Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character?

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Dayton3, Aug 14, 2008.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    I remember hearing old Fibber McGee and Molly radio shows where these performers who were usually so nice and funny were exhorting people to save and scrimp and donate to the war effort because "Every can you donate kills a Jap" and so on. It was really troubling. Going by the propaganda, we were fighting the war in Europe to make the world safe for democracy, but we were fighting the war in the Pacific to "kill Japs," to exterminate a breed of vermin. War movies always made a point of showing "good Germans" helping the Allies fight the Nazis, but always portrayed the Japanese as uniformly evil and inhuman.
     
  2. Dayton3

    Dayton3 Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    Question?

    Are Trek readers really interested in reading about a major character who is unliked by the other major characters?
     
  3. Defcon

    Defcon Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    Sure, why not? I had actually hoped that Tev would be such a character for the CoE series, and while he is at times, I still feel there could have been done more with him in that regard.

    (P.S.: I have only read the reprints of S.C.E./CoE)
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2008
  4. Dayton Ward

    Dayton Ward Word Pusher Rear Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    From a writing standpoint, if such a character adds to the storytelling possibilities, why not?
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2008
  5. KRAD

    KRAD Keith R.A. DeCandido Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    That can be attributed to two things: 1) The Nazis didn't actually bomb our territory. We declared war on Japan, and that led to Hitler declaring war on us due to the alliance. So we were in Europe more or less by default, but we were in Asia because we got bombed. 2) Japanese people look more foreign to Mr. Joe-Bob America than German people.
     
  6. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character


    I definitely agree with your assessment of what the purpose of such images is.

    What I am curious to know is this...do you think the frequency, use, and flagrancy of such images has changed in modern days? Or is it still just as bad as ever?

    (I tend not to follow newspapers anymore, and only watch limited amounts of TV, so I imagine you are more in-touch with modern media than I am.)
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    I think it's still present, but less mainstream and less universally accepted. It's generally more subtle. There are some ugly attitudes about Muslims, Arabs, etc. on blogs and talk radio and certain "news" networks on TV, but anything as overt and murderous as the "kill the Japs" propaganda of WWII is only found on racist sites and the like, I'd imagine. It would constitute hate speech by today's laws.
     
  8. Andrew Harris

    Andrew Harris Writer Red Shirt

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    Not to veer too far off topic--too late!--but here's just a quick comparison...judge for yourself. (FYI, that third one is an ape wearing a kaiser helmet, patterned after the King Kong movie poster; the editorial comics are all from famous/well known cartoonists.)

    From WWII -- Snake, Rat, Beast:

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]


    From the War In Iraq -- Snake, Rat, Beast:
    .
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
  9. Dayton3

    Dayton3 Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    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.

    But that is more worthy of a TNZ thread.
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    The crucial difference, though, is that the latter trio of cartoons are dehumanizing a single individual, Saddam Hussein, while the WWII cartoons are directed against entire nationalities. And the images of Saddam don't employ the technique of ethnic caricature, except maybe for the heavy eyebrows and bushy moustache in the first, while the racial caricature of the Japanese in the first two cartoons is nauseatingly blatant. Even the "King Kong" is signified as German by a piece of headgear rather than by physiognomy. It's unquestionable that the first two cartoons are demonizing the Japanese as a race, while the King Kong cartoon could arguably be interpreted as signifying the German war machine or imperialist structure rather than the Germans as a people. Also, both the anti-Japanese cartoons show the caricatured "Jap" animal as a victim of direct and ongoing physical violence. The only other cartoon that even comes close to that is the one of Bush atop the Saddam bear rug, and even that only shows the aftermath of violence rather than depicting the act itself.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are people out there who'd draw and distribute cartoons depicting acts of violence against dehumanized caricatures of the entire Arab race. But they wouldn't get their cartoons published in respectable newspapers or used as official state propaganda. So we've made some progress.
     
  11. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    I'm with Christopher on that: the way Saddam is being treated in those cartoons is no different than the unflattering caricatures I've seen of U.S. politicians.

    It seems like it's being aimed at one person and one alone, whereas those WWII posters--that's the "artistic" equivalent of a carpet bombing and it's absolutely disgusting.
     
  12. William Leisner

    William Leisner Scribbler Rear Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    I'd be truly surprised if, particularly in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, there was not a single publication in the US that gave into their lesser instincts and printed a cartoon depicting Muslims in this kind of light.

    Not that I'm going to go looking for them, mind you.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    ^^I'm sure you're right. Passions were pretty high back then. And it wasn't just cartoons -- there were hate crimes against people of Mideastern descent or people who just looked like they were. (There was one idiot who murdered a Sikh in "retaliation," even though Sikhs aren't Muslims.) But things didn't remain at that level (except in some minds). And the government did make an effort to combat that kind of thinking, to stress that the enemy was al-Qaeda and not Islam, to condemn the hate crimes. They didn't embrace such tactics in official propaganda or round up Arab-Americans in concentration camps.
     
  14. Andrew Harris

    Andrew Harris Writer Red Shirt

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    I think that's an astute observation; but also remember that while the Japanese were the enemy in WWII, in the Iraq War the message was that Saddam Hussein was the enemy, and not the Iraqi people. (How many times did we here that?) So, the illustrations are simply taking "the enemy" and then depicting them in identical ways, 60 years apart. Because, as I said, that kind of collective perception makes it easier to kill them.

    To briefly relate this back to Star Trek, I wonder if there's not a sort of passive stereotyping at work when dealing with all of its aliens, as a consequence of the shorthand techniques of storytelling. We think of Vulcans, Cardassians, Ferengi, etc., is broad strokes, in a way that might even be considered racist if applied to Latinos, Jews, gays, etc.

    And the individuals whom we've gotten to know closely from those races are generally depicted to reinforce those stereotypes--Spock, Quark, etc. Even Worf, raised by humans, remains largely (though not exclusively) Klingon in his personality traits. I think Odo is probably the only one I can recall at the moment who doesn't follow this pattern.

    While some of that could be ascribed to general culture rather than race, I'm not sure that really explains all of it.
     
  15. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    Would you say that even the Trek literature that focuses on other races primarily falls prey to that or not?

    I have found at least in my personal observation that certain cultures seem to show more evidence of diversity even if they're minorities in some cases...and interestingly enough, they're the good guys. Of all Trek races, I would say the Bajorans got the most delving-into as far as their views, attitudes, and the actions they were and weren't willing to take. You still had that overarching religious influence, but when you looked at the degrees of seriousness with which people actually lived by those principles, it became very clear that Bajor was no monolithic bloc of opinion.

    As for the Vulcans, I did see more diversity start to appear in Enterprise, and for all the bashing I see of that series, I think that was a very good move on their part.

    Where I haven't seen as much diversity aside from little drips and drabs here and there has been with antagonist/contrast races. With the Klingons you mainly had the warrior caste--different levels of dedication to honor, but generally all portrayed as highly ritualistic Vikings. With the Romulans...there generally wasn't a lot of development on-air, so just a lot of emphasis on the "sneakiness" aspect. The same goes for Kazons, Changelings (excepting Odo), and quite a number of other adversary races. (I except the Borg, Jem'Hadar, and Vorta because the genetic engineering/technological enhancements provide acceptable explanations.)

    Where I personally think they got closest to REALLY rounding out an adversary race was--ironically, considering the term that started this aspect of the discussion--was with the Cardassians. I think there was potential for this all the way back to "The Wounded," where right off the bat the three characters all exhibit very different personalities and reactions to the situation they were in. Now, the "Orwellian society" angle went a long way towards defining what Cardassia was, as we got to know them--but there definitely started to be some cracks in that early on with people like Joret Dal, Natima Lang, and Tekeny Ghemor. Though it started as a trickle, I think this really went a long way towards Season 7, which to my mind took everything anybody thought they could make a blanket judgment on and tossed it right out the window with what then seemed to be at least half of the Cardassians from then on out.
     
  16. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    Sure. "The Trouble With Bearclaw", the aforementioned DC comic, features antagonism that ultimately brings out the best in both Bearclaw and his elderly Andorian mentor.

    The novel "A Rock and a Hard Place" featured the very unlikable Mr Stone - and it was a great read.

    Reg Barclay was disliked by many of the crew in the episode "Hollow Pursuits" (TNG), and that was a fun episode.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    The Germans were also the enemy in WWII, but we were constantly told that the real enemy was the Nazi party and war machine, not the rank-and-file German people. Conversely, we were never told that the real enemy was the Japanese imperial regime and that the rank-and-file Japanese people were good folks we should be defending; we were instead told that the single and defining purpose of the war in the Pacific was to "kill Japs." And we didn't round up German-Americans and put them in camps. (Although it's true that a lot of the German street names here in Cincinnati got changed during WWI.)

    Let's not forget that there was a whole lot more institutionalized racism in America in the 1940s than there is today. Heck, anti-Semitism was widespread and accepted in the US until we saw the concentration camps and were forced to recognize how horrific it really was. While dehumanizing the enemy is universal, the racism among Americans was far more blatant and widespread then. Today we still have virulent racists, but they aren't mainstream or socially acceptable the way they were then.


    Oh, absolutely. There's a strong tendency toward racial essentialism in Trek and other SF, a habit of stereotyping alien races in ways that would be considered horrific if applied to human races. It's widely assumed that a character's species determines their personality, belief system, language, culture, even their tastes in food, clothing, and hairstyle.

    Well, Rom and Ishka defied their culture's norms, although Rom did so largely because he was influenced by us morally superior humans. :rolleyes: But yeah, it always kind of bugged me about Worf, the fact that his personality was defined on the basis of his genetics rather than the culture in which he was raised. It ameliorated it somewhat when they revealed that Worf wasn't really that much like other Klingons, but more like an inaccurate image of Klingons that he'd built for himself. Still, it would've been nice to see an "alien" character raised by humans and having a human cultural identity as a result -- or vice-versa, a human who identified with an alien culture. The closest we got to the latter was Stefan DeSeve, and he was defined as a traitor for "going native" among the Romulans.

    True, especially since it doesn't make sense that an entire planet's worth of aliens would have only one culture among them. Earth alone has thousands.
     
  18. Idoliside

    Idoliside Commander Red Shirt

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    How about...no more war?

    Just a thought...
     
  19. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    What about Suddenly Human? Or do you mean a person who chose to live as a member of another culture.
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Have Star Trek Writers Ever Tried to Create an Unlikable Character

    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.