Star Trek has a long history of lousy gender politics. The Original Series featured one regular female character, and she was essentially a glorified secretary. The Next Generation gave us three regular female characters, but one was a chief of security who sucked at her job, another was likeable and complex but underused, and another was the ship’s counselor whose alien heritage gave her the ability to sense people’s emotions (because women, you see, are sensitive.) It wasn’t until Ensign Ro came along that Trekkies were given a woman who was strong, multi-dimensional, and sympathetic. Ro was, sadly, just a guest star, but her appearances on TNG were so memorable that actress Michelle Forbes was offered a regular spot on Deep Space Nine that she turned down to pursue a movie career. (These days, she’s on The Killing and played Admiral Kane on Battlestar Galactica. Were she younger and shorter, she’d make a killer Lisbeth Salander.)
It’s a fun bit of trivia that William Shatner never utters the line, “Beam me up, Scotty” in any of the classic episodes. Like “Hello, Clarice”, “Luke, I am your father”, and “Play it again, Sam”, it’s one of those iconic pop cultural moments that didn’t actually happen. What I remember from that show is a whole lot of cheesiness, a general lack of consistent quality, and the sense that in spite of it all this was something really epic and groundbreaking. The Original Series is not my favorite incarnation of Trek (I’m only on season three of Deep Space Nine, but already, I’m loving it), but it’s a shitload more fun than Next Generation. I know a lot of people who love that show, but I could never like it all that much, only admire it. It has the unfortunate quality of being caught between two extremes. The Original Series had no overarching story. Each episode was self-contained (with the exception of one two-parter), and almost nothing that happened in any episode had any impact on anything that happened later. One could watch them in just about any order. Deep Space Nine tears up the formula and rebuilds the whole thing from the ground up. TNG can’t do one or the other, so it does a little bit of both. I like a lot of things about that series (Data, Worf, “Chain of Command, Part 2”), yet Captain Picard has never had much of an impact on me. I guess I’m just not much for characters whose central flaw is that they’re almost too perfect.
Playing a Captain is kind of like playing James Bond or the Doctor. It’s less about talent than personality. Patrick Stewart is one of the best actors alive, but I still don’t care for his Starship Captain. William Shatner is one of the biggest hams ever to grace the screen, yet I could watch him all day. He elevates bad acting into its own art form. The only “good” performance I ever saw him give was in The Wrath of Khan, in which the director apparently forced him to do every shot over and over until he became bored with it. The result is a Shatner that’s subtle and nuanced, even convincing. I didn’t know he had it in him.
Geeks are a group of people that, it pains me to say, have historically been dominated by men. I would hazard a guess that more women would play games if they didn’t feel so objectified by them. I don’t even have breasts and I’m bored with Amazon warriors in leather thongs flaunting racks so massive that any real-life woman with that measurement would suffer crippling back pains. I’m not just complaining that I don’t have any big, beefy men to ogle; I don’t play games and read comics to have something to masturbate to. (That’s what porn is for.) We’ve all seen Star Wars, and I guarantee that the image seared into most fanboys’ minds is Leia in a gold bikini. Sci-fi and fantasy could benefit from a little more maturity. True, many popular franchises have their roots in silly old serials featuring square-jawed men single-handedly fighting off entire alien races while winning the love of impossibly beautiful princesses, but that doesn’t mean that we have to maintain that outlook forever. Genre fiction is going through puberty. I’d love to see how it does when it grows up.
It is time to de-stigmatize pornography. There are far too many women out there who believe porn to be fundamentally degrading, which is interesting, as that’s a pretty fair description of most sexual acts. Let’s see: doggy style, bondage, spanking, dirty talk…all degrading. That’s the fun of it, isn’t it? So let’s stop scolding men for looking at pictures of nude women just to take the edge off of their own frustration. How is that different from women reading Pride and Prejudice and imagining Mr. Darcy carrying them away? Oh, that’s right: it isn’t, and I don’t give a shit what superficial differences the so-called feminists who regard pornography as fundamentally evil try to establish. Is it hurting anyone? No, it isn’t. Case closed.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that I would totally bone Patrick Stewart. He’s seventy and bald, but I don’t care. I would hit that in a heartbeat. There’s nothing wrong with a little eye candy. I still remember watching Thelma and Louise and being unable to look at anything else when Brad Pitt was onscreen. Like Marilyn Monroe, he just attracts the light. There are Abercrombie models half his age that I would kick out of bed for him. That said, I still respect him as an actor. There is nothing more annoying than trying to enjoy something that you’ve been looking forward to—like, say, a Lord of the Rings movie—and being distracted by a couple of fangirls who, hypothetically, can’t shut the fuck up about how hot Legolas is. At the time, all I could think about was how lousy his acting was. I’d rather watch William Shatner.