These are great questions and help to illustrate the importance of logistics and transportation in imperial/colonialist systems (something I’d read a little about in post-colonialist history but hadn’t thought about at all with regards to Star Trek).
your point about how “personal possessions are reduced to the potentiality of patterns” reminds me about Donna Haraway’s “condition of virtuality” - this cultural concept that all things are underpinned by informational patterns. If things are no longer a primary source of value or trade, it would be the patterns or recipes that make objects replicable. We’ve seen where the replicator doesn’t know how to make things, or where characters have created their own recipe (notably Data’s feline supplements), but there’s also a question of access. Who has the right to duplicate what? In Field of Fire (DS9) we’re told that only starfleet officers can replicate certain weapons. If Starfleet is a sort of post-scarcity space communism system, is it really “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”?
Lots of food for thought here!
You make an interesting point about Spock being overtly sexualized in the Abrams ‘verse in a way he wasn’t in TOS. I think you’re right. However, I don’t agree that TOS Spock is portrayed as “primarily asexual,” though I see what you’re getting at. Although he’s not banging everything that moves like James T., he is a very sexy dude, and quite a few beings in the series react to him as such. At later points in the series, he seems more receptive to, and even interested in, the attention of other attractive beings. Perhaps it’s the shipper in me talking (yes), but the sexual tension between Spock and Kirk in the TOS, while not overt, is more immediate to me as a viewer than any between them in nu!Trek.
That said, I think you’re on to something when you note that Abrams and company are keenly aware of the history of K/S, the granddaddy of all slash ships. It’s fascinating that that awareness (of the audience’s desire to see/read Spock as a sexual being), is portrayed via a heterosexual romance with the potential of a threeway. It’s an interesting contrast the one moment of such on-screen awareness portrayed in TOS (ok, in Star Trek V): Spock halting Kirk’s embrace by saying “Please, Captain. Not in front of the Klingons.”
Nicely put—your post opens up some great questions.
While the ST universe explores the potential horrors of the transporter, the problems associated with the replicator, as you note, are almost cultural, creating a yearning for a more material past. The transporter might scramble your atoms beyond recognition, but the replicator invokes a sense of nostalgia for the real by creating objects that aren’t as “good” as the original. Interesting how that question of the material and desire for the real have replaced what was one of TOS’ big worry about tech: that it would malfunction in some way and kill you. Mirroring, perhaps, our own evolution on the problems of technology?
One wonders what McCoy would say about that.
Thanks for your thoughtful comments!
It’s funny, because Swear Trek doesn’t strike me as *just* textual poaching. Sure, it hits all the beats in Jenkins’ classic definition, but that repurposing is the beginning of the conversation, not the end. For example, given TAS’ weird space in the Star Trek canon, one effect of Swear Trek’s work, I think, is to bring TAS more firmly into the fold—to position it as a part of the ST universe that’s just as legitimate as TOS, Enterprise (shudder), the Abrams ‘verse, DS9, etc. At some level, Star Trek is a bloody *mess*; where the messiest bits are depends upon one’s perspective as a fan. Swear Trek underscores this point—the space dragons and dickbats of TAS are just as legitimate (and whacktastic) as stuff that’s officially canon, be it good (Star Trek II or bad (Star Trek V).
And you’re quite right about the site’s memes being easily spreadable (hello again, Uncle Henry!) beyond fandom. The exposure that the account has received from sites like Gizmodo has introduced the gifs and memes to a wider audience. One hiccup there is that you can no longer download gifs from Twitter (boooo), so the site’s mod set up a Tumblr account to share them. Sadly, though, there’s a lag, so the kairotic nature of the Twitter site hasn’t quite translated to tumblr.
>a question about what it means to have a wide array of Star-Trek themed negative affective responses available at one’s fingertips for situations that might call for them This is interesting—what it means to whom? To Star Trek fans? To non-fans? Would like to hear you talk more about this.
Cheers for your comments! Didn’t know about the turn to Marlowe after 9/11—very interesting stuff.
I take your point about the optimism of TOS, but I must admit that I find it comforting, if always already aspirational.
Indeed, the contrast between Obama’s farewell speech and Trump’s—whatever the hell that was yesterday got me thinking about Kirk’s big speech from “The Omega Glory” (i.e., Kirk yelling about the Constitution): “‘We the People,’ that which you call Ee’d Plebnista, was not written for the chiefs of kings, or the warriors or the rich or the powerful, but for *all* the people!” A delivery not unlike Trump’s, but a message that echoes Obama’s.
For all its goofiness, TOS has at its core a fundamental belief in humanity’s potential for good. These days, I sorely wish I could share it.
I really enjoyed your article, Bridget, and thanks for responding here. Another thing that I couldn’t mention in my brief notes is Star Trek’s blending of actor/character. In your article, you make note of the actor who plays Spock in the reboot: Zachary Quinto, of course, has come out as gay. Then the newest film—Beyond—curiously merges actor and character with the contentious relationship of Sulu. Sulu’s gay marriage in Beyond is an homage to the actor who played him in the Original Series, but I call the relationship “contentious” because George Takei himself called the choice “unfortunate.” http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/george-takei-reacts-gay-sulu-909154
Hi Deanna, Thanks for reading and citing my article. I see your point about the possibilities for Spock’s sexuality, that perhaps the matter is not about whether he expresses hetero- or homosexuality but that he expresses sexuality at all. This is analogous to the claims I cite, borrowing from Cait Coker, that Kirk’s sexuality can also be read as not fixed, monogamous heterosexuality (e.g. what else does he sleep with besides farm animals?). In both cases, I see reflections of your arguments from Ward. Eric Anderson notes the increased inclusivity toward flexible sexuality that masculinity now encompasses, but rightly notes that this is not descriptive of every man and every male relationship. Certainly media industries have identified the latent homoeroticism of male friendships as a potential marketing tool. I do think in the case of the reboot, there is a conscious line-walking to sell to the Kirk/Spock fans old and new while preserving the exterior image of heteronormativity for a more conservative audience base – which may well be evolving faster than I write this post. I’ll leave with this gif from the Golden Globes that encapsulates this discussion.
Hi KT— I really enjoyed your post and video. I’m currently re-watching The Original Series, and Kirk’s boundless optimism in the valour of human enterprise and the human spirit certainly sounds naive now and even a bit…cute. Turning to a more profane Star Trek during the last US elections reminds me of the turn from Shakespeare to Christopher Marlowe after 9/11. Marlowe’s dark, violent, and even grotesque aesthetic had an immediate appeal to Renaissance scholars in 2001.
Hi KT, thanks for the post.
I like the way the video, and the memes themselves, rely on the incongruous tension between the world of Star Trek, where no matter how bizarre or desperate a situation gets, the Captain and crew of the Enterprise remain more or less unflappable, and the ventroloquized text, which suggests the exact opposite. It reminds me of the well-worn ‘KHAAAAN’ meme featuring Kirk, which singles out one of the rare moments in Star Trek where control is lost and frustration takes over. I am also reminded of the too-brief Cartoon Network program Sealab 2021, which operated on a somewhat similar premise in which stock animated footage was re-edited and voiced over into an entirely different program. Swear Trek strikes me as different though, in that it doesn’t seem like the jokes would be quite as funny without an awareness of who the characters are supposed to be, which I think reinforces your point that it is the utopian nature of Star Trek that is being pointed up and subverted here.
From a Star Trek fandom perspective, it seems easy enough to place Swear Trek in the lineage of fan ‘poaching’ and remixing practices, but I’m also wondering about the ways these memes promote, and in some ways engineered for, maximum shareability even beyond fandom. I’m not sure there’s really a good answer, but for me they seem to raise a question about what it means to have a wide array of Star-Trek themed negative affective responses available at one’s fingertips for situations that might call for them. In any case, I’m definitely thinking more about Star Trek memes now.
Thank you for your post, Liz. I really enjoyed it. You bring up several issues that have been on my mind as I have observed the revivals of past television favorites. Just the other day, I was thinking about the fact that some of the recent revivals have been in the limited series format. Two of the shows that came to my mind as I was thinking of this trend were The Gilmore Girls and Fuller House. I have also felt that the limited series format is a less risky avenue for a program’s revival than would be a regular series. Thus, your post reminds me of my own thoughts on the subject of television revivals.
Your post also addresses one of the reasons why I generally enjoy the revivals of past television programs, namely because of the nostalgia these shows evoke for me. Your discussion of nostalgia also reminds me of past In Media Res posts dealing with this subject, particularly the post on Stranger Things.