Essay, Research Paper
Gender Roles In Star Trek Next Generation
In 1966 a series called “Star Trek” was created. It’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, did not create the show to be a science fiction series. The series was much deeper than that. It wasn’t just about discovering new planets and civilizations. It was about controversial issues. Even though the series’ take place in the 23rd and 24th century the issues struck with the times and related current issues. Through each series, The Original, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, there has been progression with the times and the issues. The issues that surround the episodes of Star Trek include race, religion, sexuality, the depiction of science and gender roles. The central focus being talked about in this paper will be gender roles. Gender roles in Star Trek deal with leadership and sexuality.
Men and women have had different roles in Star Trek as well as different progressions. Men in Star Trek have always had a leadership role. In the original series the four main characters are men. The captain, Kirk, the second in command, Spock, the doctor, Bones or McCoy, and the head engineering officer Scotty are all men. In the Next Generation series there is Captain Picard, the second in command, Riker, and there are others engineering roles played by Warf and Data who are all men. In the Deep Space Nine series Captain Sisko and the head engineer is male. In Voyager the second in command, Chakotay, as well as Tuvok, a Vulcan Spock like character, and Neelix, the cook are all men. Women in Star Trek have made a real progression, at least more then Men have. When men are already at the top having leadership roles there’s no place to go but down. This isn’t necessarily there work performance or merit is going down but the women’s performance, merit and acceptance going up. The women of Star Trek started at the bottom and could only go up. The original series did have one woman in a starring role. Uhura was the head communication officer, however her role was really more of a secretary and didn’t really have many lines and if she did they weren’t very lengthy, nothing much more than, “Yes captain.” In the Next Generation series the women started to move farther up the leadership ladder. The women starring roles were Beverly Crusher, the doctor, and Diana Troy, the counselor. In Deep Space Nine, the second in command was female, Kira Nerys. The Voyager series was a big step for women in Star Trek. There was the captain, Janeway, Kes and Seven of Nine. This series brought women into leadership roles. The progression of women in Star Trek has been appropriately timed and has even pushed a little bit past the time. Even though Uhura basically played the role of a secretary her role still pushed the envelope for the time because of her race. She was a black actress during or right after the civil rights movement. She even thought of quitting the role because she felt that she wasn’t used enough for her role in the series. However, after Martin Luther King, Jr. talked to her and told her how important it would be for her to stay on the show, she did. Women in Star Trek have progressed from a secretary type, to a doctor and counselor, to the second in command and eventually the first in command or the captain. Their progress allows them to be more influential.
Let’s talk more specifically about the Next Generation series. The Original series showed the four starring male roles to provide everything for the crew. This is not the case in Next Generation. Next Generation is more like a family with a father, a mother and children. But who were the biggest members of the family? There are four characters, which give the presence of a family on Next Generation.
First, you have the father. This is actually quite simple. You have Captain Picard who plays the father. He is much older than any of the other crew seen on the series and therefore has seniority as well as he is the captain of the ship. For the time, when thinking of fathers we still were in the father must provide for his family phase. Women were working and coming into keys roles in the work force and Star Trek, however there was still this importance about the father. Picard doesn’t have to go out and work hard so he can put food on the table. This is not the job he is doing to provide for his family. Picard provides direction for the crew and the ship. He tells them what they are going to do to solve a problem and how they are going to do it. He will make decisions for what is best for the family.
After that, you have two mothers on Next Generation. This is not to say that the series is saying that polygamy is all right, it just happens that there are two women in the series that fall into a mother role. There is Beverly Crusher, who is the doctor. She is not a nurse but the head doctor, which is a big step. Since she is the doctor she has to heal patients and this is very nurturing. The other mother is Deanna Troi, the counselor. She is just meant to be there. She is someone who will listen and ask the questions to help you figure things out. Troi will also give advice to help you. This is also a nurturing and consoling role. Both of them are healers. Crusher is for the physical needs and Troi is for the emotional needs.
Lastly, you have the children or the crew. The second command Riker, or Number One to Picard, is the eldest son. Picard is much older and Riker is much younger, so he is the eldest son. As the eldest son Riker looks up to Picard and wants to follow in his footsteps. He has a lot of power but also is sitting back taking notes of how Picard runs things for Riker will be eventually promoted. Riker has to know what to do when he takes over the family business.
Another big part of gender roles, in any situation not just Star Trek, is sexuality. Although sexuality in gender roles is not a big part of Next Generation, it is clearly seen in an episode called “Perfect Mates”. In this episode a diplomat is carrying cargo for a peace conference between two worlds. This cargo is an empathic metamorph, a highly valued female mate. They come along once every several hundreds of years and that’s why they are so valuable and she will be given as a gift in this peace conference. The empathic metamorph, Camala, comes out of her stasis early and causes some problems to arise. Camala is very sexual in nature and is pleased by pleasing others. When first shown to her quarters she puts the moves on Riker. He however finds it inappropriate and ceases it. One of the biggest questions that the episode offers is if you are born a certain way. Crusher states the argument that she has been conditioned to believe certain things, that she only gets pleasure by pleasing others and her only purpose in life is to please her mate. Camala, however says that this is the way she is. She was born this way and can’t change. She also says that asking her to change would be like asking a Vulcan to change and be illogical. The diplomat confines her to her quarters for fear that she might go off and do something that would upset the peace. Picard later revokes this and allows her to move about the ship but with an escort, Data. Data and Camala go to 10 Forward, which is like a bar and restaurant. Immediately non-crew member men in the bar hit on and try to pick up Camala. Data takes her away and offers her a drink. She asks the men what they are having and then says she’ll have one of those. Camala says she promised Captain Picard that she wouldn’t cause any trouble but just wants to have fun like everybody else. The men start to get rowdy and suggest that they get rid of Data. Data fears that, in his words, the crowd of men is much too ebullient for comfort. Worf comes in to stop the problem that the men are causing. As Camala and Data leave, Camala makes a cat like purr directed towards Worf. Worf, without thinking about it, purrs back and finds that he has fallen for the same woman as the rest of the men. Camala is a much different woman because of how she’s been brought up. She has been brought up with very sexual intentions and therefore is more forward as to her intentions. Women usually aren’t as forward and her forwardness gives the essence of a male fantasy, the female making the moves on the male. Males and females are almost in pursuit of a mate, however males are usually the gender that make the first move. When the female shows immediate and obvious signs of interest, males in general think of it as something with no real challenge and therefore no real commitment. This presents a good time for the crowd of men in 10 Forward. Sexuality plays a big part in gender roles.
In Star Trek Next Generation one of biggest issues is gender roles. Sexuality has played a little role in Star Trek. It showed a woman who’s only purpose in life was for procreation. Although her actions were abnormal for a woman, it is the only real purpose of both genders. Survival is the goal of both genders and that is done through procreation. Also, men have always had leadership roles in Star Trek since the beginning of the series. Women, however have had to work there way up the leadership ladder. Their roles have been equal to the times or slightly pushing forward a bit, which has been the most important part of gender roles in Star Trek.