Growing up, I was never a viewer of anything Star Trek. The first Trek content I saw was JJ Abrams’s 2009 reboot, which gave me a skewed perception of what Star Trek really was (seeing as all JJ did was slap a Star Wars filter over the Star Trek universe).
When COVID hit, and we all began to hunker down and do our best not to focus on the utter shitstorm of everything going on outside, I wanted to avoid dystopian sci-fi futures where the world has ended and there’s no hope left for humanity. I was tired of seeing the same old “well, it’s too late for us” story packaged in a new way and sold me as something new. And most of all, I wanted to imagine that there could be something good in our future. I wanted to believe that we might be able to pull through this.
I put out a call on my Facebook page. What’s the best uplifting sci-fi? What’s the series or movie that features humans using their emotions instead of running from them, helping one another instead of killing each other, and building a better world for everyone?
I received a few suggestions that I had already seen (and didn’t think were all that positive or hopeful), but over and over again, the same series kept coming up: Star Trek.
“A positive future where people use their emotions as superpowers? Sounds like you’re describing Starfleet!” said one of my friends.
“If you want hope, Gene Roddenberry made the liberal utopia you’re looking for on Star Trek,” said another.
It seemed like it was about time for me to dive into the show that, if my friends were to be believed, was exactly what I was looking for.
So I watched the original unaired Pilot for the original series. And it was one of the most misogynistic pieces of entertainment I’ve watched in years. It didn’t inspire hope in me that this utopian future was a place where a woman would be left alone with her alien captors because she was too ugly to join the rest of humanity.
“Okay,” I thought. “This was made in the 60s. Let’s jump forward to The Next Generation and see if that’s any better.”
I watched the first four episodes, which were racist, misogynist, regressive, and depressingly colonialist. I decided Star Trek was not the positive sci-fi future I’ve been looking for, and stopped watching the series for a couple months.
But I haven’t stopped thinking about it.
Why do people think this show is a positive depiction of our future? It’s a world where the colonialist, imperialist mindset has reached its utmost extreme: Insert ourselves into every society that has ever existed, not just everywhere on our planet, but everywhere on every planet, in every galaxy throughout the entire universe.
It’s a future that screams, “If you just keep doing things exactly how you’re doing them, everything will work out! As if by magic!” It’s a show that encourages all the people who watch it to stay exactly how they are—don’t do any self work, don’t learn to respect each other’s differences, just keep on keeping on, and eventually the future will figure itself out.
The show, at least as far as I’ve seen, provides absolutely no explanation as to how everyone learned to get along, we’re just supposed to believe that… we figured it out. But the show betrays its own premise by featuring characters whose sole mission is to treat other cultures and species (depicted here in the same way we today view “races”) as “less than,” which is the very thing that causes most of the conflict in our society today.
“But the Prime Directive!” I can hear some of you shouting at me. Well… get mad at me if you want to, but the Prime Directive is a load of bullshit. Don’t interfere? How can you claim you aren’t interfering when the plot of every episode (thus far) is, “Starfleet, your very presence in this part of the galaxy has caused problems for us.”
Which is basically the story of history. Just because the characters are no longer murdering the natives and raping their women doesn’t mean they aren’t altering history or claiming that their way of life is the better way of life. In fact, it’s so much worse than that. The citizens of Starfleet believe that humanity, along with the few species they’ve been able to create peace with, have created the best society, and look down at nearly every civilization they come across as either primitive or savage.
Holy White Supremacy!
I’m about as leftist as they come these days, but this show is a perfect example of why I think non-liberals hate liberals. It’s preachy and superior, but exhibits exactly zero of the qualities that it claims to stand for.
So I’ve decided that I’m going to watch the entirety of Star Trek: The Next Generation to see if I can discover what exactly it is that people love about this show. Or perhaps I’ll just discover that even the most hopeful creators in the past weren’t able to envision a future free of humanity’s judgment of the “other.”
“Come on, Chloe. It’s a product of its time! What’s the point in nitpicking something that was created over 30 years ago?”
Trust me. I’ve asked myself the same question. Perhaps this entire exercise is just a representation of my own bull-headedness and stupidity. Perhaps it’s considered torturing myself to force myself to watch—*checks and does the math*—Jesus fucking Christ, over 133 hours of a television show that I’m already certain I’m going to hate.
But I do believe there is value in watching things from the past and reevaluating with a new worldview. My entire life thus far has been a constant series of learning new information and then writing over my understanding of everything else I ever learned or thought I knew. It’s often deeply frustrating to look back at moments from my own life and realize exactly how wrong I was, or how badly I fucked up, or how much I hurt someone.
I think it’s a lot easier to look back at and reevaluate content. It allows us to challenge our understanding of the world without triggering the fight-or-flight response that comes along with have our own thoughts or actions called into question. It gives us the opportunity to grow into new worldviews without feeling like the way we’ve been living our life has been wrong.
So if you’re interested, feel free to follow along as I write posts about Star Trek episodes. I’m going to cover them all.
What an absolutely insane thing to do.
—Chloe Jade Skye
October 15, 2020