Was Code of Honor racist?

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

  1. SonicRanger

    SonicRanger Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The Tamarians from "Darmok"
     
  2. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Is calling Code of Honor racist racist?

    A savage race of all white skinned people, not racist against whites.
    A savage race of all black skinned people, racist against blacks?

    Might as well say the borg are racist because they appear in whiteface.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The problem is trying to reduce it to a simple label. It's a lot more complicated than that. You don't find the truth about a thing by picking a single word to stick on it, but by exploring all the different factors and elements that shape it.
     
  4. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    Ok. It was racist and sexist.
     
  5. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    There was a positive side to that. They wanted to murder Wesley Crusher.
     
  6. SonicRanger

    SonicRanger Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Twice now, Jeyl, you've ignored the example that you asked Christopher to provide. Why is that? Because it doesn't support your opinions?
     
  7. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I never got why people wanted to dwell so much on this episode. It was a mistake. A kid watching it back in the 80's could figure that much out. It may have been good intentioned. There may have been justifications and explanations as some seem to be trying to point out, but that doesn't change the fact that the episode gives the general perception of racial stereotyping.
     
  8. E-DUB

    E-DUB Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Star Grinch wrote "but that doesn't change the fact that the episode gives the general perception of racial stereotyping. "

    No, the problem is that it plays into pre-existing racial sterotypes.

    Of course the ep could have been done with all whites, (or all Asians, for that matter, and that would have been about the same). But you had to have a cast that would regard Tasha as "exotic" in order for it to work.

    If it means anything, I was struck at first viewing by the whole racial aspect of the episode and generally skipped it on re-viewing TNG. (Of course, the fact that the episode blew on any number of levels factored into that decision too.)

    As an aside I always found it not credible how many alien species seemed to have the same racial sub-types as humanity. It wasn't until ENT introduced the "Aenar" (sp?) with its albino Andorians that we even got a hint that this situation could be an issue in other species not similar to humanity in the distribution of whites, blacks and Asian analogs.
     
  9. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Sorry Christopher, but none of the above mentioned 'barbaric' races were patterned noticeably after a distinct human culture like the Africanized black Ligonians were. I think the decision to go '1940s tribal Africa' in Tracey Torme's words was due in largely part to the color they chose the make the Ligonians in that episode.

    Further for all the 'barbaric' white races that have been featured in Trek, you can point to the 'superior' or at least 'advanced' white races that also have been featured in Trek. Can you say the same for black races, or races largely peopled by other non-whites?

    I agree with you that it was a misstep (as does some Trek actors), but I disagree that it was a small step forward. For one, while Michael Dorn is black, Klingons are not 'black' or have a culture 'based' on an African culture. We also didn't see many other black human-looking alien cultures to counter the Ligonians-though we did see black skinned aliens sprinkled throughout episodes, though rarely that got much development. Heck, it can be argued that even Geordi-one of the main cast members-suffered from poor character development. So it doesn't seem much of a stretch that we didn't see a lot of black skinned alien races throughout TNG's run, or really throughout all of Trek. Outside the Ligonians, I can recall the Halanans and Haliians, but of course it's speculation that they are majority black, since we pretty much just saw one representative of their species each. So, I don't think we ever saw another group of human-looking aliens played by a majority of black actors.

    Benjamin Sisko was the best developed character of color in all of Trek. But after him, you saw a regression that eventually bottomed out with Travis Mayweather. So, the 'progress' you spoke of, didn't last long. It remains to be seen what will happen with Abrams Trek Uhura and Sulu, though my money is on Spock and Kirk continuing to dominate that series, along with McCoy, similar to TOS show and movies.

    At the end of the day, the Trek franchise despite it's progressive views or intentions still is largely the preserve of white American males and is subject to whatever ethnocentrism, racial filters or hangups they might see the world through. As some fans debated during ENT's run about the Andorians' labeling humans 'pink skins' as if white (pink) skin was the default, and like Shran was ignoring Hoshi and Travis who were often on the bridge right along with Archer. To me, that idea of whites as default, or universal, human beings is a prevalent one in a lot of American entertainment and Trek has not been immune to it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  10. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    Well, if racism was not an issue with the episode, why was the original director, the one who insisted on an all black cast despite the details in the script, fired before it's completion?

    I can understand how a writer and/or director would want to do something in an episode and think it would be ok without realizing how utterly dumb or flat out offensive it might turn out to be. Like in the Royale when they say the temperature is -290 something degrees Celsius even though that's below absolute zero. I get it, they just wanted to say that it was cold. Other instances that I cannot forgive come from episodes like Code of Honor and the Season Two episode opener "The Child". On paper, the idea of an alien impregnating Troi might sound like an interesting science fiction premise, but there's also the issue that Troi was for all intents and purposes, raped. The way the crew deal with this issue without bringing her into the discussion I found offensive (Even having her sitting further away from everyone), and how Doctor Pulaski took her to the bar instead of Sickbay is just mind boggling. But what makes it worse is that two of the three main female cast members from Season One were now gone from the show, and the only main female character left is the one not wearing a uniform.

    Code of Honor on the other hand had a director who took a very mediocre script and deliberately made it worse. The script not only makes numerous comparisons between the Ligonian culture and Earth cultures, but they actually have characters making those comparisons.

    Data: It is a highly structuralized society in which people live by strict codes of honor. For example, what Lutan did is similar to what certain American Indians once did called Counting Coup. That is form an obscure language known as French.

    Or when Picard gives Lutan a gift.

    Picard: We are aware of many of the achievements of Ligon II, and its unique similarity to an ancient Earth culture we all admire. On behalf of the Federation therefore I would like to present this token of our gratitude and friendship. From China's Sung Dynasty.

    A good director would take note of those details and work with the writers, cast and crew to try and figure out what these details mean in how they can bring this culture to the screen. After all, the script does compare the Ligonians to Native Americans and the Chinese. On the other hand, the episode's director, Russ Mayberry, decided that not only should everyone on the planet be black, but also add a "1940's tribal african style" to the culture.

    This episode was a taint not only on TNG but on all of Star Trek. It showed that we could have a planet with an all black population, but it only happened because they hired a director who only wanted to exploit them.

    And for everyone who brought up the Tamarians, no. They are not black. They have orange and red skin. If you're going to argue with me on that, you might as well argue that the male character "Billy Kwan" from the movie "The Year of Living Dangerously" is a woman because he was portrayed by an actress.
     
  11. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Tasha's appearance had nothing to do with why Lutan was intrigued by her. What was "exotic" about her was the fact that she was the security chief, a traditionally male role in Ligonian society. As Hagon said, "With us, it is the duty of women only to own the land, and the duty of men to protect and rule it." (Which underlines one of the story flaws in the episode -- if female warriors were so unheard of in Ligonian culture, then how come Yareena was such a skilled fighter?) It was also a political ploy on Lutan's part, a way to boost his status by committing a bold abduction. As Deanna said, "As a Starfleet Security Officer, she may have represented his riskiest prize."



    We've already covered this extensively in this thread and the previous one, so if you've read the whole discussion, you should already know that statement is dead wrong. We know for a fact that the Ligonians as scripted were NOT in any way based on "tribal Africa." The scriptwriters are on record as saying they based the culture on samurai, and the dialogue explicitly compares their culture and customs to Sung-Dynasty China and Native Americans. Their costumes are mostly based on Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian designs. They're a melange of multicultural "Other" archetypes and stereotypes. The only things about them that are specifically "African" are the casting and the accents.


    As I said, Trek shows went on to improve the racial balance in their casting for all alien races after this episode. We can acknowledge the mistakes this episode made without falsely generalizing them to the entire franchise. As has already been mentioned twice in this thread, the Tamarians in "Darmok," a very advanced and admirable culture in many ways, were portrayed by black actors. And various black actors have played races we've only seen one individual of apiece but that were basically "good" aliens, such as Caldonians, or as you mention, Halanans and Haliians.

    Which is no doubt for several reasons. One, they probably wanted to avoid the risk of any further missteps like CoH. Two, we saw fewer human-looking aliens overall in later Trek. And three, however diverse they may have wanted the casts to be, they still had to deal with the demographics of the available talent pool.


    I don't think it's fair to assume that had anything to do with race. Tuvok got as much development as any supporting character on Voyager; it's just that the episodic strictures forced on that show by UPN limited its ability to really develop the characters as richly as the syndicated DS9 was free to do. As for Travis, he got a good deal of development in season 1 of Enterprise, but when Anthony Montgomery had to deliver the climactic dramatic speech in "Fortunate Son," he gave a rather disappointing performance, and after that he became more marginalized. So I think it was a matter of talent there, not ethnicity. They did give him more to do again in season 4, though.


    Oh, on the contrary, it's clear already from the publicity material that Into Darkness, like its predecessor, is focusing on Kirk, Spock, and Uhura as the three leads. Not only is it natural that they'd want to make the female lead more prominent in a modern film series than she was in the '60s, but there's also the fact that Zoe Saldana is a considerably bigger star and bigger box-office draw than Karl Urban -- indeed, she's arguably the most famous member of the regular cast. They'd be fools not to keep her front and center.
     
  12. SonicRanger

    SonicRanger Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Shaka, when the walls fell. Kiteo, his eyes closed.
     
  13. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Now you fully completed the circular argumentation of yours. If we're debating whether the episode is racist or not, you can't say "it's racist because the director was fired because it's racist". What if we find it's not racist and he was unjustly fired?
     
  14. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    More famous than the (now) King of Gondor??? I think not!
     
  15. SonicRanger

    SonicRanger Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Ah, but that goes for the Ligonians too. They are aliens played by African American actors, like the Tamarians. If the Tamarians are not black, then neither are the Ligonians.

    This goes back to my thread a few months ago. The Ligonians weren't alien enough to avoid the perception of racism. Put a bumpy forehead on them, and people would be more likely to see them as "alien" rather than "black."

    Take the bumpy foreheads off the Tamarians, and some people would summarise Darmok as "unintelligible black men kidnap white man and force him into a knife fight."
     
  16. JarodRussell

    JarodRussell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Exactly!
     
  17. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    Because, as I've said earlier, it's also sexist.
     
  18. Jeyl

    Jeyl Commodore Commodore

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    Sonic, what is the color of the Tamarians' skin? And what color is the Ligonians skin? Whatever defense you may bring up regarding the Tamarians, I guarantee you they were not casted because they had black skin. And compared to the Ligonians, the Tamarians are far more civil with Darmok actually beaming down to the planet with the Picard, giving him his own knife, sharing his fire and forming a friendship through understanding. The Ligonians?

    "As you can see, Captain, you may excel in technology, but not in civilized behavior."
     
  19. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Quick question, is anyone involved in this argument not white?

    :evil:

    Hey, why is the 'evil' smilie all black? TREKBBS IS RACIST! Everything that features a dark skinned actor in any way that rubs up against any negative connotations is racist. And the 'scream' one is reddish brown, are they implying people with brown skin yell more?

    If anything is racist, it's treating every actor who isn't a white male heterosexual like both him and every character he plays should be perceived completely in the vein of being representative of his demographic.
     
  20. Dale Sams

    Dale Sams Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    (raises hand)