Thursday, May 16, 2013

FILM: STAR TREK - INTO DARKNESS - where have all the women gone?

I lo-o-oved JJ Abram's 2009 Star Trek. I mean, seriously blown away by it. It was paced to perfection with a time-travel storyline so mind bogglingly good that each time I watch it I find myself still chasing how everything fits together. That is a sign of a really good film for me.

Last night I watched its sequel, Into Darkness, and was not disappointed. Even more exciting with the fabulous Benedict Cumberbatch (Cumberbunch in our house, I just.can' in all kinds of brilliant villainy. I love his journey from the snivelling toad on Starter for Ten to an action star who has, and I take no pride in saying this, a really sexy run. I know. I am SO predictable.

Anyway.  Yes: yes, great film, great visuals, good story, good dialogue (although Bones is reduced to a vehicle for dour one-liners, lurking in the background of adrenaline-filled scenes with all the warmth and likeability of a Tory back bencher opening a new state school in Streatham), great sets and nice looking people.

I really enjoyed it.



The film is set in the early/mid 2200s and while there are women at a ratio of about 75/25 (men/women) in the worker ranks of Star Fleet, elsewhere it appears that the strides in the workplace that women have taken over the past fifty years clearly stalled somewhere around 2100.

It was only a short part of the film, and the second bit I mention was seriously nip-to-the-loo-and-you've-missed-it.


One of the key early scenes, where all the commanders, admirals, basically all the big cheeses in Star Fleet, are called for a summit, the members of the meeting are almost entirely male.

Seriously? In 200 years, women still aren't in those top jobs?

The only woman at the table was this Vulcan woman.

I may be being a cynic but she's good ten years younger than the rest of the old farts around that table (apart from Kirk because, natch, he's like some boy wonder).  She also appears in the second Big Cheese Meeting again, surrounded by even more gouty-looking colleagues.  Maybe she's a stellar candidate - maybe she's a female Kirk. Which would be awesome.

But I doubt that's what JJ Abrams had in mind when he cast for Big Cheeses.  But even if he did. Even if this spunky young woman is another wunderkind, just the one? One woman on that table was enough?  It bothers me so much that no-one thought that the current male-dominated Top Tables may have changed in 200 years.  That alongside the puffed up male generals and admirals, there might be an equally puffed up female general or admiral with years and experience and authority under her belt. A woman who might also have earned their place at that table through skill at leading, inspiring, strategizing and all the other kinds of 'ings' Big Cheeses need to have shown.  God forbid more than one.

I know it's a TINY part of the story, but isn't it a little narrow-minded to completely overlook the fact that women are becoming increasingly more present in the board room and in the military?  Not as much as they should, but it is growing. How amazing would it have been if JJ Abrams (or his casting agents, both of whom were women ....) had decided to acknowledge this trend of equality and just put a few women in there. Not loads. Not even a 50/50 split. Just some.

I don't know. Maybe the women in Star Fleet struggle to climb the Corporate Ladder because they're stuck in these outfits.

The sight of Carol climbing into a shuttle whilst trying to maintain some kind of gusset-free dignity really underlined the impracticality of the female uniforms.  Women don't travel in them: they wear grey jumpsuits (I mistyped that originally as jumpshits which is AWESOME) just like their male colleagues. And Uhulu changed into something far more practical - TROUSERS - for her assault on the Klingons.

This clearly indicates to me that those mini-dresses are nowhere near as practical for the business of space travel as they look. And don't even get me started on the sorts of havoc to be wreaked on the back of a bare thigh during a long shift on a plastic chair in a skirt that short ...

I mean, look how uncomfortable Zoe Saldana looks in this shot as she relaxes with her colleagues:

Isn't it about time that, with such a brilliant renaissance of a dated brand, that women were included in the redux too?  I mean, Uhulu's a great female character with all sorts of power - more of her would be wonderful. But I was suspicious of physics doctor Carol who just seemed too young and beautiful to be who she said. And rightly so because this is what Abrams thought of her:

It's not enough to have female characters with outstanding abilities in translation and physics when you diminish them like that. It's not good enough to make your female characters everything: it's not good enough to make them doctors with great racks.  That is not what being a modern woman is about.

A successful and inspiring woman is exactly the same kind of person as a successful and inspiring man.  She doesn't need a bloody washboard stomach and tits up to here to be good at what she does. (unless she's a model, natch)

Bones. Scotty. Chekov. Sulu.

You don't see them in their skivvies but their knowledge and skills make them key characters.  Carol's some kind of physics genius but Abrams has also chosen to give her a smoking bikini bod. WHY HASN'T THE WORLD  OF 2250 MOVED ON FROM THIS POSITION? God, it depresses me that my great, great, great, great granddaughter will be facing the self-same bollocks I currently ignore. According to Abrams, anyway.

Just because Abrams and his production crew are trying to stay true to the original 1960s design, does that include attitudes to women. If a male black character had been depicted as intellectually inferior or a Jewish character as greedy would they have stuck to those hideous out-dated stereotypes? Just because the women were basically sexed up phone operators in the original series, doesn't mean that the women in the new films have to continue to be beholden to those dated attitudes of objectification and simplification.

This is a Sci-Fi film for a whole new generation of girls, and it's a good, powerful, fun film. It's just such a shame JJ Abrams missed the trick that women have come further than space travel since Star Trek first aired. Maybe next time he'll put one bright old admiral broad amongst all those farts on the Big Cheese Board and one bright young woman may be inspired to boldly go where no man has gone before ...

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