Was Code of Honor racist?

Discussion in 'The Next Generation' started by The Overlord, Dec 29, 2012.

  1. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Honestly I never got why this episode has so many apologists. It's not like anyone's trying to crucify the franchise over it, and I'm glad the franchise didn't crash and burn because of this. But let's face it, they did screw up here and it could've been easily avoided. Let's just all admit it and move on.
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    "Emancipation" is completely ridiculous in the way it portrays Mongols. The idea that they would've sequestered and marginalized their women is ludicrous. A horse nomad society doesn't have the luxury of keeping half its population isolated and uninvolved in society. Everyone has to be mobile and able to carry their weight. Traditionally, nomadic pastoralists like the Mongols have had far more gender equality than sedentary agrarian or urban societies, because they've had to. Mongol women were trained in combat and participated in political decision-making.

    Sure, one could argue that these are Mongols who've been living on an alien planet for centuries and diverged from the original culture, but the episode showed that they still lived as nomads, so there's no way sequestering their women would be viable.

    Also, there's the ludicrous inconsistency of showing a society that insists on veiling its women yet dresses Carter in an outfit that shows off a huge amount of cleavage. It doesn't work that way.



    On the other hand, before TNG, humanoid aliens were almost always played by white people. When I first saw "Code of Honor," I found it refreshing that they'd finally broken from that pattern. Now when I look back on it, I see the problems with how it was done, but at the time it felt like progress. At least we weren't being shown a whole galaxy of white people anymore.


    I dispute the assumption that any of those things are "primitive." First off, African accents are not primitive, and it's offensive that you'd imply that they automatically are. People don't have to speak with an American or British accent to be advanced. There are plenty of advanced, prosperous urban populations in Africa where they do indeed speak with African accents.

    Vulcan was portrayed as using death matches in "Amok Time," and nobody's ever accused them of being primitive. In fact, the modern furor over "Code of Honor"'s racial problems has obscured the fact that when the episode first debuted, the main source of fan outrage was the extent to which it felt like an imitation of "Amok Time."

    Moreover, plenty of modern cultures employ institutionalized violence, executions, war as a political tool, etc. It's naive to treat the societal acceptance of violence as in any way "primitive." The Roman Empire was the most advanced and sophisticated civilization in the West prior to the Renaissance, and it had institutionalized blood sports. If anything, primitive societies were generally more peaceful toward their own members than more "advanced" societies have tended to be.

    The same goes for kidnapping -- there's nothing about it that equates with primitivism specifically. Kidnapping is big business for organized crime in many Latin American countries. These things are bad, yes, but it's invalid to call them primitive. They're part of many modern, advanced societies.


    But Janice Lester was insane. It doesn't make sense to assume that her words were meant to represent the truth. She was meant to be twisted and deranged because she couldn't accept being a woman, because she hated what she was. True, there was a lot of chauvinism in the episode -- the idea was that a woman aspiring to do a man's job was irrational and that she should instead be content with the roles available to women. But choosing that particular line as representative of what Roddenberry actually believed is simply wrong.
     
  3. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    If you argue Chakotay is racist you should also be making the same claim for Bashir.

    ...He's Arabic, right? Did they, perhaps, think the character would not be likable if he had an Arabic accent or showed any signs of having an Islamic background?

    Of course that's not what they were thinking. That's just how they wrote the character, and he happened to be given an Arabic name because the actor is from an Arabic background. Chakotay's spiritualism stuff is more an effect of lazy research.

    But if Earth is one unified government, then the human population should be about 1/4 Asian and 1/4 Arabic, no?
     
  4. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I don't see what one government has to do with racial/ethnic makeup of the planet.

    Here's roughly how it breaks down today:
    Asian 54%
    East Asian 24% (Korea, Mongolia ,China, Japan)
    South Asian 21% (India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal)
    Southeast Asian 9% (Cambodia, Bruma, Philippines, Malayasia)
    Black 15%
    White 15%
    Hispanic 8%
    Middle Eastern 8%

    Unless population trends radically changed in the intervening centuries, Star Trek's representation of the human animal is basically backwards. We should see two Kaikos for every Miles and Benjamin.
     
  5. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Stereotypical potrayal of American Indians on TV as being spiritual is rampant and well-known. I didn't say Chakotay was racist. Just one more guy on the great wheel of stereotypicalness.

    As someone else said, it wasn't in your face. And I would say on a list of his defining characteristics, "Being a spiritual Indian" is about 4rth or fifth. But it is there.

    Maybe I shouldn't have said, "Don't get me started on Chakotay" as if he were worse than what happened in "Journey's End" (The TNG ep). He isn't.
     
  6. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    But just why is an episode that shows only black natives on a planet racist?

    Before Europeans came to Australia, there were only Aborigenes.

    Would you complain if the entire planet's population was nothing but red colored three-legged lizards? Where are the green and orange and four-legged ones?
     
  7. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    Because a few episodes later, we're introduced to a planet that's populated only by blue eyed, blonde, scantly clad white people who welcome our characters with hugs and kisses. A planet so rich, pure and hands on that it even compelled Worf to say "Nice planet".

    So in one season, the blacks get the barbaric, mean spirited and kidnap endorsing planet, while the whites get the innocent, happy and blissful planet. While our crew would no doubt encounter many other planets with humanoids populated again by all white people, black people only get one planet to call their own, and it's in the episode one that the cast and crew were willing to call a racist piece of sh**.
     
  8. SonicRanger

    SonicRanger Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I always figured that the Edo in Justice were an homage to the Eloi in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, specifically the 1960s film, in which the Eloi are all small, attractive, blond, and blue-eyed. In both cases, there is a menace and threat behind the scenes of the apparent utopia and life of ease.
     
  9. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    But some of the Edo were open to just let Wesley go, even having the great god thing just shrug it off in the end. In Code of Honor, not only are there no Ligonians who sympathize with our characters, but the very mention of bringing up his kidnapping of Tasha Yar brings cheers from the crowd. And when Picard doesn't want Yar to fight to the death, we get this lovely piece.

    Lutan: THAN YOU SHALL HAVE TREATY, NO VACCINE, AND NO LIEUTENANT YAR!!

    Yep. Nothing racist about casting all black actors as this barbaric race, is there? He openly shouts out at Picard by threatening to keep Tasha Yar all to himself while at the same time allowing millions of innocents die, and all the Ligonians are for it!
     
  10. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    "HAHAHAHAH. NO CAFFIENE. NEVER HAD IT. NEVER WILL!"
     
  11. SonicRanger

    SonicRanger Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I meant both the Edo and Eloi.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't think that's fair, because we've seen dozens of alien races in Trek that were just as "barbaric" and were played by all-white actors. The Capellans in "Friday's Child" spring to mind just off the top of my head. And sticking just to the first season of TNG, we have the Bandi in "Encounter at Farpoint" (a technologically backward people enslaving and torturing an innocent alien), the murderous and warlike Anticans and Selay of "Lonely Among Us" (played under their makeup by white actors like Marc Alaimo and John Durbin), the oppressive matriarchy of Angel One, the wartorn Mordanians of "Too Short a Season," the child-abducting Aldeans of "When the Bough Breaks," the ruthless Minosian arms dealer in "The Arsenal of Freedom," the drug-dealer Brekkians of "Symbiosis," and the Romulans of "The Neutral Zone" -- all guilty of "barbaric" behavior, all played by white actors.

    It's just the nature of an episodic space-adventure series that the majority of aliens the cast encounters are going to be antagonistic in one way or another. So if you refused to cast nonwhite actors as villains, you'd give them fewer opportunities to play a part in the series at all. Like I said, in 1987 it was rare for aliens to be played by black people at all. Lando Calrissian was about it. However problematic it may appear now, at the time it was actually a small step forward, even if it did turn out to be a misstep. This is the nature of progress. What seems progressive at an early stage (like the miniskirts of the TOS women's uniforms) comes to be seen as backward later on when society has progressed well beyond it.

    And Trek did improve on it later on, of course. In addition to having Michael Dorn as the featured Klingon (even if he did fall into the "angry black man" stereotype to an unfortunate degree, at least until DS9 started writing him better), we got increasingly multiethnic casting for major alien races like Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Vulcans, and Bajorans.
     
  13. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    Alright. Give me one planet that's been featured in Star Trek that has an all black population who aren't barbaric.
     
  14. SonicRanger

    SonicRanger Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The Tamarians.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I reject the premise of the question. You're selecting the terms in order to force the interpretation you want. The point is that there are plenty of "barbaric" cultures in Trek (and your own use of the loaded and ethnocentric word "barbaric" is rather offensive in itself), so there's nothing unique about this one in terms of how it was written. Nobody's denying that there were some missteps made in "Code of Honor," but you're caricaturing and misrepresenting things for the sake of being inflammatory, and that doesn't achieve anything positive.
     
  16. ATimson

    ATimson Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Except he's not an alien, which leaves you with a population size of approximately n = 0. ;)
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^He's from the planet Socorro in a galaxy far, far away. I think that counts, even if he's called human.
     
  18. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    Ok. Give me a planet besides the one from "Code of Honor" who's population is all black.
     
  19. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I see more apologetic explanations and justifications... I still don't see how anyone can look at that episode and not wonder what the heck they were thinking when looking at it on set. It was a huge mistake and one that was easily avoidable.
     
  20. robau

    robau Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    The same planet that murders people for breaking a window.
     

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