Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Captain Kirk: How Pop Culture & Toxic Masculinity Got It Wrong

Kirk:"Leave any bigotry in your quarters. There's
no room for it on the bridge."
The popular collective image of Captain Kirk from the original Star Trek series is that of a brash, impulsive captain who charges in first and asks questions later. Pop culture would have it that Capt. Kirk was also a serial womanizer, bedding alien women across the galaxy.

Popular culture has it completely wrong.

Writing for Strange Horizions, Erin Horakova penned an essay entitled "Freshly Remember'd: Kirk Drift" that looks at just why it's important that these notions be debunked and the conclusions people can draw from them be deconstructed. For example, there's a lot of toxic ideas about what it means to be "macho" if you buy into the "Kirk was a womanizer" narrative:
If your vision of masculinity cannot distinguish between choosing to have sex and situations of dubious consent incurred in the line of duty, it is deeply toxic. You are insisting that men are hyper-sexual, unemotional, and can never be taken advantage of (lest they cease to be strong, compelling men due to their ever having displayed vulnerability)... These misreadings are supported by a subterranean network of ideas about masculinity, pop culture, and the past that consistently reinforce them, hitting refresh on these dank memes. I don’t think all the connections have been made here, and all the implications unfolded.

Horakova outlines many instances of what she calls "Kirk Drift"-- the difference between what people think Capt Kirk did and Star Trek portrayed, and what actually aired. How these misconceptions not only inform the average person's idea of what Star Trek was, but what the reboot thinks Star Trek should be, How the ideas trickle down, changing and erasing everything from science fiction's attitudes to concepts of what it means to be a man to expressions of Jewish masculinity. Why should we care? hhhh makes the case thusly:
All texts run the danger, even if they’ve worked hard to be progressive, or if they yield easily to positive interpretations, of being “rewritten” in the world and even in our minds. In relation to her own work, novelist Dr. Nnedi Okorafor says that “what I really want to discuss is the whitewashing battle in many readers' minds. The one that turns characters white upon reading them so the reader is more comfortable.” Her work, like all work that comes from a place of or offers any potential for alterity, is at risk of being “colonised” by conservative narrative reclamations operating via the mechanism of mismemory. It is not enough for a text to be progressive; its memory must also be defended against this decay.

The entire essay is well-written, thoroughly sourced and a fascinating read. Grab the whole article here.

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