Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Star Trek TNG: Race, Class And Marijuana

WELL, APROPOS OF NOTHING BUT SILLINESS, I was sent the below video recently and for some reason can't stop watching it and laughing like a demented teenager after a loud fart. My only explanation is that in my younger years I used to smoke pot with my roommate and watch TNG all the time. I particularly liked listening to his analysis of the semiotics of race in the Star Trek universe.
He was convinced, as I recall, that the Klingons were Arabs and the Romulans were the Soviet Union. Of course, once the Soviet Union had collapsed the federation could make peace with them. But then, like the return of the repressed, the spectre of communism is never far off and it returned as some kind of Red Cult of Death in the form of the Borg with their identical clothing and the merging of man and machine.
Vulcans were Japanese, representing Asiatic who had gotten their mojo under control and could focus on their rational selves. The Ferengi, meanwhile, were 19th century stereotypes of Jewish merchants. I mean, lookit those guys - they could have been drawn by some racist newspaper cartoonist. In the Deep Space Nine Series we had the Cardassians, who were Israelis and Bajorans who were Palestinians. I didn't buy this particular ethnography one bit. Palestinians are never the poor and oppressed in western mythology - always terrorists and fundamentalists, Jew-haters even. More likely they were Tibetans, made to look cute with those crinkly noses of theirs. Or perhaps Irish - there was definitely something elfin about them.
In any case, the larger picture is that Star Trek is a big outer space, liberal nerd wet dream. The workers are made to disappear - or only appear long enough to be killed in horrible ways. Can you imagine living in a world where the only people are supervisors? Fuck, kill me.
The idea of race in Star Trek is completely essentialized so that what race you are born determines your personality characteristics. Klingons are always warlike. Vulcans are always coldly intellectual. Everyone except for humans, of course, who were primarily white, certainly through the TNG series, until DS9 came along. The only black guy on the Enterprise was Jordi La Forge (was this a joke about him being burnt dark in a forge?) and he was blind! He was allowed to be there because he was literally blind to his race. Whew - he escaped his essential nature in this way. 'Course they never let him near any of the white women... And I wonder what he thought when he finally got his sight? Then there was Will Riker. That guys was always a laugh. The ship was driven by the liberal-minded, philosopher king, Jean Luc Picard, but it was still useful to have a nazi like Riker at his side. We always need the generals who are willing to be motherfuckers...
Anyway, all that cultural analysis... it has nothing to do with the video.

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