Sunday, 2 October 2011

Strong female characters in a science fiction based drama (Kick Ass women in Star Trek) Part 1

This is my first attempt at writing a post about modern feminist issues in the 21st century......don’t expect too much (I’m sure as hell not going to).
I have been a fan of Star Trek since I was 15; I make no apologies for this what so ever and yes I am aware that the Star Trek fan base is made up mostly of guys.  When I first became aware of Star Trek I was at an all girls’ high school and I naturally gravitated towards girls with similar tastes.  It wasn’t until I went to college (again I gravitated towards all the other geeks!) that I realised that I was about the only girl that could quote First Contact (the line has to be drawn here....), the Borg greeting (We are the Borg, you will be assimilated.......) and when someone made a joke about a ‘Red Shirt’, one of the only girls to laugh.
This has never bothered me, I have never felt any less of a girl because I like a show that is mostly liked by guys. The fact that I can point out an outfit from Star Trek and not what Sarah Jessica Parker was wearing in last weeks episode of Sex and the City (yes I watch that too, I have eclectic tastes) has never made me feel any less feminine. Why should it, after all Star Trek has always been a pioneer in addressing stereotypes and modern issues in a way that shows that claim to be set in the reality of the here and now offer don’t address.

The earliest example and probably the most famous is the fact that the Original series of Star Trek (made let’s remind our selves in the mid 60’s) had an African American woman as one of the main characters, responsible for not the typing but all communications with other ships, other species.  This may not seem like it was revolutionary but this was at a time when the civil rights movement in America was fighting to get the massive inequalities between white and black addressed.  Also there were not many TV shows that had women in important positions within a career based role, there were plenty of them playing wives, mothers, sisters, secretaries etc but being part of a crew exploring the far most reaches of the galaxy.... well it didn’t happen.  Ohara didn’t just spend the length of the series with her hand to her ear saying ‘he says no Captain, what is your response?’ She rolled up her sleeves and got to work fixing the communication relay when it needed it.  

The second example is Beverly Crusher.  Yes I admit as a character there were times when she was slightly annoying (I know that some of you reading this will be saying ‘slightly?’) but when you get passed that she was after all the chef physician on the Galaxy Classed Star Ship.  This series was made and aired in the late 80’s early 90’s. 

The third example is not a main character but a reoccurring guest star, Guinan.  Guinan is in many ways the classic bar tender, she knows how to mix drinks, listen to customers woes and worries and provide them with very wise advice and she knows how to keep order in ‘her place’.
She is a very strong female character but unlike some of the others in the line up she is very understated.  She also has the added bonus of being Picard’s unofficial advisor, lets face it; if Picard is going to do as she says, she must be good!

We then come to Deep Space Nine, a show that was made entirely in the 90’s.  Our first contender here is Major Kira Nerys, the highest ranking female character in Star Trek at the time; second in command of a deep space station.  Kira is perhaps one of the strongest women in Star Trek; a survivor of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, she became a member of the resistance, fighting for the survival of a deeply spiritual but sadly helpless race.  Kira is anything but helpless, she is tough, no nonsense and willing to lead.  Although part of her clearly feels the Cardassians should pay for the atrocities that they committed against the Bajoran race (Star Trek’s version of the Nazi in my opinion) she also has a very spiritual side which often means she is determined that Bajor should grow and be part of a new peace and understanding between the two races.

Our second contender from DS9 is Jadzia Dax.  Her position on the station is a science officer, this is a very important part of the Star Trek Universe and up until DS9 there haven’t been many women who were given this role. So Jadzia’s first point comes from having a very challenging job.  Her second comes from the fact that she is a joined life form, giving her about 8 past lives before Jadzia.  This means that she is a very ‘old soul’ and she is also very comfortable with who she is, so she is pretty confident.  She may have been both men and women over her 8 lifetimes but she is very comfortable with being a woman in her present incarnation.

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