The lack of national diversity in the Discovery cast...

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Discovery' started by eschaton, Nov 9, 2017.

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  1. eschaton

    eschaton Captain Captain

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    This point was raised on another forum, and I wonder what you guys think:

    Discovery is, within a modern American context, a reasonably diverse cast. You have a seemingly straight, seemingly white captain, an alien first officer, a science officer who is gay and in what we would consider an "interracial relationship" today, a half-desi chief of security (who replaced a full desi one who was killed), a black woman, and a white woman who is arguably not neurotypical.

    However, there is one way in which Discovery is not diverse at all. All of the human characters appear to be American, either explicitly or judging by their accents. The decision to have the two British main cast members not use their natural accents and play as Americans (explicitly in the case of Ash Tyler, since he's from Seattle) is in particular rather odd.

    The other Trek shows at least made an attempt to be a bit international in their depictions of Earth:

    TOS had a Scotsman and a Russian. Uhura's descent was never made clear, but since she spoke Swahili, presumably she was either from Africa or her parents were.

    TNG had Picard (canonically French, but British in his presentation), and Geordi (theoretically Somalian). Worf was raised by Russian parents, and while Troi's father's heritage was never made clear, they didn't make Marina Sirtis hide her accent. Yar came from an off-world Human colony with its own unique culture as well.

    In DS9, The Sisko family were the only human main characters who came from the United States. O'Brien was of course Irish and married to a woman from Japan. Bashir's place of origin was never made clear, but he and his father had English accents.

    Voyager was more homogenized in terms of the acting cast, but the origins of the characters were diverse. Torres and Chakotay were both born on offworld colonies, with the latter clearly not growing up in the homogenized, pseudo-American culture of the Federation.

    Enterprise had Malcolm Reed (English) and Hoshi Sato (Japanese, theoretically). Mayweather was theoretically interesting given he was not only born offworld, but on a ship as part of a cargo freight-carrying subculture, but little was ever done with it.

    Regardless, the point is that in every single previous Trek show, there was at least a character or two who was explicitly not American, plus a few more who may have presented as such, but at least had a backstory linking the to another part of the Earth or an off-world colony. Why in this particular case did the showrunners decide to go with an "All American" set of characters - to the point of even making the two Brits mask their native accents?
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
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  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    The operations officer, Joann Owosekun, has a Nigerian surname and accent (the native accent of her portrayer, Oyin Oladejo). So there's that, at least.
     
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  3. GeekUSACarl

    GeekUSACarl The Last Starfighter Premium Member

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    This is a pretty good point, in fact it would be the easiest thing to do as far as any diversity these days.

    Maybe they simply don't care?

    I'm curious now though what it would be like with Lorca having his accent.
     
  4. eschaton

    eschaton Captain Captain

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    IIRC Jason Isaacs independently decided to give Lorca a southern accent, but he might have been instructed to play as American regardless. I think he pulls off the accent flawlessly, so I can't complain.

    I do think making Ash Tyler American was a mistake however. I don't think Latif's accent is perfect, and I think his attempts to keep sounding "American" at all times are hurting his performance a bit.
     
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  5. GeekUSACarl

    GeekUSACarl The Last Starfighter Premium Member

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    I don't think Isaacs sounds southern at all, i'da said eastern Midwest, or northen Midwest.

    Yeah Latif's isn't as good but it's still pretty good. Way better than an accent change that I could manage.
     
  6. XCV330

    XCV330 Captain Captain

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    "There's no pleasing some people" - Brian of Nazareth.

    The show either gets attacked for being too diverse, or now this. Star Trek's culture has always been on some level, American. It came from an American TV show in the 60's and if it ventured too far from that Googie-Jet Age Aesthetic it wouldn't be Trek.

    Accents in Trek make no sense to us now. (Chekhov's Polish pronunciations when he is supposedly Russian, Picard's English French. Uhura.. well we don't know where she's from) Mass media tends to dilute them anyway so I don't think there's much to work with. By 23rd century, apart from some cultural enclaves, Earth is a world culture.

    not counting Shenzou and other ships etc:

    So let's see. The bridge crew of 1031 is very diverse. The show so far hasn't dealt with them much.

    Saru is not human.

    We don't know where Michael Burnham's parents are from, but she's culturally Vulcan, and she was not on Earth when her parents died.

    Stamets is based on an Americican scientist of the same name. Safe to say his is in fact from North America.

    Lorca is a Spanish/Latino name. We don't know much about the captain's origins except his family used to be in the fortune cookie business.

    Tyler claims he is from America.

    Culber: We dont know where he is from. Again, accents in Trek are almost meaningless. Stamets and he first met on a world that was NOT earth, so he cannot be assumed to be from there.

    Javid Iqbal is in all of us.
     
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  7. eschaton

    eschaton Captain Captain

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    British people are usually much better at doing American accents than the other way around, even if they aren't actors. Look around on Youtube for examples. I think it has to do with how much more common sociolects are there (e.g., you're expected to change your speech patterns from more working class to middle class depending upon where you end up in life).
     
  8. Boomstick

    Boomstick Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Giving Ash Tyler a North American accent seems unnecessary
     
  9. GeekUSACarl

    GeekUSACarl The Last Starfighter Premium Member

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    I always just assumed this was a thing among film actors. As far as I knew, European film actors have more stage experience and fundamental experience with such a thing than American film actors do.
     
  10. eschaton

    eschaton Captain Captain

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    But this is unarguably the most globally-watched Trek in the world, as it's being released by Neflix internationally simultaneously to CBS All Access domestically. So you would think appealing to more of an international market (even if just an anglophone one) would be part of their calculation.

    I agree with all of this, which is why I don't have issue that Trek has shown people of supposedly non-American origin (Uhura, Geordi, Keiko) as having American accents. Hell, I think there's a throwaway line in one TNG episode implying that all languages other than English are extinct on Earth by the 24th century.

    Still, that doesn't explain why you would hire British actors and instruct them to speak with an American accent. No other Trek has done this.
     
  11. GeekUSACarl

    GeekUSACarl The Last Starfighter Premium Member

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    I'd also like to say that when imagining what diversity will look like in the future, I also thinks it makes sense to imagine the EVOLUTION of what diversity may mean in the future.

    I mean the word diverse has a meaning but to us right now, most people would immediately see diversity as a representation of skin color and nationality. So our modern efforts of diversity means a specific effort to show or accomodate it, simplistically quotas for hiring, more complexly outreach and education programs.

    However in the future, skin color and nationality may mean absolutely nothing. In the future diversity may mean something more racial, like the real word racial not our misnomer, different species and such.

    That being said the viewer lives today, not in the future. I still think it odd that this isn't represented in the cast, and would have assumed a specific effort woulda been made, but I can imagine that in the future diversity wouldn't look like what we think it should look like today.
     
  12. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Captain Captain

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    I was thinking they could have given Lorca a native Liverpool/Northern accent, and Ash Tyler a Scots one, but honestly, I'm just used to this in like every drama at this point - ENT was at the time famously criticized for being very North America-centric.
     
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  13. GeekUSACarl

    GeekUSACarl The Last Starfighter Premium Member

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    I know,

    Bunch of carpetbaggers and hayseeds.
     
  14. Kemaiku

    Kemaiku Admiral Admiral

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    Trek is falling behind many other shows and franchises in terms of depicting a wider cross section of the world that is watching the show.

    But then it has been for a long while now. I don't expect to see many people like myself on TV at all, but many other groups are still waiting in that regard too.
     
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  15. GeekUSACarl

    GeekUSACarl The Last Starfighter Premium Member

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    I don't really consider it falling behind.

    The concept itself is a social statement more than a point of entertainment. Certainly not something I believe is a shows obligation. I think star trek does a better job dealing with issues like racism and oppression among races and other social concepts in a more future tense and less present tense which is something I'd expect from a sci fi show.
     
  16. eschaton

    eschaton Captain Captain

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    The other aspect, which I admit that Trek hasn't been great with, is the future isn't supposed to be some comfortable place to slip into your shoes. Even if American cultural hegemony wins out in the end, centuries of drift will make it seem a bit foreign to us. This is why I actually like things like some of the more strident interpretations of the Prime Directive in TNG - because it reminds us that the Federation isn't just modern day America with starships and transporters.

    Regardless, The Expanse is an example of a show that's been great in showing not just racial, but national diversity. Lots of Earth characters have accents (and not just British ones) and they even put work into a distinct "Belter" accent. My hope with Discovery was that this aspect would be followed a bit, but it seems not.
     
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  17. XCV330

    XCV330 Captain Captain

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    Interesting, the Expanse is a culturally diverse dystopia whereas Trek is nearly the opposite. We can't get what we want.
    Would love an episode of Trek where everyone spoke Esperanto but only Shatner could speak it.
     
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  18. dodge

    dodge Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Detmer is German.

    Lorca might be Spanish, he probably even sounds Spanish in the Spanish dub. :D
     
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  19. Boomer359

    Boomer359 Commodore Commodore

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    It was apparently Jason Isaacs' choice to do an accent other than his own:

    Variety Article

    He doesn't mention it in this interview, but I've seen him state it elsewhere that he modeled Lorca partly on his character from Black Hawk Down.
     
  20. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The difference being they are openly trying to sell Discovery to international markets. The original Star Trek was the most diverse of the lot, and the rest have been living on that reputation for forty-plus years now.
     
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