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

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

  1. Trent Roman

    Trent Roman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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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.

    Fictitiously yours, Trent Roman
     
  2. OptimusPete

    OptimusPete Captain Captain

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


    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?!!!
     
  3. Baerbel Haddrell

    Baerbel Haddrell Commodore Commodore

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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.
     
  4. Andrew Harris

    Andrew Harris Writer Red Shirt

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

    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.

    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".
     
  5. Baerbel Haddrell

    Baerbel Haddrell Commodore Commodore

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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.
     
  6. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    I learned a new word today!
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    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.)
     
  8. William Leisner

    William Leisner Scribbler Rear Admiral

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

    Yes, Andrew Harris did, about 90 posts back, and the term been used in this thread/discussion multiple times... including uses by yourself.

    This, however, is the first use of the word "essentialist" in over 100 posts.
     
  9. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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

    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.
     
  10. Andrew Harris

    Andrew Harris Writer Red Shirt

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

    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.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2008
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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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.
     
  12. Trent Roman

    Trent Roman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    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.

    Fictitiously yours, Trent Roman
     
  13. Defcon

    Defcon Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    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.
     
  14. Andrew Harris

    Andrew Harris Writer Red Shirt

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

    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.
     
  15. ToddCam

    ToddCam Captain Captain

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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."
     
  16. BrotherBenny

    BrotherBenny Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Trek portrays these races/cultures as having adopted one language as a planetary one. On Earth, the three most spoken languages today (in order) are Arabic, Chinese and English, but by the 24th century English has been adopted as the Federation Standard. It's a plot device, nothing more.
     
  17. ToddCam

    ToddCam Captain Captain

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

    Federation Standard is not the same thing as "Human." It is what it is, the standard language of the Federation. Now if it were called Earth Standard, you might have a point.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    On the other hand, we use the name "Chinese" for both the language and the people of the country we call "China," even though the natives of that country use three different names for those things (the country is Zhonghua, the people the Han, and the primary language putonghua)*. And we no doubt do the same with other countries/languages. So it's likely that Vulcans, Cardassians, or whoever have distinct names for their planet, species, and language, but English-speakers use the same term for all three because it's easier to keep track of.

    *Well, actually there are multiple names used for any one of those things, but I'm simplifying.
     
  19. Andrew Harris

    Andrew Harris Writer Red Shirt

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

    I lived in Prague for five years, and the Czechs speak Czech...

    For that matter, the Germans speak German, the Japanese speak Japanese, the English speak English, the Russians speak Russian, the French speak French...
     
  20. BrotherBenny

    BrotherBenny Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Since we've moved on to languages, do the Czech, the Germans and the French have a specific name for their languages?

    The Irish, Scottish and Welsh all have their own name for the language itself. for example, the Welsh speak cymraeg - but English people call it Welsh because we call the country Wales. In cymraeg, Wales is called Cymru.

    IIRC, the Vulcans do actually have a name for their language, but I don't remember off hand what it is. The Klingons do, but don't ask me to spell it, and as for the Romulans, it's evolved from Vulcan. The Cardassians may but we've never really gone that deep into their culture, and the Bajorans may well do, but I don't remember it's name if it has been given.