|Speciesism in Trek: Humans the "Mary-Sues" of the Universe? ... And my hellos
||[Mar. 25th, 2009|06:51 pm]
(Is speciesism even a word? Yet?)|
I'm something of a lukewarm Trek fan. I started watching in 1966 when TOS was first broadcast because both of my parents were instant fans that first season, we only had the one TV set, and I was two years old, and sat between them on the daybed while they watched. And I've been aware of it as a cultural pressence ever since.
My name for the series (much to my parents' amusement) was "Scare Trek." I hated when the alien "monsters" (i.e. non-humanoid species) appeared on screen -- not because I was afraid of the monsters, but because I was scared of the phasers. I hated the sudden flash and noise those things made. And every time a "monster" appeared, the heroes would start shooting those guns. I got very, very good at predicting when the monster would appear (and how soon after that the guns would go off) by the nature of the incidental music, so that I could close my eyes and plug my ears in time.
I've since been able to watch old reruns in syndication, of course, and have viewed various episodes with a more mature understanding. But even so, I think that old pattern holds up: humanoid aliens are potential allies, possible rivals, and (if the females of their species have just the right level of "exotic" in their make-up) objects of sexual fascination. Non-humanoid aliens get shot at first, and a chance to answer questions later (if they even get that chance). And of course, Spock is held in suspicion because he's made an active choice to live by the Vulcan ethos instead of the human one. And even though Vulcans only differed from humans in the shapes of their ears and their eyebrows, Mr. Spock still had to be half-human to be deemed acceptible to the audience.
One time, a few years back, I was flipping through the channels, and caught a few minutes of Enterprise. I don't remember which season this was, or which episode, but maybe someone here will recognize it:
The ship is infiltrated by an extremely advanced alien species that has evolved beyond the need to even have bodies: they are pure mind and are almost immortal, and they've been doing experiments on humans (iirc), but now regret it. They now admire humans so much, and are in awe of humans' sensitivity, and the depth of human emotion, and now they almost wish they could be human... and the captain of the Enterprise says, in effect: "Yes, humans may be primitive, and we don't have as powerful tech as you do, but our emotions make us so special. You could learn a lot from us."
And I started snickering and rolling my eyes, because if those ideas were put online in a fanfic, and as dialog between individuals instead of broad statements about entire species, they would likely be derided as Total Mary-Sueism.
Later, I became an active, mature fan of TNG, watching in my own right (one thing that appealled to me about that spin-off was that there were whole families on board, which seemed reasonable to me for intergalatic travel). And I also enjoyed Deep Space Nine, though I didn't watch it as religiously. Sisco is very probably really super awesome (but for moderation's sake, I'll only admit to "awesome"). Odo was pretty cool, too (and he was another example of human bias, as he had to "pass" as humanoid to do his job -- I do give DS9 props, though, for acknowledging, occasionally, how much of a strain this was on him).
As for myself: in my "privileged" column are the fact that I am cisgendered, heterosexual, white, with an upperclass upbringing and a university education. In my "disprivileged" column are the fact that I am a woman, disabled (mobility impaired, from birth--that's why I couldn't toddle into another room to play with my blocks before the monsters came on), and currently an atheist.
I debated for several days whether or not I wanted to join this comm, wondering if I wanted to participate in giving the Star Trek franchise special attention over other sci-fi fictiverses. But then I decided that ST is calling that attention to itself by claiming to be so diverse and progressive -- if you're going to make such big claims, you better be ready for the scrutiny to see if you measure up.