Thursday, June 25, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 019: Ladies’ Night

Previous: Vulcan Racism

As Spock finishes his interview with the council, we cut to a car driving down a lonely Iowa cornfield with the last flames of dusk dying on the horizon. Without stopping (or slowing) at the crossroads, the car pulls up to a what we discover is a futuristic roadhouse bar. The driver appears to be the Uhura, and we follow her swishing red turtleneck mini dress through the club as she approaches the bar and orders a Clavian Fire Tea, 3 Budweiser® Classics (another shameful product placement), 2 Cardassian Sunrises, and what sounds like a "Slushle Mix" at the bartender's suggestion. Now we see there are women everywhere, but at least they're just functioning as scenery, and ordering drinks. At GirlBar in Hollywood one might see 5 to 1 ratios like this…but in Iowa? OK, it's the future in an alternate universe. The bartender goes to work on her order.

"That's a lot of drinks for one woman" comes from our tipsy future hero James T. Kirk, slumping forward to reveal himself from behind another patron who looks like Michael Dorn with a long face. Uhura looks at him and decides she's going to need "a shot of Jack, straight up." Kirk slurs: "Make that 2, her shot's on me." "Her shot's on her; Thanks but no thanks."

A short scene, but in it we've learned Uhura is in Iowa where Kirk was supposed to have been born in the original timeline, and Earth is aware of not only klingons and vulcans, but also cardassians. Also, we've learned that Kirk has survived a delinquent, destructive adolescence to become a young man who goes to bars alone and drinks too much. While there is no real logical problem with such characterization, the question of the writers' values and dedication to producing good work seems inevitable. This screen time could have been used to portray the triumph of hard work over adversity – which is usually more impressive than apathetic depravity. Perhaps the writer's schedule does not allow for the kind of careful thought a substantial and valuable story requires, and only had time to write the kind of bar fights and chase scenes that Roddenberry so detested as profit-maximizing pandering. Yet, to gain the approval of TV production gatekeepers for making Star Trek, he had to include them. They would not tolerate the intelligent portrayal of a wise hero who avoided violence.

From a larger perspective, this kind of decision makes perfect sense for a country like the United States that was started as a colony for exploitation and profit maximization by the English crown, founded on war against the indigenous population and dedicated to exploitation of the resources for increasing the wealth of the rich. As the inventor of the free market model Adam Smith observed and described: merchants and manufacturers support wars during which they work to ensure "their own interests are most particularly looked after." Media corporations are today's equivalent, and are driven by profit goals to support conflict where velocity of the aggregate money supply is increased. Avoiding violence and war by establishing peace and democratic management reduces profit – so television shows that portray avoiding war and establishing democracy in markets is like kryptonite to US style state-socialized capitalism. Roddenberry had a beautiful dream of something better than those who boast they are "not fans of Star Trek" (e.g.: JJ Abrams), understand.

Next: Animal Lovers

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting breakdowns here! But I must wonder, why spend so much time tearing apart something you dislike so much? Seems like a lot of effort to take on something you don't like when life is so short and there are so many thing you do like.

BurntSynapse said...

I hope to offer more than "tearing apart". I loved Gene's vision for Star Trek, and shared his feelings about virtues ST could explore. I think it important to examine this film in light of a noble standard of which many are unaware. Providing detailed analysis not only aids my clarity, but offers and opportunity to facilitate discussion with others, like yourself from whom I learn much, and to explore concepts that many people do not have the luxury to study, such as the value of education, philosophical traditions, the roots of logic and ethics, etc. I would like to create something positive based on the painful experience of watching the film, and to at least make an effort to repair what I see as encouraging ignorance and violence in the film. In short, I would say its because I care, and I was sufficiently moved emotionally.

Steamblade said...

Says the person critcizing the critic. This is a wonderful counterbalance to the fawning of those who mindlessly watch this movie and sing its praises.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the quick and thoughtful reply!

I've been a trekker since '71, and I'm glad I didn't share your pain the three times I went to see the new movie. But, I share your love for the original material!

crone51 said...

you used the wrong " They're" in paragraph one. She said, ducking and running.

BurntSynapse said...

Thanks Crone! Error corrected.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'll admit to being a jerk.

"vulcan" and "klingon" should be capitalized.
"kryptonite" probably should be too, but it may have become institutionalized into American slang well enough to drop the original capitalization.

BurntSynapse said...

Anonymous, No jerkiness involved AT ALL!

I really agonized over this and started with caps but it seems incorrect not to capitalize Human along with the rest.

I decided to only use caps for planet names Earth, Vulcan, Krypton, whatever, and keep species names with traditional punctuation (like the difference between English and english), but I'd love to find a good reference online if you can point me to it.

BurntSynapse said...

In later posts, I've completely caved on caps consistency...

Anonymous said...

"I loved Gene's vision for Star Trek, and shared his feelings about virtues ST could explore." Which visions of Star Trek was that? TOS visions, which sold, or attempted to sell, the vision of Klingons and Romulan bad guys (analogies for the Cold War Soviets and the Communist Chinese), or the touchy-feely-oh-so-morally-superior-we-are vision of the the Post-fall-of-the-Soviet-Union NextGen? Do you have even the hint of an idea? Or are you completely clueless and ego driven?

Roddenberry's visions was $$$$, plain and simple. He was a bastard to work for, a backstabbing bastard to work with, and money motivated manipulator that would have made the Ferengie proud - he deliberately wrote and copywrited "lyrics" for Alexander Courage's original Star Trek theme, so that Roddenberry would get royalties every time it played. Alexander Courage was not ammused. Roddenberry cheated on his wife by having an affair with Nichelle Nichols, and at the same time, cheated on Nicholas by having a second affair with Majel Barret. Roddenberry was a first class drug abuser as well. Prescription amphetamines to wake up during the day, rrescription sleeping pills at night, plus healthy doses of alcohol during the day.

Roddenberry's vision? It was "blowing in the wind", whatever fit with the politics of the moment. Any hero worship of Roddenberry and his vision is left-wing, uber liberal touchy-feely delusional thinking. "BurntSynapse"? Sounds like you burnt one or two.

BurntSynapse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BurntSynapse said...

Hi Anonymous!
Actually, I loved both TOS Cold War allegories, and preachy morality of TNG for which science fiction is such a good vehicle.

Whether I am completely ego driven depends on the definitions and philosophy of motivation one is using to assess me, I’d guess.

Roddenberry’s visions did include funding, perhaps even a desire to get rich – but I don’t think his personal problems of addiction and unethical behavior are very interesting when compared to the influence of his work. Also, I tend to think of people who focus on such things as more misguided even than those who fawn in hero worship. Both extremes share unreasonable bias that filters perceptions unacceptably, IMO.

We agree GR did whatever he thought politics of the moment required, especially to finance TOS within a corporate capitalist system, although based on the Ferengi, we would almost have to both agree that he was not the world’s biggest fan of profit maximizing.

I have killed a few neurons, but as they say: only the weak ones!

muser said...

Why is it that fanatical conservatives (regressives) are constantly accusing liberals(progressives) of being fanatical? I attribute this to the very common regressive failing of "projection"; "the unconscious act of denial of a person's own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection

BurntSynapse said...

Hi Muser,

I'm not certain we gain much by painting self-described "conservatives" so generally as to say they constantly accuse X of Y, but there is evidence to support that this group does prefer simple, clear categories like good/evil which, in social situations, generally sacrifices accuracy and precision in exchange for greater efficiency.

Good, careful thinking tends to appear slow and inefficient from such views.

muser said...

Beautifully expressed.

Depressing, but beautifully expressed.

I hope you won't mind if I quote that in the future?

BurntSynapse said...

Thanks, and please feel free to quote.

The last couple of things I said that got really popular was "Living the Dream" adapted from Ralph Emerson, and "Faith is only required in two situations: lies and mistakes. The truth is strong enough to stand on its own." which I adapted from Sagan in Demon Haunted World.

We all have the same mental toolbox and our conceptualizations are really so remarkably similar, the trivial differences are what we tend notice and focus on.

I believe that if people want to understand anything, including each others' opposing views, tools exist enabling such growth.

Flashman85 said...

To follow up on the debate about whether to capitalize race names, Memory Alpha capitalizes the term "Human," but given that Humans are also referred to as Terrans, I might be inclined to capitalize Terran, Klingon, Romulan, etc. but leave "human" lowercase, as we would with penguin, dragonfly, salamander, etc. I say it's OK to lowercase our own internal terms for our planet's lifeforms, but our more formal race name should stay consistent with the conventions of the rest of the universe. But that's just me.

BurntSynapse said...

Hi Flash!

BTW - I appreciate all the feedback you're posting.

As for capitalization, I think the convention you describe here is better rationalized than anything I've seen. You'll note that in an earlier response, I even capped "Kohlinar" as well as Vulcan, despite not doing so in the actual post, but I think toward the end of the film the writing got more consistently formatted.

Flashman85 said...

Hi BurntSynapse,

Nice to feel appreciated. :D And I know what it's like to gradually make one's writing more consistent, and it's a bugger to go back and fix everything that came before!

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