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08 May 2009 @ 19:16
Warning: Unpopular Fannish Opinions Ahead. Shields to maximum. Set phasers to stun.  
Okay, as I go through my flist, I'm seeing a lot of Star Trek glee, but also a lot of Star Trek headdesking about Uhura specifically and the roles of women in general in the film.

So here's the thing: I am very zen about Uhura in nuTrek.

I think a big part of Uhura's role is, like Sulu and Chekov, to be the model Academy grads and represent the side of Starfleet that Kirk isn't and doesn't want to be. You can't be maverick without foils to show how maverick you are being, and Uhura is that in the Kobayashi Maru scenario. Kirk's meet cute with Chris Pike and Uhura serves much the same purpose. The meet-cute makes Old Skool folks laugh from meta because this is a Jim Kirk who cannot get the girl. But in-story, it shows that Uhura is not there to be The Girl To be Got. Or even necessarily The Girl Who Got Away. We're given an Uhura who knows what she wants, and doesn't want a boy like Kirk. He keeps trying, she sticks to her guns. And she does it in a way that while injecting levity into the story, also tells us a lot about both her and Kirk as people. She's focussed, she doesn't muck about, and she's hella smart and awesome at her job. This to me is a good thing. But just because she has a love interest, this does not in my eyes reduce her to the role of nothing but a love interest.

At the same time, Kirk winning Uhura's acceptance is also about Chris Pine as Kirk winning the audience's acceptance. Her utter scorn when she called him "Captain" during the Kobayashi Maru test is there so that, when she calls him "Captain" on the bridge of the Enterprise after the fight's been won, we can see she means it. He's finally matured enough to deserve her respect. And by doing so, the audience buys that this reckless kid with a chip on his shoulder is Command material, and might be capable and responsible enough to lead a crew of 1000+ highly trained Starfleet personnel.

In terms of "the boys get to do cool stuff, and the girls don't" argument, that depends on your definition of "cool". What I love about the ensemble was that, aside from Kirk and Spock, every character had a moment to shine where they were awesome at their jobs, as well as a moment where they were feeling their way (like Sulu not being able to get the ship into warp). It's just that Sulu's awesome job moment was a kickass awesome sword fight, while Uhura's involved picking up on and translating a Klingon communication that set the entire plot in motion in her spare time, and then getting plucked from obscurity and assigned to the bridge because she speaks 3 dialects of Romulan when the Enterprise senior comm officer can't tell Romulan from Vulcan. In both Sulu and Uhura's cases, Pike picks them because they can do what he needs. He recognises they are excellent resources, and he will use any and all resources he has to hand. That's not sexism--that's gender parity. Because Uhura's expertise is in the realm of "brainy" and not "brawny", mebbe it's not as visually cool. But for me, as a fangirl, I actually chalk being a kickass xenolinguist up there with samurai sword fight. It's not as flashy, and it's not an action set piece, but it is still cool.

(Aside: if we only define cool in terms of physical stunts and "strong women" as action heroes like Ripley, Sarah Connor, and Buffy, then I think that's part of the problem--not the solution. To give an example, my biggest issue with Kaylee in Serenity as opposed to her role in Firefly was that she actually was reduced to little else besides love interest and comic relief. We never once got to see her truly be awesome at her job and be a part of the team. Uhura gets to do that. And it's a long way from the fan dance in Star Trek V.)

As for the mini skirts... This reboot is not a Battlestar Galactica-style reimagining. We are meant to believe that the timeline was identical to the Prime universe in almost every way, except for the changes wrought by the destruction of the USS Kelvin. That means, for good or ill, mini-skirts, the same way Brannon Braga's name on Star Trek: Enterprise meant poor Jolene Blalock was stuck in a catsuit for 4 years.

In terms of real life, Zoë Saldana has to wear Nichelle Nichols' costume because that is the iconic image everyone has of Uhura. In the next film, she can wear trousers if she likes, because she won't have to prove to audiences that she's Uhura. She is Uhura. And moreover, the reboot addresses not just Star Trek canon for the hardcore fans--it's about what people think Star Trek was. Nearly all of the changes were there to address the popular ideas of what Star Trek is, while updating them for a 21st century audience.

I think that the size and significance of Uhura's part was on a par with Bones, in that Kirk's most significant relationship in the film leading up to the crisis was with Bones--while Spock's most significant was with Nyota. While she was a huge part of Spock's arc, he was for her as well. I loved that she basically demanded he assign her to Enterprise because she knows she's that calibre of a comm officer and she won't settle for less. And she makes damn sure that he knows she knows it, and he totally caves because she's right. That, more than anything, made me totally buy their relationship when we got to the scene in the 'lift.

So... the snogging.

She's worked closely with Spock, potentially for years (I don't actually know how long he was an instructor and how long she was his TA). She can see when no-one else can how affected he is by his mother's death and his realisation that he is now more alone than he has ever been. She acts on that out of respect, admiration, compassion, affection, and desire. As much as the concept of Spock/Uhura threw me in the abstract, in application, it didn't feel like left field in the turbolift. It felt like it evolved organically from the story. And when I first went omg wtf? in the transporter room with Spock kissing her in front of Kirk and Scott, I recognised that that was Spock's turn to make a choice and act on that choice. That moment is what sets this Spock on a different path for me than Spock Prime.

Spock Prime chose to be more-Vulcan-than-Vulcan in order to prove to his father, Starfleet, and Vulcan that his human heritage was not a "weakness". This Spock chooses to explore his human heritage in a way Spock Prime didn't and possibly couldn't. And he has the strength to do so in part because of his relationships with Amanda and Uhura. While his primarily relationships in TOS were always with Kirk and McCoy, and he was defined through those relationships, I completely buy this nuTrek Spock who is defined through different relationships.

I do not see Uhura as nothing but a catalyst for change for Spock any more than I see Bones' relationship with Jim as nothing but a catalyst for change for Kirk. I'm sorry. I know I am failing at Internet Feminism 101 here, but not every death of a female character is fridging, and not every love interest is "reduced" to being "nothing but" a love interest.

Amanda's death has the same significance for Spock as George Kirk's does for Jim. To kill both fathers would not have worked, story-wise. To give Spock's origin the same life-changing effect that George's death (and Sam Kirk's total disappearance from canon) did for Kirk, it had to be Amanda who died instead of Sarek because his relationship with Amanda is more significant--particularly to the audience. It's what makes this reboot a reboot. The crew we know evolved almost exactly in parallel. The heart of the changes are specific to Spock and Kirk.

I'm not saying fridging doesn't exist, or isn't a huge problem (Do not get me started on Doctor Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog which is the worst recent example I can think of that). But I just don't see it with Amanda. Absolutely there are hideous things done to female characters who exist solely to be catalysts for changes in male characters. But there's a lot of knee-jerk reactions these days that I don't think are supported by this particular text.

As much as I hated losing both Amanda and Vulcan, it was integral to Spock's story and the reboot itself. It fundamentally changes the characters and the universe they live in, and let's you know that going forward, all bets are off. Anything can change. I wish we could have seen more of Amanda and Sarek's interactions, but this is not a story about parents. It's a story about their sons. Amanda Grayson and George Kirk's place in this story was through their absence, and specifically how that loss changes their sons' futures. And I don't have the same problem with that that I think a lot of others do. But while Amanda's death is just as significant as George Kirk's, because she didn't go out in a blaze of glory, it's treated differently by some parts of fandom. Whereas I think the shape of the story makes her death more significant. George's death made Kirk the person he was (i.e. a bit of an asshole) but can now overcome. Amanda's death makes Spock the person he will now become (i.e. someone who does not reject one half of who he is, but embraces his whole self). It makes sense as drama, and for the reboot, to me.

Look, I know that as women, we look for strong female characters. And we are upset when we don't get them. But I also think there is a lot of gender bias towards rejecting storylines we see as "stereotypically" female stories such as anything involving romantic love, and dismissing emotion-driven stories as not strong. And I think that's throwing the baby out with the bath water. I just don't see the ability to express love and compassion as any less strong as the ability to take or throw a punch. YMMV.

Does this mean I didn't totally almost cry when, due to Kirk taking Pike's place ahead of schedule, there was no Number One? Or wish we could have seen Nurse Chapel instead of just hear McCoy call her name offscreen? Does this mean I don't crave more of Uhura being awesome? Hell no. But I was satisfied by the Uhura we did get, and I have hope and a certain amount of faith that if when get more story, there will be more balance. Because now that Abrams, Orci and Kurtzman and this cast have proved they can give us the Star Trek we all loved since the 1960s, they can give us the Star Trek we need in the 21st Century.

ETA: I did some editing/expanding 5/11, to clarify and expand on some stuff from discussions in comments.
 
 
 
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ljc: star trek (spock)taraljc on 9th May 2009 00:55 (UTC)
YES. OMG. It would drive Kirk NUTS.

I am already thinking about him teaching her to play the Vulcan lyre, and her wanting to learn all the Vulcan songs she can so they are not lost (parimarily since I have no diea how much the Federation may have lost when they lost the Vulcan Science Academy, and all their archives).

I am sad we never got to hear her sing, but there just wasn't room for it in this story. Next time.
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(no subject) - taraljc on 9th May 2009 01:08 (UTC) (Expand)
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Destina: star trek uhuradestina on 9th May 2009 00:38 (UTC)
I totally, totally agree with this post. What you said. *g*
ljc: star trek (number one = made of awesome)taraljc on 9th May 2009 00:56 (UTC)
I love fandom. I do. But sometimes, I feel like a pretty huge outsider... So I figure, rather than leaving comments in every reaction post I read, I might as well get it off my chest all at once.

Edited at 2009-05-09 01:09 (UTC)
Amirealamireal on 9th May 2009 00:39 (UTC)
*HUGS YOU*

OMG YES. Also: *FLAIL*
ljc: NOM NOM NOMtaraljc on 9th May 2009 02:43 (UTC)
*hugs*

It's not as if everyone is being unhappy. But I'm noticing trends as i get caught up on my flist. And the way some of the discussions in comments on reaction posts have been going, I've been surprised at how quickly it's escalating. Especially as people who haven't even seen the movie yet chime in waving flags.

So I figured, in for a penny...
Gwynevere1: Billiegwynevere1 on 9th May 2009 00:50 (UTC)
I know I am failing at Internet Feminism 101 here, but not every death of a female character is fridging, and not ever love interest is "reduced" to being "nothing but" a love interest.

Can I get this stitched on a banner? Or blown into giant neon tubes to light? Or etched into a baseball bat to beat over the head of fandom?

I think I'd keep it next to the "disliking a female character is not the same as hating ALL female characters" javelin.
ljc: star trek (amanda/sarek)taraljc on 9th May 2009 01:03 (UTC)
It's hard because absolutely there are hideous things done to female characters who exist solely to be catalysts for changes in male characters. But there's a lot of knee-jerk reactions that I don't think are supported by the text.

The way I see it, Amanda's death is just as significant as George Kirk's. But because she didn't go out in a blaze of glory, it's treated differently. Whereas I think the shape of the story makes her death MORE significant. George's death made Kirk the person he was (i.e. a bit of an asshole) but can now overcome. Amanda's death makes Spock the person he will now become (i.e. someone who does not reject one half of who he is, but embraces his whole self). It makes sense as drama, and for the reboot, to me.
(no subject) - jennifer3dtd on 9th May 2009 10:34 (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - taraljc on 9th May 2009 17:30 (UTC) (Expand)
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ljc: star trek (number one)taraljc on 9th May 2009 01:25 (UTC)
Re: Uhura
I think it's wanting to have cake (nuTrek that is a reboot without being a complete reimagining) and eat it too (subverting and expanding the roles of women while still reflecting the original canon). I still think they did an amazing job working within the restraints of canon--and opening the door for more story that has gender parity.

It's like the crazy balancing act DS9 did in "Trials and Tribbilations". Dax being nostalgic about 23rd century fashion was their way to handwave the go-go boots and miniskirts. But I look back at school photos from my high school from the 1960s where everyone wore micro-minis, contrasted with when I attended in the 1990s and they had us kneel on the floor to prove our skirts came down to the bottom of the knee, and I don't think the 1960s girls were the ones who had less freedom in that instance...

I figure, they had Uhura in the miniskirt cos that's the iconic costume everyone remembers of Uhura. And now they're free to put her in trousers and a tunic like Number One everyone else, because nostalgia has been served, and we don't need Zoe to prove she's Uhura by wearing Nichelle's outfit. She is Uhura.

ETA: sorry for all the edits. I clearly have been thinking and rethinking all of this WAY TOO MUCH.

Edited at 2009-05-09 07:57 (UTC)
Re: Uhura - skywardprodigal on 11th May 2009 03:22 (UTC) (Expand)
Martha Wellsmarthawells on 9th May 2009 01:00 (UTC)
What you said, I agree completely.
ljc: star trek (get out of the chair)taraljc on 9th May 2009 02:48 (UTC)
I feel bad because I feel as if I'm making I sound like everyone is reacting a certain way, and it's obvs. not every reaction post I've read. But it was enough of them that I took bits from various replies I'd been making, and sat down to do a proper post explaining why I don't agree. I want to understand the diff. POVs, but I also wanted to explain why I didn't interpret the relationships and roles same way as they did--even if we saw the same movie.

It's bit a bit like people being "oooho yummy!" over Kirk in his pants, and then furious Nyota is seen in hers--even tho he was neekid in a sexual context, and she was changing out of her uniform. Is it showing a bit of skin totally to pander? Fuck yeah. But in context, it's not about objectifying Uhura--it's about showing what a total hound Kirk is and how that's actually a negative personality trait.
Tori Morris: Spock by Van Goghskywaterblue on 9th May 2009 01:17 (UTC)
This. Plus, I mean, while not totally as emphasized in this film as in past films, we continue to see lots and lots of women in Starfleet in the background and it's completely normal for an Asian woman to hold an Admiralty. If anything, I wanted to complain about how few aliens there were.

Uhura continues to be a strong female character who upset the mold - by continuing to be a woman who can work the conn on the bridge of the flagship straight out of the Academy, while having a relationship with a very difficult man AND doing it all in a miniskirt and makeup because she bloody likes miniskirts and makeup.

I actually think, if there's any fandom wank, it should be about how this Spock actively makes a choice to be more human - and I think he does it way early in the story, when he picks Starfleet over the Vulcan Science Academy. That's a RADICALLY different interpretation of the character than Uhura dating Spock.
ljc: star trek (amanda/sarek)taraljc on 9th May 2009 01:19 (UTC)
But he always picked Starfleet over the Academy. That was what made him a loner and a rebel in both TOS and nuTrek. Granted, I need to see "Journey to Babel" again, but if I do, I'll cry. I need to not cry. Tonight, I mean. I need to not cry tonight.
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mollita on 9th May 2009 01:21 (UTC)
100% YES to everything you just said.
ljc: star trek (nyota)taraljc on 9th May 2009 17:32 (UTC)
I didn't mean to come across as quite so rant-y, but the more I've been thinking about it, the more stuff is solidifying for me right now. Also, having now seen the movie again, there's WAY more Uhura stuff than I remembered. And I am itching to lay hands on the novelisation, to see what got ultimately cut for time.
this nerd.mekosuchinae on 9th May 2009 01:26 (UTC)
Oh, yes. Thank you so much for this post. I don't want to simply say "I agree!" and leave it at that, but I'm not certain there's anything else I could add!

(But oh! I love Uhura. I found her to be a very well-defined and sympathetic character, easily the most engaging in the supporting cast, with unique talents that are no less important simply because they aren't especially flashy, and I thought her relationship and interactions with Spock provided both characters greater depth.)

I do not see Uhura as nothing but a catalyst any more than I see Bones' relationship with Jim as nothing but a catalyst.

This, so very much.
ljc: star trek (get out of the chair)taraljc on 9th May 2009 02:53 (UTC)
I think I just get really surprised now and then by the rules fandom has for male characters, versus female characters. And I genuinely didn't see Uhura as being marginalised to the extent otehrs have. Sure, I'd love for her to get more to do--but I wasn't dissatisfied with what she DID get to do in the story.

If I sorta missed anybody in the second half of the film, it was Leonard.

I so need to see this movie again.
litagemini on 9th May 2009 01:42 (UTC)
People were outraged that Uhura spent a lot of time on the bridge? Whatever, man, fans are weird. I thought she kicked ass.
Ellen Fremedonellen_fremedon on 9th May 2009 02:03 (UTC)
I agree, pretty much completely, about Uhura. Amanda... I wish she'd had just one or two more scenes. I think I'd be feeling less like she'd been (rather perfunctorily) fridged if she'd had more screentime beforehand. I want to have seen her and young Spock together.

And, yeah. Number One. She should have been there.
ljc: star trek (number one = made of awesome)taraljc on 9th May 2009 02:08 (UTC)
There was a scene with Spock's birth paralleling Kirk's birth I think--it's in the 1st trailer, and JJ mentions it will be on the DVD.

ETA: and until we get the DVD, I am making grabby hands at the novelisation. Sadly, it is by Alan Dean Foster and not Vonda McIntyre. That said, I will always have a soft spot for ADF for Splinter of the Mind's Eye. When it arrives, I shall report on all the novelisation Amanda scenes.

Since we're now assuming Pike's 5 year mission went to Kirk, that explains why Number One wasn't on the scene. Had she been, Pike would have left her in command instead of Spock.

In my head, she's still out there and didn't die in the big fleet massacre, and maybe will be in the next movie. Especially if Starfleet is scrambling to crew ships with a huge chunk of its senior crews having died. This is how I handwave Kirk skipping the Farragut and going straight to Enterprise.

In my head, she'll also be played by the same actress as Christine, to see if anyone notices.

MANY things are currently happening, inside my head.

Edited at 2009-05-09 03:10 (UTC)
(no subject) - lizbee on 9th May 2009 04:16 (UTC) (Expand)
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Sanj: Need an iconsanj on 9th May 2009 02:33 (UTC)
I do not see Uhura as nothing but a catalyst any more than I see Bones' relationship with Jim as nothing but a catalyst. I'm sorry. I know I am failing at Internet Feminism 101 here, but not every death of a female character is fridging, and not every love interest is "reduced" to being "nothing but" a love interest.

Amen, Hallelujah. Thank you for this -- I've been trying to formulate this in my head all day, and you did it elegantly.

They had to make a film in two hours, introducing two main characters, five supporting characters, the universe's AU qualities, and all of the attendant backstory. If you're going to a TOS reboot film, you know going in that there's only one female character. It's the price of admission.

With that, I feel like Uhura was very well-represented in the storyline -- more fleshed out than most of her fellows -- and that Zoe Saldana did a fantastic job of inhabiting the character's intelligence and emotional depth.

I like the point that Uhura:Spock::McCoy:Kirk. On a shallower note, I think if you look at it all in that light, the real argument to be made is that Kirk should be snogging Bones. ;)
ljc: star trek (get out of the chair)taraljc on 9th May 2009 02:34 (UTC)
And how do you know he wasn't? Hmmmmmm?
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'Trie: crumpets and teatrie_squid on 9th May 2009 02:51 (UTC)
Aside: if we only define cool in terms of physical stunts, then I think that's part of the problem not the solution.

Yes, completely. OMG, yes.

Look, I know that as women, we look for strong female characters. And we are upset when we don't get them. But I also think there is a lot of gender bias towards rejecting storylines we see as "stereotypically" female stories such as anything involving romantic love, and dismissing emotion-driven stories as not strong. And I think that's throwing the baby out with the bath water. I just don't see the ability to express love and compassion as any less strong as the ability to take or throw a punch.

Again, hallelujah! My thoughts are not often popular in fandom either as far as what feminism means and how it functions, and I had thought I was all alone! /o\ But now? Not so alone. \o/
ljc: sigh (ww)taraljc on 9th May 2009 02:54 (UTC)
You are not alone. Sadly, that is why I labelled the post "Unpopular fannish opinions". But *hugs you tight*.
(no subject) - trie_squid on 9th May 2009 03:27 (UTC) (Expand)
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a joyful girl getting loud: [av] bangperi_peteia on 9th May 2009 02:57 (UTC)
I am very often overcome with both feminist rage and despair. SO QUICKLY. This did not cause that! Uh, this being THIS MOVIE. Which is to say I completely agree with this post.

And I want this:

not every death of a female character is fridging, and not ever love interest is "reduced" to being "nothing but" a love interest.

Carved on a plaque, holy god please.

Edited at 2009-05-09 02:58 (UTC)
ljc: don't cry emotaraljc on 9th May 2009 03:02 (UTC)
Yay for no rage and despair caused by my post! I did not write this to cause rage and despair. Merely to communicate my LACK of rage and despair toward the film, and my growing stirrings-of-rage-and-despair towards corners of fandom.

Edited at 2009-05-09 03:03 (UTC)
fryadvocategirl_wonder on 9th May 2009 03:02 (UTC)
I think that what most people see when they find out that a woman has a relationship is what we see stereotypically: a woman being un-supportive/hurt because her lover spends all his time on his job. But what I loved about this was that it wasn't presented as a weakness for either of them, but a strength. They were supportive, she understood him more than anyone else on the ship did (including Kirk). And while in the future Kirk and Spock were best buddies 4evah, in the present, she was the only one genuinely supporting him, and asking him what he needed.

Plus, their relationship was never a weakness for either of them: he still chose a dangerous mission, and she never once asked him not to.
ljc: hug spock now!taraljc on 9th May 2009 03:25 (UTC)
For me, I had that moment when I watched him in the 'lift just clinging to her, before he pulls himself together, and it wasn't so much about the kiss as erotic as it was just about someone touching him with affection. Because now that Amanda was gone, and T'Pring is gone (he never would find out how much of a stone cold bitch she was, but the severing of the bond when the planet imploded was just one more thing he got hit with) he would potentially never have that again. It could have been so cheesy and so schmaltsy; instead, it just felt right to me.

Uhura in TOS was always so sensual and lively and empathetic, that it makes sense to me that she would see he needed comfort, and want to offer it. And the circumstances were such that not only did she see it and want to offer it--but she acted on it and offered the comfort she knew how to give. That's what I love about her, even if her role is different from what we expect and maybe not as central as we night have wanted. But she takes chances. And it was a big one to take. And exactly because we've seen her brush Jim Kirk off repeatedly, we know it really means something to choose Spock. And it means something to Spock.

Because Spock Prime was never as willing to try and embrace BOTH sides of himself until after he died that one time. And now this Spock has that chance--and 30 years ahead of his predecessor--to rexamine his chocies and try and make the better one for him. And it's not about him choosing human over vulcan. It's about him choosing not to be solely Vulcan, instead of what he is: neither all one thing nor none of the other, unique, and Amanda's son too.
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