Of Geekery and Feminism

18 May

I had an unexpected free evening so I decided to go see Star Trek [insert colon here] Into Darkness.  I settled in, ready for good popcorn movie fun. But as the movie progressed, my joy in Benedict Cumberbatch and in Kirk and Spock’s bromance began to fade. My immersion in the story ended as I started to realize that this movie was failing the Bechdel test. 

Evidence for that failure and other bits of sexism:

1. Although two women are featured secondary characters, they never speak to each other. And both are defined in relation to men — one through her relationship with a fellow officer, the other through her relationship with her father and through audience awareness of her future relationship with Kirk.

2. The women still wear skimpy dresses with short sleeves and boots while the men wear pants and long-sleeved shirts. At the very least, they are chilly.

3.  Obligatory scene of woman in bra and panties.

4. Woman is allowed on-board the Enterprise not because of her impressive academic credentials, but because Kirk thinks she’s hot.

5. All but one of the senior command of Starfleet are men. 

Sure, the movie is based on a 1960s tv show — isn’t this what we expect? But Star Trek: The Original Series was a forward-thinking program. For a show of the 60s, it was progressive in its explorations of race and culture. The first scripted interracial kiss on television was on Star Trek.  In his determination to remain true to TOS, J.J. Abrams freezes the crew, halts the progressivism. He doesn’t reimagine a crew — he replicates a crew.  Unlike the Battlestar Galactica reboot which recast two major characters as women and depicted a post-feminist world by virtue of a nearly post-human world, Star Trek Into Darkness merely adds loud special effects and lots of lens flare to a world that is basically still 1960s America. Abrams had all the possibilities of the future and he chose to depict the past.

I’m tired of the assumption that geeky action movies are only for men. Half the audience in the theater tonight were middle-aged women. I’m tired of the assumption that men want to see objectified women. Many men are feminists. I wish I had an answer, a solution. I do know that we geeks fight hard. We got a cancelled tv show made into a movie. We brought back Futurama from the dead.  Let’s be geeky about feminism. Let’s demand more shows like BSG, like Firefly, like Buffy. Let’s demand a female Doctor, a female Obi Wan. 

Let’s see what happens when a movie like Star Trek creates female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. And what happens when a big-budget science fiction movie imagines the future and reflects the present.



Posted by on May 18, 2013 in Uncategorized


5 responses to “Of Geekery and Feminism

  1. Sharyn Pulling (@snpulling)

    May 18, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    I can’t stand summer movies. They so often disappoint unless you happen to be a 12-year old boy. I don’t expect anything progressive, sophisticated, subtle, or insightful. Grrr…

  2. unapologeticallyamelia

    May 18, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    I definitely think sci-fi and action movies need to catch up. Saw Iron Man 3 last night…not a single capable female character who wasn’t a villain. Disappointing.

    Doctor Who seems to be a step ahead though. A female Doctor would be fabulous–and I think it could eventually happen. We almost had one with Doctor Donna, and then there’s Riversong. But at least in Doctor Who, the female companions are always totally amazing in their own right (Rose is compassionate and brave, Martha is a genius, Donna is fierce, Amy Pond is determined)–which is why the Doctor chooses them.

    • profmamamusings

      May 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      I think I expected more because it was Star Trek which has a progressive history. (Funny juxtaposition of words…)

  3. iconoclastix

    April 27, 2014 at 6:50 am

    I completely agree on all counts. Star Trek is supposed to be the ideal that others aspire to, a trailblazer to the future. Regretfully, this was a damp match. I’d like to think that neither the late Great Bird of the Galaxy, nor Ms Nichols would approve. There should never be a Star Trek movie that fails the Bechdel test. Period.

  4. Emerita Tores

    July 8, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    I couldn’t resist commenting. Exceptionally well written!


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