Spoilers ahead. For the New York Times review, see here.
Anita Sarkeesian fancies herself a fan of Star Trek but in a recent video review of the new vagina-washed series Star Trek: Discovery, (hereafter ST: Diss) Anita expressed unclear misgivings about the new series available only by subscription to the pricey CBS All Access streaming service. Don’t be alarmed – I watched it so you don’t have to.
As a feminist booster it is a moral imperative for me to step in and mansplain to Anita the sources of her inarticulate unease. To her credit or perhaps shame, Anita was able to speak her hatred for a black girl’s hair – she and a friend “Ebony” (no kidding) nattered on and on about it being not nappy enough for their tastes – but there are other, deeper features of the pilot episode that Anita seems to have missed.
It is no small irony that after decades of complaining how women in power are judged and commented on their looks, the very first place Anita and Ebony go is right down the same track.
Stereotype one. The opening scene depicts an Asian woman, Captain Phillipa, wandering aimlessly in a desert – the woman is even depicted walking in literal circles. I wish I were kidding about this but as Anita often says, one has to always point out such stereotypes. One would think that the trope of a clueless Asian woman driver would be familiar to Anita.
Attention Rachel Dolezal. Walking tête-à-tête with the Captain is Commander Michael Berman – a female-presenting trans-Vulcan – meaning that Michael, the show’s protagonist, is trans-racial in that she was born human but was raised on Vulcan as a Vulcan by Sarek and Amanda, the parents of the famous Mr. Spock. A radfem like Anita is likely to be quite conflicted about both the trans sexuality implied by a girl named Mike AND any sort of trans racial identity. Anita might have also been annoyed by the show writers’ breaking of canon – until now, Spock has never had a sister, adopted or otherwise, nappy-haired or not. [Corrected.]
Attention Dr. Freud. Phillipa and Michael find an elusive hole in the desert which they hope make moist with their tools. Sure enough, after a bit of fumbling and a pregnant pause, a gush of fluid sprays them both after Phillipa teases Michael with a promotion to a command of her own. The undertones of sexual harassment could hardly be clearer but Anita completely missed it.
A bridge of fainting couches. The third in command is a craven alien bloke named “Saru” as if to reflect his overly sorry, fearful Nancyboy nature. Although radfems like Anita cultivate such losers, they also hate them viscerally for their failure to meet attractive masculine norms but rarely do feminists admit this openly as it alienates their fancy male allies. Indeed, the milquetoast Sarek is the most masculine character in the show, creating a dearth of humanoid eyecandy for the ladies outside the Klingons.
Breaking the Klingons. The longtime bullies of the galaxy, the Klingons, have been redesigned again to look more alien and blue-black than ever before. In addition to mangling their canonical look, the writers futz with their well-established death rituals.
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Heart of Glory” the Klingon death rituals are shown in detail – the eyes of the dead warrior are forced open, his Klingon companions roar to warn the afterlife that a warrior is on the way, and the body is then discarded without burial as it is of no further interest to the living. In ST: Diss, however, there is no guttural outcry of warning nor discarding of the corpses – the dead are mummified and placed in coffins that festoon the exterior of the Klingon ship, sort of like how the Reavers used the dead in Serenity. These new Klingons are sex-segregated and on a holy Jihad in such a manner that comparisons to Islam are inevitable, and so, of course, the feminist unease with depictions of Islam as violent should make Anita’s skin crawl.
The super virtual signal. The Klingons ignite a massive beacon with the intent of drawing other Klingon groups to their cause – sort of a flashy 9/11 virtue signal. The Klingon commander chooses a shunned, light-skinned (albino?) Klingon to trigger the virtue signal. That is correct – there was a virtue signal inside a virtue signal.
Tears in the ladies’ room. Woman-only professional environments are highly toxic and ST: Diss slavishly gets this perfect: the lady Commander Michael begins a mutiny against the lady Captain Phillipa by stabbing her in the neck with drugs. No kidding. [Edited to add: can a human perform a Vulcan neck pinch? Obviously, a trans Vulcan would use drugs to supplement her efforts in the same way other trans folk do.] An open depiction of female on female violence should have made Anita rip out her loopy earrings. Who needs Klingons for war when you have surly chicks on the bridge?
There is much more – Michael gets a full vagina pass for being stabby like Cora in the series The Sinner – but I think you get the point, Anita.
Enjoy the show.