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Hopeless fanboy that I am, I regularly search for any scrap of news on Star Trek: Discovery, the next iteration of Trek on the small screen, which may premiere in May of this year, and maybe later.


While Star Trek has been around for 51 years, this new show seems like it wants to be as contemporary as they can make it. The per-episode budget of six to seven million dollars puts it on a par with Game of Thrones, so hopefully, they can permanently consign styrofoam boulders as the defining feature of extraterrestrial worlds to the past.


It will "air" on CBS streaming service in the USA and on Netflix everywhere else. I haven't heard whether they plan to drop a whole season's worth of episodes at once to cater to binge-watchers, but I know that they are swapping out the traditional self-contained episode for a larger and more integrated, season-long story arc.


One thing that will serve as a point of continuity will be the deliberate focus on racial diversity in Star Fleet. The point of view character will be played by Sonequa Martin-Green. If you watch The Walking Dead on AMC, you know her as Sasha, the sharp-shooter with a death wish. For Star Trek, this is nothing new. We had African-American Benjamin Sisko at the top of the Deep Space 9 chain of command way back in the 20th century.


But this hasn't stopped alt-right prima donnas from cramming this casting decision into their reflexive complaint about popular entertainment drowning in a sea of anodyne political correctness. Take this tweet for example:




First, I'll throw a bone to the champions of this complaint. I think it is pandering and stupid to re-imagine Spiderman, James Bond, Hermione Granger or most any other familiar white character as black. To do so simultaneously asserts that race is irrelevant to a character's personality and identity and that the character's race is their primary point of interest. Both implications are deeply insulting to the intelligence of the audience.


But this is a new character in a franchise that has ALWAYS played out in the "libtard" home field. This is the show that put a black woman on the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise in 1966 and who brought us the first inter-racial kiss on American television. To make this complaint about Star Trek is either blindingly self-absorbed, deliberately dishonest or simply clueless.


I do have some concerns about this new show. I'm afraid that CBS is stuck in the past and will flub it by trying to ape the superficial aspects of the best shows coming out of HBO, Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.


I fear that they will try to emulate the action-adventure focus of the re-booted Star Trek movie universe (the Kelvin universe) at the expense of the cerebral elements that have always been Star Trek's hallmark and strength. Please, no motorcycle stunts or Beastie Boys songs.

I love the Klingons, but it seems that in past iterations of Star Trek, the Klingon forehead ridges grew ever larger and ridiculous looking. I really hope they'll throw continuity concerns to the wind and give the Klingons a much-needed makeover. (Given the time frame for the show, taking place after the events of Enterprise and before The Original Series, we could get smooth-headed Klingons. I'd be cool with that.)


One thing I am definitely not worried about is that there will be a strong black woman on Star Trek or some sort of "progressive" social agenda at work. That's like worrying that the show will feature faster-than-light travel or a galaxy full of humanoid "alien" species. That's just old school Trek.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
kmo
Jan. 20th, 2017 03:33 am (UTC)
The comments for this post are all over on Facebook. :(
l33tminion
Jan. 24th, 2017 08:39 pm (UTC)
First, I'll throw a bone to the champions of this complaint. I think it is pandering and stupid to re-imagine Spiderman, James Bond, Hermione Granger or most any other familiar white character as black. To do so simultaneously asserts that race is irrelevant to a character's personality and identity and that the character's race is their primary point of interest.

Aw, c'mon, KMO. Why the kick here? It's not necessary and doesn't even make sense. Especially for Spiderman, that's a whole genre where their major shtick is telling variants on the same story over and over again, and where the concept of alter-ego is a major theme. The other examples seem to be just an unprincipled attack on pandering with a giant Hollywood-shaped blind-spot. I don't think casting a black actress to play Hermione Granger in a stage adaptation is particularly more pulling things out of context or more pander-y than casting Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in the Warner Bros. cinematic adaptation. Or that of all the things you do to adapt a spy thriller novel into an action blockbuster, casting someone non-white as the protagonist would introduce sudden egregious pandering into something that's otherwise challenging and intellectually rigorous.
kmo
Jan. 24th, 2017 09:48 pm (UTC)
Pandering
Thank you for commenting, L33t. In particular, thank you for commenting here rather than on Facebook.

As for the paragraph you didn't like, I included it to let the complainers know that I'm not coming from your exact position, which they would otherwise likely assume given the general thrust of what I had to say going forward.

I really liked this sentence, "The other examples seem to be just an unprincipled attack on pandering with a giant Hollywood-shaped blind-spot."

But I don't think I fully understand what you meant to communicate by it.

My point is that Star Trek is different from other pop-culture properties in that is has, for more than half a century now, made casting decisions with a racial, ethnic, and gender checklist in hand. Racial and gender pandering may be a recent phenomenon in superhero comics, Hollywood action films, and other sorts of popular entertainment franchises, but to point to the latest incarnation of Star Trek and cry political correctness run amok just demonstrates an ignorance of Star Trek or a lack of integrity.

As for the non-Trek-related re-casting examples, I don't read super-hero comic books anymore, and super-heroes, ageless and penned by scores of different writers over the decades as they tend to be, have never presented anything approaching a believable life arc. If one day, after 50 plus years of web-slinging around NYC as a white guy in his late teens and early 20s, Peter Parker wakes up as a black teenager with a different origin stroy... well, that's hardly the hardest swallow the writers have ever asked of the readers.

As for Hermione Granger, yes, casting Emma Watson was definitely cheating. In the books, Hermione was decidedly not cute. She had buck teeth that got fixed along the way as a side effect of reversing some transformation, but that one adjustment didn't turn her into a babe. Her character definitely got cute-washed in her transition from page to screen.

As for James Bond, I don't see any reason to change his race. If you want a black double oh agent on her majesty's secret service, just make up a new character. Those double ohs seem to die in the line of duty pretty regularly, so there is plenty of room for new characters in that universe. To re-cast Bond as black amounts to saying that he would be the same person, James Bond, even if he'd grown up in a different skin. I don't think he would be the same person. I think his life experiences would be different enough from white James Bond's formative experiences that the man in black skin would be a different person, so why put the existing character's identity on this different person?

The answer, of course, is that James Bond is not just a character but piece of valuable intellectual property, and so he can never be allowed to cease his double oh agenting.

And this may seem contradictory, but I like Naomie Harris as Ms. Moneypenny. But since Ian Flemming never fleshed out that character enough to even give her a first name, the creators of the Daniel Craig James Bond films weren't changing the character of Moneypenny so much as fleshing her out. She was such an empty token before that there was nothing there to change by casting a black actress in the role.

And if they convince Idris Elba to play James Bond, I'm sure he'll be great in the role, and I will roll my eyes whenever I read complaints about the character's change in skin tone.



Edited at 2017-01-24 09:51 pm (UTC)
l33tminion
Jan. 25th, 2017 01:44 am (UTC)
That's not quite how comic-books generally frame their reboots, and it's definitely not how the Miles Morales as Spider-Man story is framed. That's a nitpick, though.

It seems you're expressing pretty much the same idea that I was trying to communicate.

On James Bond, however, you seem to be assuming a level of coherence in the character that to me just doesn't seem to be there (in the film adaptations at least). For the most part, the audience doesn't need much help imagining that Bond has a background that got him to the point of introducing himself as "Bond, James Bond", ordering his martinis "shake, not stirred", etc. somehow. But you largely answer your own question as to why not deliver a black 006 or 0017 to people who say, "Hey, why not a black James Bond?", and then you say you'd enjoy it if it was a good portrayal. Which I don't think is you insulting your own intelligence.

On Harry Potter, we seem to be largely in agreement. I mean, I'm more familiar with the work of Idris Elba than Noma Dumezweni, but she is critically acclaimed, and I assume the theater found her presentation of the character compelling when they cast her. Of course, there are tradeoffs involved, but I don't think that (or the decision of WB to cast Emma Watson, for that matter) was "insulting to the intelligence of the audience".
kmo
Jan. 25th, 2017 03:08 am (UTC)
Having my intelligence insulted and enjoying myself anyway
I think that The Forces Awakens is a deeply flawed film, and I think some of its plot inconsistencies are so egregious that they really do insult the intelligence of the viewer.

That said, I saw it in the theater twice and enjoyed it both times. Going into the second viewing, I was alert to the problems with the plot, and I enjoyed it anyway.


Edited at 2017-01-25 03:09 am (UTC)
l33tminion
Jan. 25th, 2017 04:45 am (UTC)
I think maybe your intelligence is taking that sort of thing a bit too personally.
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