HERE IS THE THING.
We make progress. We wrest it into being. Media is not passively received and interpreted, and there is no "representation" without the re
- it is a reflexive, back and forth process. We are not given Thing That Is Progressive and are then moved along a square of the chessboard of equality by the invisible hand of the media. We spy and scrabble and steal from it things that were never intended or particularly well-executed to be bestowed. (Is that not what slash is? That is what slash is.) The author of fiction is, in general, dead; the author of fiction's real life ramifications
was never born in the first place
is, upon reflection, us.
After saying all that it seems a shame to narrow my scope down to a single fiction, but that was where this idea originated and it is a point I want to make -- but let's agree it's probably just one of many examples.Star Trek: The Original Perfect Progressive Utopia
never existed. That is not a show or movie that I have ever had the privilege of watching. Has it intended to portray
a Perfect Progressive Utopia? Yes. Has it been progressive in some aspects in relation to some grave injustices of real life? Again, yes. I am glad for both of these yeses - they are a big part of why I love Star Trek. That still doesn't actually make the answer to the third question, which is the Jeopardy answer of that post, yes: Star Trek has been [up till now] so progressive that it's actually the destination to which progress aspires.
I could collect receipts for Star Trek's various injustices all day if I had it, but I don't so let's go with broad strokes. Nichelle Nichols wanting to quit. Denise Crosby actually did because she had nothing to do; Gates McFadden was fired for wanting better writing for her character; Marina Sirtis hated the Sexy Feelings Alien she was pigeonholed into and didn't get to wear a real Starfleet uniform for five seasons (and was mind raped in the very last Star Trek entry prior to the reboot). WHERE EVEN TO BEGIN re: racism -- played as alien parables -- experienced by real actors -- flaunted through the brownface of every major Klingon character save Worf and his brother Kurn
). Ricardo Montalban: no more Indian than you know who. Basically every major Bashir storyline managed to be offensive in terms of race, disability, and/or his frankly skeezy-ass approach to women and consent. ~Commander~ Sisko. The continual and ever more conspicuous absence of queer people in space. And on, and on, and on, and on.
Nichelle Nichols didn't quit -- not because of something Gene Roddenberry gave her, but because of a scrap of progress that Martin Luther King Jr.
could envision. Mae Jemison
went into space -- even though Uhura had next to nothing to do. Now she has more, and it's still not enough -- but Nyota Uhura is still not a white girl
. All kinds of girls are still boldly going
. On SCRAPS. Of course it's not fucking enough. Of course the whitewashing of Khan is inexplicable, knowingly offensive
, and awful. But what the fuck else is new? People have been stealing scraps and building them into something better than Gene Roddenberry or Michael Piller ever imagined since 1966, and it's no different now with JJ Abrams. I don't have to remind you of the crusades fans are willing to go on for scraps of gay subtext. Some of us will always be crusading with and for the other scraps. Welding them together into sculptures of what we want the next iteration to be like. Still not receiving passively. Still trying to make real progress out of the perfunctory and pitiful. Everyone has their lines and buttons, and it's easy to understand why the reboot might not be an old school Trekkie's cup of tea. But chalking it up to acceptance of the history of Star Trek's progressivism at face value -- what could be more regressive than that?