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May 24, 2013

Comments

"Jemimah", though?

The maddening way he's treated an iconically progressive story just goes to show that the US doesn’t actually have a liberal party and a conservative party, we have a conservative party and a reactionary party.

or, it shows, as Abrams himself is happy to admit, that he was never really into ST:TOS.

“The thing about ‘Star Trek’ is [I] was never necessarily a fan of ‘Star Trek’ — [though] I’ve come to appreciate it, working on the movie, in the way that friends of mine did, often smart friends, who loved the show,”

Abrams told a story he wanted to tell, using a recognizable form of the original characters, but without a lot of the original philosophy, because the original philosophy was not his thing.

hopefully, he'll do better with Star Wars, which he says he's always liked.

Without going into anything else on Star Trek, Rooney Mara as Spock is an inspired choice.

As for reboots, I always thought Denzel Washington (circa 15 years ago) playing Batman would be awesome and add to the narrative (I've mentioned this before).

I also think David Fincher should have directed the Star Wars prequels, but I'll refrain from commenting further on them...

Joshua:

"Jemimah" because I was looking for a woman's name such that she'd rather be called "Jim".

As usual when ST gets discussed I blow the horn for the German http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/Raumpatrouille>attempt http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raumpatrouille_%E2%80%93_Die_phantastischen_Abenteuer_des_Raumschiffes_Orion>at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-p5A_GislM>the exact same time that was less peaceful but was even more radical in some aspects. Notably female roles that were not just decoration ('bridge bunnies').
Btw the miniskirt got invented independently for this series as were the hairdos.

Anyone trying an actual reboot of this would get strung from the next lantern by fans. I would also consider it impossible without destroying the very essence.

Interesting stuff, Doc, but if one of the key points of the original series is that it incorporates enemies, the hard reboot would probably the great great great (lesbian) granddaughter of Hugo Chavez...

Fun! "Fantasy casting" is one of my favorite activities.

Problem with most (I want to say "all") movie/TV/comics SF is that the world building absolutely sucks toads, by the standards of written SF. I am not aware of a single movie that would meet the standards of 1930's space opera (Lensmen, anyone?), let alone anything from the "big guys".

As to the "heart" of Star Trek, it was, above all else, *hopeful*. The future will have its own version of "First World problems", but it will be a lot better than today. The best commentary on this is from SF author David Brin, in “Star Wars” despots vs. “Star Trek” populists and subsequent elaborations.

for a "call me 'Jim'" woman's name, how about Jamila or Jemila?

Steve Smith:

Thanks so much for the link! I can use it to show why I'm not worried that Abrams will mess up Star Wars the way he IMHO did Star Trek. The Star Wars universe is essentially conservative, Star Trek is essentially progressive -- and Abrams is clearly a conservative by temperament.

Darcy:

I didn't think of those names because they're unfamiliar to me (being of Arabic derivation). I wanted something within the European tradition, like James, but one that a person might not want to use, and so "Jim" would be the use-name.

The other set-up I thought about for a long while was Jaime Kirk, a Hispanic male.

LJ:

In fact, Chavez instead of Chekov would be a really good idea. Another possibility I kicked around is to make the equivalent of Chekov be a North Korean.

I admit Donald Glover isn't the best choice as Suleiman, you really need someone who looks like the American idea of a "Islamic terrorist". But I couldn't resist having him and Danny Pudi on the bridge together ...

It wasn't a very good movie, it is interesting that a progressive view has zero white males. Like we don't exist anymore? Yes that makes me less likely to embrace progressivism in general. As is the case.

C'mon, Marty, it's not as if you were just one step away from embracing progressivism in general . . . just asking for a group hug!

Yes, and you could have Chavez do the Chekov thing of 'well, that was first invented in Venezuela' in a Spanish accent! Though I don't know how you are going to translate something like the line he has where he asks where are the 'nuclear wessels'

It's an interesting effort, but it seems like anything like this is going to feel like tokenism. Which is, in a sense, fan-service for globalization and the fans that don't get a shout out are going to complain (cf. Marty)

White people are obviously quite common in this hard rebooted version of the 23rd century - they make up 2/7th of the main crew. So it's curious that there aren't any white males among them. I understand why you've done that, but what's the in-story explanation? Your future utopian society wouldn't have any rules keeping the men out, would it?

Seriously, if you wanted to be bold, "no white males" isn't bold, it's just the flipping over the boring old stereotype. Which is still the stereotype, just inverted. Not enlightenment, just the converse darkness.

Bold would be the depiction of a society where race doesn't matter, and hasn't for a long while. And what would such a society look like?

Not diverse members of identifiable racial groups, because people would have been intermarrying for so long that people who where identifiably members of particular racial groups would be unusual. Most of the crew would be mixed race, because over a hundred years from now, the world has seen several generations of easy travel and widespread lack of prejudice, most everyone is a mongrel.

Heck, you could throw in one or two purebred characters, just so you could stage a conversation where they had to keep explaining that their parents were members of some weird sect that was stubborn that way, and thank goodness they managed to escape the compound.

Oh, and dudes WOULD rationally be over-represented in command positions, for the simple reason that dudes, while on average not better or worse than dudettes, have a wider statistical distribution, (Only one X and one Y chromosome, instead of two X.) and you're staffing the Enterprise with the tail, not the peak, of the distribution.

Not diverse members of identifiable racial groups

Just to give us an idea of that, can you list maybe 3 or 4 actors who don't look like they are members of any identifiable racial group?

Gareth:

I understand why you've done that, but what's the in-story explanation?

Happenstance, just as there were no single white males in the core cast of Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Pure luck of the draw randomness.

I mean, what's the in-story explanation for why there are no Asian women in the ST:ID core cast? And yet white males are a *much* smaller proportion of the world's population than are Asian women.

Brett: If you want an example of a "non-racial" society, try Brazil. Walk down a beach and you'll see just about every possible mixture of black/white/native "racial" characteristics. There are a *lot* of genes that go into what we call "race", and they seem to work just fine in all possible combinations. Genes don't blend and they don't go away -- they just express differently in different combinations.

Point is, people aren't (and won't become) uniform bland, gray clones. Somebody who's a "pure" type will be just another toss of the genetic dice -- no need to invoke nut cults (although they would be interesting, of course.)

Or...you could just watch anime instead. Seinen, shojo or josei, skip the shonen.

Bodacious Space Pirates

for fun or

Shinsekai yori or

Psycho-Pass

for thought

Seinen, young adult males, usually prefer female leads or at least strong second leads.
And come on, when has an American blockbuster showed any originality or intelligence.

And you save on gas and popcorn.

I could hear "Sulu" as being some sort of African-origin surname. Why mess with that?

And behold, it is.

FWIW, I think this is an interesting thought-experiment that could use some RL trial.

There's a school of thought that goes: Hollywood makes movies with the stereotypes they do because that's what people will pay to see. But I see that there's another possibility: that Hollywood makes these kinds of movies out of sheer inertia; it's a formula that works and who wants to be the first to deliberately step into some other formulation of uncertain market value?

So, I think it's worth doing. But it'll probably have to be crowdsourced, because people investing their money are all about minimizing perceived risk.

Or you watch anime instead, seinen, shojo or josei.

"Bodacious Space Pirates" for fun, "Shinsekai yori or "Psycho-Pass" for thought. All pretty current, all SF, all with strong female leads or second leads, all better than American blockbusters.

Question:Is there American desire for "diversity" a desire for a heterogeneous "other" in order to reinforce some idealized homogenous social "self?"

Read, somewhere recently, a post about a white guy in a homogenous African city who learned a lot by noticing everyone was watching him constantly, because he stood out. "Someone like me" for everybody in a media production does not really challenge your comfort zone compared to "Whoa there is nobody like me there, or I have to work to find someone to partially empathize with."

Bold would be the depiction of a society where race doesn't matter, and hasn't for a long while.

No "Bold" would be a Star Trek where all the cast were black women.

I was sad that "Tony" in "West Side Story" got killed in the knife fight before he could reclaim Maria (Natalie Wood) from the Puerto Ricans, who had kidnapped her when she was a young girl and raised her as a squaw.

Or was that "The Searchers" with John Wayne and Natalie Wood?

But then, what were all of those Puerto Ricans doing in Monument Valley on horses?

Anyway, I was hoping Tony and Maria would have kids, just to see if they looked like Robert Wagner lip-synching Tony Randall's roles in "The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao", even though with six you'll get eggroll.

Make that all Nigerian women. I don't want any Americans in my entertainment.

I wondered for a long time why people watch drek like ST or Iron Man Umpteen and then realized it is a date thing, get out of the house, go somewhere do something with lots of other people. That is how a hegemony is internalized, and movies (and mass tv) have been and are the main vehicles.

And "diversity or cosmopolitanism" the abstraction from social bonds of ethnicity, culture, place, etc is a very important tool of neo-liberalism. Consolidation and concentration of Hollywood product, just socially liberal enough but not really challenging, on every screen in the world. Iron Man in Beijing. Think about it.

Go foreign-made media if you want "difference."

David Bordwell on the conversion of theaters to digital, and how that is difficult for smaller and arthouse theaters. Lots of kickstarter campaigns.

I suspect that the reason that Abrahms "doesn't get it" when it comes to how radical ST:TOS was simply this: he's too young. One of the results of just how fast the world has changed in the past 50 years is that those who didn't actually live thru it have trouble grasping just how different the world on the 1950s and 1960s really was.

Just little things, like how rare (and seriously un-approved-of, although no longer formally illegal) mixed race relationships were. Really, folks, there were a fair number of places in the US where a mixed race couple was literally putting their lives on the line if they walked down the street holding hands. I knew one pair of kids (in the late 1960s, in California!) who had met at a church camp. And when he came down from college to see her, they met at our place because she knew her (relatively liberal) parents would freak out at the thought of their daughter dating a black man.

On a different note, I think you are wrong that Katie Leung is too young to play Scotty. Mid to late 30s is hardly impossible for a chief engineer on a naval vessel, even today. (You do realize, I hope, how old William Shatner was when ST:TOS was made? Only 35 when StarTrek started. And he was the Captain.) And if someone thinks it is, a little make-up can add 10 years without effort.

But I do have one note, however: a Scottish engineer was a serious stereotype at the time ST:TOS was made. And it seems a pity that neither Roddenberry nor you considered changing it.

Bob, I came across an interview with Patrick Stewart (double tie-in!) discussing Othello. He had always wanted to play the role, but by the time he had a shot, it was no longer acceptable to have a white guy in blackface doing it. So he set up a production where Othello was white, and the rest of the cast (except the servants) was black.

Apparently the major unanticipated feature, for him, was that every black actor there either had already played Othello or expected to at some point in the future. So he had lots of people giving him notes. Some of them might have struggled to learn their own parts and lines for the production, but they all knew his lines cold. ;-)

Slarti:

Hollywood makes movies with the stereotypes they do because that's what people will pay to see. But I see that there's another possibility: that Hollywood makes these kinds of movies out of sheer inertia

Though your possibility #2 is IMHO a huge part of what's going on, I've come to think that there's a third factor:

Very, very few people have the power to green-light a big-budget movie. I call them the "Green-Light Guys". GLGs *strongly* favor the kind of movies they personally enjoy, and favor the kind of human interactions they feel comfortable with.

So the hero is a straight white male -- because the GLGs are SWMs. There aren't many women, those women are all exceptionally beautiful, and their roles are defined by the men around them -- because those are the kind of women they like. They don't think of themselves as racist, because they love Will Smith! and Samuel L. Jackson! and a handful of other black men. But not nearly so many black women, and you'd never know they live in a city that about 1/2 Hispanic.

The GLGs have very little imagination, nor do they particularly using what they've got. They want things to be superficially exciting yet basically safe and conservative -- and they *love* J.J. Abrams.

"One of the results of just how fast the world has changed in the past 50 years is that those who didn't actually live thru it have trouble grasping just how different the world on the 1950s and 1960s really was."
Changes of the last fifty years will likely be rather pedestrian compared to the changes over the next fifty years. Any of us going to sleep tonight and waking up in fifty years would suffer a severe case of future shock.

The Founders, we're told, knew precisely how different the world would be today, and fifty years from now.

Thus Scalia's dead document.

Doctor Science:
Point taken on the random chance thing. I think of Bashir as "white" myself, which shows how slippery the categories can get. I don't know whether the actor considers himself white.
When I thought up a rebooted Star Trek, I gave the Kirk analogue Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. 23rd century medicine had given him normal intelligence, but he was still hopelessly impulsive and reckless. He usually took pills to modify his personality, so he could be functional as a Starfleet captain. But there were certain situations where the old personailty was more useful, so he stopped taking the pills.

Quite true, Charles. After all, compare what the StarTrek tri-corder was supposed to do with what a smart phone of tablet can do today, and then consider how many centuries in the future that was supposed to be.

I suspect that fact that the next 50 years will see at least as many changes is a big part of why our reactionaries today are so hysterical. They can see it coming. And in their hearts, they know they can no more hold back the tide than Canute could.

The good news is that, for those who did not grow up in a constantly changing world (i.e. those over 65 or so), improvements in medicine will likely not be enough or fast enough to force them to see it happen. It's only those middle aged or younger who are likely to see the day when the possible lifespan hits 200.

Go foreign-made media if you want "difference."

Sure, but realize that stuff that cutting edge for you can be 'drek' for those foreign folks.

I noted the point about 'fan service', and now I'm wondering if it was a term that is in common usage in the US or is something that makes no sense. A little googling shows that fan service appears in a number of reviews (including NPR's!) of the new trek movie. The NPR review is also interesting (but has spoilers, so watch out!) because it talks about the backstage conflict that led to the story line in the original movies from Khan to Undiscovered Country.

But back to fan service, it's a concept that seemed to originally mean T&A for teenagers but has now come to me intertextual references to previous stories. Yet the whole concept seems, at least to me, to have been something that was 'beneath' Western audiences until they realized how fun it would be. In short, drek until you tasted it.

That Iron Man is playing in Beijing, or that the KFC in Hue seems to be doing quite well, while ultimately disheartening to folks like me who want to eat a homecooked meal in Vietnam or find some nuanced performance in a theatrical film in Beijing, doesn't prove that those things are drek, just that they are different. If the chicken in KFC were made in a small, out of the way restaurant, we'd probably be amazed, wondering how they got all those spices into the batter... And if Jiang Aa Bams could create an interlocking fan base for his next science fiction martial arts movie or Lien Quoc could think of a way of bringing Hue cuisine to a local drive thru near you, there would be people saying 'why bother with that crap?'

Funny.

Even though I enjoyed Star Trek, I always considered it simply a mirror of how many North American's saw their place in the world.

The idea many North Americans have that the USA are the worlds policemen. Bringing peace and democracy to the world. The good guys.

I find it rather an endearing characteristic of North Americans myself. Well meaning people that would be horrified, if they really were allowed to know what their Government does, in their name, in the rest of the world.

Many from the USA are genuinely puzzled that, rather than most of the world seeing them as the force for good, Star Fleet Command, they are supporters of repressive regimes, thieving corporates and wars to keep oil cheap in the USA.

ST is just the same idea written on a larger canvas.

Robotics and artificial intelligence will make the crew of the Starship Enterprise redundant.

Roddenberry didn't see that coming?

Well, he didn't see the need for seat belts and harnesses either.

Maybe the humans, of every race, creed, and sex, can find jobs as bartenders at the intergalactic rest stops after their high salaries, healthcare needs and student loans price them out of the market.

Then again, maybe not:

http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/05/25/so-a-robot-walks-into-a-bar/

A round for my friends huddled at the end of the bar -- the entire human race --- now chronically over-credentialed and unemployed, but finally equal.

The robotic bartender, call her Ayn, says one drink each and then the lot of you can be on your way.

Use the back entrance.

Actually, he did see that coming. When he was creating Star Trek, he acknowledged that real 23rd century space exploration wouldn't look much like the show. But he was deliberately creating a more familiar setting for a mass audience.

From what Marty said upthread and a comment that was made a few days ago on tumblr it appears to me that white men don't know that they only make up thirty percent of the US population and about eight percent of the world population.
This is something that it might do them some good to know.

"But I do have one note, however: a Scottish engineer was a serious stereotype at the time ST:TOS was made. And it seems a pity that neither Roddenberry nor you considered changing it."

I don't think it was so a matter of not changing it, as playing with it. You know, like Chekov always claiming everything was invented in Russia? Scotty was THAT sort of "Scottish engineer".

Interesting take, Brett. I hadn't considered that possibility.

Interesting note, bewilderness. Black people make up 13% of the US population. Is there a point? Asian Americans 5%, etc. So how would my comment show a lack of understanding of US demographics? The world, of course, is different story.

"The world, of course, is different story."

See "cockroach" thread for that narrative.

lj, 7:10:Sure, but realize that stuff that cutting edge for you can be 'drek' for those foreign folks.

1) See the OP and the post following yours by "KJT". The relationship to the hegemony is asymmetrical; the privilege of Empire is unrecognized or unacknowledged by Imperial citizens just as gender or racial privilege. So, even granting your premise, Thai "drek" would be good for Americans while American "drek" would not be good for Thais.

2) But I don't grant your premise. America makes much more drek. Part of it is an overly mature, exhausted, and decadent industry. Star Trek is almost fifty years old now, as is Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk. This is just an embarrassing lack of imagination of what has become a corrupt rentier metropole.

Part of it is an expected smaller audience, and less dependence on huge resources. Empty Spectacle is what Empire makes and sells. City Rome had the best games. South Korean movies are trying to make a profit in a much smaller local ticketbase, competing against imported Empty Spectacle, and doing it with less money.

3) If they old white guys are greenlighting projects you don't approve (because of casting) don't go see them. That is the only vote you have. That complainers about diversity still buy the product is one of the strong signs that arguments about diversity are mere struggles for higher position within an existing hegemony that complainers prefer to preserve.

4) "Fan service" still is shorthand for cleavage, pantsu and ecchi. But it also can mean intertextuality; or costumes and transformations in magical girl anime; gorgeous landscapes and cinematography in romance and drama. There is a question about where FS turns into genre.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_1966_box_office_number-one_films_in_the_United_States

American Box Office for 1966

Not a lot there based on properties that were created or popular in 1920

This is a sick sick, but very rich and self-satisfied, country.

"(You do realize, I hope, how old William Shatner was when ST:TOS was made? Only 35 when StarTrek started. And he was the Captain.) "

Yes, but Kirk was a prodigy, like Nelson or Horatio Hornblower. The youngest Captain in the history of Starfleet.

Well, in the 18th century it was still standard to give command positions to 'men' that we would still consider kids. Teenagers commanding ships or even armies were not that uncommon. Ioan Gruffudd was actually too old (25) for the role as the young Hornblower (and the Hornblower of the books was initially considered to be too old to ever become a proper sailor). And let's not even talk about Peck's age in this context.
Officers were often a good deal younger than the grunts they commanded.

bob, gorgeous landscapes are not http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Fanservice>fan service but http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SceneryPornY>scenery porn. Keep your terminology straight ;-)

So, even granting your premise, Thai "drek" would be good for Americans while American "drek" would not be good for Thais.

Yes, but the three examples you gave, I don't think that the young Japanese males are "preferring strong female leads" for the reasons that we are talking about having strong female leads. And the plots are often retreads of a mishmash of other influences, so that Bodacious Space Pirates doesn't exist without One Piece or Psycho-Pass puts the Matrix and Minority report (which in turn, comes from Philip K. Dick, who turned out some pretty amazing 'drek', i.e. work that was designed for mass-consumption) in a blender and couldn't exist without those works. While there are problems from the fact that your
drek represents the asymmetry of power relations between developed and developing, my point is that the things that draw you to your non-drek only exist because you are on the outside looking in. The double meaning of fanservice serves to highlight that relationship.

I'm down with complaints about the US as global hegemon/arbiter of culture, but Japan is not the picture of health nor the opposite of self-satisfied and I don't think you'd be happy if one replaced the other.

My own impression from animes (or manga/anime-like 'real' movies) is that either 'those Japs are weird and must think very differently' or 'what are they smoking?' I see a lot of crap there (even before there are recuts for US consumption) but within this flood of crap I regularly find really interesting and creative stuff that I would not expect from the US anymore (except as a rare exception). The great advantage seem to me that Japanese popular culture has not installed certain filters that stifled/s the (non-technical) innovation in the mainstream 'Western' culture. But it is always a two-way process. We would not have this Japanese weirdness without the constant input of the Western mainstream because very much of it is infused with it. Western ideas go in, get transformed by and fused with Japanese ideas and thought processes and then released as what we see (and love). The West did the same in the past, taking motives from cultures all over the world and expressing them within the framework of European thought as paintings, literature (e.g the Arabian Nights) etc. Cinema was just a new medium for this.

Btw, I am currently a fan of 'Girls und Panzer' eagerly awaiting a proper region 2 DVD release* (until now I can only watch what has been uploaded to youtube but that is quite a bit). I think that's something that also could not have come from anywhere but Japan. But even there it must have taken something to come up with the concept that tankery is (in universe) an equivalent of ikebana**, i.e. something essential to be a traditional Japanese woman, that tankery is suitable for girls only and teached in highschool. And those are 'girly' girls not (for the most part) tomboys.

*I consider it very likely that it will not get a German release for obvious reasons but I have no problems with a British one.
**there is a special twist in the series where both meet.

I have yet to see a truly crappy Thai movie but I assume those that get a foreign DVD release are pre-selected. I have seen a lot of mediocre Korean movies though (and some very good ones too). What I do not appreciate too much in Korean movies is the seemingly mandatory downer ending that is also often hyperextended. It's worse than Italian opera. The slender women take eternities to die (or if they die quickly it is their male counterparts that do) taking enough time for half a dozen fat ladies to sing [on the opera stage not on screen].

Addendum to my previous post:
Iceland shows some similarities to Japan. They also take up American cultural ideas and express them in utterly strange ways. I hear many initially mistake Lazytown for a US copy of a Japanese show. I can fully understand why. And this is by far not the only example. I get the impression that Icelandic movies are as a rule either very weird, totally depressing or both.

Well, Hartmut, your timing is great, not only with dr ngo now on the front page, but the recent topic of V-line surgery in Korea bouncing around the interwubs. The link is to an Atlantic article, but some googling will get you to various pages. The link's lede is hung on a Korean-American 17 year old (I guess to make it more understandable to Atlantic readers) and here is a graf

Kim recently read about a relatively new cosmetic procedure that is colloquially known as V-line surgery. It involves breaking and shaving the jawline to create a V-shaped face. This surgery is popular amongst young Korean pop stars, who have their faces reshaped to give them elfin, anime-like appearances. The V-line shape gives the face a certain fragility, and its childlike appeal has won Kim over.

"I hope to achieve a slimmer, oval face from the procedure," Kim says. "I just want to better myself. My wants may be drastic, but I'm not trying to look exactly like someone else."

Well, it will be difficult to top https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuuOM8Ok_nE>this Ukrainian https://www.google.de/search?q=anime+shpagina&newwindow=1&safe=off&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=FJaiUbC2J-iw4QTmh4GIBw&ved=0CDQQsAQ&biw=1138&bih=728>girl in achieving anime-like appearance.

I also think that what the Korean women do is madness, even if it works without complications. I see absolutely nothing wrong with a typical Korean female face. Admittedly, my personal opinions on beauty would ruin the industry and I'd run screaming away from the typical beauty contest winners. I think for example http://www.aboutfilm.com/features/eternalsunshine/enigma.jpg>she never looked better than this (where many people would not recognize her straightaway and she is deliberately 'uglified').

Just wait until people start to use genetic engineering to change their and their offspring's appearances.

I also think that what the Korean women do is madness

At a minimum, it's a sign that the shifting priorities away from survival to better things inevitably has some really weird things fall into the "better things" category.

I wonder how Jared Diamond would fit this into the Guns, Germs and Steel paradigm.

Not that extreme body modification is anything new. Especially skull deformation has been practiced by numerous cultures from the rectangular heads in South America to the Alien-like head elongation fashionable in late antiquity/early middle ages in parts of Germany. I have seen skulls in museums that look like right out of Hollywood workshops.
'Natural is not beautiful' seems to be deeply ingrained into human psychology.

Or look how http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Akhenaten_%281351-1334%29_-_Walters_2288.jpg>Akhenaten liked to have himself and his family members portrayed (although in reality they seem to have had normal heads).

Good points, Hartmut. But I think the square South American heads had more to do with how the kid was bound to a board at a very young age. Whether that was overtly for head-shaping, or whether the head-shaping was just a side effect of stabilizing the papoose, is kind of beyond anything that I have read.

But yes, the Thai neck rings, the lip disks, and aboriginal penis mutilation are all rather (to me) extreme. I forgot that I knew those things. Maybe it was that new things are possible with technology.

Iirc some South American tribe practice the 'head-squaring' even today and explicitly do it to get away from the roundness and see themselves as superior to outsiders because of it.

If you're going to make that big changes in a reboot, why not make an entirely new series? After all, what makes Star Trek special isn't that it is the greatest thing in all possible worlds, but what it has come to mean for you, me, and everyone else. As it is. With all of its faults. Star Trek TOS won't get better with more diversity, any more than it will get better with more realistic alien dogs.

But whatever you do, you could at least have the decency to not just impose your own prejudices to replace the previous generations. Instead of picking and balancing with quotas and subjective ideas about balance and appropriateness, roll an accurately weighted die.

If it comes up with ten white men, so be it. If it comes up with ten hispanic lesbians, so be it. The odds are extremely low for both.

Ideally, you write the entire script before rolling the die, and change it as little as possible when you've determined everyone's gender and looks. That way you aren't affected by either positive or negative ideas of what a man is, or a woman is, or what a particular ethnicity is.

A lot of people want to stir up our preconceptions, but as far as I know no one has done it this radical way. No one is willing to stir up their own preconceptions.

I think many classical, enlightened liberal types would be shocked at quite different things than they thought they would.

Meow!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD-I8omPcVs

Yow!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXFM2AyUA_M

No one is willing to stir up their own preconceptions.

An excellent point. It just might be that something of that nature is more at work than e.g. white supremacy.

Which is not to say that either one precludes the other, in case anyone wanted to stretch my statement to the point of screaming and confessing things that it didn't do.

When people describe Star Trek as a hopeful future, I always imagine an asterisk there.

Because, while Star Trek's backstory about our relatively near future kept changing over and over, the one thing that kept coming up is that we are in for deeply horrible times before we get to the nice Star Trek future. On the original show, there were the Eugenics Wars and Colonel Green's War, apparently two different megadeath apocalyptic conflicts in the late 20th century alone. The Next Generation had some kind of global nuclear war happening in the mid-21st century between vaguely-defined adversaries, with a "post-atomic horror" period afterward. Deep Space Nine dialed it back a little and showed increasing social stratification and mass unrest in the early-21st-century US, presumably before the post-atomic horror.

In general, what the shows show us moving toward is not good; hope is for our distant descendants, not for us or our children.

As for Sulu's name, I think some of the tie-in novels tried to finesse that by saying that he was part Filipino.

wj: "Just little things, like how rare (and seriously un-approved-of, although no longer formally illegal) mixed race relationships were."

IIRC, generally they would be illegal, if the couple tried to get married.

Wasn't interracial and/or extramarital sex illegal itself in some places?

According to Wikipedia's Sulu Sea page:

"The Star Trek character Hikaru Sulu is named after the Sulu Sea. According to Sulu actor George Takei, "[Gene] Roddenberry's vision for Sulu was to represent all of Asia, being named for the Sulu Sea instead of using a specific country-specific name".[3]"

@Hartmut:

Interracial marriage was legal in most of the US except the South (former Confederate and border states, minus Maryland, plus Delaware) at the time Star Trek first aired. Loving v. Virginia, which overturned the remaining miscegenation laws was decided while Star Trek was still in production. The interracial kiss between Kirk and Uhuru in "Plato's Stepchildren" may not have been the first on national TV, but it was still controversial enough that Trek had some work to get it on the air.

Even then, they had to be shown to be forced to kiss. I remember the brouhaha when, on her show, Dinah Shore place her hand on Harry Belafonte's arm.

While it became legal with Loving, interracial marriage did not have majority public approval in the US until the 1990s.

Matt,

Just curious, can you point me to stats on that? I'm just curious if they differentiate between majority approval for legality and actuality.

It was a Gallup poll simply asking "Do you approve or disapprove of marriage between blacks and whites?"

http://www.gallup.com/poll/28417/most-americans-approve-interracial-marriages.aspx

Approval had passed disapproval in the 1991 poll, but only by 1997 had approval risen past 50 percent (in what looks like a fairly large jump).

Thanks Matt.

I faintly remember polls from just a few years ago (i.e. after Obama got elected) indicating that in parts of the South a reintroduction of miscegenation laws would be still quite popular (and iirc there was an uptick in connection with the Obama presidency). The ideas are not dead and I do not expect them to die in the forseeable future. It's never about totally getting rid of this kind of thinking but about preventing it from dictating actual policy. Compare antisemitism or belief in witchcraft (between 1 in 5 and 1 in 7 Germans professed belief in those two in the late 80ies). There would be fanatic antisemites even if no Jew existed anymore (again compare 'real' witchcraft).

The great advantage seem to me that Japanese popular culture has not installed certain filters that stifled/s the (non-technical) innovation in the mainstream 'Western' culture.

A perfect example of this, IMO, is Hataraku Maou-sama (typically translated as "The Working Overlord"), an ongoing series from the current season of anime. The premise: The Dark Lord Satan flees The Hero's armies as he is defeated, flees through a dimensional gate along with his last remaining general, and the two of them end up in modern-day Japan in human form, with most of their powers gone.

And then he gets a job at McDonald's and becomes a model employee determined to ascend the corporate ladder. And arguably becomes the protagonist of the story.

Something like this could never make it to mass media in the States. But IMO it's one of the true gems of this season, a perfect balance of drama and hurt-something-laughing comedy.

And then he gets a job at McDonald's and becomes a model employee determined to ascend the corporate ladder.

In other words, he winds up in a hell not of his own making?

how about all female X-men ?

i don't think the "X" stands for "ex-".

If you wanted a female, asian, 30 to 40, who is a native english speaker, why not Grace Park? You can't tell me that a post as nerdy as this forgot a key actress from BSG when deliberating. True, that does make the cast a little Korean heavy; but to be honest, most people aren't going to notice until the end credits, if at all.

"Even then, they had to be shown to be forced to kiss."

I remember not having the slightest clue what was supposed to be the big deal. Of course, I was only 9 at them time, so I suspected it was something about Kirk wanting to avoid getting the Cooties.

It was a complete non-issue in our household, race simply never came up. I suppose that's why I was so shocked at the hostile response when I started chatting up that cute black girl when I was 17, and she realized I wanted to take her out on a date. It wasn't until several years later I figured out race had been the issue, I'd thought I had bad breath or something.

My son Victor is growing up around numerous mixed race children, I hope he's not similarly shocked when he gets to that age.

remember not having the slightest clue what was supposed to be the big deal.

My own perception of what the big deal was, was this: it wasn't their idea to kiss. So of course they're going to resist being compelled.

Youthful naivete, perhaps.

Well, yeah, but that was a constant in the situation, the question was, why was the kiss particularly offensive?

I mean, I got enough unwelcome kisses from ancient aunts, to be under the impression that a coerced kiss wasn't a big deal...

It's a prequel, they didn't need to change the characters.
My beef is that they got tangled in their story sequence and that they apparently didn't view TOS' Khan episode (yes, they studied the ST2 Khan movie intently and did some good riffs off it).
One obvious example: they had the nice touch of signing Nimoy to come in and advise the young Spock, but they made his character be someone named "Spock" instead of Spock's father, Serak.

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