By Arturo R. García
Kendra and I will have a more thorough discussion regarding Star Trek Into Darkness on Wednesday. But, now that the film is out and a rather big racebending cat is out of the bag, I figured we’d open things up for a bigger discussion. Spoilers under the cut.
- So, to finally confirm the spoiler that got leaked two weeks before the film’s release, the film was a new take on The Wrath of Khan, only this time the titular role was played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Now, consider these words from Racebending’s Marissa Sammy, emphasis mine:
It wasn’t perfect in the 60s when Ricardo Montalbán was cast to play Khan (a character explicitly described in the episode script of Space Seed as being Sikh, from the Northern regions of India). But considering all of the barriers to representation that Roddenberry faced from the television networks, having a brown-skinned man play a brown character was a hard-won victory. It’s disappointing and demoralizing that with the commercial power of Star Trek in his hands, JJ Abrams chose not to honour the original spirit of the show, or the symbolic heft of the Khan character, but to wield the whitewash brush for…what? The hopes that casting Benedict Cumberbatch would draw in a few more box office returns? It’s doubly disappointing when you consider that Abrams was a creator of the television show Lost, which had so many well-rounded and beloved characters of colour in it.
If that was indeed the case, then director J.J Abrams’ gamble appears to have failed: Though the film debuted at No. 1 with $84 million, that’s still considered a weak showing. And the video game isn’t selling that well to boot. So, an opportunity to expand this new Trek universe’s diversity is, well, lost. And thoroughly wasted, because this was an interesting take on the character–but not one that only Cumberbatch could have brought to life, eyebrows aside.
- It’s been interesting to watch a critical backlash start to form against Abrams’ version of this universe–specifically, the accusation that it’s become too much like Star Wars. I say “interesting” because there were a few minutes there when this film, ironically, flirted with something approaching a meatier plot, like something The Next Generation might have tackled. And more gracefully, I might add, than did Shane Black’s Iron Man 3.
- While nobody was looking, however, one of the film’s actual characters of color–somebody, please inform Ms. Saldana that they do exist–seemed to enjoy a stronger character arc. And one did not.
- Friends of mine who hate Abrams’ work point out that it lacks character. I would suggest that a more accurate title for this one was The Search For Character. That said, I definitely hope we’ve gotten the action ga-ga out of our system and that a third film (if it’s green-lit) goes back to the series’ exploratory roots not just in setting, but in character motivations, as well.
But what did you make of this hot sorta-mess, everyone?
About This BlogRacialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable
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Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at email@example.com.
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