Black Trekkie Gets Political
USA! USA! USA!
Aw hell, here we go…Star Trek has always been political, so no need to shy away from discussing politics here. Did you watch President Joe Biden’s April 28, 2021 address to Congress? I hope you did because this speech felt like we might be on the precipice of a cultural shift. There was direct discussion of the need for reform and progress on human rights, racial justice, gender equity, LGBTQ protections, universal safety net programs for families, violence against women, migration, and gun safety. This past year woke all of us up that living lives of quiet desperation is an inadequate existence and that we have to help one another. More importantly, the past year has shown that government, by and for the people, has a role to play in remediating so many of these issues. It was a truly remarkable speech. I am cautiously optimistic that we may make significant progress on these issues in the next few years.
In the Star Trek context, perhaps the best episode that we can look to is DS9’s Past Tense. In the episode, Sisko, Bashir, and Jadzia beam down to San Francisco to attend a Starfleet conference, but a transporter malfunction has them ending up on Earth in 2024, 300 years in the past. See where I’m going? Things are bad. Earth is shown to have all the crimes of desperation, frequent petty crime, riots, and massive camps for people experiencing homelessness called Sanctuary Districts. Sisko and Bashir were shuttled into one Sanctuary District where they saw poverty unlike anything they had ever seen or heard of outside of the history books. Just for being homeless, poor, mentally ill and/or undocumented, they were treated like criminals. Sounds familiar, right?
“By the early 2020s, there was a place like this in every major city in the United States.“Sisko and Bashir
“Why are these people in here? Are they criminals?“
“No, people with criminal records weren’t allowed in the Sanctuary Districts.“
“Then what did they do to deserve this?“
“Nothing. They’re just people without jobs or places to live.“
“So they get put in here?“
“Welcome to the 21st Century, Doctor.”
Sure enough, there has been an overcrowded skid row/tent city/homeless encampment in every major city in the United States. After years of decline, homelessness was on the rise before the pandemic, but was surely exacerbated by the rampant job loss related to the economic disruption. Sanctuary Districts were developed at some point to warehouse people and keep them out of sight. Notably, even the well-meaning social worker attempting to help Sisko and Bashir uses derogatory terms to refer to them. In retrospect, it is a particularly poignant moment because she is a Black woman acting as a benevolent gatekeeper, emblematic of the systemic -isms that can be so insidious, hard to identify, and hard to change. She even tells them to watch out for District Security, so it appears police brutality was a thing there too. She has the smug confidence that comes with thinking she’s helping, but not the recognition that she is actually part of the problem.
“There’s no need for him to live like that…
“It’s not that they don’t give a damn, they’ve just given up. The social problems they face seem too enormous to deal with.”Sisko to Bashir
“Causing people to suffer because you hate them is terrible, but causing people to suffer because you have forgotten how to care–that’s really hard to understand.“
“They’ll remember. It will take some time and it won’t be easy, but, eventually, people in this century will remember how to care.”Sisko and Bashir
There is an old saying that things are darkest before the Dawn. The 2020s have been pretty dark so far, in real life and the Star Trek Universe. How Star Trek writers could have predicted things are happening now with such precision is pretty eerie; this episode aired 26 years ago. It’s so on the nose. I haven’t even mentioned the unique and subtle demonstration of racism in the episode. Jadzia, a white-passing actual alien, is given aid and treated like the toast of society while Sisko and Bashir, two black and brown American citizens, are treated immediately like criminals. That could be a whole post in itself.
I don’t have to recount all of the terrible things that have happened in the past few years. Our democracy has been tested, voting rights being challenged, unimaginable economic insecurity, immigrant children in cages, and widespread disease and rationing of access to healthcare. And most relevant to this episode, mass riots because people have been isolated to the point that they feel they have no other choice than to overturn the system violently. Again, sounds familiar?
So, are you feeling optimistic after the speech? If you find comfort in the post-scarcity ideas idealized in Star Trek, let’s work towards it. Seems like we’ve got momentum.
P.S. This might be my new favorite DS9 episode. I didn’t appreciate it until now.
Update: When did the phrase”Kirk Out” enter the Black lexicon?
One of my most visited posts is about the origins of the idiom “Kirk Out”. These days, it generally means extreme, maniacal anger, but perhaps it didn’t start out that way. A user named Raoul graced my page and left a comment stating that Bootsy Collins had said it on his song “Ah… The Name is Bootsy, Baby!” The album came out in 1977 and reached number one on Billboard’s Top RnB/Soul albums chart. Shout out to Raoul for hyping me to this! He posited that Kirk Out may have just meant to end a phone call. Given how Captain Kirk used it, this is entirely plausible! Is this the answer for how it entered AAVE (African American Vernacular English)?
Bootsy has been on the afrofuturist tip forever, so it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he is a Trekkie (and one of the best bassists to ever do it.) Much love to Bootsy! I probably need to a post about the entire Funkadelic era at some point. Listen for yourselves below:
The New Mutants: Whew lawd
You ever watch a movie that was so bad that it made you mad??? I remember hearing about this movie when it was in development. Peeps were a little excited because, let’s be honest, we all yearn for a good X-men movie. This was initially marketed that way. I’m convinced that rumor got started before anyone saw the actual storyboards for this. In fact, I choose to believe that the studio greenlit this movie without talking to any of the comic creators. Yes, it was that bad, and I’m trying to be fair.
How do you take a cast studded with extremely talented young actors and just waste them? How do you make a movie seem like it was given a huge budget and not enough money all at the same time? Who was the audience for this movie? I just can’t.
Plot synopsis: Five powered young people whose powers have caused death and mayhem find themselves in an institution to learn to control their powers. It is somewhat suggested that they are being trained to be X-men, though this is less clear in the movie. In reality, they are being assessed by the Essex Corporation to determine whether their powers are useful or dangerous. The main character’s powers (Dani) were left unexplained for most of the movie, but she is eventually deemed too dangerous to live. They live in a creepy, abandoned hospital that they slowly realize they can’t leave of their own volition. They go through emotional breakdowns, they kiss, they fight, and, then, they team up to try to overthrow the evil doctor to escape. Smiling men, puppets, and demon bears, oh my! The End.
New Mutants is supposed to be a horror trilogy, but it is more teenage angst-y. It’s like someone got lit and said, “What if we make Twilight meets Legion?” Alas, Anya Taylor-Joy’s portrayal of Magik is passable, but it was like she was in an entirely different movie. Thankfully, the sequels were cancelled, so there won’t be any followups.
It’s a pandemic and I didn’t have anything better to do, so I finished it. But, yo, they put this out in theaters in 2020; could you imagine catching the ‘Rona for this?
And, since this is BlackTrekkie, let’s talk about representation. First, there are no black actors in this movie. The main character is Native American, a group that often suffers from the same lack of depth and reliance on stereotypes in their portrayals in the media. In this movie, her cultural background is simply used as a plot device and is barely shown. This is an inexcusable shame, given the opportunity to offer viewers a glimpse into a culture we rarely see. Second, Sunspot is supposed to be Afro-Brazilian and dark-skinned and Dr. Reyes is a Black woman in the comics. One of the creators, Bob McLeod, has gone on record criticizing their inaccurate portrayals. The movie was shelved for three years, but it had been in development since 2009. Someone at some point should have spoken up and said that this would be unwise with fans. Even in 2009, we knew better right?
1 out of 4 stars. I kinda want you to watch it so that we can compare notes. Actually, nah, don’t.
(but, I know you’re going to watch it anyway because it has Mutants in the name. I see you.)
Captain’s Log: So much has happened! I hope you are loving all the representation!
I haven’t written on here in such a long time. Honestly, I haven’t been sure that my input was needed. There are so many black geek/blerd blogs out there now and so much energy about afrofuturism that I haven’t been sure what my unique contribution could/should be. But, we still out here, y’all!
Also, it seems like all of these blogs are getting sneak peeks of new shows and products. How does one get that kind of access if you don’t live in LA or near where the shows are being filmed? Hit me up if you know.
When I logged in, I saw all of your messages. I am so grateful! Shout out to all the spammers who post who post the most random of things. How do y’all even find this blog? LOL
I am planning to keep it light at first. There’s so much new media out there; there are so many black creators who are getting some shine these days; black geekdom has gained wide accepted. We went from begging for representation and having to be happy with pittances to being everywhere now! We still have a ways to go on overcoming tropes and stereotypes, but we are making so much progress, y’all! I am so happy!
That said, it seems we have reached an inflection point. As much as Blackness is being celebrated, black bodies are still being treated as threats; we are still dying earlier from treatable and preventable diseases; our mothers and babies are dying due to health inequities; and wealth inequality is reaching dangerous levels. We’re going to talk about these things here too. I wasn’t joking about Black rights in space.
Oh, and lastly, shouts to everyone who posted my little Vulcan avatar. It tickles me every time I see it! My web design skills are seriously lacking, so I love that y’all find value in it.
Much love to all of you! Stay healthy, stay strong!
Rise In Power, Captain K’Vagh (RIP, James Avery)
Boy, the hits just keep coming, don’t they? We’ve lots a lot of good ones over the last year, but this loss feels more personal. I haven’t posted in a while, but this passing deserved a post. James Avery was one of the GOATs in the acting game, of all races. Most of us knew and loved him as Uncle Phil on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but us Trekkies knew he was also Captain K’Vagh on Star Trek Enterprise. Even fewer people know that he auditioned against Michael Dorn for the role of Worf in TNG (Stop for a sec: Can you imagine?)
We’ve lost one of the greats, everyone. Nearly everyone’s favorite TV dad and an actor that gave 100% to every role he took. He passed on today after suffering complications from heart surgery earlier this month; he was 68.
Beware, a Klingon Warrior is about to arrive!
Star Trek and Wu Tang…and Drake
Truth, y’all are going to have to follow me on this one. Star Trek and Wu Tang go back like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. I would bet you $20 that any black trekkie you meet is also a Wu Tang fan. And, if you asked them to explain why, they couldn’t. Why? Because Wu Tang is for the children (RIP ODB)! There’s an other-ness, slightly esoteric, to enjoying both and, as such, you earn a certain geek cred when you bring them up. Truth, I’ve been waiting to find the guy who likes both on his own and, when I do, we’ll probably hit Vegas. I hear they do Klingon weddings at a little chapel out there.
Anyways, this brings me to Drake. It started with Macklemore mentioning Wu in a song, all good, white boy can rap. But, then, Drake comes out with “Wu Tang Forever” and my brow instantly furrowed. I like Drake, but he’s not exactly known for spitting hot fire, right? Exactly. It’s a song out of my nightmares. How did he even get the “It’s Yours” sample cleared? Rza, WTF??? The song is about creeping with a girl who already has a man and Drake is SINGING! Don’t use the Wu to prove you’re cool. I fully expect there will be some Star Trek name drops soon enough.
I guess there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? Am I wrong?
The Biggest Deal Nobody’s Talking About
Hold up, so Voyager 1 has left the damn solar system and it’s not on the front page anywhere? Y’all do realize what an achievement this is, right? Voyager has now traveled farther than any man-made object to date.
Just so we are clear, this is a photo of Earth from Voyager 1 in 1990. See that little blue dot in the brown band? Yep, that’s us and everyone who has ever lived on Earth. It’s been 23 years since that was taken.
There’s been controversy about whether Voyager 1 actually left for a year or so now, but it appears researchers are certain that Voyager 1 is now traipsing through the Milky Way. It has actually gone where no man has gone before!
Remember V’ger, anyone else a little nervous? Could you imagine Voyager 1 being intercepted and upfitted by a race of aliens and returning to us? I’ll be long dead by the time that happens, but it is kinda cool to consider. On the other end of the spectrum, a probe entering a black hole and becoming self-aware was a very similar story to the movie Event Horizon– the scariest movie ever made. Let’s hope that sh*t doesn’t happen.
The V’ger entity and resultant merger with Ilia and Lt. Decker is supposed to be the beginning of the Borg, so, yeah, let’s hope all of that doesn’t happen. In fact, let’s hope that the galaxy is filled with gentle, kind My Little Ponies or something.
In fact, maybe there is good reason for this not to be front page news after all…
Happy Friday everyone!
In other Science-y News: The Sun’s Magnetic Field Is About to Flip
No, the sun is not about to go DMX on you and lose its mind (up in here, up in here). However, the sun’s magnetic field is about to flip, likely in the next few months. The polarity flip takes place about ever 11 years, so, don’t worry, we aren’t going to die a fiery death. There may be some more sunspot activity and potentially some telecommunications disruptions due to increased solar storms. But, have no doubt, this is a big deal that will affect our entire solar system!
Check out more about the flip here
And, while we’re at it, here’s the clearest picture of a sunspot ever taken. Pretty nifty, huh:
In other Science-y News: Soylent, Stem Cell Burgers, and Nootropics. Oh My!
You may have seen or heard coverage this week about Google-supported research to develop meat grown from stem cells. One of two people who was able to eat a burger cooked from the stem cell meat said that it was good, but lacked fat. Now, any talk of artificially-grown meat makes our collective alarm bells go off because we all remember Charlton Heston yelling “Soylent Green is People!” in the eponymous 1973 film. I am pretty confident that every third person who read or heard the story probably thought, “Hmm, how long before someone grows people burgers?” I don’t think that fear is warranted, but I was definitely the third person in that case. Slippery slope. Would you eat a stem cell burger? Tell the truth. Truth-I might because I recognize that the demand for meat has all sorts of undesirable environmental consequences. Probably no time soon, gotta wait and see if it turns anyone into the minion monster.
Which leads me to my next topic. Why on earth would someone create a potentially revolutionary food (not meal) replacement drink and name it “Soylent”?
Beats me, but it’s working. There is a growing movement of people who are trying to figure out how they can stay alive without eating actual food. I’ve been trying to keep up on its development. Apparently, Soylent is a blandly sweet concoction of everything the body needs to survive. It can be prepared in advance and taken with you. Right now the cost is still high and the ingredients can be hard to find, so it won’t be coming to a store near you soon. That said, it could totally revolutionize the weight loss industry. Liquid diets work, but they are typically missing nutrients and people end up losing hair, dying, etc. The question for me is whether people will end up with gall bladder problems long term because fat is needed to cause the organ to contract. That used to be a big problem with liquid diets in the ’80s. Right now, the creator isn’t trying to lose weight, so he eats at his caloric maintenance and tweaks the formula when he starts to feel weak. He also doesn’t advocate only drinking Soylent, he has a few regular meals with food when he feels like it. Definitely keep an eye out for it.
Nootropics, I still don’t fully understand this topic. Basically, people are trying to figure out how to lifehack their brains to squeeze out every ounce of cognitive computing power through nutritional or pharmaceutical supplementation. Essentially, they want to be like the lead character in the movie Limitless. Some of the ingredients have to be procured through grey markets, meaning overseas pharmacies and others are simply nutritional supplements like melatonin. Many of you have taken 5-hour Energy to give yourself extra pep and sharpness, we may see something similar on the market soon for mental clarity and memory. I haven’t tried any of them though the topic is definitely interesting.
I worry less about Soylent being people; I don’t want us to end up like Morlocks.
What about you; are you up to try these?
This is old, but it is so perfect that I had to share.
All Trekkies who watched the Borg Queen’s torment/seduction of Data in First Contact will appreciate this.
To jog your memory (from IMDB):
[a Borg scratches Data’s flesh arm]
Lieutenant Commander Data: Ah!
Borg Queen: Is it becoming clear to you yet? Look at yourself, standing there, cradling the new flesh I’ve given you. If it means nothing to you, why protect it?
Lieutenant Commander Data: I… I am simply imitating the behavior of humans.
Borg Queen: You’re becoming more human all the time, Data; now you’re learning how to lie.
Lieutenant Commander Data: My programming was not designed to process these sensations.
Borg Queen: Then tear the skin from your limb as you would a defective circuit.
Borg Queen: Go ahead, Data! We won’t stop you!
[Data forces himself to try to tear off the skin]
Borg Queen: Do it! Don’t be tempted by flesh!
[Data relents and leaves the skin alone]
Borg Queen: Are you familiar with physical forms of pleasure?
Lieutenant Commander Data: If you are referring to sexuality, I am… fully functional, programmed in… multiple techniques.
Borg Queen: How long since you’ve used them?
Lieutenant Commander Data: Eight years, seven months, sixteen days, four minutes, twenty-two…
Borg Queen: Far too long.
[they kiss passionately]
P.S. I still have no understanding of the Gotye video concept. Why was he painted like that?