Went to see Star Trek last week. Quite liked it, despite problems like the women of the series still getting short shrift in the agency department, and much of the frenetic action having no real purpose. (Why did Young Kirk trash that beautiful car? I cannot condone random destruction of works of art, not even as characterization shorthand.)
But have seen several convos on the ‘net that triggered some thoughts. Namely — whoops, spoiler-cut —
— that Spock was too human.
I’m not sure I agree with this. After all, Spock is biracial (bispeciesal? bispecial? …uh, I think that might mean something entirely different). In the old series he was basically forced to pick one of his cultures or the other; no one accepted that he was both. This fits in with the paradigm of how biracial people were treated in those days — they were forced, either by society or family, to pick, and then they had to fit into their chosen culture as best they could (sometimes failing Tragically, though this was usually a stereotype). This is why I and most members of my family on both sides call ourselves black, when in truth we’re black/Creek Indian (my father’s family) and black/Irish (my mother’s family). I have no knowledge of those other components of my culture — beyond a disturbing love of corned beef — because somewhere along the line, my ancestors made a conscious choice to ignore one or the other half of themselves. Some of this is understandable; I suspect my maternal great-grandmother was a child of rape. I regret the cultural loss nevertheless.
It never sat well with me that Spock was so often asked to make this same choice. He’d apparently been raised Vulcan — fine, that’s between him and his parents, and he looked Vulcan so that was probably a wise decision; he would need survival mechanisms appropriate to his appearance to deal with the world. (Similar to the way parents of biracial boys who look black must often teach their sons how to react to the police, etc., who will racially profile them as black.) But his friends shouldn’t’ve tried to force the choice in the other direction, as so often happened in arguments between Spock, Kirk, and McCoy. To be fair, this was often in reaction to some careless comment by Spock which reflected his Vulcan belief in the superiority of Vulcans; IMO if you’re going to dish that kind of crap, you deserve to have your hypocrisy pointed out. Yet sometimes — usually with McCoy — the pressure on Spock seemed to come from a belief in human superiority, which wasn’t the right tack to take either. The same message both ways: pick one, dammit.
So I thought the film reflected a modern take on multiracialism (-ness?): Spock seemed to be giving equal expression to both parts of his heritage; an eminently logical choice, IMO. And he actively resisted attempts from both directions to force him to choose (as with his beautiful, wonderful “Live long and prosper” to the Vulcan council when they snubbed his human half, when he so plainly meant “Go fuck yourselves”). He seemed to be creating his own identity, including embracing — literally, in the case of Uhura — human relationships. Whether this includes human sexuality is a matter between him and Uhura, but I imagine he’ll have to forge his own path there too. (Actually, I can’t remember — can Vulcans have sex outside of pon farr? I thought it was just that pon farr was when they couldn’t help themselves, so they created a ritual to channel the urge safely, but any other time it was a choice.)
Anyway, just something I thought the film did handle well.
I can’t help thinking now of Yeine, the protagonist of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Like Spock she is biracial, and like Spock she’s inherited virtually the whole set of racial markers from only one of her parents. She was not raised with the modern conception of multiracialism (-ality? argh); she was quite solidly raised to think of herself as Darre, even though she loved her mother, who was Amn. This is in part a reaction to Amn beliefs about genetic purity — they would reject her for being part anything else — and in part a survival strategy, because Darren culture demands that one constantly prove worthy of societal acceptance. Yeine basically had to out-Darre her fellow Darre, or they probably would have killed her. This puts her at a serious disadvantage when in the novel she’s forced to try and out-Amn her fellow Amn. She has few of the necessary cultural tools to do so; she doesn’t even understand the rules of engagement. She has virtually no chance of succeeding.
By contrast I’m flipping things a bit in Book 3 (tentatively titled The Single Shining Star). The protagonist here is Shahar, a woman who looks Amn but is in fact racially mixed herself. She’s been raised Amn, but her heritage is widely-known — in part because her twin brother inherited most of the visual markers of the non-Amn race. He’s kind of a living reminder to everyone that she’s not really what she looks like. He bears the brunt of people’s discomfort with this, and she loves him and becomes protective of him as a result, but she gets a little of it too. As a result, she often tries to out-Amn her fellow Amn, which naturally leads to some conflict with her brother.
No analysis or conclusion on this; just thinking out loud. I can’t say whether I’m handling the issue right. It feels right, intuitively, but then I’m basically channelling (great) Grandma, who never spoke of her issues yet showed them, if one knew what to look for, in virtually everything she did. I didn’t know what to look for as a child, but as I reflect on my memories of her as an adult, I understand better. (::sigh:: Miss her. Wish I’d been able to know her as an adult; she died when I was 20.)
Anyway. All of this is just a long-winded intellectual BSy way of saying I’m planning to go see Star Trek again. ^_^;;