I am going to preface this by saying that I LOVED Star Trek Into Darkness. It was enjoyable, heart warming and full of the homages of an obvious fanboy. It was especially nice to see the character development of Kirk and Spock. And of course, let’s be real here, Benedict Cumberbatch (or Benny Cumbermuffins, as I fondly call him) was an absolute delight. That being said, the female roles in Star Trek leave much to be desired.
It’s sad to see Uhura and Carol reduced to such diminutive roles. What I loved most about the original Star Trek was its endeavor to diversify the cast despite the societal norms of the time. They bridged color, country and gender without batting an eye. The future holds new frontiers and new races to distract us from our own petty prejudices.
They managed to preserve a lot of that in the new movies but for some reason women became an afterthought. There are women on the ship in a variety of roles but the two women with major speaking roles have been reduced to the cliché girlfriend and the doe-eyed waif.
Uhura’s main purpose was to play the indignant, pouty girlfriend to the stoic, logical Spock. She whined and cried through the majority of the movie. Now, I am never saying that crying is a sign of weakness or that it should be sneered at but her crying served no other function than to underly her femininity. She was never given the opportunity to be the smart, strong woman we caught a glimpse of in the first movie. Even when she was on Cronos and approached the Klingon warriors on her own it was given an aire of being a foolish decision. The men had to ride in to save her. She spent the rest of the movie on the bridge watching the action with teary eyes.
I may bit a bit defensive because I have always been a huge fan of Nichelle Nichols. If you ever get a chance you should read her biography. She is a fascinating and empowered woman. She always brought a sense of silent power to Uhura which was hard to do in the 1960’s. That’s what makes it so hard to see her character reduced to a stock female character 50 years later.
Of course, then we have Carol. A character introduced solely for this movie as a plot device which I won’t give away. She is introduced as a scientist but that’s really as far as we get into her character. She is given one opportunity to demonstrate her skills and that is taken away from her by time constraints and blind luck.
She spends the majority of the movie on the floor either screaming or being physically moved around by the male characters. Her attempts at bravery are constantly overshadowed by the overarching plot. To be honest, her character feels like an afterthought. They needed a character to serve a purpose, to drive small part of the plot, realized that they only had one female character and thought, “What the hell, let’s get a girl for this role.”
In all honesty though I don’t think that their goal was to demean the female characters. In fact, I don’t think women were given much thought at all. The main characters are mostly men and the show creators and writers are all men. I firmly believe that these are just a bunch of fanboys, so excited to be able to play around with a much beloved world and characters, that they didn’t think about the women at all.
I’m not sure who deserves the blame here. If Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof should be blamed for their lack of attention to women when writing, the studios for tossing aside story to make a blockbuster or we, as the viewers for letting them get away with it.
In a lot of ways I think we women shoulder a lot of the guilt. We are fans, consumers and viewers. We are responsible for making sure that they know that men are not the only demographic worth reaching. We like action, power and science fiction just as much as they do. We need to break free from the ideas that science fiction, fantasy and action are for the men. We need to make the need for realistic, powerful female leads undeniable.
So, while I thoroughly enjoyed the movie it still left me with the sadness that most blockbusters leave me with. In all of these films women are the supporting characters in every man’s life. This has to stop. We have to make women an undeniable presence. I hope that we can overcome these stereotypes sooner rather than later.
As a female creative I plan on doing my part to right these wrongs. I hope movies like this will encourage other women to do what they can to change the culture. I love Star Trek, what it stands for and what it has always meant to me. Star Trek made me feel like I could be and do anything. The sky was never a limit, only a new frontier.