Site ColumnsBy Michelle
April 22, 2005 - 11:00 PM
My mail this week has been quite entertaining, though sadly it was so voluminous that I haven't had time to answer all of it. Whenever I'm critical of an episode, I get a substantial number of letters telling me (with varying degrees of logic and grammatical skill) what an idiot I am, but this week I got the full phase pistol treatment over my "feministic views" and my alleged hatred of sex. It was particularly amusing to be accused of being uptight and a pervert at the same time. C'mon, folks, am I frigid, secretly drooling over Jolene Blalock, or jealous that a guy like Malcolm Reed will never want me? Make up your minds!
But in a surprising number of the letters, there was a trend that shocked and upset me, because I've never encountered it so vehemently nor so nastily among Star Trek fans in the past. It really made me worry about Enterprise, because I've never encountered so much ill-will among fans of the other Trek shows, and it really made me wonder what had happened to Star Trek and its ideology as a franchise.
Let's say you captain a Federation starship, and you beam down to an M-class planet populated by friendly humanoids. Let's say the people are pretty indistinguishable, on the surface, from the humans on your crew; if your crew was out of uniform and they mingled with the people on the planet, you wouldn't be able to tell who was who. Let's say that, in most ways, the planet seems a lot like yours, and the people seem similarly educated, similarly interested in art and sports and technology, similar in family structure -- some prefer to live in nuclear families while others live in more extended families and some prefer to live alone. In fact there's only one significant difference you can find between these people and the ones on your starship: their sexual behavior seems entirely different from yours. You've heard that they do things you can't imagine...or, more to the point, don't want to imagine.
Do you pack up and go home with a report to Starfleet that it's not even worth having dialogue with these people because of that last? Is it last a reason to deny the planet membership in the Federation, or to refuse to permit its people to enter Starfleet, even though Starfleet welcomes polygamous Denobulans and Andorians and people from planets which force their daughters to marry whoever their parents choose? Would you stop people from that planet and lecture them about how unnatural you find their behavior, even though it's natural to them and they don't particularly want your opinion, just to be treated with the same civility you grant to others? Would you go so far as to suggest that the planet should be attacked, because once humans are exposed to this "deviant" behavior, it may corrupt human youngsters?
I know that Gene Roddenberry's track record on gay rights is rumored to be less than ideal: he allegedly refused to film a Star Trek AIDS allegory written by David Gerrold. Even when Trek has made serious approaches to the subject of sexuality, it has done so timidly; the androgyne with whom Riker fell in love on TNG was played by and looked like a woman, and Dax had the excuse of having once been a man when she fell in love with a woman who had been her wife in a past life. Kira once said she'd never date a man with a transparent skull, and Beverly Crusher couldn't handle the idea of a lover whose body changed as often as his symbiont required. A lot of people wouldn't be comfortable doing what Riker did and dating someone with no biologically determined gender. So I know that it's possible to be a Star Trek fan without believing that gays have a right to marry or file joint tax returns -- Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, even that means accepting other people's limitations.
But where in the philosophy of IDIC and in Roddenberry's universe is there room for bigotry? Where is there room for blanket statements that people whose sexual orientation is different than your own will or should die out in the future, or that people like that have no place in Starfleet, even though no one seems particularly upset that Tucker's distracted from work because of a mating bond he didn't even know he shared with a fellow officer? Maybe you don't want to see gay people making out on television; fine, I don't want to see green-skinned bimbos turning the men on Enterprise into mindless aggressors, and in both cases it's arguably a matter of taste. My mail, though, wasn't saying that having gay crewmembers would be inappropriate for a show where the personal lives of officers really shouldn't be such a big deal, or that since it's been established that all the major crewmembers are heterosexual, it doesn't make sense to speculate on how pheremones might have affected them if they weren't. It said things like, and I quote, "You are bothered by the '...the apparent lack of gay people...' Maybe in that future time they have figured out that homosexuality is a learned behavior that is detrimental to society."
How can people who speak in such absolutes imagine a future of peaceful first contacts and a universe of coexistence among species whose behaviors, both innate and learned, will certainly vary from whatever any individual considers to be a human norm? How can I look forward to moving into space when there are forward-thinking people who nonetheless would make veiled suggestions that an entire group of humans should become extinct? I don't think humanity is ready to meet aliens; if we continue to accept prejudice, mistreatment and slaughter of our own just because people look or act or love differently than we do, what hope can there possibly be when we meet people who are truly alien?
Sometimes I feel as though it's Hitler rather than Roddenberry dominating the ideology of a certain group of fans.
Trek BBS Today
Below are some of the topics currently being discussed at the Trek BBS:
More topics can be found at the Trek BBS!
Trek Two Years Ago
These were some of the major news items from April 2003:
- Brooks: 'Star Trek' Gives Us Hope
In a rare interview on his experiences playing Captain Sisko, Avery Brooks said that Star Trek "gives us some hope that we might be able to overcome our weaknesses in a few hundred years and that there will be peace for mankind."
- Sussman: Borg Episode Will Provide 'Food For Thought'
Enterprise co-producer Michael Sussman said that the show's Borg episode would serve Trek continuity well:
I consider myself something of a 'continuity hound'...while I admit the show isn't always airtight in this regard, we do try our best, and with 'Regeneration', I paid very close attention to these issues. As a fan, nothing takes me out of an episode faster than an obvious contradiction with what's been established previously.
- Stewart: Picard Won't Be Back
While in New York to promote X2: X-Men United, Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard) said that he had "probably said goodbye to Picard forever", adding that because of Star Trek: Nemesis' mediocre box office, "I think the Next Generation is over with."
More news can be found in the archives.
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Please vote in our new poll and rate tonight's episode, "In a Mirror, Darkly", after you have watched it!
Today's Television Listings
Tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, UPN will show a new Star Trek: Enterprise episode, "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part One.". Here is a synopsis of the episode:
In the mirror universe, Commander Archer mutinies against Captain Forrest in order to capture a future Earth ship found in Tholian space.