Was TNG less progressive than TOS?

Discussion in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' started by Orphalesion, May 25, 2020.

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  1. Orphalesion

    Orphalesion Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    So pretty much everybody here probably knows that I don't care much for TOS. But lately I have been thinking about something in regards to both the original show and TNG.

    Yes, TOS is very outdated today as far as gender dynamics and other aspects of mid-20th century goes. But still, the series had a black, female character is a position of competence (outranking a male co-star, even) at a time when parts of the US were still functioning under segregation.
    Yes Uhura was there because Nichelle Nichols was attractive and she didn't do all that much, but she existed, she was visible in most episodes and she was portrayed as competent.
    In addition to that they had a Japanese character(albeit with a non-Japanese name) and a Russian one(during the cold war).

    Now let's compare that to TNG, created in the 1980s, when things should have been a lot more advanced you'd think.
    Yet, the two female characters (out of a main cast of 7/8 characters for most of the show) are both relegated to caregiver positions. Yes Doctors and Counselors are important, but with the way the cast turned out after Seasons 1/2 it looks a bit unfortunate that all main character women are in caregiver positions and all main character caregiver roles are staffed by women. Particularly when one of the sole two female characters was reduced to a sex symbol who was clothed in revealing outfits and frequently portrayed as less knowledgeable than the male characters.
    (Though to be fair, they didn't plan on losing Tasha and there were female extras in various roles, as well as male extras in caregiver roles)

    And while, TOS as I wrote above, showed people of African and Asian descents in roles of competence, making them clearly visible to the audience. TNG completely failed to make the next step and include a single gay character in a similar role, or to even acknowledge the existence of LGBT+ people at all (aside from one very clumsy "allegory"). And that was at a time when even the Golden Girls had gay relatives.
    This is particularly uncomfortable since TNG made such a big deal about being an "evolved" and "better" humanity.

    So...what the hell TNG? Why did they fail to be as bold as their predecessor in these aspects?
    Why does the show with the miniskirts and men's men pseudo-Western characters look more progressive when looked upon by the standards of its time than the newer one?
     
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  2. FederationHistorian

    FederationHistorian Commander Red Shirt

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    Well, TNG had Geordi as a representative of those with disabilities, so I would say that would be progressive.

    And Tasha was on the show initially, in a position that is usually reserved for men. However, they ended up killing her off instead of having her being transferred to another ship to carry on with the same role. "Yesterday's Enterprise" notwithstanding.

    As for gays, there was those skants that some of the crew wore, before everyone wore pants. Which is supposed to suggest that members of the crew were gay. And Geordi was originally planned to be gay, but they backed out.

    Deanna’s skin tight uniform was not unique to her, as Kira, Seven of Nine and T’Pol would also wear the same kind of outfits. Which was just the way Trek was produced during that era.

    And TNG did have Ro Laren at the conn, before she turned and joined the Maquis.

    And even though it doesn’t look like it now, having a sentient android in a position of command will be considered progressive in the future. But issues regarding robot rights is a longways away right now.

    Its also worth noting that TNG was set during a more conservative time in the US compared with TOS. That may also have something to do with it. Character development should count for something and should matter too when contrasting the progressiveness of TNG and TOS.

    Its also worth noting that the supporting main characters on TNG were more developed than those in TOS. They weren't token characters, something that got really bad around the time of VOY and ENT.
     
  3. Tenacity

    Tenacity Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Sulu origanally wasn't Japanese, Sulu was "pan-Asian." Played of course a by a Japanese-American actor. It was only in the 1980's that the character recieved a additional traditional Japanese name.

    Crusher was relegated to a caretaker positions like Mcoy, Bashir, the EMH and Phlox were relegated to caretaker positions. Plus in addition to being the ship shrink, Troi was a advisor to the Captain.
     
  4. Tosk

    Tosk Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Relegated? Why do you view "caregiver positions" as less important than other functions aboard ship?
     
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  5. Mojochi

    Mojochi Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The women on TNG were main characters, with commensurate focus given to them, something TOS never had. Were they treated as well as they should've been? No, but still, more progressive imho. Do you know how many tv shows had women doctors as main characters by 1990? I think St. Elsewhere had a couple nobody remembers, & probably General Hospital.
     
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  6. Angry Fanboy

    Angry Fanboy Commander Red Shirt

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    I'm sorry - what? Absolutely ridiculous assertion.
    Where did you hear/read this?
     
  7. Imaus

    Imaus Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Yea on a spaceship, five years from home, caregivers are sort of important. The Ships' consellor is sort of a vastly needed medical position, especially when your crew is 1) contacting new worlds with vastly different views, 2) under threat of attack constantly, 3) far from home, 4) even with family onboard. ESPECIALLY if family is onboard. Family drama or fear of getting them hurt both come into play.

    And the CMO goes without saying. While Trek handwaved most health issues of space away, again, these people are potentially exposing themselves to new diseases, still living in a box with many restrictions for years on end, and the like.

    The problem is more with the writers/setups than the positions themselves, though I'm sure TNG over its...7? year run tried to tackle as much as possible if just for filler.
     
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  8. FederationHistorian

    FederationHistorian Commander Red Shirt

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    I never said it wasn't, since outfits and sexual orientation should not go hand in hand. But that may have been the intention.

    Its something that's been around for years, as well as ideas that he was originally intended to be Jamaican.

    https://screenrant.com/geordi-la-forge-star-trek-next-generation-trivia-facts/
     
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  9. Angry Fanboy

    Angry Fanboy Commander Red Shirt

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    Ah. So Screenrant reported a 'fact' that 'according to IMDB' Rodenberry had plans to make the character gay?

    Given that anyone can add whatever trivia they like to IMDB you'll forgive me if I don't consider that particulary conclusive...:)
     
  10. Qonundrum

    Qonundrum Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    :)

    Early season 1 did have more for Uhura and later seasons only had a handful of scenes, but those put her in a great light:

    * "Who Mourns for Adonis" where only she could fix the communications problem
    * She beats up Lars in "The Gamesters of Triskeleon" (IMHO Lars is hawt too but until Dr Phlox nobody discussed polyfidelitous triads back then and even with Phlox it was used as a joke.)
    * it may not have been the first "interracial" kiss (we're all human, folks) but they were still rare to see on TV, especially in America (mo if not all prior examples were in the UK or other countries)
    * "The Savage Curtain" has the rock monster pretending to be Lincoln and Uhura tells him how it's not 1860 anymore and humans evolved beyond labels
    * others

    In a show that was more or less turned into "the big three" - ego vs id vs superego, or McCoy/Spock/Kirk respectively. Or arguably Spock/McCoy/Kirk. Or any combination depending on the scene where they bicker minutiae.

    Don't forget about Yar! :o

    Otherwise, good point - though Crusher is a CMO, not a nurse. And since 1987 the debate of why a counselor needs to be on the command deck/Bridge... (I skimmed earlier responses and the other point about "caregiver" was mentioned...)

    The tight clothing was a Roddenberryism, as not only was this show his own personal baby, he was also responsible for a number of rewrites and indulgences in early season one. Ever since "Inside Star Trek" from 1976 where he discusses freely using people as objects (to the applause of the audience.)

    All that's common knowledge but here's one of the sources, countless making-of books define the rest:

    (the fun starts about 20 seconds in... like Riker, he boasts about his bedroom life too - to the applause of the audience but at least he relegates himself as an object too... I guess. )

    Golden Girls was about exploring their personal lives and not exploring outer space with big scary unknowns. I wasn't fond of the hetero hookups in TNG either and it was annoying in TOS too - which have dated incredibly badly as Kirk teaches someone what love is and then leaves them promptly afterward, which isn't the definition of "love" - it's not even a caricature of that. Like Chekov, in a "progressive" show, being the butt of jokes.

    Not being hetero myself, and knowing television is a product of creative fiction, a little allegory and script creativity can be fun instead of the direct sledgehammer approach. "Encounter at Farpoint" is one of a few stories that does this with some creativity applied. Picard states "if we are to be damned, let's be damned for who we are and show him he's wrong". Instead of "if we are to be damned, let's be damned for who we are and just torpedo the station and the mystery space calamari thing here and now, pew pew pew so now we're guilty of those nasty things he accused us as being."

    Not to mention, the issue was a squeamish one at the time -even seeing one male crewmember check out another was all they could do and early season 1 did have a couple examples. The next time I marathon I'll write down the episode and time index.

    But as with women checking men out, all those little nuances from early TNG vanished. Season 4 onward when Gene died and the show became soap opera almost seemed like a clumsy hamfisted backlash. All the show needed for equality was to show those little nuances, and not episode-long, drawn-out, puked out lame soap opera like "The Host" and "The Outcast", among others, which are so laughably bad in many aspects and not just the attempt at any allegory. "The Host" ends up being "Beverly's About Selective Lust Not Love and with that badly contrived shuttle scene too", and "The Outcast" is "test tube babies genetically altered versus natural childmaking processes" and of course the audience wouldn't see any argument about homosexuality in that one, good grief.

    That aside, I don't disagree. TOS had a template. Like color coded uniforms being as iconic as corridor sets that were lit with different hued lights, so was showing everyone in "the great spaceship UN where all races got along and working together to benefit all" TNG being more black and white with no shades in between, apart from (not infrequent) guest star one-offs. But in real life, society and the people within had advanced.

    It wasn't 1968 anymore? Society was already improving in those regards? Complacency?
     
  11. Qonundrum

    Qonundrum Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    "Inside Star Trek" (see clip above) has Gene boasting, among other things, how he would continue to use women as sex objects - as well as ensuring men would be used that way too. That might be the source of the person who edited the IMDB article. Or it might not be. I don't disbelieve Roddenberry wanted to; the fact season 1 TNG has at least one known moment of a male checking out another male (like how the lady checked out Riker in "Farpoint") lends credence to that. It's subtle and wouldn't scare away the audience, who might not notice those scenes.

    Golden Girls used it as a controversy to get some ratings, and networks tend to dislike anything that is risky because that can turn away viewers in droves. There was some tact involved and made for solid episodes, but the times I marathon that series there are others I found to be better. YMMV. Oh, the guy who played Blanche's brother Clayton was in the DS9 episode "Let He Who Is Without Sin" as the villain (the leader of the New Traditionalists" group or whatever they were called.)
     
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  12. Ocanain

    Ocanain Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Quite frankly I think Star Trek itself is regressive rather than progressive anyway but in post modern terms you’re talking about it in an intersectional fashion which is further regressive.

    As far as the contrast between the two shows is concerned I feel there is only a subtle difference but it’s one that stands out only to the modern left because of their rigid sociological views on class, gender and oppressive viewpoints.

    Gender roles in regard to women are inherent and not a subject of demeaning nature but of choice which is why even in our modern world employment reflects the same choices. Pushing naxalt like fallacies in fiction just makes things forced and absurd.
     
  13. ThreeEdgedSword

    ThreeEdgedSword Captain Captain

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    Source please? E.g. studies that prove gender roles are inherent?
     
  14. RAMA

    RAMA Admiral Admiral

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    Well, that's been noted before, but in a time when black characters were often relegated to street criminals (things didn't get much better till a few years ago actually) TNG had several black actors in important positions and didn't skimp on the extras either.

    As for LBGT characters, yes it might have been nice to see this in Trek in 1987-88 but really no one else was doing it either, and the producers bowed to public/industry perception. They paid lip service to it later seasons though, and that might be regarded as a good progression.

    Trek is still entertainment and still reflects its audience. As much as I'd like it to be even more dangerous, it generally won't go that far.

    RAMA

     
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  15. Orphalesion

    Orphalesion Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Uh if you notice, I say that a Doctor and a Mental Health worker are important roles, just that it was awkward that all remaining female characters were in the medicine divisions while none of the male characters were in that divisions.
    The roles themselves are important and good, just the distribution ended up a bit awkward (especially after the loss of Tasha)
    I hope I don't have to explain to you how incredibly offensive that idea is ;-)
    Equating homosexual men with men who like to wear female-coded clothing is not good, since those traits do not necessarily overlap.
    And even if it was true and not horrible, it wouldn't make up for 7 seasons full of hetero-normative romances.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2020
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  16. Qonundrum

    Qonundrum Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Great find, thanks!

    The bit on "The Perceivers" - I'd read that elsewhere but it's always cool to read.

    Given his awkwardness to be around women and failing in dates, it wouldn't have been much of a stretch if - in season 6 or 7 - he were to come out. At which point, sections of the audience would predictably make jokes about his friendship with Data being more than platonic (which brings about another mention of the phrase "good grief" from me as a result)...

    But I, and I can't and won't speak for anybody else, could relate more to Geordi for technical prowess and acuity than what he does behind closed doors with anyone else. That's not really why I watch the show. Some checking out or flirting - not a biggie regardless. But whole, entire episode plots revolving around personal lives? It's a bit much and feels contrived too.
     
  17. Tosk

    Tosk Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Why is it awkward?
     
  18. Ocanain

    Ocanain Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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  19. Orphalesion

    Orphalesion Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Because for a long time health work was considered one of the few fields acceptable for women to work in, since women were stereotyped to be nurturing and care-giving so careers in medicine were considered "natural" to them.
    Meanwhile fields like engineering and military command were considered domains of men, because men are stereotyped as having an affinity for math/technology and be resolute and decisive in command positions.

    And after the departure of Tasha the main characters in TNG were sorted exactly like that; the women in the health care fields, the men in engineering, security and command. The only time a male main character wore a blue shirt was when Picard wished he hadn't engaged in bar fight in his youth and was portrayed as cowardly and unsuccessful.

    In addition to that both Deanna and Beverley are characterized as very gentle and sweet in a lot of episodes (it was considerably rarer when the writers allowed them to be more, and usually it was a highlight) which was long held as a female ideal.

    Again it's alright to have women in care giver roles and have female characters who are sweet and gentle. The problem arises when all your female main characters are characterized that way.
     
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  20. suarezguy

    suarezguy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Progressivism can be both an ideology and a movement, even a tendency, so both huge and pretty vague. I don't think either show was, on the whole, very revolutionary or challenging, but both were solidly liberal and inclusive.

    I really don't agree with the ideas that some more revealing outfits reduced Troi to a sex symbol and especially that, apparently both a joke and a serious claim, that while she wore them Troi was portrayed as brainless. I think Troi was portrayed as competent, pretty much like and fitting in with the others as being the best of the best. Her occasionally, even rarely, being less knowledgeable (offhand I only remember "Disaster" where she still succeeded) is pretty balanced by Worf being overly-aggressive.

    That aspect (though, while I haven't seen The Golden Girls, expectations and standards are different for comedy) is a disappointment, a shortcoming. Why that wasn't done was that the studio felt it would be too controversial and risky and with the show being more expensive and potentially/currently more of a financial success it pushed/insisted that the show not get too risky, financial success and expectations imposed a constraint. I'm not sure that even with that lack (aside from, as they were, "The Host" and "The Outcast") the show wasn't, while not super-bold, still progressive for it's time.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2020
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