on the screen, science fiction has often served to push the boundaries of what was socially accepted. Since the plot takes place in the future and in distant spaces, why not display behaviors hitherto prohibited on Earth?
Thus, in 1966, the first series star trek counted a black woman (Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols) among a multiracial and, more importantly, multispecies crew. Captain James T. Kirk (Montrealer of William Shatner origin) regularly broke the taboo of coeducation by succumbing to the charms of women from elsewhere, in particular a species of attractive green-skinned Amazons, who transformed men into so many satisfied slaves.
It was normal that, from decade to decade, the audiovisual offer of science fiction adapted to the changing mores of Earthlings, or tried to push acceptability further. The second iteration of the formula appeared in 1987 with StarTrek. The new generation. With hindsight, the boundary of diversity thus crossed seems childish. But the audacity lay in the choice of a non-American as captain of the ship: Jean-Luc Picard, a Frenchman who has a vineyard in Burgundy.
This choice was surprising, because there is still a very strong anti-French current in the United States today, especially on military issues, the Americans believing that they had to save France from German troops during the two world wars.
For example, when the country refused to participate in the invasion of Iraq, United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said scathingly: “Going to war without France is like hunt moose without an accordion. The choice of a spaceship captain from France was therefore counter-intuitive. To soften the blow, perhaps, the producers decided to cast him as a British Shakespearian actor, Patrick Stewart.
A Frenchman, a woman, a Black
In 1995 it was a woman’s turn to assume the position of captain, in To travel. His runner-up was a Latino actor portraying the space equivalent of First Nations, face tattooing. A black then assumed the leading role in Deep Space Ninein 1999.
After a long hiatus, the ongoing TV series since 2017, Discovery, is by far the most avant-garde. The heroine is a black woman (Sonequa Chaunté Martin-Green, excellent), in the service, in the first seasons, of an Asian captain (Michele Yeoh, idem). The chief engineer and the ship’s doctor, who are always essential characters in the Trek universe, form a gay couple here. Two transgender characters (including an Asian) have appeared in the last two seasons.
The female component dominates in the series – the head of the Federation of Planets is more of a chef – and in the writing. The characters constantly share their moods and discuss unresolved issues from their childhoods, even in the midst of a mission where every minute counts in the face of the impending annihilation of planet Earth. Until the computer, Zora, with a female voice, who is entitled to a therapy session from the head shrink, camped by the Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg (the series is shot in Toronto).
The contents woke does not seem to put off critics adepts of the genre, who, on the Rotten Tomatoes aggregator, give the series ratings of 81% to 92%, which is extremely high. For my part, I believe that the narrative frameworks of Discovery are the strongest in sci-fi TV right now. (I use the word here woke positively, as a synonym for progressive.)
You will say to me: there is a lack of lesbians! Indeed, but they are found in the other current Trek series, titled picard, and it’s quite a shock. The Trekkies had a vivid memory of the character of Seven, previously introduced and played with aplomb by Jeri Ryan. Seven combined the robotic coldness inherited from her time in the assimilationist species of the Borg and the sensuality embodied by her beauty and voluptuous forms highlighted by a tight-fitting uniform.
Here we find her in love with another crew member, which provokes in the male audience of the Treks a sudden reformulation of the universe of their fantasies.
Star Wars, DC and Marvel
The universe of Star Wars still has some crusts to eat before equaling the ambient wokism of the Treks.
He operated his feminist revolution in the last trilogy of the saga. The protagonist is a woman, Rey (Daisy Ridley), and the resistance is led by Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). Producer Kathleen Kennedy pushed the envelope very far in the episode The Last Jedi, whose central theme pitted feminine wisdom against dangerous masculine impetuosity. Two male resistance characters, finding the rescue plan of Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) poor, implement their own strategy, which in turn puts the troops in real danger. Leia and Holdo’s “maternalistic” tone towards these poor males is cut with a knife and would never pass the ramp if the genders were reversed.
The mass of testosterone inherent in the other two popular sci-fi universes, DC and Marvel, makes the bend woke extremely strenuous. At DC, revenge was embodied in 2017 by the success of wonder woman (Gal Gadot), feminist icon, with a bigger box office than several of the male superheroes, including Superman and Aquaman. (New Batman just snatched his first place, however, and the second wonder woman was disappointing.)
At Marvel, the effort to bring out strong female figures was late, but visible. The frame of Captain Marvel clearly illustrates the revolt of the heroine (Brie Larson) against the controlling man (Jude Law). the breathtaking Black Widow features a trio of memorable and obviously indestructible women (Scarlett Johansson, Rachel Weisz, Florence Pugh) working to free an entire battalion of chemically subjugated women from the grip of a Russian oligarch. More than the imaginative action scenes, the film amazes by the quality of its personal interactions and its dialogues.
We did not find at Marvel (at least on the screen) non-straight people, unless we admit as a mixed couple the relationship of Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) with her husband, incarnation of an artificial intelligence. (She had her own TV series, Wanda Vision, very original. To see.) We could also put in the camp of the fluids the attraction of the demi-god Loki for his own female incarnation in the excellent series bearing his name! A gay (and black) couple finally came out in 2020 in The Eternals (not the best movie in the series).
The boundary of diversity has also been crossed with the integration in 2020 of an Asian hero (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, not great, but not bad). India is finally represented in The Eternals. Next June, Miss Marvel, a teenager from New Jersey whose family is of Indian origin, will, moreover, be a practicing Muslim in her own TV series. What makes us wonder a posteriori on the religious practice of other superheroes.
At DC Comics, we often saw Batman in the Christian church to bury his parents, Clark Kent and Lois Lane also had to get married in the church; pagan deities abound in Marvel’s world of gods and demigods, but this is the first time I remember seeing a practicing superhero.
In short, popular culture is an important site for validating and reinforcing social behaviors. Science fiction offers writers and producers extra leeway, a convenient excuse to push the boundaries of the conventional and incorporate novelty into it. It is clear that the audiovisual universes of science fiction Star WarsDC and Marvel have done little or nothing – or very belatedly – to broaden the racial and gender horizons of their enormous audiences. star trek was and remains at the forefront, and still goes today where no one has gone before.
We find the star trek current on Crave, the Marvels and the Star Wars on Disney+.
To see in video
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Wokes in space
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