Star Trek: Insurrection Review-Off

By Shamus Posted Thursday Jun 30, 2011

Filed under: Movies 171 comments

This is what I wanted to talk about the other day, before pissed me off. This weekend I watched the Insurrection reviews from SF Debris and Red Letter Media back-to-back. It was interesting to compare these two critics and see what issues each of them brought up.

One thing to note is that they both listed a lot of logical flaws, continuity errors, nonsensical character behavior, plot holes, and events that conflict with established canon. However, their issues overlap about as often as they don’t. That is, you can watch one of these forty-minute reviews all the way through and still only see about half of the things that don’t make any sense in this movie.

I rented the movie once some years ago and more or less forgot about it. My only recollection of watching the film was my constant irritation at the sanctimonious Rich White Hippies and their ludicrous technology-free paradise. (Example: A couple of hundred people living off of a farm the size of a tennis court. Snort.)

Star Trek – particularly TNG – seemed to suffer from this a lot. There were several episodes where they seemed to advance the idea that paradise = Land of the Young White people. In another sci-fi series you might just blame it on the usual lazy and unimaginative casting that we see elsewhere in Hollywood, but this is Star Trek.Trek originated with Roddenberry’s vision of a truly pan-racial crew. That wasn’t just creative casting. In the sixties, that was a statement. Fast forward twenty years, and you have a show about the heroic white people who save the universe with the help of their token black friend. Maybe that’s not fair, but when compared to the original series, the new ones do come off a little…


Eh. That is a lot of white Americans. I mean, they’ve got an African-American in there. And a Frenchman, played like an Englishman. That sort of counts, I guess? And if you want to count Worf as a black guy then I’ll count Data as a white guy. And throw in Pulaski and Transporter Chief O’Brien.

I’m sorry, I’m not usually the sort of person to sit and count up the ethnicity of all the characters. I realize that happens all too often and usually a Big Deal is made over something of very small importance. But Trek began as a vision of a colorblind future, and it frequently presumes to tell us how primitive, prejudiced, and backward we all are, so it really, really rubs me the wrong way.

It’s sort of like when a television preacher gets caught having an affair. Adultery usually isn’t that big a deal, but when you catch someone at it who normally speaks from a position of moral superiority, it gets a lot more attention. Likewise, if I (the guy who rails against both DRM and piracy) was caught willfully pirating games I would expect it to cause more outrage than random internet commenter #278 promising to pirate a game when it comes out.

Both Red Letter Media and SF Debris bring up other cases in the history of Picard & Crew, where the crew didn’t side with the indigenous people. The case of the Native Americans (or whatever they were, I didn’t see the episode first-hand) strikes me as being a shocking oversight. It really does make the crew seem like racists.

But of course, the crew aren’t racists. A lot of this is simply the product of having a show written by dozens of people with no plan, who don’t know each other and rarely share notes, working over the span of decades. See also: Comic books and their twisted goofball morality.

A great example of what I’m talking about is the TNG episode Justice, where the crew visits a supposed paradise world. The ladies look like the Victoria’s Secret lineup, and the guys look like they just jumped off the pages of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. Everyone is a white-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed, 24-year-old American swimsuit model. I’ve heard people excuse it saying, “Oh, they have to make paradise world like that or the audience wouldn’t ‘get it'”. That’s a hell of a claim. That’s basically the writers saying, “No, no. I’m not the racist… the audience is! I’m just pandering to their narrow worldview and deeply ingrained prejudices.” Which, if you think about it, isn’t much of a defense.

A while ago I wrote a satirical piece about Star Wars and what Hollywood would do to it if Lucas pitched it today. In that, I took a few shots at what I see as the typical “enlightened” Hollywood writer:

[…] Then, when the bounty hunter comes in, I think we need a brawl. I mean, here we are, in a bar and these two guys are enemies. The audience is going to expect a brawl. I say, like six bounty hunters come in, and Solo takes them all on. Alone. Solo. I love it. They should be really big black guys. Well, not black guys, or it would be racist. And I hate racists. So, we get a bunch of big black guys and color them green or something.

Although, these guys are like the mob. Maybe they should be Itialians? We could have James Gandolfini play Jabba.

Again, I admit the “who is the most racist” is a lame game of race-baiting “gotchas”. I’m sure I can’t claim any moral high ground. Odds are my fiction isn’t any more diverse than the norm. I don’t pretend to be a champion of diversity or a paragon of colorblind thinking. But is it too much to ask that Trek not be so much worse than everything else? Or that it spend a little less time on its high horse?

Sorry about the rant. I didn’t even realize I was going to write that. Apparently it’s been bothering me for a long time. My only real goal was to hold these two reviews up side-by-side and compare them. Here are the links again:

SF Debris review of Star Trek: Insurrection
Red Letter Media review of Star Trek: Insurrection, and his new wife Bambi.


From The Archives:

171 thoughts on “Star Trek: Insurrection Review-Off

  1. toasty says:

    What’s so funny about this is that I still love all the Star Trek movies. I’m a fanboy, I can look past the problems.

    But yes, these are valid complaints. Which is why DS9 is better.

    1. Matt K says:

      While I was a big Star Trek fan back in the day but once DS9 came on there was no going back. TNG just seems so bland compared to the DS9 crew.

      1. toasty says:

        I dunno, there were some good TNG episodes. But honestly, I haven’t even watched all of TNG. DS9 is just so fucking good. I’ve watched like each and every DS9 episode at least twice. Yeah, its amazing. :)

        1. Matt K says:

          TNG did have good episodes but I can only watch a few of them anymore since most very pretty simplistic takes on whatever the issue of the week was. Also the lack of character development. DS9 is just so engaging that each episode just draws you in.The character work on that show is just fantasic. I mean how many show develop either C characters to almost the same extent as their A characters.

    2. mixmastermind says:

      I preferred Deep Space 9 back when it was called Babylon 5.

      1. Matt K says:

        And I perferred Babylon 5 to only have contained seasons 2.5-4 (man were seasons 1 and 5 just awful, though the middle of the show was quite good).

        I’ve seen both and there’s really little comparison. Although B5 and TNG both had some stupidly heavy handed episodes (mostly just the Union ep of B5).

        1. Soylent Dave says:

          The comparison between DS9 and B5 comes from the introduction of a story arc to DS9.

          Part way through DS9’s run, they move away from self-contained, episodic content (with a reset button at the end of each story, and no big overarching tale to tell), and introduce a big, series-spanning storyline.

          Given the timing, it would be astonishing if the writers weren’t influenced by B5 (either they though ‘ooh, that’s good – let’s copy it’ or, more likely, they were suddenly allowed to do big stories – something I’m certain many of them had been trying to do for a while – because producers could no longer pretend that audiences had no attention span.

          B5 did a lot of things badly, but it was definitely instrumental (along with the X-files) in creating modern science-fiction series’, where we generally expect there to be a big ongoing storyline, as well as episodic stories.

      2. SomeUnregPunk says:

        I preferred B5 when it’s story was coherent.

  2. Eric says:

    First off, both brilliant guys producing brilliant content. I recently got into SF Debris’ reviews thanks to your link a few weeks ago, and RedLetterMedia, well, I honestly don’t think I’ve seen more insightful film analysis ever, even if it does come wrapped in jokes that make me feel just a little bit uncomfortable.

    I think it’s just as you said: the writers are going to inject their own viewpoints into the stories and how they play out. For all of its ideals of an enlightened future, Trek has no shortage of blatant and pandering sex appeal, disturbing political and racial undertones, etc. Some of it, I’m sure, is unintentional, and much of it comes down to who the limitations inherent in producing a TV series, especially one which strives for big budget visuals, casting and set design but has nowhere near enough to make that a reality.

    Even so, you have to wonder if Trek would benefit in some way from some sort of Bible for writers to follow, that facts could be checked against both previous episodes and the ideals of the series. As much as I dislike Lucas’ butchery of Star Wars, at the very least we receive stories which are relatively unhindered by contradiction, racism, and so on – even the Expanded Universe is for the most part held to relatively high standards for what is effectively fan fiction much of the time.

    It’s always been that inconsistency in Trek that has kind of pushed me away – for every excellent episode featuring strong character building, pacing and social commentary, we’ve got… well, stupid, vapid crap about sick dogs, and bloated, plodding monstrosities which seem more concerned about filling up their running time than they are at actually providing something interesting to watch. As much as I think new blood is good to keep a series fresh, having strong oversight – by sane, intelligent people, especially on the production side – is something that can really help to improve the focus and direction of a series.

    1. Rustybadger says:

      The funny thing is, TNG writers did have a continuity guide. It was just ignored a lot. And of course when they made the movies, they were free to ignore it completely.

      1. Eric says:

        They did have one?



      2. Raygereio says:

        And even if they did follow the continuity guide. A lot of these issues aren’t caused by the shows’ and the movies’ creators actually being racist. I simply don’t believe that they are; if only because that would be pretty darn incompatible with Roddenberry’s views.

        I think the issue isn’t intent, but perception. Take this Disney clip Shamus posted a while back:
        See that terrible racist stereotype they used? If you did, then congratulations because I certainly didn’t see it. I needed it to be pointed out and explained before I finally went “Oh, right. Yeah, I guess that could be interpreted that way.”
        And example for Trek would Voyager’s Tattoo. That episode’s writers didn’t intend to offensive. Heck, I recall reading something about this – alongside other Chakotay-centric episodes, being intended as praising of “Indian culture” (I put that in quotes not because I wanted to say there isn’t one, but because there isn’t a single one), instead those episodes ended up seming to go out of their way to ridicule and offend Indians

        1. Atarlost says:

          There are two kinds of stereotypes.

          On the one hand are the obviously negative stereotypes: Blacks are lazy or Jews are greedy or Americans are stupid. Most reasonable people agree these are bad.

          Oh the other hand are the milder ones: Chinese people (and siamese cats) have epicanthic folds and speak with the same accent as whatever famous Chinese actor defined Chinese accents to the ears of American audiences. Or the best fake accent the studio can hire. You could say this goes with the “Americans are stupid” stereotype above as held by Hollywood elites, but it’s also a matter of the actor you can get looking Chinese, but being from San Francisco and having to fake a Chinese accent.

          This is incidentally why the “French people have Paris accents” breaks down so frequently.

          “native Americans owe their limited cultural achievements to aliens but Europeans and Asians built their advanced technological cultures on their own merits” is not a stereotype, but if it were it would be in the first category.

          1. MadTinkerer says:

            This is also why we get episodes of Doctor Who the likes of Daleks in Manhattan. What is wrong with Daleks in Manhattan, you say? The accents sound perfectly fine to you? Well, my British friends, shall we watch Mary Poppins next: because it’s like that.

            I could cite dozens of other examples (and not all of them are critical of the British, it’s just the example I like to point out to my British friends).

            Screwing up representing characters from other cultures is not an American thing. It’s a one-culture-not-quite-understanding-another-culture thing. There’s a difference between thoughtless offensive racism/culturism and embarrassing lack of proper research resulting from the time constraints needed to produce a TV episode. The former comes from a lack of trying to understand, while the latter comes from failure to understand despite an effort to understand. And sometimes the actors do come pretty close to a decent accent, despite having barely met the people whose speech they’re trying to imitate.

    2. MrMurphy says:

      As much as I dislike Lucas' butchery of Star Wars, at the very least we receive stories which are relatively unhindered by contradiction, racism, and so on ““ even the Expanded Universe is for the most part held to relatively high standards for what is effectively fan fiction much of the time.

      Whaaaat? Racism is everywhere in Star Wars. The Trade Federation? The Gungans? None of the Star Wars franchise makes much sense, either, beyond the racism.

  3. Zombie Pete says:

    “That’s RACIST!”

    Apparently, this is a meme the kids are saying, essentially applying it to just about any situation that seems even the tiny bit wrong. (i.e. mentioning a Chinese person has nice black hair, or a teacher assigning extra homework.) NPR did a thing on it. I heard it while driving my Volvo to Starbucks for a non-fat, soy latte.

    1. Mari says:

      I can back up kids using it in the most nonsensical fashion. Towards the end of the school year a teacher took up a student’s cell phone for having it on during class time at my kids’ school. The entire class started yelling “That’s racist!” Apparently the kid with the phone was Hispanic. My daughter was a lone bastion of logic, arguing that if she had her phone on it would be taken up too.

    2. Deoxy says:

      I LOVE that – it makes the point of how racism charges have been used for the last several years (most of those kids conscious lives) – as a generic way of demanding what you want.

      1. Shamus says:

        Yeah. That’s why I hesitated before posting this one. There is just SO MUCH of that sort of thing, and I didn’t want to be THAT GUY. But it was either that or write a different post, so I elected to be That Guy.

        I’ve used a similar joke for years, where I incongruously blame communists for everything.

        WIFE: We’re out of mustard.

        ME: I thought you went shopping?

        WIFE: They stopped carrying the kind you like.


        It’s not particularly funny to non-Shamus people, but I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.

        1. BeamSplashX says:

          That would be funny to me, actually, since I did something similar whenever something went wrong. I voted for Obama, so if I’m out of sugar I just shake my head in disappointment and say “Should’ve voted for McCain.”

          Now I sometimes also respond with “We’re out of sugar? But how? We killed Bin Laden!”

          1. Bubble181 says:

            I do this kind of things too. Of course, being from the wrong part of Europe, it sometimes descends into “We’re out of gas!” “Damn nazis!”, but the logic is the same :-P

            1. ehlijen says:

              But “Damn you, Kaiser Wilhelm!” is so much funnier!

            2. ClearWater says:

              Ouch! Did it have to be gas in your example? It somehow makes it even funnier in a horribly macabre way.

        2. Fat Tony says:

          I too do this.

        3. John R. says:

          Me too! I’m a little surprised at Shamus, since unlike me he’s old enough to remember when communists were actually scary. Does this mean that decades from now, when our new bogeyman is Brazil or robots or something, I’ll start blaming random misfortune on al Qaeda?

      2. Andrew says:

        A friend of mine who works the gate at a theme park, once told me a story about how a group of people accused him of being racist for not letting them get through without a ticket. They were literally trying to white-guilt him into letting them in for free. Boggled my mind, it did.

  4. Jabrwock says:

    I actually got chills thinking about that boardroom pitch. *yeesh*

    Destroying Solo’s character development was bad enough.

  5. rrgg says:

    I was never much of a star trek fan, but if the idea is supposed to be a colorblind utopia then maybe you shouldn’t be paying attention to all the white people behind the curtain, Shamus.

    1. Nidokoenig says:

      You don’t think it’s at all fair to mention that in this colourblind utopia, the place is essentially run by white people? It’s all very well saying there’s equality, but if the facts don’t support that statement, it’s false, and it’s an important enough issue to not just trust someone when they say they’re playing fair. In fact, if you look at the TNG cast in the picture, both black guys started out as recurring red shirts, not main cast. Tasha Yar was security chief before Worf, and there was a different chief engineer before Geordi.

      The fact that there are white people behind the curtain making this world run by white people is a perfectly valid thing to note, since it’s vitally important to look for causes of and risk factors for inequality so that the situation can be improved. At the very least, if the people making the show are primarily white, they should at least get some non-white feedback to make sure they haven’t done something stupid they just didn’t see.

      1. silver Harloe says:

        “There was a different chief engineer before Geordi”.

        At first they tried to eliminate the chief engineer role – when a chief engineer is mentioned (before Geordi taking the job) at all, it was always a different person. Geordi wasn’t created to be a recurring random dude, he was created to be a metaphor – a blind navigator, get it? It’s soooooooo insightful. It fell as flat as having the kid rescue the ship constantly. Really, the show got a lot better once they killed off Roddenberry’s sacred cows like the kid and the “blind navigator” and junk. ugh.

  6. Groboclown says:

    I’m normally not “that kind of guy” either, Shamus, but I’ve been reading some of Ursula Le Guin’s comments on the SciFi channel’s whitewashing of Earthsea, and it brings a lot of things into perspective.

    1. Shamus says:

      Never read Earthsea. I still found that heartbreaking.


      1. Rockbird says:

        Early Earthsea is glorious and i would recommend it to anyone. Everything after the third book can go burn in the sun. (Not bitter or anything, no sir.)

        1. No, Rockbird, just accurate. She ran into the limits of what she had written, and trying to get past them did what she did (other than the short stories, some of which are quite cute).

          1. Rockbird says:

            I don’t know exactly what you’re saying no to…

            But okay, I’ll admit it – Internet hyperbole got me. I haven’t read anything past Tehanu, so saying everything after the third book is bad was dishonest of me. It’s really just the one book that i can really comment on.

            Tehanu is still a very very bad book, though, and it put me off reading anything else in the series.

    2. Cineris says:

      Ursula K. LeGuin is a quality writer (or used to be – no idea if she’s kept that up for 30 years) but she’s also extremely racist and sexist. It’s a shame, but if she weren’t such a hateful person I might be more inclined to be upset that the SciFi channel cast people of the wrong skin color.

      1. Shamus says:

        The only thing I know about her is the linked article and your comment. She sounded very touchy-feely in the article. Is there a story that I’m missing here?

        1. Cineris says:

          No story that I know of, besides having read a number of her books and also having had the misfortune of reading some of her essays. It detracts from her work when you end up learning she intentionally makes characters non-white because she doesn’t want them to be “honkeys.”

          The racial angle isn’t even very important in Earthsea or Left Hand, so her complaints are totally based on the superficial (rather than say, arguing the portrayal of certain characters as other races does not do justice to cultural or biological differences in peoples). My reading is she thinks that there’s something morally suspect about whites, or in writing about whites. It’s a pretty perverse attitude but one that’s tolerated because her animus is directed at the right people.

          1. mixmastermind says:

            She’s just filling a vacuum in fantasy, which is almost entirely filled with vaguely-European white folks.

            1. krellen says:

              With most fantasy being vaguely-European, I would expect most fantasy characters to match vaguely-Medieval European demographics.

              1. krellen says:

                Just as a follow up: if someone does Eastern fantasy, or African fantasy, or Arabic fantasy, and has a mostly white cast, that would be an issue. So long as we’re talking about European fantasy, however, I really see no need or point in forcing “people of colour” into an image they don’t actually belong in.

                1. MrMurphy says:

                  And if someone writes non-European, Mediterranean inspired fiction, then we’ve entered the realm of a scenario which you should not take issue with.

      2. Raygereio says:

        Wut? Could you give an example of LeGuin’s rampant hate? It’s been a while since I read some of her books, but I don’t recall anything resembling that.
        If anything one can infer a strong anti-white sentiment in some her books; but even that wasn’t done out of hate, but as a sloppy way to make her coloured protagonist look more awesome.

        1. krellen says:

          Hating white people because they’re white is still racism.

          1. Raygereio says:

            Technically true.
            Though concidering LeGuin is white you’re sort of left scratching your head in bewilderment instead of raging against this evil bigot.

            That and I can’t really call that anti-white sentiment racism. It’s more a form of positive discrimination (which is something I hate with every fiber of my being, but that’s besides the point) and sloppy writing. Calling it racism is really blowing it out of proportion.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              “Though concidering LeGuin is white you're sort of left scratching your head in bewilderment instead of raging against this evil bigot.”

              So Im not a misanthrope because I am a human?

              1. Raygereio says:

                No, I didn’t say being something and hating that same something are mutually exclusive.

                What I did say is hating something about yourself that you cannot change is a weird thing to do. Especially so if you raise that hatred to the same levels of racism.
                A black guy going up to the Ku Klux Klan and cheerfully joining them in harrassing other black people for the sole reason they’re black will make me raise an eyebrow. Perhaps even both of them.

                1. Matt K says:

                  So e.g. see Uncle Ruckas of the Boondocks cartoon.

                  He’s still racist but you kind of have to feel some pity for the guy especially in that one episode at the end of season 2.

                2. krellen says:

                  When Dave Chapelle did it, it was hilarious.

                3. She has never struck me as racist either.

          2. evileeyore says:

            Except that’s not what she’s doing.

            She makes the humanity of her sci-fi and fantasy as varied and colored as humanity is now. She isn’t writting “white european fantasy” and as such her worlds aren’t filled with White European Heroes.

      3. CaptainBooshi says:

        God, I hate giving in to such an obvious provocation, but I just can’t help myself.

        First of all, I’m not an expert in the subject, but I’m pretty sure it’s not actually possible to be racist against white people or sexist against men, at least not right now. It is possible to be prejudiced against white people or men, and also definitely possible to discriminate against them, but those are different things.

        One of the reasons why racism and sexism are SO corrosive is that they are backed up and fortified by culture. It is similar messages coming from all directions at once, agreeing with any one particular case of prejudice or discrimination, assuring everyone involved this is the way it should be. This is oversimplified, of course, but gets my point across. Racism and prejudice are often mixed together, but they don’t have to be.

        Second, I see absolutely no evidence that she actually is prejudiced against white people, or men. I read Earthsea probably 7 or 8 years ago, and didn’t notice anything then, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. I can’t use that as evidence. However, since Cineris refers to “honkeys” in his second comment, I’m assuming he’s referring to the article linked above, specifically when she mentions that she “didn’t see why everybody in science fiction had to be a honky named Bob or Joe or Bill.”

        She also specifically mentions that she does have white people in the novel, even as one of the central characters. I honestly do not know how Cineris took that to indicate she thinks “there's something morally suspect about whites, or in writing about whites.” There’s also nothing there at all about gender, so I don’t know where the sexist claim comes from. The main character is male, and so’s at least some, if not most, of the other central characters. I don’t want to impugn him, but I think he’s pulling in feelings from some other argument on an unrelated topic that just don’t belong here.

        Finally, if “the racial angle isn't even very important in Earthsea or Left Hand,” as Cineris says, why not include people of other races? It doesn’t hurt the white audience, who may not even notice it (I don’t think I did), but it will greatly benefit people who don’t normally get represented in the genre to see someone they can identify with physically as well as mentally. This is a fantasy world, where playing with conventions is a long-honored tradition. I’m having trouble seeing this as anything but a positive change.

        1. CaptainBooshi says:

          Sorry, I didn’t realize how much I had written. The TL;DR version:
          -Like it was said earlier in the post, be careful when claiming racism or sexism
          -in the linked article at least, I saw no evidence of prejudice against whites or men, and what seemed to me to be some evidence against any
          – I honestly don’t understand why some of you seem to be actually offended that she’s included non-white people in a fantasy world she made up.

          1. silver Harloe says:

            “I'm pretty sure it's not actually possible to be racist against white people or sexist against men”

            If you’re judging people by the color of their skin rather than the content of their characters, it’s racism, no matter what color is involved. If you’re judging people by their genitals instead of the content of their character, it’s sexism, no matter which genitals are involved. That’s what the words mean – to substitute really getting to know someone with snap judgements based on their external appearance. It doesn’t have to be a negative judgement, either. The words are used pejoratively, but their definitions include things like assuming anyone with oriental features will blow the bell curve in your class.

            You would seem to advocate that instead call this kind of snap judging “prejudice” and reserve “racism” to mean “prejudice against certain races”, and that’s probably closer to what some people mean (especially the kind of people who use the term “reverse racism” – a term which just boggles my mind), but I don’t think it’s what everyone means and I think it’s sloppy English :)

            Note: I’m specifically and responding ONLY to the quoted sentence and not the rest of the post. I’m only discussing definitions and usage of specific words, and not anything about any books (especially books I haven’t read).

  7. Nidokoenig says:

    I remember a story about the episode where Data builds a daughter, Lal. There’s a bit where Lal is having love explained to her by Guinan. The original plan was to have Guinan’s explanation of love be gender neutral, and for there to be a gay couple in the background somewhere. This got changed as soon as somebody upstairs heard about it.
    Another episode had Riker fall in love with a female-looking member of a genderless species that took a dim view of gendered people and had them surgically altered and re-educated, which was originally written with this species looking male.
    DS9 managed to sneak in a lesbian kiss by using one of Dax’s past lives, and one episode with Odo meeting a rogue changeling had some gay references(“coming out” and “pride parades”) drawing parallels between minorities that can be invisible but shouldn’t have to.

    Maybe I’m just an indie zealot, but I think the main problem here is shows being too big to fail. They literally can’t dare to piss off a sizeable portion of the audience when they need hundreds of thousands to tune in to get the necessary advertising revenue, or to buy the DVDs. On the other hand if you try to appeal to minorities to make up for it, you’ll have a hard time doing it without alienating some of them, like how it’s difficult to have religious minorities side by side with gay people without having to spend more time than you might have planned dealing with the obvious conflicts. The only answer I can see is to use the money you would spend one really expensive show to fund a few or even a couple dozen that can take risks and not try to please absolutely everybody, because their break-even point is so much lower, and if some fail, some might be really successful and make up for it.

    1. BeamSplashX says:

      TNG encapsulates one of the issues with the 90s, I think. There were a lot of problems then that we still have now (prejudice against homosexuals, underlying racism, sexism, the sorry state of most foreign countries, etc.) that most of the population dealt with by sweeping it under the rug and pretending everything was a-okay.

      Picard’s character was also based in the idea that you could solve everything with diplomacy, though the 90s version could get pushed to something comical like:
      “You’re stupid because you’re black!”
      “Hey, that’s not true! Don’t be racist, let’s be friends!”
      “You’re right! I’m not racist now! We’re friends!”

      There was also a hell of a lot of nerd-bashing in the 90s. Awful.

      1. MadTinkerer says:

        In some ways I wish we could go back to the nerd-bashing 90s, though.

        Prime example: Once upon a time, computers were magical things that only nerds understood. Now they’re mundane things that everyone uses. They’re no less complex to understand how to actually make, however:

        When Rock Paper Shotgun posted a story about (the first) proper 8 bit computer created from scratch in Minecraft, the comments section was flooded with morons asking what the big deal was. You see: because computers are those things they use to play music and Call of Duty and download torrents, and no one needs to wrestle with DOS memory managers anymore, they have no appreciation of the amount of effort going on behind the scenes.

        Even worse: EA just makes Madden every year, Microsoft is remaking Halo again, and “Mainstream Gamers” determine the market share of publishers and therefore what kinds of games are made. This is the #1 reason why Bioshock* and Deus Ex 2 and XCOM and all the other bastardized games are made in the place of proper follow-ups.

        I pine for the good old days when I was ostracized for being into video games, because having all these idiots act like they’re just like me is far, far worse.

        *Though, admittedly I do enjoy Bioshock in spite of it not being SS3, and XCOM technically isn’t out yet. DX2 has no excuse, though.

    2. silver Harloe says:

      There was another episode, where the worm-species that they used for Dax was introduced in TNG before DS9, where Riker fell in … whatever it is he falls in, which is kinda like love in that he gets more attached than merely lustful, but somehow gets over it before next episode… anyway. he falls in that with a female with a symbiont, and then she gets killed and the symbiont is planted in a male host but still had all the personality that Riker had fallen in “whatever” with, and you could just tell the original writer intended Riker to get over it and kiss the dude.

      1. silver Harloe says:

        Er, not that I’m suggesting that In the Future everyone should be bi. I think it would have been perfectly acceptable for Riker to admit to still loving and/or kiss the dude but admit he wasn’t interested in sex (in a later-night version of TNG, anyway). Just that the ending they put in was rather less than good.

        1. Tesh says:

          And yet, that would have been just as preachy and sanctimonious, trying to force a character to take a position to make a point for the sexually experimental crowd. What’s wrong with how Riker reacted? Not much, unless one has an axe to grind and thinks that any sort of sexuality is preferable to the norm. Y’see, expressing a preference for age-old “traditional” gender roles isn’t sexism or neanderthal thinking, it’s personal choice, and while it *might* be rooted in prejudice, it need not be. Somehow, “personal preference” only seems to be OK if it challenges the orthodoxy. That’s silly.

  8. Bill says:

    It was the British Shakespearean actor playing a Frenchman in the style Henry V which always bothered me.

    Why make him French?…and if they really wanted a French captain, why not get a French actor? Truly odd.

    1. Mari says:

      I always wrote that off to him being from a region like Seine-Maritime where the French and the Brits are really knotted up together culturally and historically. There are regions of France, from my understanding, that don’t fit our stereotype of “France.” Then again, I’m neither French nor British so there are probably nuances to it that I don’t grasp.

      1. Deoxy says:

        The stereotypical “French” are in Paris, and they are (personal experience) almost universally rude to non-French speakers (even at the information desk at a tourist-trap for foreigners!!!), etc.

        My experience with French people away from Paris was much better, and I’ve spoken with several other people with similar results. Basically, the farther away from Paris you are in France, the less “typical French arrogance” you get.

        1. NeilD says:

          In particular, the more tourist-y the area the more rude they are. But I would have been disappointed if they weren’t, like I wasn’t getting the full Paris experience.

          My favourite memory is having dinner at an outdoor restaurant on the Champs Elysees. A companion and I both ordered the steak – his medium-rare, mine medium-well. When the waiter delivered them to the table I queried him to make sure we got them straight, and when he finally understood what I was asking he looked down at me with a disgusted sneer and said: “Zis is France! We only do medium!” I just laughed and waved him on.

    2. Audacity says:

      Wait, Picard was supposed to be French? I always figured him as being from one of the old Norman families who are now English in everything but name… with a middle class Manchester accent?

  9. Abnaxis says:

    I want to lead off by saying you should really put a “Please don’t erupt into a raging falmewar…” line at the end of that article. You’re probably touching on some sensitive isuues here…

    More on topic, the issue you are talking about has a lot of…nuance to it that makes racism a very complicated issue. You might disagree with their methods, but to me it looks like they put a lot of thought into how they danced with the issue of racism.

    The problem is, racism isn’t just about skin color. Black people aren’t just “people with dark skin,” and white people aren’t just “people with light skin,” there is a cultrue associated with each group, complete with their own distinct forms of expression. This creates a problem for a television show, because as soon as you include a minority in the cast, they either have to conform to the majority form of expression–and hence, subvert their own heritage–or they will be so starkly contrasted against the majority that they will be seen as a token stereotype. None of these options is good.

    Not being racist doesn’t mean you ignore the existence of cultural diffeence, it means you accept them, and do not rank people who are different than you lower than yourself solely because they are different. I think what ST:TNG did is about as close as you can get to being sensitive to racial tensions as you can be in a serialized TV series–there is a glaring lack of minortities because otherwise every flaw in the character is taken as commentary on the larger group (see also: women in refrigerators).

    Rather, to create social commentary on racism, the creators invent their own alien races with elements of culture from different groups. Even if the aliens are transparently supposed to be a stand-in for a group that exists today, feathers get less ruffled because visually, the aliens are not associated with the group. It’s not perfect, but I think they actually did a pretty good job…

    1. Matt K says:

      Actually DS9 managed to do a very good job on this but tackling some of the issues head on but I credit Avery Brooks with a good chunk of getting that right.

      There’s supposedly an early episode of TNG that has them going to a planet of Black People that’s supposedly just insanely racist (to the point of the director being banned from the show) which actually has more unfortunite implications since it cam out the same season as Justice.

      1. Raygereio says:

        Actually DS9 managed to do a very good job on this but tackling some of the issues head on

        I think what DS9 did best in this regard was simply not making a fuss about Sisko’s skincolour.
        Sisko wasn’t “the black captain”, he was the captain. Period. His skincolour was just that, the way his skin looked. No big deal (that and it helped that the character of Sisko was pure, undiluted awesomeness).

        Compare that to Voyager where Janeway was “the female captain”. Almost her entire character design revolved around “How do we make this woman look strong and commanding?”.

        1. Nidokoenig says:

          Sisko was very much a black captain, with his New Orleans background, creole cooking, boxing, and so on, but Picard was a white captain, and he had a whole raft of details to match Sisko’s. Sisko’s strength is that he is that he’s well written and consistent, and he has a strong identity. All we really know about Janeway is that she’s got a science background and is utterly insane.

          1. Shamus says:

            “All we really know about Janeway is that she's got a science background and is utterly insane.”

            That’s not true!

            I had no idea about her science background.

            1. ehlijen says:

              Thanks, that made my day :D And it even was already a pretty good day before then!

          2. Raygereio says:

            Sisko was very much a black captain

            I disagree with that. Was the fact that Sisko is black something his character was build around? If it was, then I never spotted it.

            1. Nidokoenig says:

              Watch any episode involving his father. Watch any episode where he cooks. Watch the one episode with Q. Picard spends seven years politely talking to this arsehole with a stiff upper lip and gentle upper class Engl- er, French outrage, Sisko punches his lights out, and it’s not the last time he does boxing, but it is the last time he has to deal with Q’s bullshit(Sisko acts like this and we’re not surprised. Mal Reynolds acts like this and it’s the most awesome thing ever). Sisko is a black guy as much as it is relevant and possible to narrow down what is African-American and what is European-American culture and expectation.

              1. Raygereio says:

                What? Just because he punches someone he’s black?[/sarcasm] I honestly don’t really get your point here.

                Was Sisko’s skincolour ever a serious focus point of his character? I’d say no. There where episodes devoted to it. Yes, but that’s it. As for his cooking, that doesn’t mean anything here. You could replace that with a fondness for pizza or ramen and Sisko’s character would sill be the exact same Sisko.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Actually there were a few episodes that had racism as their focus,though I think most of them were about that parallel world where sisko is a writer.Though it was done well there.

              2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                “Sisko acts like this and we're not surprised. Mal Reynolds acts like this and it's the most awesome thing ever”

                When sisko did it it was also the most awesome thing ever.

                And if you are saying how all blacks are badasses,let me point you to 5th element,or rush hour(s),or(ugh)dungeons and dragons.

                1. Nidokoenig says:

                  The point is, would this scene have happened if the part was written for a white guy? I’m saying there aren’t unfortunate implications about the writers’ worldviews, but not even bearded Riker ever came close to punching Q out. Reality and aversions in other works don’t change the fact that in general, physically powerful characters are often black. Yes, Sisko is awesome, but it doesn’t feel as notable as it does with Mal. He’s written as working class, pragmatic and black to stand opposite the upper class, idealistic and white Picard.

                  As for the cooking, it’s very specifically creole cooking, and as we see in the later seasons with Vic and his objections to the sanitised version of the times it gives, and the visions where he’s a black sci-fi writer in the fifties, he isn’t being written as some generic guy who happens to be black. There’s also the time travel episode where he winds up playing a key role in the Bell Riots, an obvious way to get him involved in a civil rights event without it being a real one that could backfire.

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    “The point is, would this scene have happened if the part was written for a white guy? ”

                    Yes.Also,riker is a bad example.You should better ask yourself would kirk have punched q if he was in that situation?Im pretty sure he would.

                    As for those others youve mentioned,those were side stories,not his defining characteristics.Unless you want to argue that data is a black guy(or any other minority)because there was this one episode where he had to prove that he has rights?Same goes for doctor from voyager.

          3. Matt K says:

            Add me to the “Didn’t know Janeway had a science background” group. Unless by Science background you mean as a test subject in a expiriment to see what would happen if a crazy person was made captain of a starship.

            And yeh, Sisko was very much a black captain, although I suspect that was somewhat Avery Brooks’ doing as he seemed to really champion his character and was involved directly in the episodes that highlighted it (like the first time travel ep or the Sci-Fi writers ep). They even had Sisko dislike Vik’s because of how it whitewashed that era (so to speak).

            EDIT: I see Ray’s point but at least later in the series they do go and highlite that Sisko is black so while not what the character is based around, they do address it from tiem to time.

    2. Wtrmute says:

      The problem is, racism isn't just about skin color. Black people aren't just “people with dark skin,” and white people aren't just “people with light skin,” there is a cultrue associated with each group, complete with their own distinct forms of expression.

      That is true, at least, in the United States. In Latin America and in Europe, however, blacks and whites share basically the same culture, excepting some of the more recent “black pride” concepts which have trickled through from the US. There is certainly no such thing as Ebonics in the UK, though, or France, or Brazil, or the Dominican Republic.

    3. Mari says:

      You mean like how Klingons, the narrow-minded singularly violent people, switched from being “white” in TOS to “black” in TNG? It always struck me as a little bit sick that they chose to swap the war-like tribal planet to black.

      1. Raygereio says:

        Weren’t the klingons supposed to give a asian/oriental vibe in TOS?

        1. Matt K says:

          That was my read on them.

          It’s not like TNG didn’t have a episode with a tribal all black planet anyhow (Code of Honor, )

          1. krellen says:

            I didn’t find the episode racist at all. Is it possible this just boils down to people being able to find racism if they want to?

            1. Raygereio says:

              Mainly because there a big difference between the intent of something and how something is percieved.

            2. Matt K says:

              I’d say no. The episode is just racist and considering the cast and crew were pretty much on the same page regarding that it was racists (see the comment section of the page and how the director was banned from the show). It seems this was especially troubling since the show was only 4 episodes in. A bad precident to set.

              Personally I bring it up aa an unfortunite implication with it being so close to the Justice episode.

            3. Lalaland says:

              I’d call that racist on the face of it, the costumes, the ‘noble savage’ archetype and the mono-ethnic cast all add up to what I’d call racism. It’s not ‘laugh at blackface’ racism but the sort that associates negative traits and ‘backwardness’ to the other, the same thing can be seen in 19th century Punch cartoons of the Irish (and some 20th century ones).

              The show isn’t racist as a whole but that episode has to rank alongside the ‘IRA’ episode for stupid ideas done badly. Would it have been that hard not to cast all of the ‘noble savages’ as all african american? Hell that IRA one was so bad they’ve never screened it in Ireland or the UK. (I’m sorely tempted to donate to SFDebris to see if I can get a review)

              1. Matt K says:

                Originally the planet was supposed to be more multi-cultural. It was the director who changed that and added a few more troubling aspects (hence why the cast and crew were so agast). See the “Background Information” section of that page for more info.

                As I’ve mentioned in other places, this simplicity is what I ended up not likeing about TNG. I get what they are trying to do but I like how DS9 tackled its subjects more maturely by acknowledging that it’s not a right or wrong issue.

              2. krellen says:

                I think our definition of “racism” has become far too sensitive. Is it worse racism to cast the alien race as all black, or to deny black actors work because there are too many blacks already on screen?

                1. Lalaland says:

                  It’s not the all black cast that is the issue after all calling that racist would mean condemning ‘The Cosby Show’. It’s the combination of all black cast and the roles they’re asked to play. As Matt K highlighted it wouldn’t have come off as racist as written and concieved but as executed it does.

                  Of course there is no final arbiter of racism, I simply felt this episode crossed the line.

        2. Nidokoenig says:

          TOS Klingons were space communists, all sneaky and trying to gain footholds in primitive planets by subterfuge. In the Trouble with Tribbles, the Klingon language is referred to as Klingonee, obviously referring to how Russian names languages, Angliskee, Ruskee, and so on. This seemed to change from the Slow-Motion Picture onwards, though quite why it happened at that point, I don’t know.

          1. Wtrmute says:

            TOS Klingons were Space Soviets; TOS Romulans were Space Red Chinese. After the Cold War went belly-up, they repurposed the Klingons into Space Vikings, and they became (mostly) black, and I frankly don’t understand what was done with the Romulans.

            1. Kaeltik says:

              Read somewhere that the Vulcans were space Japanese or space Koreans or somesuch. Which I guess would make the Romulans space North Koreans?

    4. Deoxy says:

      I cannot possibly disagree with this more. Conflating “race” with “culture” is the single biggest part of the racial mess in America!

      They are two distinct things that, due to historical racism, have significant but fading correlation. I am not a racist AT ALL, but there are elements of “black” culture in America that are horrendous, and I will call them that. (There are problematic elements in “white” culture, as well, but nothing to compare, really. And no, I don’t attribute that in any way to the actual skin color or other racial traits of the people who are members of those cultures.)

      In fact, you want racism? Here a perfect example:

      Black people aren't just “people with dark skin,” and white people aren't just “people with light skin,” there is a cultrue associated with each group, complete with their own distinct forms of expression.

      That is racism, pure and simple. It’s not vicious or intentionally evil, but it is still racism. You are saying people with black skin have certain cultural elements in their person – you are “judg[ing] them by the color of their skin” instead of “the content of their character.”

      Culture is easily identifiable (in many cases) by voice alone – inner city, “bust a cap in yo’ ass” type speech, for an obvious example. If all you hear is the voice, there are all kinds of important and meaningful things about that person you can gather (values, morality, etc – cultural values), but can you tell what color their skin is? No.

      Until THAT barrier is down (conflating race and culture), “race” will continue to be a problem in America.

      1. Nidokoenig says:

        Have you ever heard the deep, resonating sound of a Barry White-style voice coming out of a guy that wasn’t black? Yes, it’s possible for a person to be raised with a different culture to what we might expect by looking at them(I’m English, class is a fairly big thing here and it’s not visually marked), but cultural background, especially in the US, does have strong and undeniable correlations with race. It’s not inherent, there’s a story of a girl born to college-educated white parents who didn’t want to send their daughter to a private school, so she ended up in an inner-city majority black school. She picked up the local accent perfectly.
        But pretending that black people don’t have a different cultural history to look back on is like saying to me, an English bisexual, that my experience of society isn’t just a little different. The fact that I would have been a criminal fifty years ago is important, the fact that I grew up under a law that forbade me having a full and relevant education about sex and relationships is part of who I am. A white or straight person can look back on the civil rights era, at people like Martin Luther King Junior, and things like the Stonewall Riots and see a significant historical people and events, to a black and gay people, the work of those people and those events are part of who we are and why we enjoy the freedoms we do.

        1. krellen says:

          Have you ever heard the deep, resonating sound of a Barry White-style voice coming out of a guy that wasn't black?

          Yes, I have. Your argument is invalidated.

          EDIT: Video evidence. Caiaphus is white, but has a deep, rich, “Barry White-style” voice.

          1. Jeff says:

            Does Don LaFontaine count?

            1. krellen says:

              I would say so.

            2. Kaeltik says:

              As awesome? Yes. Yes he did.

        2. “Have you ever heard the deep, resonating sound of a Barry White-style voice coming out of a guy that wasn't black?”

          You literally just asked us to Rick Roll you!

          1. krellen says:

            Oh lord, you’re right! I mourn my lost opportunity.

      2. Cineris says:

        Sorry, but “black people” aren’t just “people with black skin,” nor are “white people” just “people with white skin.”

        It’s idealistic to say we should only judge people by the content of their character – But idealism and realism are at odds. There are very real cultural and biological differences between people of different races. Unfortunately for the idealist, reality doesn’t care about what we’d like it to be, or how catchy our sloganeering is.

        1. Raygereio says:

          Sorry, but “black people” aren't just “people with black skin,” nor are “white people” just “people with white skin.”

          Erm, why not?
          The biological differences between the different human races have no bearing whatsover on your character.

          And as for the cultural differences between races. Besides the fact that there is no such thing as a homogenous culture for each race, that is just that: a cultural difference in behaviour, values and norms.
          It’s no more different then the difference between a rich family and on thet lives in poverty. Or a christian family and an atheist one.
          A white child could be raised in a black ghetto and he will end up acting and talking like everyone around him. Similarly you can raise a black child in a white community and you would not be able to identify him as a black person when merely looking at his behaviour.

          1. Cineris says:

            The biological differences between the different human races have no bearing whatsover on your character.

            Sure they do. “You” are your biology. It’s not some abstract thing which exists separate from you, nor are “you” a blank slate upon which experience has writ certain traits.
            How outgoing or introverted you are, how agreeable or nasty, how logical or emotional, how impulsive or reserved, and on and on, from personality traits, to competencies at one task or another, to susceptibility or resistances to sickness and disease. Even the foods you like. It’s all biology or rooted in biology.

            1. Raygereio says:

              Well, since I don’t believe in the existance of a soul, I happen to agree with the statement that everything about a person starts and ends with biology.
              But what in Ao’s name does that have anything to do with how different two average specimens of the causcasian and negroid races are as people?

              There is no scientific basis for any claim resembling that any race of humans has a genetic predisposition to a certain psycholical profile or group of profiles. If there is such a basis, it certainly managed to keep itself well hidden from me.

              When taken from the same enviroment/culture, any random white guy is as likely to have character traits X, Y en Z as any random black guy.
              If you claim otherwise then I’d like to now what sort of basis you have for that.

            2. Kaeltik says:

              OK, lest the bad science stick to the brain, allow me to administer a memetic prophylactic.

              As a professional biologist*, I can assure you that RACE is not a biological concept.

              There is no biological definition for “race” as it is commonly used. If you do insist on grouping people using the colloquial definition of race, you will find, even if you meticulously discount subjects with any hint of multiple ethnic backgrounds, that the genetic variation within any one “race” is far greater that the difference between “races”. The most consistent differences seem to be those coding for pigmentation, a couple of genetic diseases like sickle cell anemia, and a couple of faulty alcohol dehydrogenase alleles (in ADH2 & ADH3) some East Asian populations. That’s about it.

              For those parts of the human personality that correlate with “culture”, genetics do have SOME effect, but the environment, especially in childhood, appears to overwhelm any genetic component that may differ between “races”.

              *(Well, technically a biochemist, or biophysicist, or molecular biologist, or microbiologist, or geneticist, depending on the day and your favorite subdivision criteria).

              1. Cineris says:

                Just to actually clear the air on bad science, the argument you make is pretty commonly referred to as Lewontin’s Fallacy.

                For more in depth refutation, see here. For the non-technically minded, this essay has a nice graph that pretty clearly demonstrates the concept of “race” by looking at a combined 250,000 markers across world populations. Not very shockingly, different populations that we commonly refer to with the folk taxonomy of “race” cluster together when comparing on a wide number of loci (which is how human beings naturally make these assessments anyway…).

                1. Simon Buchan says:

                  I’ve heard those stats about only 15% of human population differences are between racial groups, or various similar phrasings. I never thought people understood that to mean you can’t differentiate races (genetically)! That sounds like an insane conclusion to draw – I’d say “we don’t know how to tell what race a person is from his genome *yet*” is fine, but that yet is important – genetics exists as a science because we know phenotypes are determined by genetics. Did they think being raised by Africans made your skin black or something?

                  1. Kaeltik says:

                    Very well then, classify me: I have ancestors from Ireland, Greece, Spain (from the Basque regions, post conquest & reconquista with all that may imply, many of whom were convursos), Mexico, Syria, and at least two Native American tribes. What race am I? Arab? Amerindian? Hispanic? White? Something else? Sequence my genome and I will bet you that you could not make all of those connections. That many origins will screw up any sort of correlation analysis that you’d want to run. Knowing my “race” will provide little help to doctors, far less than knowing my diet, current environment, or upbringing.

                    How about this? West Africans, !Kung, and San bushmen, would all be called Black in the U.S. The San and the !Kung are among the most genetically diverse peoples in the world, and it shows in their varied features. “Black” used as anything more than a physical description of pigmentation doesn’t do any of them justice on a genetic, medical, or individual basis.

                    The folk taxonomy of “race” relies on visual identification and individuals visually assigned to any “racial” division may bear thousands of markers that would elsewise identify them in any correlation analysis. For instance, full mtDNA and Y-chrom sequences subjected to correlation analyses of the type cited above commonly identify the descendants of African slaves in the Americas as European (or “white”) when 99 of 100 Americans would call them African (or “black”). The reasons for this should be obvious.

                    Am I arguing that there are no CORRELATIONS between colloquial “race” and certain clusters of genetic markers? No I am not. But I will argue that until you have in your hands an individual’s genetic code combined with their history and environment you are kidding yourself that your visual identification of “race” has any medical meaning outside of susceptibility to sunburns or other ailments based on clearly visible characteristics.

      3. Abnaxis says:

        That is racism, pure and simple. It's not vicious or intentionally evil, but it is still racism. You are saying people with black skin have certain cultural elements in their person ““ you are “judg[ing] them by the color of their skin” instead of “the content of their character.”

        I’m having trouble putting good words to this. Let me see…

        OK, I’ll use myself for example. My ancestor was a Hessian soldier who defected to the United States after the battle of Trenton. From that time on, my family has been poor. My father is poor. My grandfather was poor. His father was poor.

        Now, this in and of itself does not mean I have to be poor. In fact, I have gone to college and I am working to make something of myself. I can choose to disregard my history and break from the rest of my family (indeed, I haven’t talked to my mother or siblings for nearly ten years, and I rarely talk to my father), but the fact that my great-great-great-….great grandfather was an army deserter was determined before I was born, and it shaped the context I grew up in. Many of my habits and personal preferences are shaped by my heritage, whether I like it or not, and it would be upsetting if I were segregated because I–for instance–like rock music or consider myself a liberal.

        By the same token, no amount of willpower is going to change the fact that two hundred years ago, black people were brough to America and enslaved by white people, and thereafter have been segregated based on the color of their skin. Even if my family was not rich enough to own slaves, odds are highly like one of my ancestors were part of the system that subjugates peoples of other races. I get to choose how I react to that, just like minorities get to choose how they react to the shared experiences of their ancestors.

        What you propose–removing the connection between race and cultural heritage–is not only impossible, it’s wrong. What you’re basically saying is that everyone should be the identical–that we all should disregard the world around us and act like history never happened. I get to chose how to react to my heritage one way or the other, while you would prefer everyone choose the same thing–to disregard it.

        Racism is not going to end when all of humanity is unified in a single shared consciousness, it will end when cultural differences stop influencing opportunities for advancement and ability to coexist peacefully. Equality does not come from ignoring race, it comes from embracing them all without prejudice.

        1. Bret says:

          “He punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation”, is what I’m hearing here.

          Even that sounds fairer, at least there’s an expiration date. What you’re saying is that every wrong, every single horrible thing in history, not only should be remembered by every person who had an ancestor involved, but focused on as a core part of social interaction?

          I really prefer that scene from Hitman 34. People choosing to leave old grudges behind. Doesn’t matter where you were born. Krypton, Ireland, China, whatever. Now? “I’m an American. What can I do to help?”

          I mean, do I want a monoculture? Of course not! Takes all kinds to make a world, ect, ect. It would be like saying everyone should like the same music as I do, admire the same paintings. At bare minimum, the folly would be apparent romantically, given that one person would be the subject of all the marriage proposals on the planet. But assuming or forcing a position en perpetuity because of an accident of birth is abominable, plain and simple.

    5. Atarlost says:

      Star Trek already presupposes cultural shift. It has always been the case that the people from “repressed” cultures who get ahead adopt, either as a prerequisite or because it becomes a status symbol, the dominant culture.

      To deride such people as “inauthentic” is to say that people aren’t allowed to leave behind cultural baggage when it becomes an anchor. Are modern Greeks inauthentic because they no longer worship Apollo and build with modern engineering rather than the classical style that was once forced upon them by their failure to develop the arch?

  10. Ace Calhoon says:

    So… Dealing with racism in a twenty year-old show by modern standards is always a little dicey. It’s pretty safe to say that things are better now than they were.

    With that said, there are a few things to consider before composing an extended rant about how racist something is.

    Worth noting is that, while Trek fails at diversity based on world demographics, it comes very close to color blind casting based on the actors’ ethnicities (i.e. Worf is black, Data is white) given its location of filming (the US).

    Consider this 1990 census data pull.

    Doing a bit of summing we would expect the following breakdowns of actor ethnicity for a show produced in the US with colorblind casting:
    American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut: .7%
    Asian or Pacific Islander: 2%
    Black: 11%
    Hispanic: 8%
    Other: 3%
    White: 73%

    (some rounding applied, hence the numbers don’t quite reach 100%)

    Looking at the cast photo, with nine individuals in it, we would expect:

    American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut: .063 people
    Asian or Pacific Islander: .18 people
    Black: .99 people
    Hispanic: .72 people
    Other: .27 people
    White: 6.57 people

    In actuality we have:

    American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut: 0 people
    Asian or Pacific Islander: 0 people
    Black: 2 people
    Hispanic: 0 people
    Other: 0 people
    White: 7 people

    So, if our measure of “diversity” is white vs. not white, then the photo shows a cast that matches expectations for a color-blind production produced in the US (this isn’t even accounting for deviations in the population of actors produced by inequity of opportunity expected during the eighties).

    If our measure of diversity is more precise (which gets dodgy on groups this small), then we have one too many black people and one too few hispanic people.

    The examples of “paradise” are more compelling evidence of racism. Even there, however, there are mitigating factors: a TV episode will be hard pressed to do better than it’s casting pools in terms of race, particularly for a single episode. And “beauty” – related media is something that has traditionally been criticized about its lack of diversity.

    And not having watched the episodes in question, this is purely a guess… But could homogeneity have been a factor in the decision? Either to introduce a creepy factor, or to display a “we are all one” demeanor?

    I suppose another question would be: Is it a shame that Bollywood productions feature so many southern Asians?

    EDIT: clarified the color-blind casting is relative to production location.

    1. Lalaland says:

      True if the federation was a creature of the USA but it’s meant to be a global organisation so their diversity is far, far away from that ideal. I guess it just seems odd they didn’t go further than TOS in this regard, surely it wouldn’t have been a harder fight to expand diversity in TNG than Gene had for TOS

      1. Ace Calhoon says:

        As noted above — TNG does indeed fail to capture complete-world demographics. However, the reality of the show is that it was made in the US. Just as a Bollywood movie would be expected to hew to the demographics of India, a US production shouldn’t be raked over the coals too much for hewing to the demographics of the US.

        Edit: Reread it, and found it to be somewhat unclear. I’ve edited my post above to clarify.

        1. Lalaland says:

          Ah I posted that in work and missed that point completely, sorry about that. I agree entirely with you that Bollywood, Nollywood and all the other ___woods all reflect their national character regardless of plot. It’s just that for a show that goes out of it’s way to lecture the viewer about it’s enlightened nature it feels wrong. Trek’s curse is to be held to it’s own higher standard

    2. krellen says:

      The paradise in the episode in question is, indeed, supposed to be creepy. It’s a paradise whose only punishment is death, regardless of crime. Wesley’s crime in that episode is “walking on the grass”. Seriously.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Wesleys crime was actually “being wesley”.

        1. Eldiran says:

          In that case any punishment is just redundant.

          Also, since the paradise in question was actually not necessarily a paradise (more of a dystopia than a utopia) I don’t think it was really pro-white, so to speak.

        2. Kaeltik says:

          My first though after the comment about Sisko punching Q was that the only thing better would be Sisko punching Wesley. Or maybe Troi.

          Do you think that Wesley’s awfulness contributed in any way to Wil Wheaton’s awesomeness?

          1. krellen says:

            It’s the root cause.

        3. Cody211282 says:

          That crime still gets you the firing squad in 48 out of 50 states.

  11. Kizer says:

    While I agree that Star Trek: TNG often as problems (soooo many instances of “questionable” science), I feel like some of the claims made in your post are not quite accurate as they pertain to the tv series. I have recently (within the last year) watched almost every episode of Star Trek: TNG, and I have seen both episodes referenced in this post. Both times, I did not have the same impression that you did. In Justice, it is true that this “paradise” world is entirely populated by blue-eyed, blonde-haired supermodels. But as the episode progresses, you learn that this world is actually the natural extension of the fascist “master-race” doctrine of Nazi Germany. The rigid adherence to law coupled with the ruthless policy of execution as the only punishment for any crime eliminates the perception of the world as a paradise very quickly. In other circumstances, I believe the writers could have used people of other races to flesh out their paradise world, but in this case the allusion to Germany would be lost. Unfortunately, I do not know if this is what the writers were actually going for, but in the grand tradition of literary analysis I’m going to make that claim for them.

    The episode with the Native Americans was rather interesting as it paralleled the difficulties the United States had in making treaties with Native Americans. In this one, a tribe had settled a colony on a certain world after traveling for many years to find the one that actually felt like home. A situation with the Cardassians leads to a border re-negotiation, and the tribe’s world ends up in Cardassian space. When the crew comes to try and help the Natives re-locate, they are simply bound by the treaty the Federation signed. However, the Natives refuse to leave their home which places the Enterprise in a tough bind. They want to help their fellow members of the Federation, but the law is on the side of the Cardassians.

    Now, having written this, I notice the rather interesting error in continuity these examples describe. In “Justice”, Picard takes a “screw-the-rules” approach more similar to Captain Kirk of the Original series and refuses to let a member of his crew be executed for breaking the law. In the second, Picard lets his hands be tied by law. “Justice” is from season 1 or 2, back when TNG was finding its way and still somewhat emulating the Original Series. The second is from season 6 or 7, when the Enterprise has been firmly established as a political force in its own right, central to maintaining a complicated set of border agreements and treaties with a multitude of races. Though it may seem like there is a startling shift in behavior, I believe this can also be traced to the natural progression of the Enterprise’s role in space. Initially, it simply “explores new worlds and new civilizations.” By the end of the series, though, it is participating in Klingon politics, Romulan revolutionary movements, Cardassian border agreements and infiltration missions, and as first responder to Borg threats. In my opinion, this change in behavior reflects a change in the politics of the Alpha Quadrant and the role of Picard and his crew.

    All this being said, I haven’t seen Insurrection recently, and it (like most TNG movies) probably doesn’t mesh too well with the rest of the series. Meh.

    The argument that the crew has a very “white” cast is rather valid, but I would like to point out that they were also shooting for a more species-diverse crew than a racially diverse one. The way I look at it, the Original Series firmly established the racial equality of the Federation with crew members of many different nationalities. TNG took that to the next level by having “aliens” on board at all times, rather than the singular Spock at the science station. In some ways, you can look at the cast of TNG as an example of how little race matters in the Federation. Not only can you find black, white, Asian, etc. members serving together on the same ship, but there is no affirmative-action-esque placement requirement setting racial quotas for each ship. Additionally, in the Original Series all the white crew members had very strong accents pinpointing their origins. Kirk and McCoy were American, Chekov was Russion, and Scotty was Scottish. In TNG, no one has any real accent. O’Brien has just a touch, while Picard sounds much more British than French. I guess what I’m trying to say is that TNG is not step backwards from the racially integrated view of the future the Original Series portrayed, but rather an example of the homogeneity that is the next logical step in a truly integrated culture.

    This turned out much longer than expected. Hope it’s not too long! :)

    1. Lalaland says:

      Interesting analysis, particularly the deeper insight into that episode, but I have one tiny bone to pick. For an international audience the TNG crew is American due to their accents, the original crew did a better job with varying accents to give a more ‘UN’ feel.

      I’m still baffled why they asked Patrick Stewart, who has one of the strongest RADA style accents around, to be ‘french’. It’s on a par with asking Billy Connolly to be Irish in The Last Samurai, it doesn’t work and his nationality is almost irrelevant so why not change it to suit the actor

      1. Jeff says:

        It’s because Professor X is just that awesome.

    2. Kaeltik says:

      Is this the record holder for longest Twenty Sided comment?

      1. Kizer says:

        I would find that hard to believe. I’m pretty sure someone has written a longer one about how awesome Silent Hill 2 is. :P

      2. Andrew says:

        Heh. You should check out the comments in the old, old posts. I remember reading veritable essays. Good ones, too.

  12. Lalaland says:

    What’s worse that the ‘Whitey Paradise’ is that there was a later episode about a dangerous world filled with violent savages that was, you guessed it, an all african-american cast. One of these two episodes on their own can suggest simple foolishness or ignorance but both suggests something much more unpleasant.

    What has always annoyed me the most though was the near constant smug that exuded from Picard and co. The constant refrain of ‘we have grown past money and greed’ is just too unbelievable. Unless they’re suggesting that the people in TNG aren’t Homo Sapiens like the rest of us how exactly have they lost the ability to be greedy, envious, jealous or possessive?

    DS9 was always more interesting to me because they deliberately left the TNG universe behind and consciously placed it in the context of the ‘wild frontier’ which perversely made it an easier world to relate to. The greed, the hard choices, the moral failings and personal sacrifices all made that a much more real world. I never caught the later series (college and no cable put paid to that) but the reviews on SFDebris have had me itching to buy them. Which brings me to one of the funniest moments in any SFDebris review when he contrasts the cost of Season 1 on DVD to Picard smugly asserting the superiority of the federation as a cashless society to an alien in S1. Screw you Paramount

    1. Hitch says:

      Okay, I could maybe accept “greed” but the “no money” thing was a bad idea that should have never been let through. Especially when you consider the Enterprise poker nights.

      Speaking of which, why would anyone in their right mind sit down at that poker table? Start with the least of the problems, you have Will Ryker, who we’re told is the best card sharp in the Federation. But he’s offset by Geordie’s visor which lets him see through cards, the telepath (try bluffing her), Data (the perfect card-counting deck-stacking computer), and Worf (with his Wookie-esk attitude towards losing). Okay, no money mitigates what you’re going to lose, but really, in that case, why poker?

      The same lack of thinking it through on the poker games led to the producers only getting racial diversity about half right.

      1. Atarlost says:

        Worse, the no money thing is based entirely on one line in Voyage Home that’s contradicted in Undiscovered Country, and in context could be taken to mean “we don’t use physical representation of currency in the 23rd century” or even “we don’t use American dollars printed before 1980 in the 23rd century” rather than a blanked denial of currency.

        Actually it’s contradicted in the TNG pilot as well I think. Doesn’t Bones complain about his pension?

        1. Hitch says:

          If so, they contradict themselves again at the end of the first season, when Picard tells a 20th century refuge that they’ve grown beyond the need for money and possessions. Nobody was really keeping track of things. They let writers says whatever they wanted from story to story.

        2. Simon Buchan says:

          I thought “no money” was Word of God from Roddenberry?

        3. silver Harloe says:

          They also contradict themselves in TOS – in Trouble with Tribbles, the tribbles come from a guy who is selling things on the Federation space station.

          The concept behind “no currency” only works if you also fail to feature things like bars, restaurants, traders, and a host of other things that Trek regularly featured. There certainly could have been a case made for a currency-free consequence of replicators, but then they have a bartender in 10-forward instead of people just pushing buttons on their tables.

          Whatever the official word on currency was, the fact is, they never made a real commitment to it one or the other – probably because it would have been very hard to get a large variety of writers on board with a society that is sooooo different from the one they grew up in. It takes a small team of people dedicated to it to hold up a consistent vision.

    2. Matt K says:

      We’re on the same page here. The TNG ep was .

      I could talk for days about DS9 (I’d suggets getting the DVDs but not at full price, Amazon tends to have good deals, ~$30-$40 each that’s not bad) so I’ll stop derailing the comments soon. But DS9 was easily the most engaging of the series because the characters were human (even when they were not) and I like how they took those flaws and still tried to reach the ideals of the Federation.

      1. Lalaland says:

        Thanks for the link, the background information is very interesting.I had not known that the casting had been changed or that the director had been fired. That does put the creators in a much better light, the less said about the network execs who said ‘looks good enough for air’ the better.

  13. Rayen says:

    insurrection is only bad as long as you think about it. i think thats mainly what sf debris was getting at. And to be fair when i took a step back and look at it yeah it didn’t make a lot of sense. however he also says what it’s strong point; to the casual fan it does the job of being a star trek movie where the gang is altogether is for fun space romp.

    I’d like to comment on the RLM video but that guys voice always fills me with hate and bile because he has the voice of the very worst stereotype of geekiness and that guy who has no life. whether or not he is as i imagine him is beside the point, no offense intended, but i can’t listen to him.

    1. Nidokoenig says:

      But that’s just lazy. It’s perfectly possible to put the extra effort in to make a world that’s a little more consistent, or at least throw together an excuse plot and basic setting that aren’t mind-numbingly stupid. This is especially important in science fiction, and very specifically Star Trek, which is supposed to be about presenting problems we can recognise in ways that strip them of our pre-conceived notions so that we can analyse them better. The very idea that it should be a good idea to not think too hard about it is absurd, especially when you consider this film brands itself as part of the series of films that includes Wrath of Khan.

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    One thing bugs me when people mention discrimination and utopia:Uniform distribution.Just because everyone has the same rights,doesnt automatically mean that every city/ship/planet will have equal amounts of all races/genders.Just because this one ship has more white officers,doesnt automatically make the whole federation racist.

    Still,that doesnt make the movie any good,nor that idiotic planet any more plausible.

    1. Jeff says:

      I could be wrong, but I’d swear that Picard had to answer to an Admiral who was black more than a few times.

    2. Nidokoenig says:

      The problem is, we never see the ship that randomly ended up with mostly black and Asian people, we always get the white one. That implies a real world issue, which is what this whole kerfuffle is about.

      1. krellen says:

        The United States is still 70% white. So you’d expect to see a lot of white when doing casting in the United States.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Saying that we as the viewers dont see it is not fair.We as the viewers dont see the ship being decorated,but that doesnt mean there arent internal decorators in this universe.We also dont see the cast doing mundane things,but that doesnt mean they are never doing them either.

        1. Nidokoenig says:

          That’s a cop out and you know it. At least Krellen’s answer is pragmatic.

        2. Klay F. says:

          Yup, we never see anyone use the bathroom, therefor we can conclude that there are no bathrooms anywhere on the Enterprise.

          1. Bubble181 says:

            Well, we do get to see them in the shower, which is all I need to see from bathrooms, really :-P

  15. Bubble181 says:

    As for my two cents, being far too much of a trek fan for my own good…
    A) the “white paradise” planet was very intentional. Yes, it WAS a reference to Nazi Germany – down to the naming of the episode, being a Riefenstahl movie. There were plenty of episodes with seeming paradises in TOS, TNG, and Voyager -each one turning out to be not quite so great as it appears at first glance. Be it the Bikini Babe World for Kirk or the àœbermensch Planet for Picard, the story is the same: planet of hats – problem -resolution – human nature needs diversity, change and openness, the Human Rights and the Constitution, or we’re worse off in the end. Ahem :-P
    B) As for racism in the main cast…Sometimes they failed (Guinan), sometimes they succeeded, in my mind. Does Geordi’s skin colour ever, ever, ever, make any difference at all? No, it doesn’t. Some people still stick to cultural traits and heritage (Picard and his French, Chakotay and his native-american tribal practices); while others don’t care all that much. Had *every* black person been the Token Black Guy, with an episode about racism, an episode about their roots, an episode about their home country etc etc, it’d have been a good deal more annoying, to me. Yes, some more black/brown/yellow/red/ochre/beige skin would’ve been better, perhaps… And for example, replacing the first doctor with the second, it was a horrible failed opportunity, replacing a white middle-aged woman with a white middle-aged woman. A black or hispanic or whatever could’ve played the exact same role.
    C) Insurrection is a nice popcorn movie; hand in your brain when you pick up the bucket of popcorn. Trying to make it fit into the Trek universe, or considering it as a good brainy movie, is unfortunately not a good option to take.

    1. ehlijen says:

      I disagree. Insurrection was too boring to make a decent popcorn movie. First contact and nemesis, despite any problems they have, make for far more entertaining movies you don’t need a brain for.

      Not trying to start an argument, but I just feel Insurrection failed in that regard, even ot inhouse competition.

    2. ClearWater says:

      I was going to comment something along the lines of (A) that most of those “paradises” usually had something wrong with them. Don’t have much to say about (C) as I’m not sure I ever saw the film.

      As for (B)…
      Yes, some more black/brown/yellow/red/ochre/beige skin would've been better, perhaps…
      You left out purple/blue/green/transparent/octarine. ;)

      1. Shamus says:

        But of course, whether or not they actually were paradise is beside the point. The crazy thing is, the writer said, “I want this place to look like paradise to the audience.” Either the writers / directors are very narrow-minded, or they thought the rest of us are.

        And if it happened just once I would probably shrug. Not EVERYTHING has to look like the casting was an racial and ethnic scavenger hunt. But repeatedly seeing the white = good theme, juxtaposed with nonwhite = filthy savages theme… it’s downright discomforting, and far short of the vision that Roddenberry gave us.

        1. ClearWater says:

          Point taken.

          I must admit though that I hardly ever notice these things until somebody points them out. It’s been such a long time since I saw any Star Trek that I can’t remember what if anything I thought about such situations. Except that the “idyllic” worlds always creeped me out. They unfailingly had something sinister going on behind the scenes.

          For some reason the non-white = filthy savages theme bothers me more than the white = good thing.

  16. Thanatos Crows says:

    Maybe I should’ve posted this on the Star Wars rant but whatever.
    Now wouldn’t it be great if Harrison Ford reprised another popular role of his? An aged Solo is still hanging around bars, shooting first. He would get into fights with the now gray Chewbacca who lives on another planet. Han would also have divorced Leia who has gone missing and their son would turn out to be the first Incan.
    Nevermind the expanded universe, for all I know it already contradicts itself enough to be written off as an alternative outcome.
    Somehow this doesn’t even feel too absurd not to happen…I just wish it never will.

  17. Shamus says:

    I have to step away from the computer for a few hours. Please, please keep this civil. I don’t know what I was thinking when I posted this. I KNOW this is a hot topic. It’s Trek AND politics. Gah!

    Anyway, please keep it friendly. I don’t want to get back and find the blog has been burned to the ground.

    If someone makes you mad, remember: It’s Shamus’ fault for bringing it up in the first place.

    1. Bret says:

      I thought we were supposed to blame the Communists.

      I bet Lenin was behind the whole thing!

      1. Cody211282 says:

        What are you talking about, this is clearly the Nazi’s fault. Has Goodwin taught you nothing?

        1. Bubble181 says:

          Godwin, not Goodwin, you dolt.


          1. Cody211282 says:

            And the worst part is I can’t go back and edit it.

    2. Klay F. says:

      Shamus, you should feel proud of yourself, you’ve managed to create a community that is more civil than pretty much any other online community.

      *ahem* With that out of the way…

      Okay guys, the admin is asleep, time for a flamewar!! :P

    3. Sem says:

      Well, seeing that this is a blog with a very civil crowd, I think the chance of your blog going up in smoke is small. I remember one instance where I participated in a discussion here about grammar & spelling in online posts & SMSes. The debate got heated but stayed civil. I also commented once that I didn’t think that Watchmen was all that special when almost all of the comments where very positive about it and I didn’t get flamed into the ground.

      OTOH, all posts are moderated by you. I do remember on instance where I could see that a post on this blog was deleted by you but I don’t know if you also can silently remove posts (i.e. I can’t see that it was removed). That could give me a false impression of how civil commenters here are. That makes me curious : do you have to moderate posts here a lot or is that fairly infrequent ?

      1. Shamus says:

        It depends. I haven’t nuked a comment in weeks. Once in a while thing will go bad and I’ll end up killing two or three. In truth, it’s a lot more about participants than topics . Once in a while one of Those People will show up and I have to moderate them until they learn, or leave.

  18. X2-Eliah says:

    The sf debris review was fun to watch, nice delivery and tone, and content.. The red letter media review, though.. Urm. I honestly couldn’t bear it by ~11th minute mark, too embarassing and just plain horrible on the jokes.

    As far as the whole ‘rustic paradise’ thing always goes, I always dislike that setting with a passion; it makes no sense (as everyone already has said).

  19. Bret says:

    Hmm, on a bit of a tangent, this did make me think of Mass Effect, which very much follows the Pratchett scheme “Racism was not a problem on the Discworld, because – what with trolls and dwarfs and so on – speciesism was more interesting. Black and white lived in perfect harmony and ganged up on green.”

    I mean, Shepard, ethnicity doesn’t matter. Captain Anderson, what’s important about him is that he’s a good captain with some baggage from a mission gone wrong, and he’s the one guy who’s 100% in your corner. And the important things about Jacob?

    1) Boring.

    2) Abs.

    Matters a lot more that you’re a human than the variances thereof.

  20. Lesquille says:

    In Justice, it turns out that the world isn’t really a paradise at all as it’s controlled by some kind of god being that rigidly enforces the policy of killing those who break the law to maintain order. If you think Justice is an example of racism or unfortunate implications, you missed the point of the episode.

  21. Gantidae says:

    Shamus, I have to credit you with some serious bravery to start a posting with such a racial topic. You’ve normally steered away from such hot button topics before for obvious reasons. I’ve skimmed through the comments and I have to credit the community here as well for not turning it into a humongous flame war. I’m sure there have been some deleted comments though that would have been amazing in their ignorance.

    “Adultery usually isn't that big a deal”
    This made me re-read it again several times though. I understand the point you were making in that paragraph so I’m not trying to call you out nor trying to start a discussion. It just shocked me a bit to see such a statement made here.

  22. Kreek says:

    “Likewise, if I (the guy who rails against both DRM and piracy) was caught willfully pirating games I would expect it to cause more outrage than random internet commenter #278 promising to pirate a game when it comes out”

    you know,
    id have to say, id be more surprised and upset if Shamus was caught putting DRM into his new project/game thing Project Frontier
    then if he was caught pirating

  23. Velkrin says:

    Over 100 comments and no mention of Avatar (Airbender, not dances with wolves in space)?

    1. krellen says:

      It was a delightful cartoon, and just a cartoon – no movie to discuss here.

      (Seriously, since at least 70% of the names were mispronounced in the film, I maintain that it doesn’t really exist.)

  24. froogger says:

    I wont read the posts above, I’ll just assume this post ignited a heated debate that will burn for at least hundred more comments. Behave people, this little cranny is one of my favorite places on the interwebs. Shamus has nurtured it well, so he deserves civility. You may go back to slapping each other with nerdy trivia now.

    1. krellen says:

      The comments have been quite tame, actually. I’ve been thinking about suggesting to our local fire marshals to use it as a much-needed firebreak; Shamus’s blog is pretty flame-retardant.

      (I live in New Mexico. We’re currently on fire. Literally.)

  25. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Huh,extra credits episode about race,and on the same day you talk about race.Shamus,are you spying on those guys?

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