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Old August 23 2008, 08:24 PM   #121
Trent Roman
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

^ Agreed. It's always bugged me that, to the extent that the Federation is supposed to be about multispecies cooperation and exchange, the boundaries between species and culture are so reified. It sometimes seems like cuisine is the area with the greatest syncretism in the Federation.

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Old August 23 2008, 09:00 PM   #122
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

Idoliside wrote: View Post
Dayton3 wrote: View Post
With those attitudes among the American people , I fear that the U.S. will be hard pressed to get support for a major war in the future.
How about...no more war?

Just a thought...

Trouble is you get people like Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot etc who don't think like that and then you have to defend yourself. There's no point letting yourself be destroyed by an enemy and letting your high minded principles go the way of the dinosaur. Sometimes you HAVE to fight.

Also people think 'illiterate welshman' is a racial slur?!!!
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Old August 23 2008, 10:37 PM   #123
Baerbel Haddrell
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

This is an interesting discussion and I would like to add a bit:

I think we should be careful and not label every description of a species as “racist”. Of course certain species have certain characteristics. I don`t think it is racist to call Vulcans in general logical, Klingons aggressive or Ferengi being good at business. That there are exceptions and that there are degrees of how much this general description applies to the individual in question should go without saying.

Political correctness has its place but I think nowadays it is getting ridiculous sometimes. In the past there was the ongoing joke “Don`t mention the war” about Germans. Now it is often “Don`t mention the Muslims”. More than with any other part of humanity, many people tend to walk on eggshells when dealing with them.

Also, I noticed the eye rolling smilie in Christopher`s posting when he was talking about Rom being influenced by us “morally superior humans”. No, we are not morally superior but our human values are not inferior to others either. It is not wrong to stand up and defend human values, like the rights of women. That does not mean forcing other species to adapt to our values but there is nothing wrong with it informing them that their ways of life and their cultural values are contradicting ours. For example, if the Ferengi wanted to mistreat their women and keep them naked, they can do that in their territory but not where human or Federation laws apply. Aliens visiting human or Federation territory are guests and should adapt to their laws. They key words are compromise and diplomacy. Quark`s bar was a good example how this can work and benefit both sides.
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Old August 23 2008, 11:10 PM   #124
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

Baerbel Haddrell wrote: View Post
This is an interesting discussion and I would like to add a bit:

I think we should be careful and not label every description of a species as “racist”. Of course certain species have certain characteristics. I don`t think it is racist to call Vulcans in general logical, Klingons aggressive or Ferengi being good at business. That there are exceptions and that there are degrees of how much this general description applies to the individual in question should go without saying.
You make a good point, but I think there you're more talking about "culture" than "species". I wouldn't say that of course certain species have certain characteristics--since that implies that it's in their genetics--but I'd definitely say that certain cultures do.

One of the points I was suggesting (perhaps not clearly enough) is that even when removed from those cultures--say, Spock as a half-breed who left Vulcan society for Starfleet, or Worf raised by humans--the writers still embedded these traits in them, as if they were part of their species and not part of their cultures.

Also, I noticed the eye rolling smilie in Christopher`s posting when he was talking about Rom being influenced by us “morally superior humans”. No, we are not morally superior but our human values are not inferior to others either.
This has just raised an interesting question for me. Rather than Rom becoming influenced by humans, what would we have thought if Jake, being friends with Nog, began to be influenced by Ferengi principles, started to behave more selfishly, focusing only on money, treating women like second-class citizens, etc.? We'd be shocked at what an unlikeable person he had become; and yet at the same time, Quark would say the hew-mon was becoming a "good Ferengi".
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Old August 23 2008, 11:55 PM   #125
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

You are right. I am sure, Jake`s dad would not be happy either, to put it very mildly.
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Old August 23 2008, 11:58 PM   #126
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

Trent Roman wrote: View Post
^ Agreed. It's always bugged me that, to the extent that the Federation is supposed to be about multispecies cooperation and exchange, the boundaries between species and culture are so reified. It sometimes seems like cuisine is the area with the greatest syncretism in the Federation.

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Old August 24 2008, 12:56 AM   #127
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

Baerbel Haddrell wrote: View Post
I think we should be careful and not label every description of a species as “racist”. Of course certain species have certain characteristics. I don`t think it is racist to call Vulcans in general logical, Klingons aggressive or Ferengi being good at business. That there are exceptions and that there are degrees of how much this general description applies to the individual in question should go without saying.
Did anyone say "racist?" Let's not inject inflammatory terms needlessly. The term I used was "essentialist," which is a technical term in sociology and historiography. Essentialism is the tendency to assume that all members of a given race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or whatever have certain universal characteristics. It's not invalid to say that Vulcan society promotes logic or that Ferengi society promotes acquisitiveness, but one must take care not to make the mistake of assuming that means Vulcans are innately logical or that Ferengi are innately greedy, or that there's only one way of thinking throughout the entire species.

And it's essentialist to assume that all people who are, say, biologically Vulcan must be culturally Vulcan as well, or vice-versa. More realistically, there would be plenty of immigration, people raised in different cultures from their ancestral ones. I would think there should be humans who chose to follow Surak, who moved to Vulcan and raised their children in Vulcan culture. They would be entitled to refer to themselves as Vulcans, as a societal signifier, even though they don't belong to the species Homo vulcanis or whatever it's called. (Ideally, species names should be lower-case, like human, elephant, dolphin, etc., and capitals should be reserved for nationalities and cultural or political entities, like American, German, Jewish, Laotian. Or else the species name should differ from the civilization name, like human/Terra. Unfortunately that distinction is rarely made in SF, which in itself promotes essentialism, the equation of species with culture.)
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Old August 24 2008, 01:28 AM   #128
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

Christopher wrote: View Post
Did anyone say "racist?"
Yes, Andrew Harris did, about 90 posts back, and the term been used in this thread/discussion multiple times... including uses by yourself.

Let's not inject inflammatory terms needlessly. The term I used was "essentialist," which is a technical term in sociology and historiography.
This, however, is the first use of the word "essentialist" in over 100 posts.
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Old August 24 2008, 02:22 AM   #129
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

Christopher wrote: View Post
Oh yeah, good point. I forgot that one. Still, there was kind of an insistence by the characters that someone who was biologically human was "supposed" to be culturally human as well, and it took them the whole episode to realize that wasn't necessarily the case. Logically, in a multispecies, multicultural Federation, it should be fairly common for humans to be born and raised identifying with alien cultures and vice-versa.
And it seemed like it was taken REALLY badly when humans were encountered who has been raised in other cultures, like that kid raised with the Talarians.
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Old August 24 2008, 02:39 AM   #130
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

William Leisner wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
Did anyone say "racist?"
Yes, Andrew Harris did, about 90 posts back, and the term been used in this thread/discussion multiple times... including uses by yourself.

Let's not inject inflammatory terms needlessly. The term I used was "essentialist," which is a technical term in sociology and historiography.
This, however, is the first use of the word "essentialist" in over 100 posts.
Yes, I agree with William; let's not have any topic-cop censoring here--this is an interesting discussion...and it would be bad for its, um, historiography.
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Old August 24 2008, 04:58 AM   #131
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

I'm not proposing censorship, just suggesting we avoid confrontational rhetoric. Too often, attempts to have reasonable, nuanced discussions about race get short-circuited because people jump to the conclusion that they're being accused of racism, which makes them angry and defensive, which scuttles the whole discussion. It's better to recognize that there's a whole spectrum of attitudes and preconceptions about race that don't necessarily qualify as racism.
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Old August 24 2008, 05:40 AM   #132
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

Thrawn wrote: View Post
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^ Agreed. It's always bugged me that, to the extent that the Federation is supposed to be about multispecies cooperation and exchange, the boundaries between species and culture are so reified. It sometimes seems like cuisine is the area with the greatest syncretism in the Federation.
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Fun! But after thinking about it, I've decided my point doesn't really make sense. In a standard western metropolis, the most multicultural area of life will also tend to be cuisine. Even outside of cities, a large town will probably have places that specialize in Chinese food, Mexican food, etc., even if it has nothing else relating to those cultures. There's just something about cuisine and its potential universality that allows it to interpenetrate various cultures more easily than anything else.

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Old August 24 2008, 08:41 AM   #133
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

Andrew Harris wrote: View Post
This has just raised an interesting question for me. Rather than Rom becoming influenced by humans, what would we have thought if Jake, being friends with Nog, began to be influenced by Ferengi principles, started to behave more selfishly, focusing only on money, treating women like second-class citizens, etc.? We'd be shocked at what an unlikeable person he had become; and yet at the same time, Quark would say the hew-mon was becoming a "good Ferengi".
To be honest Jake was one of the few almost totally uninteresting characters of the series in my opinion, it wasn't until some of the books that the character worked for me. A development like the one you described above could have done wonders for him, especially episodes dealing with Ben Sisko's reaction to it could have been fun.
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Old August 24 2008, 09:39 AM   #134
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

Defcon wrote: View Post
Andrew Harris wrote: View Post
This has just raised an interesting question for me. Rather than Rom becoming influenced by humans, what would we have thought if Jake, being friends with Nog, began to be influenced by Ferengi principles, started to behave more selfishly, focusing only on money, treating women like second-class citizens, etc.? We'd be shocked at what an unlikeable person he had become; and yet at the same time, Quark would say the hew-mon was becoming a "good Ferengi".
To be honest Jake was one of the few almost totally uninteresting characters of the series in my opinion, it wasn't until some of the books that the character worked for me. A development like the one you described above could have done wonders for him, especially episodes dealing with Ben Sisko's reaction to it could have been fun.
Yeah, I'm inclined to agree with you--they made him all-too-perfect, which as I said about 100 messages ago means that he wasn't interesting. I never thought about it before, but if they had injected some sort of rebellion into him (identifying with Nog's Ferengi traits, whatever), he would have made for an interesting character, AND a totally compelling character arc, both for him and his father. (It would have even been appropriate behavior, for a tween/teen who lost his mother and whose father has such a demanding job--acting out for attention, if nothing else.)

And then, by the time he finally came around, we would have seen some whip-smart parenting on Sisko's part and a real bond forged between father and son from what they had been through together. Instead, we got a lot of Gee-Dad-I'm-sad-that-Mom's-gone, which didn't even happen during the timeline of the series; then, when the writers finally decided that Jake wouldn't follow his father into Starfleet--an unconventional and interesting choice--they followed it with one of the least visual (and thus inherently uninteresting TV) career paths, becoming a writer. Lemme tell you, watching Jake work that PADD was compelling television.

Perhaps it's that the writers felt the actor didn't have the chops for such a character arc--when you're dealing with casting younger actors, you never really know how they're going to develop in their craft. Come to think of it, I'm not sure that Cirroc ended up with too many roles after his turn on Trek.
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Old August 24 2008, 07:43 PM   #135
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Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

I agree with Christopher to an extent on the "essentialist" nature of Trek aliens. But I'm willing to give Trek the benefit of the doubt in this case because it would be nearly impossible to explore all of the possible iterations of individuals within a species, much less the dozens we've seen, even in over 500 hours of Trek. I'm not excusing laziness, just I understand how it would be very difficult.

On the other hand, references to languages like "Cardassian" or "Vulcan" really get on my nerves. I don't speak "Human" or even "Terran."
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