Is Trek Still Too Eurocentric?

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Nob Akimoto, Oct 21, 2013.

  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, Ansara was Syrian. But they still put him in heavy brownface makeup.



    I agree. Heck, the TNG spec script I did back in 1992 featured a Klingon character that I wrote with Avery in mind.
     
  2. RandyS

    RandyS Vice Admiral Admiral

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    They couldn't have done that in Sisko's case anyway. I don't remember where I heard (or read) this, but Avery Brooks reportedly inisted that any romance Sisko had be with a black woman, so a black actress was required. Which, presumably, is how Penny Johnson got hired.
     
  3. Joel_Kirk

    Joel_Kirk Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    You're correct. I disagree with Avery Brooks on that....because it goes against the theme of what Star Trek is supposed to be about since, overall, any woman of any race should have been 'required.' If Sisko actually did end up with a black woman, it shouldn't be because he is black. (He is just basically playing into what the franchise was doing at the time with black characters, anyhow - keeping black characters primarily with black characters, or keeping black characters with alien characters visibly portrayed by black performers). That's just as bad as having his character, Sisko, randomly getting upset in a DS9 episode (i.e. 'Badda Boom Badda Bing') concerning what happened to black individuals in the 1960s. His reaction should have been different, unless racism or the same attitudes towards black people is the same in his century as it is today.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2013
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^I see no problem with Sisko being aware and proud of his cultural heritage and objecting to the glorification of an age when his people were treated as inferior. Even with racism gone, that doesn't mean humanity would be culturally monolithic. If Scotty could be proud of being a Scot and Chekov proud of being Russian, there's no reason why Sisko shouldn't be proud of his African heritage.
     
  5. RandyS

    RandyS Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Why? While I have nothing against the idea of mixed couples, I also think that there's anything wrong with a man or woman preferring to be with somebody of their own race.

    What I DO have a problem with is the automatic reaction some people have that anybody who does prefer to have a romance with somebody of their own color is somehow a racist.

    That's not always true, you know.
     
  6. KRAD

    KRAD Keith R.A. DeCandido Admiral

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    Julie Warner joked in an interview one time that she was cast as a love interest for Geordi La Forge because she's only an inch shorter than LeVar Burton, and that they were willing to mix races, but not mix heights. :)
     
  7. DEWLine

    DEWLine Commodore Commodore

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  8. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I'm going to respond broadly to this segment here, because I do think it is germaine to the larger discussion:

    It seems to me that most of human history is the story of people being oppressed by authoritarian regimes of various types -- the hereditary dictatorships we call "monarchies" of the European mideval era; the so-called "democracy" of wealthy, property-owning men in ancient Athens who kept huge percentages of the population as slaves; the oligarchy we call the Roman Republic; etc.

    And I would argue that this trend continues well into the modern era. Not until the widesprad adoption and implementation of the ideas we might associate with the Englightenment and with modern liberal democracy -- equality, civil rights and liberties, all people born free, universal suffrage, etc. -- can we really argue that the societies of our ancestors ceased to be authoritarian regimes. (I'm gonna call that process "historical liberalization" for the sake of this argument -- obviously we're talking about a long and complex process that didn't always move in a linear pattern, not from nation to nation nor within nations.)

    As a result, broadly-speaking, I'm very skeptical of the idea that a society that embraces democracy, equality, civil rights, and social justice, ought to celebrate the political leaders of those societies before historical liberalization. This, to me, applies not just to the idea, but the implementation; in spite of the beauty of the opening words to the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, for instance, I'm pretty skeptical of the idea that we ought to celebrate U.S. Presidents prior to the 13th Amendment, because they inherently perpetuated the enslavement and oppression of millions of people.

    To me, having, for instance, a Federation Starship Thomas Jefferson would lend rhetorical support to a historical narrative that posits Jefferson as a man of freedom and progress and ignores the fact that he lived his life on the backs of three hundred or more men and women he kept in bondage, and that his government kept millions more in chains.

    I want to specify that I am not singling out Jefferson or the United States. I'm skeptical of the idea of celebrating any political leader before the emergence of the egalitarian ideal.

    I argue that this speaks to the broader topic at hand in terms of Eurocentrism, since many of these kinds of historical narratives are inherently Eurocentric.

    Another example would be Christopher Columbus. For all his accomplishments as a seafarer and an explorer, and for all of his influence on history, the fact remains that Christopher Columbus was also a brutal imperialist and mass murderer. He enslaved the native inhabitants of the Carribean islands he found; he engaged in mass murder; he trafficked in prepubsecent girls for the sexual gratification of his men. We in the United States have all been raised with a deeply Eurocentric narrative that posits Columbus as the "discoverer" of the Americas -- forgetting not only the Vikings, but the actual Native American nations -- and which utterly ignores his crimes against humanity.

    To me, part of not being Eurocentric is recognizing historical narratives that are used to glorify and/or justify historical political leaders who engaged in acts of cruelty and oppression -- and learning not to perpetuate those narratives.
     
  9. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Am I the only one who thinks it's a shame they've never cast James Earl Jones as a Klingon?
     
  10. David Mack

    David Mack Writer Commodore

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    "I find your lack of gagh disturbing."
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I think he'd make a better Vulcan. Or maybe a Cardassian legate. Or, heck, he'd be a natural for a Starfleet admiral, or maybe UFP president.

    Jones was actually considered for the role of Sisko.

    http://www.startrek.com/article/did-ron-surma-cast-your-favorite-trek-star-part-1
    (Wow, and Bruce Greenwood auditioned for Sisko too!)
     
  12. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Did you really think Miles and Keiko relationship was casual? I believe their relationship was one of the few 'realistic' ones in Star Trek. I don't know where all the Keiko hate comes from but to me they seemed committed to each other when they had to put up with a lot of hard separations and still returned to each other in the end. I find it amazing that people say how 'romantic' T'Pol and Trip were but their 'relationship' IMO was very casual.

    I'll get on my high-horse now on women in the Bergman era. There weren't any female 'humans' in command positions as regulars in TNG, VOY or DS9 or ENT with the exception of Janeway and Yar(I know she's not from Earth but I'm going to count her but I'm not going to count Hoshi as she was really a civilian). Every other woman in a position of power had to be an alien. Just saying. Of course TOS was no better.:lol:

    Sorry to put the thread further off track.


    Realistically if we were populating a Starship with proportional Earth population at the moment more than half would be Asian/Indian. In the future though with China's one child policy maybe the proportions will be different. The Eugenics war must be the explanation. Maybe there's no Australia or New Zealand in Star Trek. Maybe those 'supermen' blew those countries up. I mean we haven't ever seen anyone from those countries in 30 seasons of Star Trek and 12 movies :lol:
     
  13. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    Well, Beverly Crusher was a "command officer" in that she had bridge officer certification and was able to take the conn. It seemed for a while she was actually gamma shift commander in TNG. (Then she's also "Captain Picard" in All Good Things...)
     
  14. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I thought they tried at the end of TNG for a bit of equality with Crusher and Troi but it was all seemed a little forced to me. Crusher and Troi would still hide behind Picard and Riker in 'away missions'
     
  15. Avro Arrow

    Avro Arrow Commodore Commodore

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    Uh, they were married. How exactly is that a "casual" relationship?

    Huh, I didn't know that. I always kind of assumed that they hired a black actress to play Sisko's alien love interest in Second Sight because the producers were "playing it safe" or something... I didn't realize this might have been something Brooks insisted upon. (And to be fair, her husband was played by a white actor... but Seyetik wasn't a series regular, either.)

    And Starfleet appears to have no problem with naming shuttles after Columbus, so maybe they're not as strict on this kind of thing as you would prefer. Although, I guess you could say the shuttle was named after the city in Ohio! :lol: (Although, to be honest, I don't really understand why they would have a USS Cortez either.)

    "THIS... is DS9."
     
  16. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Well, no, not really. True, she was a professor before joining the crew, but she received a full Starfleet commission. Maybe she didn't go through the Academy or whatever, but Earth Starfleet was more a research institution than a military anyway. Heck, Hoshi was a member of Starfleet three years longer than T'Pol was. And T'Pol actually commanded the ship as a civilian at some points during the Xindi mission.


    About 60%, in fact.


    Well, China's population is only about a third of the population of Asia. So it alone wouldn't skew the results that much.


    But we visited New Zealand in "Caretaker" -- it's the site of a Starfleet penal colony. The Pennington School of journalism is also located there. And there have been numerous canonical references to Australia, including Hoshi Sato having a pen pal from Brisbane and the Vulcans having a consulate in Canberra. Starfleet apparently had a flight testing center in Australia as well.

    http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Australia
    http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/New_Zealand

    As I said before, it makes no sense to assume that something doesn't exist just because we haven't seen it in the limited sampling of the universe we've gotten in five Trek series. I mean, you could watch fifty US television series and never see a mention of, say, Nepal or anyone from there, but that doesn't mean Nepal doesn't exist in those shows' universes. It just didn't come up. Earth is a big place, after all.


    Well, the conquistador was Hernán Cortés, with an S, not a Z. True, some places and things named Cortez are named after Cortés, but it's a misspelling. So maybe the ship is named after some entirely different person or place.
     
  17. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    The UN ESA did a few projection figures into 2300 (snapshots at 1950, 2000, 2050, 2100, 2150, 2200, 2250 and 2300) and even within just the 21st century their expectation was that Africa would have the largest population growth due to declining infant mortality and extended life expectancy, going from about 800 million to nearly 2 billion by 2050.

    Interestingly Asia was expected to stay pretty much level, with most of the population growth coming in South Asia and India. Southeast Asia, East Asia and Western Asia are supposed to actually lose population in the interim. (At current trends India's likely to surpass China in population by 2030)

    North America has the "healthiest" demographic trends of any of the major regions, but the overall population is so much lower than Asia or Africa that it's not likely to really be a huge share.

    And Europe's demographics are surprisingly steady.
     
  18. Nob Akimoto

    Nob Akimoto Captain Captain

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    That said, I mean in the 24th century Earth is just one member world of 150+. Even assuming a fair number of other member worlds (Deneva, Alpha Centauri, Cestus III, etc) are human population, I doubt humans make up more than half of the entire UFP population, so seeing them so disproportionately represented in our heroic starship crews is also probably a problem.
     
  19. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    First of all, great post. I'll just quote it in its entirety, because it's great.

    Of course, Star Trek implicitly honors Christopher Columbus, in the names of the shuttlecraft Columbus and the ships named Columbia. The United States honors him in the name of the District of Columbia, just for starters.

    In terms of Star Trek references to date, that ship has sailed, no pun intended. I suppose that, going forward, writers might agree not to create new references.

    I guess I have the following questions.

    Assuming that we, in the real world, move towards a more enlightened society, what do you think should happen? Assuming it lasts indefinitely, do you think that the United States should change the name of Washington, D.C.? The name of the US capital is really doubly bad, isn't it, because it memorializes two men unworthy of such an honor in your book. Should the US be like the USSR, and just rename stuff (cf. Saint Petersburg) to make it more politically palatable? Certainly in the absence of a grass roots movement, that seems somewhat extreme.

    I'm reminded of the following lines from Space Seed, which seem to establish some 23rd century attitudes, in universe:

    Assuming we profess to be enlightened, is there no way to maintain elements of our cultural heritage, such as the names of certain places, that isn't hypocritical?
     
  20. Avro Arrow

    Avro Arrow Commodore Commodore

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    Oh, cool. That actually works out nicely if the ship is named after someone else! :techman: (Sorry, I didn't realize I was spelling the name incorrectly.)