Femme Fatales 4 Ever?

I saw Star Trek Into Darkness last weekend, and I liked it. I did, however, have a discussion with my boyfriend about whether or not the movie had honored the proud Star Trek tradition of portraying empowered female characters who work side-by-side and on equal footing with their male counterparts. Here’s the thing: one strength of Star Trek has historically been that it portrays a future in which men and women are equals and it’s not a big deal. And I’m worried that Star Trek Into Darkness represents a (potentially big) step backwards in terms of staying faithful to the gender roles that were represented in the original series.

The movie definitely failed the Bechdel Test*, and it also featured the young James Kirk interrupted by a phone call while in bed with extra-terrestrial twins. And the young Dr. Marcus also stripped down to her bra and underwear in front of Kirk in a sequence that was, so far as I can tell, completely unnecessary. And even Uhura – whom I think of as a really badass and empowered female character – needed rescuing at least once, if not a couple of times. Uh”¦ so, yeah. There were issues.

Poster for Star Trek Into Darkness

I don’t mean to belabor an already-made point (I did write about similar topics here and here, though, if you are interested!), but there is a serious dearth of empowered and positive female lead characters in movies these days. Have you noticed that female characters are often villains if they are powerful, or else they are weak, rag doll-esque sex objects teetering around in too-tall heels and constantly in need of rescuing and/or guidance? This is most likely not news to you. I realize that. But bear with me.

Star Trek Into Darkness is definitely not as bad as some other action movies I’ve seen. After all, it is an enjoyable, entertaining and action-packed movie. But it failed the Bechdel Test, and it also definitely focused on the power and strength of the friendship between Kirk and Spock more than anything else. If I could quickly sum up the movie, one way would be the following:

Kirk: Dude, we’re so different, but I just care about you so much, bro! *Chest bump*

Spock: Yes. I understand your reasoning. Very logical. *wipes away a stray, half-human tear*

Where are the mainstream movies that give equal attention to female friendships? I would like to see them. Honestly. I’m not (only) trying to be snarky. Here’s an open invitation to filmmakers anywhere and everywhere to start making new kinds of movies with stories that feature female characters and female relationships. And as for Star Trek: I’m a little disappointed. I was looking forward to the movie, and I felt a little let down. Because, frankly, I don’t want to just be a side-kick or a sex-object. I mean: would you?


*For those of you who are not familiar: in order for a movie to pass the Bechdel Test, it must

(1) have at least two women in it

(2) who talk to each other

(3) about something besides a man.

9 replies on “Femme Fatales 4 Ever?”

I’d like to add an extra rule to the Bechdel test: #4 woman doesn’t end up dead in a fridge just to make the hero dark and cool…oh crap, I think The Dark Knight sorta kinda did that…

I too liked Star Trek into the darkness (and swooned at the sound of Cumberbatch’s voice. I now see what the big frikkin deal is! That man needs to do voice acting if he isn’t already! Mercy!) I immediately had a problem with the Dr. Marcus-in-her-underoos scene. Ugh. Seriously, folks? And the beyond lame defending from JJ Abrams. Quel disappoint! “We showed Kirk naked so its ok!” Uh yeah, Kirk was in BED post-coital! Not that that scene was great, either. Expected from Kirk, but not great.

There was a Slate article (or was it Indiewire) claiming that the movie focused on Spock x Kirk by punishing or mocking Uhura, which I don’t agree with. I feel like Uhura (and everyone else for that matter) were pushed further to the sides. It would’ve been great if she got to be more of a badass, but nyet. Your thoughts?

Hey, Remi! Sorry to be a little late in the game replying; thank you for your great comments. Yes: I thought that the worst part of Uhura’s role was that it was so small and marginal. She was mostly shown in relation to Spock, and getting upset at him for not caring enough about their relationship. Not inspiring.

I also liked Sulu’s badass transmission. :)

Thanks for writing! I really appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Yes, this EXACTLY. I walked out of there the same way. Uhura, who I thought surely would have at least some great moment of success, never did. Dr. Marcus somehow never thought to have it occur to her that her dad could just transport her off the ship (though, fair credit, neither did Kirk apparently) and was almost entirely worthless when it comes to anything significant. Uhura as well really. I mean, I liked the movie because I’m a Trekkie, but even my initial burst of “Yay action movie-Star Trek!” couldn’t outshine these problems! I was sitting there halfway through the movie going, “Really?” and then yes. Kirk and Spock’s friendship is so. Um. I may be biased because my best friend is kind of Spockish and I’m kind of Kirkish and we’re at odds currently, so I’m having a hard time believing such friendships withstand such key aspects being so different but then we’ve never bonded through saving each other’s lives and stuff like that in space so maybe I’m really biased. But I agree. This. Smash. Yup.

Hey Aida! Thanks for weighing in. YES, I was frustrated by Dr. Marcus’ abortive attempt to save the day. It almost felt like “Oh, look, how cute! The girl is trying to save the day. That’s so sweet. Well, gentlemen, it’s about time to come to her rescue!” Same with Uhura’s attempt to negotiate in Klingon. Hmmm…

Yes, you’re right! It was so clumsy too, everything she did. Her name-change bit was easily found out, she had no recourse on how to rectify it when they did figure it out, and if I remember correctly, when she tried to keep the warhead from blowing up the only reason it didn’t it was mostly because of luck…Yup. They both got shorthanded.

I liked that article! And it’s a great point to bring up. I kind of stink – it didn’t occur to me that Khan should have been played by a PoC because I sort of just didn’t think of Khan as a non-English name…I don’t know why…clearly someone lacked some thinking. And obviously, I haven’t seen the original movie either.Sigh. Forgive me. But she brings up excellent points and that is seriously bad.

I don’t wanna be that person that defends whitewashed casting BUT I think if they had cast a person of color to play Khan it would’ve been a dead giveaway who he was (aw who am I kidding? Abrams tried his damnedest to keep Khan a secret but everyone knew!) I did enjoy the movie but I’m sad that he did such a good job with the first one and the sequel pales in comparison.

Random aside? Sulu’s threat to Khan over the airwaves? HOT.

Hi Karishma. Thanks for joining in the discussion. I LOVE this article that you shared. And I didn’t even touch on the issue of Cumberbatch as Khan in my post. I wish I had. This is probably the most glaring issue in the film. I really appreciate you adding this to the discussion.

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