Saturday, May 01, 2004

Does Star Trek Hate Women Now?

I'm beginning to run out of other explanations.

Sometime around the middle of Voyager, there seems to have been a... shift... in the way the series portrays fe-males.

Trek has a proud history there, for the most part. Granted, the miniskirt uniforms and childlike characterization in the original series look kind of embarrassing today, but that series actually WAS progressive for 1960s TV. And beginning with NextGen, Trek presented us with a procession of women who could actually be interesting as people: Yar, Crusher, Troi, Guinan, Ro, Kira, Dax*2, Kes, Torres, Janeway. All these shows had their bad years (Voyager had more bad than good), but at their best even Troi and Kes had something to offer the story besides a nice rack. (As in tune with emotions as she was, Troi was often smarter than the men around her, and Kes managed to mix intelligence with innocence, a rare combo indeed.)

Then... trouble.

First came Seven of Nine and the Borg Queen, both of whom proceeded from the ridiculous assumption that a race of advanced cyborgs, who want to control the entire universe, want even MORE to start by assimilating your penis. Why do Borg even NEED mammaries, anyway? I didn't see a lot of breastfeeding going on in those incubation chambers. The worst part was watching Patrick Stewart trying like hell to sell the idea that the Queen was part of his Borg experience, but he FORGOT about her until meeting her for the second time, because, you know, getting his mind peeled like an onion wasn't nearly as TRAUMATIC as having this blotchy cleavagey corpse-girl fondle his shoulder. METAPHORICALLY fondle his shoulder.

"Hey," said some perverse genius, "Trek always has the character that's wondering what it's like to experience human emotions and stuff, right? Spock, Data, Odo, the Doctor? Let's do that again, but this time make the character a woman! We can have her get all weepy and PMSy, and best of all, we can make her have lotsa SEX! To start, let's make her a frigid bitch like those girls from high school with the tight sweaters who always ignored me!"

Or you can buy the official version from Jeri Ryan's boyfriend or husband or fuckbuddy or whatever. (Even the experts are not really sure.)

The same template is at work with T'Pol, but the ABUSE! God, the abuse! Just! Keeps! Pouring! Down! It's like a four-year-long episode of Fear Factor! She's been raped, tortured, driven out of her mind at LEAST three times, infected with AIDS, practically shat upon by her own people, and turned into a crack whore. She's been paired off with Archer and Trip on an apparently rotating schedule. And best of all, looks like her loss of emotional control is permanent. Supers.

Conceded, EVERY character has to suffer some in order to be interesting, but they also have to get some cool moments of karmic payback, or else they just look like perpetual victims. My memory for Trek isn't as photographic as it used to be, but I challenge ANYONE to come up with five cool moments for T'Pol. And bits where Captain Archer rewards her with a tight smile and a temporary suspension of grumping don't count.

I've heard rumors that there's another female character on the show named "Hoshi," but I can produce no concrete evidence... oh, wait, that kinda good "Beauty and the Beast" episode? Oh, her. The one without cleavage. Right. Does anybody know what... uh... "Hoshi's" personality is supposed to be, now? Anybody?

Hey, I'll ogle a nice pair as much as the next guy, but if that's all I'm after, well, leafing through FHM is a much more efficient way to get it. And I respect the women in there more.

Last week was the last straw for me. I'm off Trek now. I've been impressed with some of their ideas for this season, but I can no longer ignore this grimy feeling I get while watching.

(It doesn't help that I still remember the viewer poll declaring T'Pol's rape the best episode of the first season. There are powerful and tasteful stories to be told about rape, but that wasn't one of 'em...)