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The Appropriation of Queer Issues to Promote K/S Slash [Jul. 24th, 2009|10:52 am]
Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations


[Current Mood |pissed offpissed off]

So Kirk and Spock have been having an epic (Slash) love affair for 40 years, of this there is no doubt. They are the Slash couple. They are in fact, as far as I'm aware, the namers of the genre, names after the "/" that goes between their names: Kirk(Slash)Spock.

In canon they are the best of friends - in the New!Canon they are primed to be quite good friends with an ally of their own at their sides, Uhura backing Spock and Bones backing Kirk.

The old dynamic refurbished for the 21st century, I like it. It was refreshing see a successful relationship happening aboard the enterprise, especially between Uhura and Spock, whose differences in manner and temperament make the whole thing so damn pretty.

My own fannisheness aside.

Star Trek as a franchise, in the 60's and to a certain extent up until the 80's was considered ahead of its time (hah!) when it came to representation of charterers and social issues. That isn't to say it wasn't or isn't flaws, we all know it is, but the ideal of Star Trek is that of the IDIC as much as it is to Boldly Go...

Now here's the pickle.
To Boldly Go... and the idea of IDIC aren't the co-optation and appropriation of Real Life issues and Human Rights in order to push a pairing a very particular and overly fethishised NON-Canon pairing in the name of Equality.

No really, it is not!

This campaign - started here and I quote:
From Gene Roddenberry: "Yes, there's certainly some of that - certainly with love overtones. Deep love. The only difference being, the Greek ideal - we never suggested in the series - physical love between the two. But it's the - we certainly had the feeling that the affection was sufficient for that, if that were the particular style of the 23rd century." Roddenberry directly stated that Kirk and Spock loved each other and that their level of love for one another was sufficient for a romantic relationship, and while he did not confirm or deny this relationship, he did mention essentially that if homosexuality was to be accepted in the 23rd century, then the relationship between the two characters would indeed be possible.

We've seen Brokeback Mountain, and we've seen other homosexual relationships on screen. However, the relationships are generally either the focus of the film, or comic relief. It would be a big step indeed to see the Captain and First Officer of the Enterprise in a relationship that is simply a normal part of life. The push is for equality in the media; for the normalization of GLBT relationships in movies and television.

See... it would have been okay, maybe, if the concern actually was LGBTQI representation in media and NOT the objectification of queer sexuality on screen.
Also, Brokwback Mountain, I've said it once, twice, three times a gentleman!
"Gay Movie for Straight People!"
Along with this little campaign which I hoped dies in obscurity into a fiery pit dowsed by torrential rain, there are people who just don't see the problem.
Like this precious quote:
Hm. I'm...Buhhh. I really like the K/S focus, to be honest. But I don't want to be stubborn and obtuse and cause unnecessary trouble by not agreeing. ._.
I really think it's a bit...silly? For people who support LGBT interests not to sign the petition or support us because they don't support the pairing. It's like if civil rights supporters decided not to support the movement because they didn't like MLK Jr.. Progress is progress, as long as we're not harming anyone, I think it's fine.
No offense to anyone, that's just my opinion.
From See Trek Love.

Crack open a book why don't you.

I'd like to add that the focus on a particular Fanon pairing and attempting to push it for Canonisation ostensibly in the name of Queer Rights is downright nauseating.
No really.
It is.

Especially since one is willing to pretty much "guilt"(?) a creator to change fictional character dynamics in the name of social change. I know that this may come off as hypocritical considering the very long debate I had not too long ago here regarding the same subject, namely Queering Kirk.
That really was just an example of how the Reboot could have been a little bit more awesome and more inclusive when it came to the Queer.

The new movie, though far from being terribly progressive, did see a huge leap for Uhura who was crucial to the plot and was not undermined by the fact that she is romantically involved with a superior officer, both of them concerned (as well they should be, I really like that they showed that concern) with the issues of Hierarchy.
That too was a little push of the envelope when it came to heteto representation and mixed-race couple representation.
Go Trek.

Again. A push for a specific same-sex pairing "in the name" of Queer Rights stinks of appropriation and an utter misunderstanding of what Queer Rights are and what media representation actually is.
You want to have more queer characters? I know I do, then campaign for THAT, not for an on-screen kiss between Chris Pine and Zack Quinto.

In the comments of the link at newtrekslash there are a few prime examples of cluelessness, racism and misogyny. Because Uhura is using her Nubian Wiles to keep Spock from his OTL Kirk.
Excuse me while I go vomit.

I urge you. Do Not Support this campaign. If you're going to mention in... mention that you oppose it. Please. This is just another example of the unwitting (though it really shouldn't be) homophobia found in fandom and should be not be tolerated, just like any transphobia, racism, misogyny and other forms of oppression should not be tolerated.

Ces't Tout.

Any questions?

[User Picture]From: calicokat
2009-07-24 08:08 am (UTC)
You'll see me on the forums there trying to have a reasoned discussion and...meeting K/S fans. I must say I've spoken personally to Lance, the guy behind the thing, and he's legitimately for equal representation for queers in the media and even willing to move the entire thing away from K/S but...I don't know, at this point, if he would be able.

I felt incredibly unwelcome and even a bit sickened by other people on the forums there. He very nicely invited me back to give input but I tried to go back and catch up on the forums and I found the whole thing a bit upsetting for a lot of the reasons you mentioned. Now I understand why a couple people on my flist can't stand the mention of K/S because of the fans.

I even tried to explain to that person that the bit you quoted up there was INCREDIBLY offensive as nicely as I could but that failed to help her grasp it.

At any rate I want to say Lance seemed really standup. The rest of it left me feeling like I needed a shower. I'd love to see a real campaign supporting the inclusion of gay characters in the film because Orci and Kurtzman have stated they're open to it. Fetishizing K/S isn't the way, though.
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[User Picture]From: eumelia
2009-07-24 08:12 am (UTC)
This seemed to have happened over night (where I am, time zones etc.) and I'm really happy that this isn't being let go.

Thanks for letting me know about the organiser. That is important.

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[User Picture]From: calicokat
2009-07-24 08:26 am (UTC)
I've participated in fan campagins before and honestly I couldn't be more willing to be helpful if it wasn't a campagin for K/S. The idea of people getting sent letters pushing K/S instead of just writing that works and not "another dead queer" actually began to upset me the more perspective I got on it.

Maybe you could collect your thoughts and contact Lance through PMs? Some of the people on those forums make me really very sad.
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[User Picture]From: eumelia
2009-07-24 08:47 am (UTC)
I think I will take your advice.
I agree regarding fan campaigns, as I mentioned the accessibility between fans and creators has never been so close (or confusing) making that route very strong indeed.

Is Lance the one who posted the original entry? If not, what's the Username?

Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: calicokat
2009-07-24 08:53 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: calicokat
2009-07-24 10:15 am (UTC)
(Looking back at the thread I realize I didn't even start in on the appropriating-MLK-fail of that quote. My "fangirls are appropriating queer activism to push their ship" freak out limited my scope. u_u;;)
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[User Picture]From: yahtzee63
2009-07-24 02:04 pm (UTC)
As much as I would like to see gay characters portrayed in the Trek universe (I remember wishing for this almost 20 years ago, jeez), this campaign is wrongheaded on every level. First: It doesn't stand a chance in hell. Second: Whatever genuine intent the originators had has been swallowed up by ill-disguised shipwank. Third: Any campaign for "equality" that requires a black woman to vanish from the romantic front is, just possibly, not actually a campaign for equality at all. Fourth: It gives what ought to be a righteous effort a bad name.

Fandom fail all around.
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[User Picture]From: eumelia
2009-07-24 02:34 pm (UTC)
Pretty fucking much!
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[User Picture]From: dancesontrains
2009-07-24 03:38 pm (UTC)
Exactly what you said. >:(
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(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: eumelia
2009-07-24 05:28 pm (UTC)
If making Kirk/Spock a couple was accompanied by making Uhura a stand-alone interesting character (as opposed to just playing the same role in Trek that Meagan Fox does in Transformers, i.e. the hottie girlfriend of the audience-identification-male-hero), I'd be all for it.

I think you're really wrong about Uhura's characterisation here. Seeing as Kirk is the movie is probably the most sexualised of all them, Uhura is crucial to the plot, her skills along with all the other boys (other than McCoy, whose skills in the film are really flimsy) are looked upon with great appreciation and respect and her relationship with Spock (who isn't the WASP Hero) doesn't diminish her in the slightest.
I think she's one of the best Women Characters of Colour I've seen in a long time in an action/adventure/sci-fi film.

Beyond that, breaking up established canon for the sake of slash "eye candy" is bad story telling and dishonours the franchise. Basically. Also, it's reductive to the real struggle LBGTQI people go through, only one of those is media representation.
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[User Picture]From: antikythera
2009-07-24 05:31 pm (UTC)
Heh, sorry about that, I was trying to rewrite while people were replying to me. See below. I agree with your last paragraph.

For what it's worth, the "I'll be monitoring your frequency" bit made me laugh and cringe, because it struck me as just a sci-fi clone of tying a yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree -- the men go off to have adventures while their women sit at home and wait for them to return.
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[User Picture]From: eumelia
2009-07-24 05:34 pm (UTC)
It could be construed as that, I agree.

But I think you're reducing Uhura to something she's really not in the film.
I can already see that we're not going to agree on her characterisation, so I say we leave at that and not get into a merry-go-round of "but she's this!" "no, she's this!".

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[User Picture]From: antikythera
2009-07-24 05:41 pm (UTC)
Hell no, no merry-go-round. I'm perfectly willing to accept that we can both have completely different opinions about the character and still both be good feminists and not sell-outs. :P

I have the same problem with one of my favourite comics, Girl Genius, which a respected friend of mine thinks is way too sodden with male gaze. *shrug*
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[User Picture]From: antikythera
2009-07-24 06:29 pm (UTC)
Question! Is desexualization of a female character more of an issue when the character is not white?

I like seeing female characters who are not in relationships, just because it seems rare to me, especially when the character in question is attractive.

If it's more common for black female characters to be depicted as sexless, and therefore that desexualization is something to be avoided at all costs when trying to keep away from stereotypes, I can see where you're coming from on this.
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[User Picture]From: wolfy_writing
2009-07-25 06:05 am (UTC)
There's actually a politically troubling history with Uhura in TOS not being allowed to have relationships by network officials who had issues with the possibilities of interracial relationships (and nearly any relationship prospect on TOS involving Uhura would have beein interracial). So pushing for single Uhura has unfortunate implications, even if unintended.
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[User Picture]From: antikythera
2009-07-24 05:28 pm (UTC)
Abrams Trek is all about the (straight) male gaze, which means assuming the audience is male and providing male heroes to identify with and female hotties to ogle and fantasize about. If I'm reading you right, you're saying that Kirk/Spock as demanded by this petition would be a female gaze as offensive and objectifying and one-sided as the male gaze that Abrams works from.

I would love to see a positive queer relationship in a mainstream action movie. If Kirk & Spock were a couple I'd also want to see Uhura developed as a standalone character (rather than being defined by her relationship with Spock).

But I don't think any of this is realistically going to happen in an Abrams movie -- not the positive queerness, not the development of a female character into more than eye candy/arm trophy, not even fetishized hot guy-on-guy action to please the female viewers.

This is why fanfic exists, IMHO.
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[User Picture]From: eumelia
2009-07-24 05:31 pm (UTC)
I replied to your deleted comment, above.
In which I talk about your statement regarding Uhura's standalone character, which is by no way diminished by her relationship with Spock as you imply.

I agree with you last paragraph though.
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[User Picture]From: yahtzee63
2009-07-26 11:25 pm (UTC)
If you can watch "Felicity," "Alias" and "Fringe" and still say, with a straight face, that you think Abrams is incapable of creating strong female characters with their own points of view and agency, then I am unsurprised that you were unable to see the awesome Uhura portrayal that so many other fans saw.
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[User Picture]From: feanna
2009-07-25 04:44 am (UTC)
I do think that the quote you put in in blue is offensive. Trying to tell a minoriry what is in their best interest when being part of the majority is always highly questionable and wrong.
A campain for queer representation without any connection to K/S would certainly be worth it.
I also agree that Uhura-bashing or not even bashing, but simply bad/wrong treatment of the character by slash fans is very wrong.

Here's where I disagree though:
Taking in all the evidence from the television series, the movies, comments/writings by Gene Roddenberry I see a very very real case for the fact that K/S was made as canon as it was possible at the time.
When the new movies make the relationship purely platonic it feels like breaking up a CANON couple, not like an alternate interpretation.
I want to say at this point that I'd seen some Trek before I saw the new movie, but I'd never shipped anybody and wasn't really a fan. So for me it's not that I've always believed in K/S and just don't want to give up on it.

I can totally see why people who've only seen the new movie or are mostly in it for the new canon don't see K/S.
We don't know where exactly the writers are going to go with Kirk's and Spock's relationship. I've seen some comments by them that make me think that we'll at least get the friendship. I do think though that we'll probably NOT get all those little things that DID exist in TOS and the movies that made people think of them as a couple in the first place. In TOS/movies they just couldn't actually be a couple, but there were so many little hints (that do NOT just exist in the minds of people with slash goggles) that I do find it wrong to just ignore them.

I don't expect that we'll ever get K/S on the big screen. That's where I see the connection to queer issues. That a relationship that's always contained at least the (strong) suggestion of queerness is going to be "staightened out".

If we're talking about new canon then there's the fact that McCoy was Kirk's emotional support and Uhura Spock's and that the automatic default was "two guys = friends" "guy and girl = couple/lovers".

I actually thought Spock/Uhura was relatively well done in the movie. I don't think it took away from her character or that she was unprofessional or any of that.
Why I still don't like the pairing is for the meta reason that it DOES take away from Kirk's and Spock's relationship. Even if one says that K/S was never romantic, they were still THE most important person in each other's lives. Romantic relationships with women would be possible, but the women would take second place. This is fine for "one episode love interests", but isn't something I'd want for Uhura.
This leaves us with the choice of making K/S "less than" (what wa already there) or putting Uhura in a bad position or breaking up Spock/Uhura.
I want to say at this point that relationships end all the time, especially on TV and in movies. But in this case it'd be really hard to do without racist or mysogynistc connotations.

In the end for me it comes down to the fact that the erasure of the definitely real K/S possibilities that existed in TOS and the movies IS erasure of queerness and I do see a connection to queer issues.
That REALLY doesn't mean that all queer peopl have to agree with me though.
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[User Picture]From: eumelia
2009-07-25 09:31 am (UTC)
I think going the content route on this issue is derailing.

I've been watching Trek since I was seven, I've seen all the shows except VOY and ENT because I avoided them.

No matter how you spin the relationships, K/S is not canon. I don't care if it makes "sense" for them to be together, I don't care if it makes "sense" for Kirk/McCoy in the new movie.
That's interpretation, and that's fine, not everyone agrees, nor should they. Fan debate is what makes fandom worthwhile.

However, when a the language of LGBT rights is picked up (wrongly I may add) in order to push for a ship that that is just a 'ship, speaking about queer representation in the sci-fi/fantasy as though they've invented the wheel (Hello! Where have you been the past decade!?) and talking about an issue that has been around for several decades, pushed and discoursed about by LGBT folk throughout this time; it smacks of entitlement, appropriation and an utter lack of understanding of how media representation actually works.

I know the intent was good, but that hardly matters when the result is this BS.
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[User Picture]From: feanna
2009-07-25 01:33 pm (UTC)
I did mean to add something about how pushing K/S might not be the best was to get LGBT representation on Star Trek.
This is why I think there SHOULD be a campaign purely about that.
Much as I love Trek and would love to see K/S on screen (which has nothing to do with the actors by the way), I know it's not really going to happen and showing maybe another charcter as gay could eventually happen and that would be a big step forward.

I am sorry that the content discussion seems like derailing, I see your point there. I simply wanted to point out that K/S is in a different position than other popular slash pairings where it's been clearly stated that that's NOT how it was meant to come across or even Kirk/McCoy from the new movie, because there IS objective evidence for it that's not just interpretation.
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[User Picture]From: eumelia
2009-07-25 01:39 pm (UTC)
K/S is in a different position than other pairings only because it is the first and possibly the oldest in pop-culture.
Not sure what it is beyond that.

Do you have links or resources to this "objective evidence"?
Quasi-canon works such as novels and such are really not on par with that, I'm afraid.

I'd also like to state that I'm a Slasher. I like K/S. I'm still not sure what it is about the pairing other than longevity that makes people feel entitled to push it in the name of a 'cause.
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[User Picture]From: feanna
2009-07-25 02:19 pm (UTC)
I think sperating K/S from its history is of course impossible, but I think seeing it in the context of the fact that it had never been explicitely said that it's NOT true does say a lot.
Of course they never kissed on screen, that's not up for debate. But lots of their interactions are coded in a way that if one of them were female, nobody would deny the potential off-screen-romantic relationship.
One of the important quotes from Roddenberry is in the petition you quoted above. That essentially says that if in their time homosexuality is accepted, then they'd be together.
Then he made up T'hy'la, which is a made up word created especiall to describe Spock and Kirk and he includes lover in the definition. In-universe it's of course possible to say that not all possible definitions apply, but on a meta level?
The fact that K/S has never been explicetely denied can of course be written off as fanservice, but in this case it comes from the shows creator and I do think that letting the interpretation exist as a validone over decades means that it shouldn't simply be written off.

I do recognize that in this case I have to give validity to the popular image as Kirk as the ladies man that exists in pop-culture, but I'd argue that "straight-goggles" are pretty powerful for (especially male) pop-culture and that this bias has to be taken into account.

This is a collection of K/S links:
It's of course possible to argue that all this is written by K/S fans that come with their own bias and slash goggles, but I honestly think that many of the facts can't be denied if one sees them without the assumption that the characters are OF COURSE!! stright.
(One male character in a 60's show starts talking about how he's ashamed for his feelings for another male character and while he calls it friendship it's framed in two discussions about romantic love?)
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[User Picture]From: rhaegal
2009-07-25 10:03 am (UTC)
Yes, this.

I too have a very real concern that Spock/Uhura will detract from the relationship between Kirk and Spock simply because Uhura is replacing a significant part of the impact Kirk had on Spock's life, of getting him to the point of being comfortable with his heritage and with expressing emotion. The importance of Kirk and Spock to each other - over and above any of the women in either of their lives - was indisputable canon in TOS and in particular the original cast movies. Some of us choose to read it in a romantic way, but that's really not the point, and the existence or otherwise of a physical relationship is irrelevant. The bond between them, platonic or not, was incredible, and was a very important part of the series for a lot of people.

That does not mean I support this campaign in any way whatsoever. For one thing, the level of canonicity TOS gave to K/S is the most I would want. Turning subtext into an onscreen relationship never ends well (Ross/Rachel, Niles/Daphne, the list goes on). Not to mention, we wouldn't like the way they did it, all first time fics would have to be AU, and even the K/S shippers would end up resenting it.

But while I'm embarrassed, as a K/S fan, by the actions of these people, I remain very sad that the future Reboot movies will in all likelihood lack that which made TOS so special, and even more sad that some people insist on calling me racist and/or misogynist for that point of view. Loving the crew dynamics in TOS does not have to be about not liking Uhura, you know?
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[User Picture]From: feanna
2009-07-25 01:54 pm (UTC)
"But while I'm embarrassed, as a K/S fan, by the actions of these people, I remain very sad that the future Reboot movies will in all likelihood lack that which made TOS so special, and even more sad that some people insist on calling me racist and/or misogynist for that point of view. Loving the crew dynamics in TOS does not have to be about not liking Uhura, you know?"

Yes, this!

The difference of Uhura from a girlfriend/wife Kirk or Spock might have in TOS (if you interpret their relationship as non-romantic) who is on a planet somewhere, or who they live with in times when they don't live/work together is that Uhura is very much part of both of their lives on the Enterprise, she's a character in her own right, not just a romantic appandage.

Whether or not we'd like it, Kirk/Spock isn't going to make the big screen. My problem is that in TOS/movies even if you chose to interpret them in a non-romantic way, there was nothing that explicetely said that they WEREN'T together (at some point). Keeping Spock/Uhura in the new movies is going to kill that.
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[User Picture]From: eumelia
2009-07-25 02:03 pm (UTC)
Have you never heard of Polyamory? If you want to keep canon intact.
There's a reason why Slash is considered a Transformative work.

I also find it really weird that you'd consider one relationship to be the end all and be all of a person/character. Various different kinds of relationships fulfil different emotional needs.
Uhura's presence in the New!Canon doesn't diminish that, imo, you can disagree, but character erasure never strikes me as a good thing when it comes in the name of 'shipping.
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[User Picture]From: feanna
2009-07-25 02:24 pm (UTC)
Yes, I've heard of Polyarmory and I'm not saying insinde the Trek universe it couldn't work out that way, but they'd never show it that way on screen.
What I'm mostly getting at is that they're (writers/producers of the new movies) saying they want to preserve all that was important about TOS and I DO think that the Kirk-Spock relationship was an absolutely essential part of that.
Maybe the next movie will convince me that they can pull it off. I'm totally willing to be convinced. I'm just having some doubts at this point.
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[User Picture]From: beatrice_otter
2009-07-25 08:29 am (UTC)
WORD. Okay, yeah, fans have entitlement issues. Using real-life causes as a stick to try to beat the creators into feeding your entitlement issues is taking things to a whole new level of FAIL. Not to mention, in this case, showing of the inherent misogyny of a subset of slash fans and the aversive racism common to much of the first world, loath as we are to admit it. That's three kinds of fail for the price of one. Wow.

(Am missing my Londo Mollari quote icon that says "Ah, arrogance and stupidity all in the same package. How efficient of you!")
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[User Picture]From: phoenixangel13
2009-07-25 11:21 am (UTC)
i'm very glad you wrote this. beyond the fact that i think demanding any specific pairing is ridiculous, and should any writer give in to that it would lead to the entire thing becoming fanservice, i think the way they're going about this is totally wrong. petitioning for GLBTQ representation? i'd be behind it all the way, star trek has always been about representing diversity, and it shouldn't stop at race and nationality. it's not huge anymore to have characters like uhura, sulu, and chekov all together, but to have a gay character or five would be. that argument would be sensible, and i think it might even be listened to. but their attempt is sadly cheapened by making it such a ship war, and the writers obviously were trying to make spock and uhura a legitimate couple, they aren't going to just take it back and say oh okay, here's kirk and spock snogging hotly.
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