I often find myself in the minority when I say I think that the first reboot of Star Trek was amazing. The typical rebuke I get from my Trekkie friends is that the movie is a great scifi/action film, but it is emphatically not a Star Trek movie.
Naturally, I disagreed, seeing as all the characters were there, and the Enterprise still looked like the Enterprise. But in light of JJ Abrams’ latest comments in Playboy about how “Star Trek has to be sexy”, I’m starting to wonder if they were right.
Here’s the full quote:
Star Trek has to be sexy. That’s in keeping with the original spirit of the series. In the 1960s they were limited because of the time, but so much was insinuated. Part of the fun of our first movie was playing with the idea that Uhura and Spock were a couple. This movie takes that further and asks how that’s possible. Why would she be interested in that kind of guy, and why would she put up with him? It’s obvious what he would like about her. I mean, it’s fucking Zoë Saldana.
And it’s always fun playing the womanizing card with Kirk and seeing him in bed with girls who might not be completely human—you know, green skin or whatever. Nobody’s going to force Kirk to be a romantic and settle down. That would feel forced and silly. Kirk’s a player. We like him that way.
We also have Alice Eve joining us; she’s an incredibly wonderful, versatile actress and definitely in the sexy category. She’s a great complement to Uhura. Hey, it wouldn’t be Star Trek if there weren’t some hot young actors, women and men, in various moments of either undress or flirtation.
Firstly, let me just say that the very notion of Star Trek being sexy is silly. Does nobody remember the travesty that was everyone’s civvies?
This is not an anomaly. It’s actually a favorite sport of Trekkies to make fun of the outfits people wear outside their uniforms.
But this is what JJ Abrams thinks of when he thinks sexy:
And I’ll be the first one to admit he’s not wrong. There are a plethora of images in the original series that we would deem gratuitous and more than a little sexist today. So, what Abrams is doing in the reboots is indulging in the 1960s idea of sexy, but all the wrong parts of it.
Essentially, what’s sexy to him about Star Trek is the chicks in skimpy outfits that Kirk inevitably bangs.
Therein lies the problem, though. Kirk being a womanizer doesn’t make him sexy, like Abrams seems to assert. It makes him a character with a douchey trait that is about constantly subjugating women because he really only ever sees them as either being weak, a sex object, or something in-between. The only reason it’s not deemed totally offensive now is because, a) we’re still weirdly okay with that in the media and b) it’s thirty years later and it’s hard to condemn a show for being a victim of its time.
But really, the meat of the issue is far more problematic. The original run of Star Trek, today, is not strong on women. It has at best, three female characters, all of whom play subordinate roles, and the one cast member female, Uhura, rarely has more than a few lines per episode.
However, in the 60s, this was huge. To have women serve on a military vessel at all? That was futuristic thinking! That was what was so sexy about the show. It wasn’t the miniskirts or the slave women who fell for Kirk’s charm, but where we could go.
It’s only natural, then, when making these movies, in order to make them pass even the most lenient of Bechdel tests is to add another women. Who better, then, than Dr. Carol Marcus, the much vaunted scientist who decided to pursue her career over pursuing a relationship Kirk?
Unfortunately, these are the most memorable shots we get of her in the reboot trailers.
If you think this is a perfect summation of the stereotypes of women in a horror movie, you’d be right. From these two shots, I can determine that she’s weak, helpless, and meant to be an object of men’s desire.
This is not to say women can’t run around in their underwear. After all, I didn’t blink an eye when Uhura stripped while talking about Klingon distress calls in the first movie. Once is forgivable. It happens. Believe it or not, women to need to take off their clothes for reasons that have nothing to do with sex. However, I take exception to when it happens again and when there are only two female characters.
So, yes, this Star Trek certainly is harkening back to the old days of Star Trek where women tended to wear skimpy clothing, but is it doing it in the right ways?
Clearly, my answer to that question is no. Star Trek is supposed to be about progress. That is its sexiest attribute. Sure, when you watch it today, you can point out instances of blatant post-colonial attitudes, misogyny, and tremendous doses of unabashed post-imperialism. But you know what? It tried. Just putting women on the bridge of a military vessel was a big step in the 60s, and since then, the women of Star Trek get better and better with every passing series. Have they had a perfect portrayal yet? Not really, but at least there is progress.
Let’s take Jadzia Dax, for example. She was very rarely in the revealing clothes we think of in the original series, but she was still the sexiest character in the entire run of all the Star Treks. In fact, most of the time she was dressed from the tips of her toes to the tip of her chin in a uniform. Still, she was gorgeous, capable, libertine, and a good friend to have, and most everybody in the fandom was and is in love with her.
Which leads me back to JJ Abram’s statement in Playboy. What his thoughts on Star Trek and sex mean to me is that he doesn’t really care about making the movies any more progressive than the original series, much less trying to match or exceed the caliber of the series that came after.
He’s not interested in making Star Trek and now I’m not sure if I’m interested in watching it anymore.