Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Alice Eve - Women and New Trek

While playing on Tumblr the other day, I ran across a wonderful quote from Alice Eve, who portrays the character Dr. Carol Marcus in Star Trek Into Darkness.  During an interview, the interviewer had the nerve to ask her - “Aren’t you a little bit too beautiful to be a science officer?”  To which Alice replied, “That’s very kind of you.  I’m very flattered.  But I didn’t know those things were mutually exclusive.”

There really is not much else to be said here, because Alice succinctly laid out the truth.  This culture of ours equates beauty with stupidity.  The flip side, with which I am more intimately familiar, is that intelligence might be the only redeeming quality of a woman who is not traditionally beautiful.  Both assumptions are insulting and misogynistic.  Truth is much, much more complicated.

When I went searching for pix of Alice on Google for this post, it took quite a while to find a few that I considered adequate – though there were plenty of pictures from the gratuitous underwear scene.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Alice is beautiful and should rightly enjoy it, and she can do whatever the hell she wants to do.  Much has been made of this scene.  Defenders of this scene then site the Kirk underwear scene as equal opportunity nudity.  But in comparing the two scenes, what did they bring to the table?  Kirk’s scene said something about his character, it built on something established in the last film, that Kirk likes women of all kinds, and it actually stands in contrast to the later beginnings of a relationship with Carol Marcus.  What did the Marcus underwear scene bring to the table? It did not clarify anything or present any new information; it didn't make sense that the character would need to undress right then.  Just to set things straight - I am no prude and nudity is just fine, but use it to move the story forward, shall we?  I know that the writers learned their lesson from the flack they have received...Damon Lindelof went on Twitter and set things straight, which I appreciate (and will post).  Let's hope it holds true. 

Star Trek Into Darkness had wonderful acting by an incredibly talented cast, a decent story line, incredible special effects, beautiful music.  However, I was hoping this film would get back to Classic Trek’s roots – showing diversity, equality, in treating crewmen as crewmen, regardless of gender.  I find it rather sad that a show created in the 1960’s portrayed more diversity and sexual equality than a movie made in 2011.  When I initially saw Aisha Hinds in the Navigator’s Chair sitting in for Chekov, I had momentary hopes that she was transgender.  For a few days I thought maybe JJ Abrams had really gone where no one had gone before in Star Trek and created a queer character as part of the bridge crew.  Since I do not watch television, I had no idea initially that she is “just” a big, beautiful black woman, as I had never seen her other television work.  (More on Aisha Hinds in another post dedicated only to this actress; I discovered many interesting things while investigating her).  My hopes were dashed...to a degree, because just having her there as an additional Navigator is fantastic.  

While no one would ever question Zoe Saldana portraying Uhura’s commanding presence on the bridge like “they” did in the 60’s (thank you, Nichelle Nichols!), not are any eyebrows raised at interracial/interspecies kisses between Spock and Uhura, there is much work still to be done.  I did take note that around half of the commanding officers and first officers in the scene where Khan opens fire at Star Fleet headquarters are women, and I also noted specific camera work establishing/re-establishing female characters on the bridge and elsewhere on the ship, specifically when Kirk had a channel open to the entire ship.  Those shots could only have been executed by JJ Abrams, so not all is lost.  However, we also lost a beloved Classic Trek character, Christine Chapel, in a throwaway one-sentence establishing how much Kirk had hurt her feelings that she fled to the outer edges of space.  So much for one of the most visible female roles from Classic Trek (maybe we can hope that Chapel reconsidered, and was assigned to the Enterprise in the year gap between the events of STID and the beginning of the five year mission.  Oh, dear.  My geek is really showing now).  I hope in the last (?) Trek film to be made, they do move honorably towards treating characters with integrity, regardless of gender or gender identity or orientation.   That would be nice to see.

Thank you to Alice Eve for this wonderful quote and having the courage to stick up for your character, and by extension, yourself.  It sounds like you were much more gracious than I would have been!  My only wish is that I had been able to find the interview that this quote came from, and I failed to find it. 

There is so much more to be said.  More posts to be written.  More stereotypes to be called out.  Maybe the next Trek movie can have queer characters, fully developed female characters and men who don’t have to be macho and fearless – oh, wait, STID did that.  And did it well.  The male characters were very well written and portrayed, with beautiful character development - Kirk, Spock, and Scotty especially.  This cast is so mesmerizing to watch, I really regret that there may be only one more film.  Ah, well, that’s why we must incorporate these values into our everyday lives and make it happen in reality, not just in fantasy and mythology.  Fantasy and mythology are worthless unless we learn the lessons inherent within the stories.  Use today, for it will never come again.  If you identify as female, do something against type.  If you identify as male, use your male privilege to stick up for women.  Boldly go.