The latest Star Trek was a great movie, but there was one thing that stopped me from enjoying it completely.
Editor’s note: This article was written by Alyce Adams.
It will probably come as no shock that the one thing I had a problem with was the movie’s representation of women. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the movie recently, with Felicia Day making an interesting blog post about the issue (which currently has over 700 comments), and Damon Lindelof, the film’s writer, even apologising for Alice Eve’s underwear scene.
It was a shock for me to see that so many people were okay with this, and that others were even mad about it being made into a big deal. The unnecessary underwear scene is only the tip of the iceberg, and I thought instead of letting myself go out in an ALL CAPS RAGE, I would try and explain the other problems the movie had in regards to female characters as a whole, and therefore why Eve’s scene is a problem.
First, lets look at the female characters, shall we?
In the entire film, there are two women who have more than one line of dialogue, Uhura and Carol. These are practically the only women on screen, too. I noticed one getting shot, and another helping navigate the enterprise. I didn’t see any others. It’s also important to note the lack of a female presence during the emergency meeting for Starfleet Command, where all the most important members are assembled. Not that you could infer any message from this, or anything…
Uhura and Carol now carry the weight of representing women all by themselves, and unfortunately, they fail rather miserably.
I want to focus solely on Uhura from the second film, as I believe they are represented differently in the each film. What is Uhura’s role? She’s a communications officer. What does she do in the film? Complain or worry about her boyfriend.
In the original series, Uhura is a very important character, as she is one of the first portrayals of an African-American woman in a non-menial role on TV. However, in the latest addition to the franchise, I would argue that her role is completely menial.
She has two scenes were she is actively doing something. One is when she goes to talk with the Klingons to convince them to help the Enterprise catch Khan. Does she succeed? Nope. In fact, Khan comes in and saves her instead.
The second is when she gets beamed down to help Spock defeat Khan. She shoots Khan a few times with a type of stun gun that appears to have no effect on him. Spock then punches him a bit more and finishes him. None of her actions were vital. If she had not been there, the plot could have continued without her.
Her purpose in this movie is to humanize Spock, she serves the character of Spock instead of herself.
Where as Uhura had some redeeming scenes, Carol really plays the perfect damsel in distress stereotype.
She is first introduced as a science officer with an impressive list of credentials, and is then promptly sexualized in the now infamous underwear scene. It has been discussed elsewhere, but needless to say it’s gratuitous. If you want a scene to demonstrate Kirk’s playboy and flirtatious character, that’s fine, but you could easily achieve the same effect showing her with her clothes on. You just need to show him looking. The fact that they chose to show her without clothing exemplifies how they’re pandering the male audience. The length of Carol and Uhura’s dresses are also ridiculous and add another example.
Thankfully we see Carol demonstrating her intelligence once, (although briefly and with no great effect), when she deactivates the torpedo. Afterwards, she does nothing. Her plan to stop her father from blowing up the Enterprise because she’s on board doesn’t even work, as he simply beams her back to his ship. The rest of her scenes include her father talking down to her, getting her leg broken, and screaming. She’s hardly even used as a plot device, like Uhura for Spock, and I know I was left slightly baffled at the end as to her purpose in the movie. She wasn’t even used as a romantic interest, so her biggest scene is when she’s in her underwear, which seems a shame when they set her up as an intelligent woman.
I’m not saying Star Trek is a terrible movie, or that it is horribly sexist, but I’m just pointing out that the somewhat two dimensional, sexualized female characters are a frustrating trend in blockbuster movies, and as a 2013 audience member, I expect better.
Listen to similar discussions related to pop culture on the podcast Memoirs of a Fangirl.
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