misreading what I'm trying to do here. I'm not trying to pin blame on any one person. I'm trying to show that there were multiple factors contributing to why this episode went so wrong. On the one hand, you have the script which was attempting to be a "respectful" portrayal of a samurai-like culture with a bit of Native American thrown in, but which was steeped in condescending Orientalist stereotypes. On the other hand, you have a casting process which, for some reason, selected an "African" presentation for the Ligonians, both in the choice of actors cast and in the choice of accents they used. What resulted was a mix of similarly condescending stereotypes, and since the Orientalist stereotypes had a lot of overlap with our culture's black/African stereotypes, the overall perception was of a "tribal Africa" stereotype, even though the intent of the script was based on a completely different stereotype.

I absolutely agree that the episode suffered from being built around ethnic prejudices, but what I'm trying to get across is that it's not exclusively about black or African stereotypes -- that there were other condescending stereotypes in play as well and that the different stereotypical elements combined into a whole melting pot of ethnic condescension. Which just goes to show that all ethnic stereotypes are pretty much the same and are equally harmful. But I don't think any one person, be it a writer, producer, or director, can be singled out for blame. I think they were all trying to do different things that were all flawed in their own way and ended up producing a worse result than any one of them alone would have.

And interestingly enough, Emancipation, as bad as it was, it was not nearly as bad as Code of Honor to me or as offensive.
I can understand it not hitting as close to home because the ethnic group involved is more remote from our Western experience. But it was deeply condescending and grossly inaccurate in its portrayal of Mongols. It painted them as a culture that oppresses women and keeps them secluded in purdah, which is ridiculous and wrong. The fact is that women traditionally had much higher status in Mongol and other horse-nomad societies than they did in pre-modern sedentary agrarian societies. Nomads can't afford to keep half their population segregated and useless; everyone needs to contribute. Mongol women participated in politics and war alongside the men and were valued for their contributions.

There was also the ludicrous approach to women's costuming in the episode -- painting these Mongols as keeping women veiled and hidden, yet having them put Carter in a dress with a plunging neckline that showed a lot of skin. That's completely self-contradictory. From an anthropological, sociological, and historical perspective, it was just painfully wrong.

Well, it seems wild and uncontrolled to me to steal a member of another group of people you've never come in contact with and take them as your own.
Not if the culture you belong to has clear, predetermined rules and rituals for such an abduction and you follow those rules to the letter. Other cultures may find that behavior to be immoral and unjust, but it's still very controlled and disciplined, and by your own culture's standards, entirely civilized and ethical.

I think, based on the script, that I would consider that act savage--because I do, in fact, consider that savage behavior.
Then I don't think you're using the word "savage" correctly. I don't disagree with your belief that it's a bad thing, but there are better words to describe it. "Savage" doesn't just mean "a thing I don't like," it means ferocious, untamed, wild, barbarous. Frankly it's a very racially loaded term -- calling another culture savage is implicitly calling them subhuman. If your intent is to protest the racial stereotypes in "Code of Honor," then you're working against your own credibility by using that term, and I'd recommend you find a less dehumanizing one.

It's very presumptuous to assume that the audience is "misremembering" anything.
It's not presumptuous at all, because it's based on the actual facts of the case. I've consulted the transcript of "Code of Honor" for the actual dialogue, and I've looked at screencaps so I could see the costume and set designs that were used, and some of the statements people have made about the content of the episode have clearly been incorrect.

If you don't agree with the conclusions other people made, that's one thing, but to suggest that only people that agree with you came to the "right" one is something else.
Again, you've completely misread my intent. I don't disagree with the moral conclusion that "Code of Honor" is objectionable due to its stereotypes. I'm just trying to point out that the reality is more complicated than many are assuming -- and if anything, perhaps even worse than people are assuming, because there are actually multiple ethnic prejudices contributing to the result rather than just one.
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