Friday, June 7, 2013

Venting re: Stupid Hollywood

I am peeved.

As an avid BBC Sherlock and Benedict Cumberbatch fan, I peeked at spoilers for Star Trek: Into Darkness as I wanted to know how good his performance was. He’s an amazing actor, and from what I’d read ahead of time, he did a phenomenal job in the movie. The problem was, I also found out his character’s actual name (which many had already guessed), and found myself growing outraged. Unfortunately, I also know how prevalent racism and sexism is, not just in Hollywood, but also fantasy and science fiction. So while the movie had its fun moments, and many actors' performances, male and female both, made me smile and allowed me to be immersed in the story, I walked away from Star Trek: Into Darkness largely disappointed.


Growing up, my older brother and my mom avidly watched Star Trek: TNG. My brother especially is the biggest Star Trek fan I know. After all, few others would go out of their way to read the Klingon translation of Hamlet in high school for fun. So I have a passing knowledge of Star Trek, specifically Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It wasn’t until I was much older that I appreciated the amount of diversity Star Trek brought to television. Now, with the Star Trek reboot happening, I can’t help but feel angry and betrayed at the blatant whitewashing of a person of color (POC) character as definable as Ricardo Montalban’s performance as Khan Noonien Singh.

Seeing the movie for myself, I would have to agree that while Benedict Cumberbatch is an amazing actor, it is a major disservice to him and the Star Trek franchise to have him fill Ricardo Montalban’s shoes as Khan. Look at Khan, then and now: Can anyone seriously tell me it’s the same effect? Or that someone of Benedict Cumberbatch’s physique looks like someone with super strength? Ricardo Montalban looked like a guy who could bench press a house. Come on, what were the casting directors thinking?

A major part of Khan’s back story is that he’s from a genetically superior superhuman experiment that took genes from a wide range of human cultures, his personal ethnicity being Indian. Even though he apparently breached out by the time of the 1980s Star Trek film, Montalban had the swarthy tan features of the South Asian peninsula. Mr. Cumberbatch definitely doesn't resemble someone of Indian descent. And again, where is the muscle of a super human? Khan was someone with superior intelligence, physical strength, and also the charm to turn one of the Enterprise's crew to his side. With so few POC characters on Star Trek or in Hollywood already, its a huge slap in the face to whitewash such a prominent one. There are plenty of white people in movies and tv, it is not a minority. To cast a role meant for a POC as white, it's just so disheartening. I would love to believe Mr. Cumberbatch had nothing to do with who he was cast as, because otherwise my faith in humanity would fall that much further. As my brother is fond of saying though, one shouldn't immediately blame an actor for acting in a bad story, but the writers for bad writing. I could also go off on all the gender issues present in this film, but plenty of people around the internet are already doing so.

It’s not often that Latino actors of either gender are given a prominent role on television or film (unless it's Zorro, revolutionary in its time as well). More often than not, in Hollywood people of Hispanic origin are drug dealers, loudly passionate lovers, or in the background as working class, if identified at all. Too often I see Hispanic culture in media turning into a joke or it becoming insultingly simplified. I rarely see myself, my culture, or my gender represented well in the movies, or on television. It is very sad. I think it was Dwayne McDuffie who said “You don’t feel as real if you don’t see yourself reflected in the media … There’s something very powerful about seeing yourself represented.”

The movie's story could have fared so much better if they had gone in a different direction entirely, say with having a female Khan, or have all the survivors be Khan. For more information on how terrible the story is, check out Zoe Chevat's review.

Otherwise, Zachary Quinto's Spock was awesome, I love Simon Pegg as Scottie even though he isn't Scottish, and bizarre Star Trek techno-speak is bizarre. There are also several plot points that I found extremely confusing, but that was a similar issue in the 2009 Star Trek. Is anyone else weirded out by how the Klingons look, though?

Now, I also saw Iron Man 3. I enjoyed this movie a heck of a lot more, mostly because RDJ is so awesome in the role as Tony Stark. I found the super fire people an odd power, but I was willing to suspend my disbelief for a story about a man flying around in robot suits. As for the rest, I'll let How It Should Have Ended point out all the weird plot holes for me.