Friday, December 26, 2008

The Outcast

I was channel surfing and happened across a Startrek Next Generation episode The Outcast - where the crew of the enterprise visits the J'naii, a genderless society. Commander Riker falls in love with Soren, a J'naii who is experiencing female attraction -considered a deviant perversion in J'naii society. For this, she is taken into custody and 'treated' to remove her female attractions.

It was an obvious reference to the debate over homosexuality in our own society. Although, overall, I feel the episode fell short on social commentary. Perhaps this is why the Startrek franchise has floundered over the last few years - they've deviated from the formula that Gene Roddenberry used in the original series where many episodes had strong commentary on sexism, feminism, racism, as well as militarism and peace - all major social issues during the late 1960's.

The highlight of the episode was where Soren declares that she is female
I am tired of lies.
I am female. I was born that way. I have had those feelings...those longings...all my life. It is not unnatural. I am not sick because I feel this way.

I do not need to be helped, and I do not need to be cured. What I do need -- what all of those like me need -- is your understanding and your compassion.

We do not injure you in any way. And yet we are scorned, and attacked. And all because we are different.

What we do is no different from what you do. We talk and laugh...we complain about work and we wonder about growing old...we talk about our families, and we worry about the future...We cry with each other when things seem hopeless. All the loving things that you do with each other...that's what we do. And for that, we are called misfits, and deviants...and criminals.

What right do you have to punish us? What right do you have to change us? What makes you think you can dictate how people love each other?
I think this episode would have been much more profound had they not had Riker fall in love with Soren - and if Soren had not responded to the treatment in the end. Rather, how much more powerful would it have been if Soren had lost her position and standing in society, and becomes an outcast - as the enterprise departs, powerless to do anything to help lest they violate the prime directive.

A new Startrek movie coming May 8th. It looks promising; but, I hope they are able to return to the original vision of Startrek. If they simply try to mimic Star Wars - then they will fail.

btw, here is a site that contains non-explicit, (G to PG-13) stories, poetry, and art depicting a gay Startrek universe.

Some people have way too much time on their hands ...


Sean said...

That sounds like an interesting episode. The real question, Abelard, is how you found that website with Kirk and Spock?!?!? ;)

Philip said...

I remember that Star Trek for years was criticized for not addressing homophobia like they did racism and sexism then Star Trek came out with this episode as a response to that criticism and was then criticized for not going far enough.

Wasn't the episode about a genderless society that oppressed those that deviated by not only identifying with a male or female gender but also for having opposite sex atrractions? In other words, the deviates were heterosexual?

I remember finding this episode lame because of this twist and then it never really explained how a genderless society worked. In other words, how the family unit worked. No children were ever seen or mentioned or families talked about.

Whoopi Goldman after landing a serious role in Star Trek was quoted as saying something like "It's nice to know there are black people in the future." After watching this episode, I felt dissatisfied and wished Star Trek would have done the same for gay/bi people.

But hey they dealt with a lot of other topics in a strong way.


Philip said...

Meant Whoppi Goldberg...not Goldman.

Abelard Enigma said...

how you found that website with Kirk and Spock?!?!?

That, my friend, will go with me to the grave :)

Wasn't the episode [where] the deviates were heterosexual?

Yes, that's the one. I expect the writers probably wanted to do a better job, but the network brass likely got cold feet - so they had to water it down. But, that was nearly 17 years ago (1992) - it would be interesting to see how a similar episode would come off today where GLBT characters are starting to become more common.

J G-W said...

I remember seeing this episode when it aired. At the time I was disappointed by the implication at the end of the episode that sexual orientation can easily be "fixed" (even though it was presented in the subversive framework of a society that proscribed heterosexuality).

Now I like that episode a bit better than I did back then. It becomes an interesting exploration of the question of how much power and control a society should have over its members; to what extent should individuals have the right to deviate.

All the same, I'm still disappointed that Star Trek never did manage to have regular, openly gay characters in the crew...

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Anonymous said...

awesome i googled my first name and i was delighted to see homoerotic drawings of kirk and spock. made my day really.