Is femininity a villain in TOS?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by JirinPanthosa, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Does it seem that in a lot of the TOS scripts, exaggerated female stereotypes are created and made into horrible villains?

    Catspaw: A genderless entity takes a female form, and is immediately so overtaken by hormonal urges that she imprisons the whole crew to get with Kirk, and when she realizes he's using her to escape gets angry and spiteful, then literally turns into a giant hissing feline.

    Turnabout Intruder: A woman so unhappy with the limitations of being a female that she steals Kirk's body where she starts executing people for crossing her.

    Space Seed: A woman betrays everything she believes in for a hot guy she just met.

    Thank god for Ohura or there wouldn't be any positive representation of femininity in the show. I know it was the 60s but god damn this was blatant.
     
  2. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The past is a foreign country and all that, but even for the Sixties, TOS' sexism was pretty bad. I'd rate it as probably the series' single worst flaw.
     
  3. Pauln6

    Pauln6 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    There are a few decent female characters in TOS - Dehner, Mulhall, Masterson, Miranda Jones, and Uhura shine out. I think possibly because they didn't want any interracial hanky panky, Uhura was never really portrayed as a sex object, which does wonders for the character when she does get to do something more worthwhile.

    Vina was quite sexualised but she's still one of my top 10 sci fi women because she is a well-rounded, intelligent character at a time when that was rare. Miranda Jones is another class act, tolerating but rejecting male attention, balancing coldness due to Vulcan training with a burning desire to connect on her own terms - her dialogue is pretty snappy too. T'Pring and T'Pau were pretty cool.

    It's not all bad but very often the women ask basic, rather stupid questions of their male counterparts, and they generally lack initiative. Certainly femininity was viewed as a trait that was more likely to lead to unprofessional conduct whether because a female alien was seduced by Kirk or an officer by the villain of the week.
     
  4. Robert Comsol

    Robert Comsol Commodore Commodore

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    Can I add a few ladies to that list?

    The Conscience of the King: Lenore Karidian, mad and mudering.

    Amok Time: Two rather heartless, calculating women (T'Pau and T'Pring)

    A Private Little War: Nona, disloyal because she wants to be on the side that wins the war.

    Is There In Truth No Beauty: Dr. Jones will rather see Spock go mad than worry about him being a competitor.

    Bob
     
  5. Pauln6

    Pauln6 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    T'Pau is more of an enigma and I think, while Jones' jealousy was real, I don't believe that she wasn't consciously trying her best. That is to say I personally didn't think that Kirk's judgment of her was anything more than conjecture, although I'm not sure if that's how the sixties audience was supposed to view her.
     
  6. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    An important data point that was stated explicitly in the First Draft of the "Is There In Truth No Beauty?" script but which seems to have gotten lost in the Final Draft script was the notion that although Dr. Jones was blind and therefore not susceptible to being driven insane by the sight of a Medusan, by doing a mind-meld with the afflicted Spock, she would potentially be able to "see" what Spock saw. What Spock saw would bypass Dr. Jones' non-functioning eyes and be fed directly into her mind--rendering her just as insane as Spock. Indeed she was consciously not doing "her best." In her defense, she had some degree of self-preservation working against her full effort to help Spock, and she had to tread very, very carefully in going into Spock's mind without inadvertently "seeing" his memories of the Medusan. Clearly jealously was a motivator, but she had her own sanity at stake, too.

    "Now, Spock: this is to the death--or to the life--for both of us."

     
  7. Pauln6

    Pauln6 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Yeah I did get a sense of that. I certainly felt she was being judged harshly by Kirk but then he was obviously grandstanding to get her adrenalin going, using her jealousy as a motivator to prove she was better that Spock after all. She's definitely one of the most interesting women in Trek History. I wanted to use Ann Mulhall in my comic strip so I went for Talia Winters as resident telepath but if I'd watched the episode more recently I might have changed my mind about that.
     
  8. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    While I think TOS was sexist compared to today's standards I think overall it was pretty reasonable for the 60s.
    And I don't mind that there were woman villains. I would rather that than have simpering woman asking Kirk to save them as happened on occasion.

    As to the stereotyping of woman like Janice Lester if you look at Dr Daystrom didn't that also represent a man later in his career looking to resurrect his past glories. And there was Henock, Apollo, Miranda Jones's 'boyfriend', Landrau, Dr Korby, Requiem for Methuselah guy, Mudd. Didn't these guys represent some negative aspect of men (or all people) ?

    And I have to give TOS some credit in that when attempting to seduce women onto his side Kirk rarely succeeded. Generally any women he succeeded into convincing to side with him seemed to do so because of his reasoning not because of their desire to jump in bed with him - Vanna, Shaw, Mara, even Shahna and Miri.
    Andrea, Deela, Lenore, Mea 3 didn't change sides and fall (totally) for Kirk's charms either.

    And even though I 'hate' T'Pring she wasn't the stereotypical weak woman. She wanted to get out of a forced marriage. I'm gritty my teeth as I write this but if a girl nowadays ran away from a forced marriage we'd help her. I know it wasn't that simple though. (How could anyone not want Spock. LOL.)
     
  9. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    That's quite unfortunate that that tidbit about her possibly seeing the Medusan was lost. I agree that the way it plays, it would seem that something like childishness is the only reason why she hadn't helped Spock yet until after Kirk dresses her down.
     
  10. Coloratura

    Coloratura Snuggle Princess Premium Member

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    Remember in "Who Mourns for Adonais," where Kirk and McCoy discuss the very promising, highly intelligent, capable engineer that is Lt. Carolyn Palamas? What happens to her career if she were to marry? According to them:

    MCCOY: "Even from here I can tell his pulse rate's up."
    SCOTT: "Gentlemen. Come along, my dear."
    MCCOY: "I'm not sure I like that, Jim."
    KIRK: "Why, Bones? Scotty's a good man."
    MCCOY: "And he thinks he's the right man for her, but I'm not sure she thinks he's the right man. On the other hand, she's a woman. All woman. One day she'll find the right man and off she'll go, out of the service."
    KIRK: "I like to think of it not so much losing an officer as gaining..."
    SCOTT: "Come along."
    KIRK: "Actually, I'm losing an officer."

    So if she finds "the right man," she just has to up and leave the service. Definitely a backward way of looking at things.
     
  11. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The Sixties zeitgeist was in general pretty sexist, of course, but broader pop culture and television had more room for assertive and heroic female characters than TOS Trek ever did. There was Agent 99, April Dancer, Cinnamon Carter, Honey West, Emma Peel... they were still thin on the ground compared to today's heroines, but I can't think of a Star Trek female character I would put in that company. (Heck, I'm not even sure I can think of a TNG female Trek character I would put in that company... except for the annoying and swiftly-deceased Lt. Yar.) Maybe TOS wasn't bad for the time, but it would seem to have been unexceptional.
     
  12. Coloratura

    Coloratura Snuggle Princess Premium Member

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    Hell, even The Andy Griffith Show had Ellie Walker running for city council. The whole moral was that Andy came around to the idea that denying women the right to pursue higher goals, solely because they're women, is stupid.
     
  13. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    If you look at a certain way you may say Agent 99 was perpetuating the stereotypical woman role of support. We all know perfectly well 99 could solve any case on her own but she always let Max get the glory.
    And Emma Peel (spoiler) quit the Spy business presumably to be a good wife to her re-discovered husband. Similar to the fate Kirk expected of Palamas.
    Same with Samanatha in Bewitched. Just a 'housewife' submitting to the whims of her husband.

    The only Star Trek (TOS) women of note I can think of are The Female Romulan Commander (although she was easily seduced by Spock) and T'Pau.
     
  14. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The bulk of Sixties heroines were still supportive or subordinate to a man in some way, only real exceptions were The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Honey West. (Unless there's someone I'm forgetting!) But the basic point is that still, some of those were a lot more forceful and interesting characters than what TOS allowed for.
     
  15. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Sadly, had it been made, Star Trek II/Phase II may have been just as bad. In "Kitumba" Ilia immediately gets "interested" in the Kitumba (because he's powerful?) and in the script for "Savage Syndrome", when the crew are reduced to savages, the men immediately start vying for power, but the women, well, read for yourself...

    So, the now savage women, reduced to their baser impulses, throw themselves at the feet of the macho leader, make cat claws and hiss at each other, then sign contentedly because he'll have them both, and then the only person who screams in fear is a woman.

    Yeah. Progressive...
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2014
  16. Coloratura

    Coloratura Snuggle Princess Premium Member

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    Damn. That's bad. :lol:
     
  17. YARN

    YARN Fleet Captain

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    Great. Now make up a list of all male TOS villains. How are these males not a critique of masculinity?
     
  18. Coloratura

    Coloratura Snuggle Princess Premium Member

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    Because what worked against these women was the mindset which pervaded our culture in the 1960s, which was that being female meant being submissive, and in many ways inferior, to the men around them.
     
  19. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    If what I'm seeing in Google results is correct, "Savage Syndrome" was co-authored by Margaret Armen ("The Paradise Syndrome"). So it wasn't just men writing women badly.

    I'd say the script is just trying to be sexy. Space: 1999 did a very similar concept, in which the Alphans became non-verbal cave people. And I seem to recall a violent sexual rivalry between the female leads.
     
  20. YARN

    YARN Fleet Captain

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    This is a catch-22. If Trek had never depicted women as being the villain, the criticism would be that TOS was sexist because it never depicted women as anything but compliant and cooperative ("Trek could never depict women as being anything but sugar, and spice, and everything nice. If the writers could have written them as actual humans, they would have been the villain occasionally, but women were denied the full range of human character on this show.").

    What worked against Lenore was that she her father was mass murderer who had escaped justice. The script could have just as well featured a crazy son protecting his fugitive mother and the psychology would still work out (e.g., child touched by the sins of the parent).

    Nothing worked against T'Pau. She was not a villain. Like Kirk said, she was all of Vulcan represented in one package. He didn't back down from the fight because she was a woman, but because she was a powerful figure representing her race. And she was powerful enough to crack the whip and get Starfleet command to allow the Enterprise a delay (something which Kirk could NOT achieve - how's that for female power?).

    T'Pring is pretty tough too. She intelligently plays Spock against Kirk to get what she wants. Spock is forced to concede that her plan was logical. She is not a weak blubbering woman being tossed about by males. Remember Stonn, Spock's rival? He gets played too. He wanted to fight Stonn, but T'Pring has her own plan. And when Stonn objects to T'Pau about T'Prings selection of Kirk as champion, this powerful woman (T'Pau) warns him to STFU and observe the ceremony.

    As for Nona wanting to be on the winning side, how many times have we seen Starfleet males wanting to be on the winning side? Remember the marooned Starfleet man who created a Nazi planet because it was "efficient"? Remember the Star Fleet captain who armed a side to win a war to capture a fountain of youth (Omega Glory).

    As for Dr. Jones, what is so distinctly female about not wanting to share power or glory?

    I am not saying that Trek wasn't sexist, because there is plenty of sexism in TOS. I am, however, against the lazy citation of alleged female villains of the week as proof of the variety - woman depicted as villain = proof that women are bad.