May 2009

Star Trek and Thoughts and Women (and refrigerators. Unfortunately.)

Note: this text is a little long for me, and very very rambly. It has been crossposted from my private private blog, and I am less strict with my writing there. Apologies.

Star Trek. In some ways, it becomes necessary for me to see it from three points of view: as a (sci-fi) movie among others, as Star Trek, and from a feminist point of view.

As a movie? It rocked. I am so weak for space, for things blowing up, for goodlooking fights and grunge-and-smoothness mixed up, love it. That being said, it was a bit… I am not sure choppy is the right word, but around the beginning and the end, it felt like they were trying to squeeze in more things than there was room for, and the narration suffered for it. Explain red matter? (of course not, mister Abrams) Show, not tell, Spock Prime’ story? Perhaps narrate Kirk’s personal background a little better than that inane wee!Kirk’s car scene? Ten more minutes could have given a lot.) Still a lovely, beautiful, otherwise well paced and terribly captivating story about a bunch of very interesting individuals. I could certainly be seen non-Trekkies who are open to scifi (do they exist?) like it, although the space element the time travels element obviously would scare off the rest. I would love the make my mother watch this on DVD, but then I would be annoying as hell to hear her commentary.

And as Trek? I honestly only have one complaint: explanation. I know people have had opinions about the “feel”; i.e. smoothness, effects/location, the changed transporter look… essentially everything that didn’t look just like TOS and the movies, and I honestly can’t care. It worked. Granted, I haven’t watched TOS in a few years, but it seemed obvious from the start that Abrams was going to try to catch a non-trekkie audience, and I think he managed to make it general enough without playing too fast and loose with the source material. It looked good. It felt good. It felt mostly Trek, with one exception: explain to me what is going on! Give me made up technobabble to explain things that couldn’t possibly work! My coworker Joe had opinions about both the Red Matter and the ejecting-the-antimatter scenario, arguing that an explosions couldn’t provide anything else than thrust, and thus couldn’t possibly outwarp warp. I argue that an uncontrolled antimatter explosion could very well warp space time more effectively than an engine, but that’s not the point. The point is: tell me how. Trek is the goddamned poster child for Science Fiction as the Idea that the World Can Be Understood; tell me how it works, even though the laws of proper physics don’t apply. It just need to follow its own laws. This, mister Abrams, is no time to be mystical, much as I know you love it. Trek is a lot of things, but mysticism was never a part of it.

Oh, also? the water scene? Loved it but it wasn’t Trek. Skip Scotty’s sidekick, save time for narration.

As for the casting… I was unspoiled, but because I mind spoilers (I don’t, I relish in them), but because I hadn’t realized how soon the movie was coming. I knew exactly this: some dude from Heroes (that I had never, at that point, watched) was playing Spock, and this made a lot of people upset, and Simon Pegg was playing Scotty, which made Lucas (my SO) really happy and excited. I was honestly half-thrown out of my seat when I realized Karl Urban was Bones (obviously, as long as there are geeks of any kind, he’ll never have to worry about getting laid Ever Again), but the summary can pretty much be I loved [x] as [y]. Seriously. Zachary Quinto was spot on as a almost-but-not-quite-solidified-Spock, and I actually didn’t want to strangle Chris Pine’s Kirk (unlike Shatner’s) (mainly because other people did it for me, perhaps? Can we rename this movie “James T. Kirk hangs off ledges and gets strangled a lot“?) or perhaps because he was more fucked up, got sat on more. I liked it.
But the feeling was there. The optimism, the thrill, the grandness and good fun combined. And the chemistries, even when not yet fully evolved to series levels; I can see how this universe came to be the one to result in slash (I am not ignoring Spock/Uhura, I am just assuming it will peter out slowly. So there.) “subverting our cultural icons with complete disregard for decency and the law” indeed. Love it. Maybe I’ll go download Amok Time now.

But. How about the feminist perspective?
Okay, let’s just say that the problems there can come from two directions: from the original, and from the new writers. Some things that irked feminist reviewers are the very reasons I don’t watch TOS; the uniforms, the lack of female officers. I honestly think the writers did what they could there; switching out more would have fucked with the fans too much. Uhura was given a personalty and a reason to be on the bridge other than that of a glorified secretary. They could have done a genderswitch a la BSG, but that wouldn’t have gone over well, plus messed with the time-travel idea. Still, I would have loved to see Uhura actually throw a couple of good punches in the bar brawl; I don’t particularly care who she’d hit.
But… the underwear scenes? The two cases of refrigeration? (from “the woman in the refrigerator”; killing off a female character for the sole reason of eliciting a reaction from a male character; in this case Amanda Grayson and Nero’s unnamed pregnant dead wife.) The fact that Winona Ryder six years older than Quinto and plays his mother? Rotten, you guys. Why not bother with giving Amanda a personality, or bother having her say something insightful about the value of emotions other than “yadayada I’m so proud of you always yadayada”? Why not bother showing Kirk’s mother doing something else in life in giving birth to him? Supposedly she’s an officer in this universe, why not give her a title and a throwaway reference from Pike? If Romulans had female military, why not female miners? I know it’s based in a rotten sort of time period, but the revamp people made it worse in some respects, and that bothers me.

That’s all I can think of right now.



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