Star Trek: Discovery
Air date: 12/16/2021
Written by Kyle Jarrow
Directed by Lee Rose
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"The Examples" continues the recent trend of Discovery success through straightforwardness, telling relatively crisp and effective stories in a very conventionally Trekkian way. Again, we're not breaking the mold or exhibiting excellence here so much as executing relatively well upon past conventions, and finding interesting details in the margins.
In the main story, we have the DMA threatening a non-Federation colony, so Discovery jumps in to evacuate the colonists. Among those needing to be rescued are the half-dozen or so inmates of a prison, which the colony leader calls "the examples," interned to serve as a crime deterrent. The colony leader thinks they should simply be left to die if the DMA rips apart the colony, but of course Burnham isn't having that. She leads a mission to get into the facility (no easy task because of perimeter force-fields and explosive robotic devices, etc.) and rescue the prisoners.
Upon encountering the prisoners, we learn their crimes were, for the most part, trivial infractions, which recontextualizes their long sentences and label of "examples" as those of the unjustly condemned. The prisoners don't particularly have a desire to be rescued only to be turned back over to the colony officials to be re-imprisoned, so Burnham works out an agreement that basically translates to their asylum request. Given the fact the colony's rescue is a Federation undertaking, she has some leverage to make the deal. One of prisoners, Felix (Michael Greyeyes), actually did commit a serious crime — murder during a botched robbery of a man who showed him kindness — which he deeply regrets, and wants to repent by not only helping the others negotiate their freedom, but by staying behind and suffering whatever fate the DMA may have for him. Burnham believes Felix should be able to have that choice, although Booker believes leaving him to die is wrong. There's some tension here.
The serviceable prison plot runs in tandem with a more intriguing plot aboard Discovery where Stamets continues to try to crack the mystery of the DMA. He has assistance from a Risian scientist named Tarka, played by Shawn Doyle as an arrogant uber-genius who knows he's the smartest guy in the room. These two together prove interesting and, ultimately, dangerous. They want to duplicate the DMA on a micro scale to learn more about it, using some brilliant experimental theory Tarka has developed. I have no idea how Tarka can duplicate a phenomenon that still remains an utter mystery, but it's played here reasonably enough as a Trekkian technobabble drama, with the quest for scientific discovery working to stave off the threat of the DMA's long-term destructive potential. Saru plays a key part here as the sane and competent leader who stops the crazy science guys from blowing up the ship in the process of conducting their wild experiments. This is entertaining and feels informative, even if it's mostly smoke and mirrors.
"He's fleeing the interview!":
- The revelation at the beginning of the episode that the DMA must clearly have been intentionally created was way too hastily arrived at and felt like a corner-cutting jump to a conclusion not adequately earned. Wouldn't it have been both more credible and a better dramatic construction to have Stamets and Tarka somehow reach that conclusion in the course of their experiment?
- The idea of Felix being genuinely remorseful and tasking Burnham with returning the orb containing his victim's family tree to the victim's survivors is a nice idea that plays pretty well. It's hopeful and non-cynical, and perhaps pays off in a way that's overly neat and tidy, but I can get on board with that.
- Tarka is a breath of fresh air on this series because he's got some rough edges. As much as Georgiou grated on the nerves last season with her one-note asshattery, the thing this series lost when she left was a character who would voice some sort of skepticism or cynical selfishness amid all the earnest Starfleet teamwork.
- The final scene between Booker and Tarka is intriguing with some hints of ominousness. Book isn't happy with how things went down on the colony prison, or with his life in general right now (what with the loss of his family and planet), and Tarka believes this anger might be useful in some way.
- Tig Notaro makes her first appearance of the season here as Reno, doing her Reno thing. It's a welcome appearance, although I admit I don't understand the rhyme or reason for the appearance or absence of the main and supporting cast members on this show from week to week, or how they've decided who belongs in the opening credits.
- I don't know what exactly Kovich's role is at Starfleet (his role on the show appears to be "presumed mensch who will tell the truths you need to hear"), but he's an enjoyable character as played by David Cronenberg in all his mysterious iterations. Here he talks doctor/counselor Culber through his own emotional crisis (having died and come back to life and wondering why he was provided this rare opportunity) with a no-nonsense approach that's, again, intriguing. (There are a number of intriguing things going on between the lines of this episode's fairly standard plotting.)
- The ship's self-aware AI, Zora, informs Burnham that she's recently begun developing emotions. Are they finally going to deal more explicitly with the consequences of the sphere data merged with the computer?
Previous episode: All Is Possible
Next episode: Stormy Weather
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122 comments on this post
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 2:38am (UTC -5)
. . .
No contact with the Q for 600 years? Interesting. Well, that they let Starfleet know about, anyway.
Admit it, it would be kind of fun to have de Lancie show up and torture Burnham.
You know, I’m a pretty huge Voyager fan, but even I said “Who the f-ck?” when Vance name-dropped the Nacine as a possible responsible party for the DMA.
The Iconian survivors!!! That’s probably just a throwaway line, but it would be cool if they did something with that.
. . .
So we got a few of the recurring cast this episode, but not all of them. No Detmer, no Owo, no Bryce. We got Linus, Nilsson, Christopher (johnny-come-lately), and of course, Rhys. We got Reno, but we know those were scenes Tig Notaro filmed later and that were inserted into this episode (Canada quarantine regs).
So, budget cuts? Maybe? Then again, COVID increases the costs of a production, too. Zone A, zone B, etc. Might be the same amount of dollars, but they aren’t going as far as they used to.
. . .
There’s at least a chance Discovery is responsible for this anomaly, yes? That it’s a byproduct of their trip to the future? Is alternate, galaxy-destroying Control not as dead as it’s supposed to be? The show probably won’t go there, but it’d certainly be a sobering, effective slap in the face for a ship running around thinking it’s saved the entire galaxy and is the pride of the Federation now.
Still. Probably too dark. Kwejian did get entirely murdered, after all.
. . .
The prison plot because “Burnham needs to shoot something with a phaser this episode” was dumb on the face of it, and yet it wasn’t half bad once you look past how stupid the setup for it was. Still . . . we’d easily forgive it that if it was Kirk and this was a TOS episode.
. . .
Thought for sure that if anybody outside the Federation would be helping Stamets it would be Osira’s guy from last season’s finale. Whatever’s up with the thing on his neck, I didn’t catch that.
. . .
Book and Culber's arcs continue to be strong.
. . .
Did anyone miss Tilly or Adira/Gray this episode? I didn't.
. . .
Good episode. Maybe a bit of a spin-the-wheels episode on the whole, but it really didn't feel like it. Hid it well.
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 5:47am (UTC -5)
Season 4 episode 5
“You may not like me, but I love me.”
- Tarka, a.k.a., Undersecretary Errinwright from The Expanse!!!
2 1/2 stars (out of 4)
A perfectly competent episode, with all the story elements of a 3 or even 3 1/2 star hour, but the editing and lighting and score leave a lot to be desired.
All the non-regular characters were a treat. David Cronenberg has a very important session with Dr. Culber. Tig Notaro’s deadpan humor (“are you talking to yourself again, or are you looking for a response”) is especially welcome during the don’t-fuck-this-up science scenes. We got a scene with the always-welcome Admiral Vance. And oh, did I mention how awesome it was to have Shawn Doyle as a guest star - mad scientist Tarka!
With so much good, why the mediocre results? The truth is, the episode just dragged at several points during the prison break. Instead of 51 minutes, they could have easily left it at the more traditional 42 minutes, and been much better off for their efforts. Last week they hired an Academy award winner to direct. This week they didn’t. I guess they blew their budget on all those awesome guest actors?
Let me start with two mini stories that really worked well.
First mini story was Lt. Cmdr. Rhys, who totally stepped up this week to lead the evacuation mission. Again the episode leans on the reboot movies, as it has all season, with this particular beat reminding me a bit of Sulu volunteering because he had hand to hand combat experience (fencing - LOL). Rhys lived through a hurricane as a kid, and that disaster led him to Starfleet, and to this point in time when he can make a difference in these peoples' lives. Anyone who lived in NYC on 9/11, or was in Asia for the 2005 Tsunami, or Japan during the Fukushima meltdown, will tell you how such events can completely change your view on life. Nice to see that someone used that pain to make something good and beneficial out of his life.
Second nice mini story was Stamets and Culber. No wonder Culber is such a good shrink - with a partner like Stamets, he’d have to have the patience of Job! Their relationship was done fairly well in Season 1 (remember them brushing their teeth in “Choose Your Pain”? As @Jammer said at the time "I thought this was perfectly executed in its low-key, matter-of-fact way: Just two guys brushing their teeth, completely devoid of exposition.”). They’ve had their ups and downs since. If I learned anything from Angel, it is that being dead can be hell on relationships. So their two scenes together this week really were the right forum for them to express the various frustrations they are experiencing, and to get a little perspective. Culber has the key line, “Look at us, we’ve jumped a thousand years into the future, we helped solve the burn, and we can’t figure our own shit out.”
Ain’t that the truth.
Which brings us to the A/B/C stories of the week, and sadly, it is Michael’s B story that really drags us down.
The prison break background score is horrendous. So, so bad. The SFX are laughable. The dialogue is pathetic (“shit, they read my bio-signiture”). And from the moment it was just her and Book, it was absolutely clear that SMG simply cannot carry a scene.
I realize that they were trying to bring back some of the buddy-buddy camaraderie from the start of Season 3 ("That Hope Is You, Part 1”), but of course that too was only a 2 1/2 star episode, and this B story wasn’t nearly as good. Take the metallic insect mines. Burhnam doing some techno-BS to disable them is boring. Burhnam doing the same techno-BS a second time a few minutes later is excruciating. Cut out both techno-BS scenes and it would do wonders to improve this episode. Cut out Michael’s entire prison break/family tree story from this episode and I don’t doubt the hour would have been 3 stars easy.
In the prisoners' story, they were trying too hard to tie the murderer and Book emotionally together (one’s planet was destroyed, this guy’s colony is going to be). I can see the writers thought process: Book lost his world, and the prisoner is Native American and they lost their land - see they are the same! Or some shit like that. The end result is that they missed what could have been a real keystone for the series. Hello people, Michael used to be a prisoner because she was one of the Federation’s worst criminals. And hello people, she did not serve her sentence in jail, thanks to Lorca.
So Michael had every reason to empathize with this criminal when he said he just wanted to serve out his sentence or die here on the planet. After all, when Lorca brought Michael onboard Discovery, all she wanted to do was stay confined to her quarters.
But no. At the end of "The Examples” the murderer gives a long boring speech. It could have been an awesome speech - like Vance’s Orchestra Speech a few weeks ago - one more veiled lesson for Michael that she should have done things differently, and stayed in fucking jail, and saved us all the misery of seeing her on Discovery these last four seasons. But alas it was not. It was zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..
A genuinely enjoyable part of the episode was the A story, with Stamet and Tig and Tarka. Unlike the prison break, the SFX here were very cool and integral to the story - right from the opening shot of the DMA and the USS Janeway - all the way through the displays in Engineering. But they don’t lean entirely on SFX. The mashed potatoes were awesome :-)
Tarka has a ton of fun lines in the episode (“so much to admire… and improve upon”). And he and Saru get into a fun shouting match. Tig’s line hilariously sums up this thread, “That is the closest you’ve come to killing us all, and that is really saying something.” Tarka also seems to have a fascinating back story (he’s from Risa?!), and maybe some really dangerous insight into the DMA. There was a palpable edge to his scene with Book. Book wouldn’t shake his hand, but he didn’t mind drinking his booze. I hope they bring Tarka back from time to time. Shawn Doyle was a fantastic foil for Avasarala in The Expanse, and gosh darn it, I actually like his character on Discovery even more!
The C story was Culber working through what @Jammer last week described as, "Culber has something, all right, but he's not sharing.” As mentioned already, all three scenes - two with Stamets, one with David Cronenberg - were most welcome.
With so much good going on here, it is a shame that the episode isn’t able to rise above 2 1/2 stars. The fault lies not in our selves, but in our star, SMG. She drags down every scene she’s in.
SMG has resting constipated face.
That’s a shame. Kirk, Picard, Sisko - all three elevated by their mere presence. Even Janeway wasn’t terrible. Archer was the first lack-luster captain. And even Archer downright sparkles when compared to SMG. She’s like T’Pol on Prozac. In this episode, whenever poor Anthony Rapp has lines right after SMG, you can actually see him trying to downplay those lines so they don’t come across as insanely more charismatic than SMG’s.
Maybe they should just fire Michael? Suru can be Captain, and this show would take a quantum leap in quality. But then, hasn’t that always been true?
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 7:56am (UTC -5)
Unfortunately, the story of the prisoners lacked depth. The story could have further explored the concept of justice, but either the writer was not interested in doing so or the serialized nature of the show did not allow for as much. I wouldn't consider Voyager's 'Repentance' a great episode, but it certainly offered a far more thoughtful examination of justice systems.
The other story was engaging but generally unremarkable, save a few quips from Reno and Tarka. The episode hinted that Tarka may in fact be the one behind the anomaly, but that could simply have been a redirect. Time will tell.
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 7:58am (UTC -5)
Starting with the A plot - Burnham and Book trying to save the five prisoners left to die on the asteroid - I really appreciated that while there were a number of smaller challenges they solved easily - like the robot bugs, and the force fields - there was one challenge they couldn't face down, which was saving a single man who didn't want to be saved. This actually harkened back to the first episode of the season, when President Rillak explicitly told Burnham that part of command was accepting there were some losses that were unavoidable. Michael Greyeyes (who I wasn't really aware of before as an actor) absolutely sells the character of Felix, giving the required pathos to someone who otherwise may have been a bit of a stock character. About the only thing I didn't like here was Booker believing that Felix had to be saved against his will. Trauma or no, it didn't really feel true to his character, as Book seems like the kind of man who would understand when someone wants to die on their own terms.
The B plot involving the investigation of the DMA made me initially nervous, because it seemed like they were again leaning into the whole "Stamets is a thin-skinned, insecure wreck barely in control of his emotions" but it surprised me in a very pleasant way. I knew from seeing him on The Expanse Shawn Dolye would be great, but he exceeded my expectations as Ruon Tarka: larger than life without becoming the butt of a joke, and a great foil in this episode. I liked the sudden pivot away from Stamets' insecurity regarding Tarka to the two of them "allying" in a way against Saru. And I loved that ultimately they failed - that no pat answer was offered at the end of the episode.
That brings us to the "C plot" which is basically about Culber facing down his continuing trauma he was in denial about. I have to say that I found his scene with Kovich a little too writerly and unnatural, particularly when he just guessed Culber's internal mental state perfectly. However, the scenes between Culber and Stamets were fantastic - the only time since Season 1 they've actually felt like a real couple who know all of each others warts.
In terms of minor notes, it is a shame that we didn't see some of the bridge regulars here, but my understanding is COVID protocols limited how many people could be on stage at any one time. Reno's scenes are very obviously just pasted in later, which kind of hurts the flow of the episode. It's no surprise to not see Tilly, but I was surprised to not see Adira or Gray at all - though I'm quite happy with them leaving out a character if they don't really have a story purpose.
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 11:17am (UTC -5)
The main reason being the guest and recurring characters' performances and the writers adding layers to their roles. Kovich, Book, Felix, Jett, Tarka, Admiral Vance all play meaningful roles in their respective scenes and each storyline ends up requiring more than just a black-n-white resolution, and not all get resolved in a pristine manner, or resolved at all. Good sci-fi stuff with Stamets and Tarka, Culber is more and more awesome, I loved Saru making the final call on the experiment to the dismay of Tarka and Stamets, Burnham smacking the Magistrate with her go-to-hell curt talk, as well as Admiral Vance putting Stamets in his place with a deadly glance at the end of the meeting in the headquarters.
"The Examples" shows (again) that the idea of holding bottle storylines while advancing the overall arc is very doable.
3.5 stars for me. Discovery headed in the right direction so far this season.
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 11:57am (UTC -5)
Of course, this being DISCO it couldn't end without Burnham dressing down the authority figure and reminding him he's nothing. I guess respect for other cultures ends when their colonies do? It tracks with Burnham's holier-than-thou'ing.
Ruon Tarka is yet another in a long line of snarky, antisocial know it alls :-) Tarka, Stamets and Reno in the same room would have me hollering like Saru as well. If you're this smart, you should see the value of social skills. Just ask Zora, she has feelings now (remember that Short Trek? Oh boy, we're headed there).
Speaking of Tarka... What was the deal with his simulation almost destroying Discovery? Back in the TNG era holodecks could simulate entire planets and exploding starships if need be. Now it can't feed power through a fictional thingamagig?
No Adira. No Gray. And it didn't slow the episode down one bit. No Tilly either. The show works either way.
So far Rhys has had less lines in four seasons than ensign Harry Kim in the average Voyager episode yet he's a commander already? Wow. Poor, dumb Harry.
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 12:33pm (UTC -5)
Seems a bit unlikely, but we also have to remember this is a greatly diminished Starfleet in need of more senior personnel. Discovery's crew have all been to the real, actual Starfleet Academy, even if it was a long time in the past, and were part of Starfleet when it was at its best. They're what Starfleet wants to be getting back to. It makes a certain kind of sense . . . but then, all the characters just stayed on Discovery rather than filtering out into the fleet and taking that experience with them, so . . .
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 12:58pm (UTC -5)
But Michael went further, basically rubbing in his face that he and his people were now stateless refugees, and he was totally powerless. It felt like gloating/punching down, and I couldn't believe what I was watching. I mean, sure the imprisonment of the "examples" was morally wrong by our (and Federation) standards, but the station commander was a product of that culture, not some petty villain that needed to be taken down a peg.
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 2:46pm (UTC -5)
Burnham taking on authority figures or reading them the riot act has been part of the character since season 1 (remember how she phasered Georgiou when she wouldn't go along with opening fire on the Klingons... *sighs*).
Most recently she reminded the Federation president of how brilliant and capable she is. It's part of her *cough* charm. Still, I gotta agree with you that this truly felt like Michael punching down. She was rubbing the magistrate's nose in his misfortune. Uncalled for, especially in her position and with her Vulcan upbringing. It's not logical.
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 3:00pm (UTC -5)
Tarka is responsible, or links with someone who does.
Yep, very similar to Repentance on Voyager
USS Janeway lol
Rhys took the lead, good...
I really liked Culber's plot/story.
The prisoners stories could have been expanded upon more...
The Q continuum not in contact for 600 years?? What?
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 3:21pm (UTC -5)
The thing on the back of Tarka's neck...is that maybe an entry hole for the alien parasites from ST:TNG season 1 "Conspiracy"? We never did hear from them again. Did they create the DMA?
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 3:31pm (UTC -5)
I concur. It came off disparaging and dismissive rather than an admonition to do better in starting over. Plus Starfleet would consider the colony to be its people, not the ground it's on. Its people are below decks. The colony isn't gone. He's still their magistrate. Starfleet would still recognize his legitimacy and authority to speak for a society that still exists.
That kind of admonition at the end of an episode is something Kirk would do at the end of a TOS episode, or Picard. Sometimes Janeway. It wasn't out of place, it was just wrong in execution. The thing is, when you think about it, it was probably only off by a few words. But those few words were enough to skew the tone and the message.
Kirk, Picard, and Janeway would have tried to inspire. Burnham tried to shame. It came off mean.
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 8:08pm (UTC -5)
Take the ur Trek refugee episode, DS9’s “Sanctuary.” Yes the Skrreeans are somewhat unreasonable to insist on settling on Bajor after the Federation finds them a lovely planet all their own. But can you imagine Sisko saying the Skrreean leader what Michael did:
“I need to remind you that wherever you find a new home, you’ll be arriving as a refugee, seeking shelter and grace. I hope you find a more just society than the one you had a hand in creating. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a ship to command.”
I mean no one had any particular affinity to the Skrreean society, but I cannot imagine Sisko rubbing that in the noses of those poor people!
Picard did get a kick out of screwing over the leaders of annoying societies from time to time. Remember how he left James Cromwell twisting in the wind surrounded by soldiers at the end of “High Ground.”! Hilarious! Of course James Cromwell was on his own planet dealing with his own issues, which he himself had insisted were internal matters. They were not refugees stuck on Picard’s ship with no where to go.
Same with “Symbiosis”, Picard refuses to give the drug dealers the engines as they are leaving his ship.
But that’s the thing, he waits till they are leaving his ship. All the while they are on his ship, Picard is nothing but courteous. Fuck, even in refusing to let them have the engines, Picard is unfailingly courteous,
T'JON: And Captain, we appreciate your gift of the coils.
ROMAS: Once our freighters are fixed, everything'll be back to normal.
PICARD: The coils stay here.
ROMAS: What about our freighters?
PICARD: You want to repair them, you'll have to learn to do it yourselves.
T'JON: We can't.
ROMAS: If you don't help us, our ships will soon be inoperable.
PICARD: Quite possibly.
SOBI: If you withhold those coils, you'll be disrupting the stability of both our planets.
LANGOR: And interfering with a trade arrangement that has lasted for generations! What of your Prime Directive?
PICARD: In this situation, Prime Directive prohibits me from helping you.
SOBI: That's absurd!
PICARD: You did not think so when it worked in your favour.
ROMAS: Do you want our world to suffer?
PICARD: Oh no, I don't want that.
T'JON: Without the freighters, there will be no more shipments of felicium. We will die.
CRUSHER: You must trust yourselves. There are other options.
PICARD: Ensign, prepare to beam our guests and their cargo down to Ornara.
T'JON: Captain, I hope you realise what you've done to us.
PICARD: Of that you can be sure. Good luck.
These are drug dealers, and Picard treats them with more respect than Michael can muster for the Magistrate of a set of refugees who have just seen their home destroyed by the fucking DMA!
Discovery this Season seems to harp on understanding everyone’s emotions, to the point where it becomes ridiculous - like having a long therapy session in the middle of phaser fight. But not one word here that maybe - MAYBE - a guy who just saw his entire home obliterated, and just barely saw his people evacuated in the nick of time, and who is now facing life as a refugee with nothing to call his own, might, oh I don’t know, cling to whatever rules and rituals he can - anything that might make him feel like maybe not everything he knows is completely lost?
So I 100% agree with @Norvo, who says, "I gotta agree with you that this truly felt like Michael punching down. She was rubbing the magistrate's nose in his misfortune.”
There is an old wisdom, don’t kick a man when he’s down.
There were times when I’m sure Picard wanted to punch the refugees on his ship (“Up the Long Ladder”), or when a society’s desperate gambit for peace offended his sense of morality (“The Perfect Mate”). But in the end Picard, Sisko, Kirk, always did their best to treat guests who were on their ships in desperate time of need, with all the respect they could muster. The closest Kirk got to such behavior was with the Dohlman of Elas, “the thing most feared and hated by my people.” If you can’t tell the difference between an autocratic leader from a world’s aristocracy, versus a magistrate of a couple thousand people of a colony destroyed a few minutes ago, well then, you don’t have the judgment to sit in the big Chair.
It’s not what she said. It was how she said it.
Michael’s actions were once again conduct unbecoming a Starfleet captain.
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 8:31pm (UTC -5)
Just watched Picard stick it to Cromwell in "The Hunted." Cromwell got his. Deservedly so.
Enjoy reading your detailed, perceptive reviews.
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 9:15pm (UTC -5)
People are calling this dude a magistrate. The Emerald Chain just collapsed last season. The Emerald Chain is a mafia syndicate posing as a legitimate organization. They're like the Lucian Alliance in Stargate SG-1. The power vacuum after the Burn gave them the opportunity to forcibly establish their territories. It's highly unlikely that someone legitimate moved into power that quickly on that asteroid colony.
Most likely he is an Emerald Chain leftover who came into power in the new vacuum left by the collapse. This is doubly likely considering that prison has been open for at least 30 years under Emerald Chain rule and he is continuing their policies. Anyone continuing the persecution of a crime syndicate might as well be a part of that crime syndicate whether it still exists or not. Calling a cockroach a magistrate doesn't magically mean that cockroach is deserving of respect whatsoever.
What are you people smoking?
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 10:46pm (UTC -5)
I was thrilled to see Rhys step up for the rescue mission, but then we never actually saw him - a missed opportunity. They could have taken a couple of minutes away from the dragged-out prison plot ending to show Rhys's mission a little more. I was also delighted to have Zora come to the fore a little more, and thought that was well handled. A lot of other positives, too: Tarka in general, coming on all arrogant and setting off Stamets' insecurity, but then they worked together well. Tarka's pushing of Saru to the ROAR! was great fun. The Culber-Kovich scene was fantastic; unlike Karl Zimmerman, I didn't think it was too writerly, and I didn't see it as mindreading at all. Kovich's assumptions were entirely reasonable for someone with the trauma that Culber has had.
Now, the poorly handled prison plot. I was fine with it until Felix started resisting rescue. I couldn't really believe that, although I respect that it does ring true for other people. But either way, it was overplayed, and to have him just standing there facing the camera for what seemed like endless minutes was, in my humble opinion, poor directing. The followup scene with Burnham passing on the globe fell flat. And then, yeah, her lecture to the Magistrate was unprofessional, but of course that's what she is, isn't she?
Someone else said they didn't believe Book would try to force Felix to leave the planet, but I do believe that. He is still very much in PTSD/survivor guilt mode. I like that the writers haven't let him suddenly get all better like they did with Detmer.
Overall I thought this was good, elevated by some good acting and without too much distracting SFX.
Did anybody recognize the tattoo/scar on Tarka's neck?
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 10:49pm (UTC -5)
The problem solving aspect and pushing the ship's power usage to the limit, Reno and her snark, Saru making a command decision -- this was the best part of the episode. It felt like it made sense, certainly within the Trek paradigm.
Burnham and Book and the prison rescue wasn't anything noteworthy but the one prisoner who stayed back as part of his penance was well acted. But again this didn't feel like anything particularly original and it was hard to care too much about it since these "Examples" don't have much history/meaning for us. Maybe a bit trite with Burnham returning the orb to the lady -- of course she would do this in some kind of feel-good moment.
So the DMA is created by some species -- I liked how they theorized that it could have been the Metrons ("Arena") or the Q. This triggers Culber who has his crisis of confidence -- good scene with Cronenberg's character in dissecting his savior complex. Culber has been trying to do too much and it's about time he needs help.
In general, I liked the parallels between the characters: Stamets sees the singular focus of Tarka in Culber. But also the final scene with Book and Tarka who had a great line - something to do with anger being a productive emotion. I think there was more going on here with little being said -- I don't think I fully grasped all of it.
3 stars for "The Examples" -- this is good DSC and making the DMA not a natural phenomena piqued my interest. Tarka is an excellent character and how he shook up Stamets/Saru was appreciated. I did not miss Tilly. Good character moments with some credible Trek-style problem solving and piquing one's curiosity is a reliable recipe for a pretty good episode.
Thu, Dec 16, 2021, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
The Akaali have been victims of more advanced alien races since at least all the way back to Enterprise (“Civilization”). Last year they finally got free of their latest oppressors, the Orion Emerald Chain, after god knows how long. And yet through all that they managed to keep their culture (Magistrate: “Thank Draylan you’re here”).
The murderer had been in jail for decades. You’re saying that 6 prisoners for a population of thousands is excessive (Magistrate: “Six offenders chosen to demonstrate the costs of misbehavior”)? Well that’s just like your opinion, and not a very well informed one at that. If you think back to TNG’s “Justice”, the same punishment for any violation isn’t exactly a foreign concept to the Trek verse. And in “Justice" the punishment was death.
All the Magistrate was demanding was that the prisoners be confined for the duration of the journey. That is not unreasonable. The regulations that Michael quoted were fairly logical,
“OK I found something. I searched Starfleet general orders and regulations. Protocol allows a Captain to grant Political Asylum in extreme circumstances. That would bring you under Federation law. Your case would go under immediate review and your sentencing would likely be commuted.”
All 6 were admitted criminals. No one thought the Federation would suddenly find them innocent of their crimes. The only thing Michael promises is that their sentencing would likely be commuted after a Federation review.
But until their sentences are commuted, it is not unreasonable that they be confined, if only to quarters, some other holding area, or the brig, or at least kept in some other part of the ship, pending that review.
That’s what the Magistrate asks for, “We will not share space with them.” It is not unreasonable given that 1,200 people are cramped onto Discovery at the moment, to keep these criminals separate from the victims of their crimes.
I noticed Michael never told the woman where she got that family tree orb from,
“How did you -“
“- Helping someone keep a promise.”
Yeah, the “someone" who killed your dad. Your dad who was a good man, who gave a stranger shelter and a meal, and that stranger killed him in his sleep, when you were a little girl in the other room. And then he robbed you. Somehow Michael forgot to mention all that.
I’m guessing Michael didn’t want to be yelled at by the woman for letting her father’s murderer go free rather than being brought aboard and thrown in the brig to continue to serve out his well-deserved sentence. She might have even demanded that at least the other prisoners be kept away from her and her people - if Michael had any decency at all. That would have been damned inconvenient for the emotional mood (@Rahul calls it a “feel-good moment”) the show was trying to create.
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 8:58am (UTC -5)
I also felt it was jarring, totally unprofessional for how a captain should act. But we should also keep in mind the woke ethos of DSC. Here you have a black woman humiliating a white man. That's like one of the tenets of DSC. This episode did a whole lot very well, but DSC is DSC. You have to take the bad with the good -- fortunately, there wasn't too much bad in this episode, but this was the worst of it by far.
Oh, also, forgot to mention in my initial comment -- no Adira ad Gray! Woohoo! Another subplot that wasn't around to derail this episode. The simpler an episode is (structurally speaking) the better. Too many subplots is not good.
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 12:37pm (UTC -5)
I thought the exact same thing!!
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 2:08pm (UTC -5)
My main issue is that there was no story I particularly liked either. The story was set-up as a potentially interesting "criminal justice system" episode, like TNG and BSG have done several times, and I was awaiting for some theme or payoff to come through. Yet there was nothing: all prisoners say the truth about being unjustly imprisoned by a society we have never truly seen (I assume Burnham has that information on her pad and she doesn't just take them at face value).
Usually, in these stories, either the prisoners are truly guilty of heinous crimes and the moral dilemma lies in the fact that they are still unjustly treated by an evil society with which we can't interfere, or it is the opposite and the prisoners don't deserve their punishment, yet the society has achieved some greater good through their imprisonment. If both the imprisonment is unjust and the society is evil, then where is the tension? And then the only guilty person to which some tension could apply decided to die to pay for his sins, so nothing there either. I guess it could have been an interesting character story if we had spent time getting to know the man and seen both his capacity for good and evil, so we could feel something when he chooses to end his life. Yet we also don't get any of that.
As a plot, I didn't hate it. But it was also meaningless: There were no coherent themes and the potential character moments are all told to the audience expositionally, rather than shown. I don't know, maybe if this was Season 1 I'd be hopeful that this has the potential for improvement. Right now, I just fear this is as much as we can get.
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 2:26pm (UTC -5)
Yes, this is exactly the problem with the writing, pretty much all the time. It's written for teenagers, really.
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 4:47pm (UTC -5)
The makers of this show have made no secret of the fact that Burnham is indeed the center of Discovery's universe. The character's experiences reflect that. So her arrogance and high mindedness are completely understandable. If your experience in life involved your every decision (no matter how impulsive) turning out ok and you always solve The Big Universe Wide Mystery (tm) you'd be an insufferable ass too. Unfortunately, that's how the character has been written.
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 6:57pm (UTC -5)
I wonder why it's so hard to write a main character who has to earn their keep these days? Bilbo at least had to learn to steal stuff cuz Gandalf told everybody he was a burglar and he was freaking the f out the whole darn time.
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 7:11pm (UTC -5)
Doesn't seem comparable to Saint Burnham and Discovery.
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 7:35pm (UTC -5)
Most people seem to have a problem with Michael's dressing down of the Magistrate. The guy barged into the bride in an abrasive manner and the first words out of his mouth is "I demand...." in a confrontational tone with regard to the prisoners whose lives he had made clear earlier he cares nothing about. I thought Michael was well within her rights to say what she did, she was patient the first time around but after the last-second evacuation of the people on the planet and the planet's destruction, if the Magistrate's main worry is the non-well-being of the prisoners, he deserved every bit of it. Michael didn't even go out of control. I really thought nothing of it at the time and still don't but I thought I'd comment on it since some have.
The dialogue between Culber and Kovich was predictable but nicely delivered by Cronenberg. Overall, one of the best episodes of Discovery. I can also do without Tilly for a couple of more episodes, if it's not too much to ask.
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 8:08pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Dec 17, 2021, 9:52pm (UTC -5)
He's really a triple threat. A character that looks cool, is written well, and is acted superbly. Where is this plot thread taking me?
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 4:55am (UTC -5)
I think he was intended to be a 32nd century representative of Section 31, but the way they used 31 in the earlier seasons wasn't popular and maybe they changed their minds and saw 31 plots as baggage they could drop with the time jump. Especially once they mothballed the Ash Tyler-Georgiou Section 31 spinoff (mercifully). It's easy to see how the character might be a holdover from a different direction they were intending to go at one point.
Nevertheless, I like him. He's interesting. And for my money, I think it's pretty obvious he's a spook of some sort, whether the show ever elaborates on the exact nature of that or not.
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 8:58am (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 9:46am (UTC -5)
This show has way to many unintentionally funny scenes and eye-rolling moments. The Tarka/Saru yelling scene was so cringy, stupid, and random I got cold shivers; took me right out of the show. But I did like the Tarka character for the most part.
Another eye-roller: giving characters that had little screen time the entire series a sudden, random "backstory" ie: Rhys saved by the Federation from a hurricane. It just really feels like forced, out of place, unnatural character development just to appease the fans who are asking for more from the bridge crew. The writers have done this many times before, in particular with Detmer in Season 3 when they were risking their lives to save Discovery. I can't remember the exact words but it was something like "I did this in the past" and Owo says "wow I didn't know that". 🙄🙄 lol so cheesy and super lazy writing. I find the writers do a lot of telling and not a lot showing when it comes these minor characters; makes it very unnatural and out of place, which I guess is partly due to short seralized seasons. Rhys taking command to help evacuate the refugees: "I can tell this is important to you". "It is". Then show us goddamn it! That would be interesting to see.
Sat, Dec 18, 2021, 1:34pm (UTC -5)
Tarka is working on the next generation spore drive and we now know the anomaly is man made and able to instantaneously teleport across the universe. Hmmmm?
It's clear Tarka knows far more about the anomaly than he's letting on. He's also trying to charm both Book and Stamets, the only two people able to operate the spore drive. That's probably no coincidence.
I'm also reminded of the Short Trek episode Calypso that has the Discovery abandoned in the heart of a nebula/anomaly. I wouldn't be surprised if this season ends with Burnham leaving Discovery inside the anomaly so it can use its spore drive to control it.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
Well,even if the scense with Vance isn't thrilling thea are well conducted.
Kovich's appearnce is enjoying.
But stop, these are these are just fillers. Somehow the substance is missing.
Burnham's solution of the prisoner problem was ok for me. But the plot itself and the acting was somehow "constructed". The legal situation and her way to find a compromise in the regulations was fine.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 4:22pm (UTC -5)
"Harry Potter is the exact same kind of character, though. People adore him, though, because he's... I dunno why people adore Harry Potter honestly. I have read all 7 of the main book series too, and ... honestly Harry doesn't do a whole lot by himself for most of it. He's just lifted up by the decisions of other people into this semi-Godlike status cuz he didn't die when Voldemort zappity'd him."
I don't understand.
You say (quite correctly) that Harry heavily relies on the efforts of his friends and mentors. You say this based on what's written in the books.
So how is this similar to the situation with Michael Burnham?
"I don't think JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter to be a one man savior character."
The funny thing is that Harry *is* - basically - written as a Christ figure. In the climax of the last book the analogy is pretty blatant.
Yet he still doesn't do everything himself. Rowling's tale is an ensemble piece, in which Harry's character plays a surprisingly (relatively) minor role. It's an excellent example, actually, of how to properly write a savior figure without sacrificing the story.
The writers of Discovery could have learned a thing or two from how Harry's character was written, when writing Burnham.
Sun, Dec 19, 2021, 4:24pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 8:00am (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 9:57am (UTC -5)
As for Rhys'...er..."contribution" to the episode, this is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about in my comment on the last episode: this show can't do the necessary narrative legwork needed to bring characters like Rhys, Bryce, Detmer or Owo truly to life.
It's a shame, but there are too many characters and not enough episodes to do them all justice.
Not to mention it doesn't make sense to have so many high-ranking officers on a bridge in an experience-starved future Starfleet.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 10:15am (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 10:27am (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 2:33pm (UTC -5)
Also I didn't understand the IMMEDIATE NEED to set up the simulation in engineering (is that where it was?) like RIGHT NOW with hardly any real safety protocols in place. You've got programmable matter and all this other crap available, and you're telling me you can't set up a mobile lab on an asteroid or moon or wherever they did that silly torpedo business in ST:ID? Taking the dangerous stuff OFF SHIP so, you know, you don't absolutely kill everyone - especially right in the middle of a damn refugee relocation event. It seems rather silly.
Also not for nothing but I find the whole Gray/Adira subplot to be terrible and I rejoice every time an episode leaves them off screen.
Michael Grayeyes was great in Fear the Walking Dead and it was cool to see him here as the prisoner, even if his character was poorly developed and weakly written. That expository monologue at the end was weak sauce.
I was fine with Michael dressing down the Magistrate, that felt appropriate and totally in character for her. Appropriate for a captain? Probably not, but it's very "her".
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 5:59pm (UTC -5)
Like most of the scenes that had no Burnam. Mysterious science guy is nice, his scene with book at the end was probably the first scene since forever that had my full attention and interest.
But the Burnam material and the whole "this is a show about our feelings" section is beyond repair for me. I hate the character, and I get constant eye roll from all of these scenes.
It's not like a have anything against this. The show I watched before this was "Anne with a E", arguably a show that is about nothing but strong female characters and feelings. I loved every second of it.
But this? They just can't do it. It's stiff. It's forced. It's cringe inducing. It's badly acted. And I am done with trying to blame the writers. SMG is just a bad actress. Like, really bad.
And before anyone pulls the race or gender card, I would be perfectly happy if she died in a tragic accident and pilot lady (whose name I still cannot remember, and half the bridge crew being off camera for budget reasons won't help) would take over.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 6:11pm (UTC -5)
It would seem both Discovery and Picard have taken that route and are willing to stake all upon that concept.
While it is true that TOS definitely did it's share allegory for it's time, they also included in my opinion the more fun concept of 'what if'.
Namely, what happens if this and that were possible? Star Trek at it's most creative has at times allowed us to 'test drive' technologies which may never exist as well as those it predicted correctly (mobile phones).
My point is that it seems that this new brand of Trek has lost sight of 'what if'.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 7:23pm (UTC -5)
To be fair I feel that TOS and even TNG existed in a much less cynical time where new technologies were appearing left and right, where tech was still viewed as having a capacity to make our lives better.
I do think that the capacity to innovate in tech has truly slowed down as many of the low hanging fruit have been plucked. There just isn't as much in the big ideas as there used to be and what there is now requires so much more work to achieve. So we get the next flavour of the month in social media or we get a nifty new app but when us the last time someone invented a microwave oven or a Walkman?
Additionally, to the extent that we do envision innovation, it is often as much as a threat or a societal problem (eg social media corrupting our kids, drone wars, climate change, robots taking our jobs...) as it is as something that will make the world better.
Shows like Discovery can't envision technological innovation partly because the writers are bankrupt (in imagination) but also because we generally have lost the capacity to see technology as anything but a threat.
Mon, Dec 20, 2021, 8:12pm (UTC -5)
"I do think that the capacity to innovate in tech has truly slowed down as many of the low hanging fruit have been plucked."
Innovations that happened during the last 20 years:
- flatscreens (I once had a 19 inch monitor. It weighed a ton)
- internet for the masses (were we even alive before?)
- skype and more (I can now call a person on the other side of the planet and it does not cost me a dime! How crazy is that!!)
- electric cars (in Germany the infrastructure for those is already pretty good)
- several robots on mars
- the ISS
- The RNA vaccines (This stuff will save billions of lives over the coming decades)
and so on.
And concerning your believe that times are much more cynical today. Do you know how the young generation in western Europe was called in the 1980s? No future generation (now called gen x). Cold war, poison rain, the ozone hole, Chernobyl. I'm pretty sure there was also quite a bit of cyncism in the mid 1970s in the USA. Let's not view the past with rose tinted glasses.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 4:15am (UTC -5)
"And why does he wear glasses?"
He once said it makes him more interesting.
You migt be right. He very much seem like a joker that should be used carefully and rarely. He is there to tease, to confuse and somtimes to explain.
To me his appearance and role has similarities to admiral Vance but with a quite bizarre approach.
I like both charactes. And Kovich's glasses are really cool.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 4:49am (UTC -5)
I don't agree with all of the conclusions of Dr. Schwartz but I do think truly revolutionary innovations on par with the birth control pill or television or the PC are going to be increasingly scarce as time goes on.
I look at a show like Discovery and what have they envisioned? Basically the same old tech as TOS but with holographic vomit everywhere instead of screens, and oh ya, magic mushroom spore drives. And you could say well ok they had an intellectual property and had to stay within its confines for a prequel.
But then they went into the 31st freaking century, as far beyond TNG and TOS as those eras are beyond us. And....? Well I have only followed the plots through these reviews but have they shown a single damned thing that's new, that you could actually envision a future society having as an everyday concept like a tricorder or a com badge?
And fine you can blame Discovery's writing. But to be fair could you have done better? I honestly don't know that I could have. Or to do better, I would have to delve into technologies that frankly would put us more into Black Mirror territory. Basically I would have to envision something like the Borg, except in a positive "Trekkian" way - and that ain't easy. I'm a product of my time. My generation grew up seeing technology, from TV to video games to nuclear energy, with equal parts hope and dread that they would ruin society / the planet. Social media has only upped the ante.
Watching TNG in the 80s as a kid might have been the last time scifi could show us something hopeful about the future and technology at least for me as a 40 something adult.
I don't think my perception is unique here.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 6:06am (UTC -5)
I read the article, I still disagree with the conclusion. The part about vaccines is pretty telling. He doesn't even talk about the RNA vaccines themselves but the rollout. The incredible innovation is the RNA vaccine. These vaccines are not only safer but also far more effective. The old flu vaccines barely achieved an immunization rate of 50%, often far less. It is a gigantic innovation. Corona is only still a thing because the nation states again show their inability to tackle global problems. As I said, these new vaccines will save billions of lives. But this engineer doesn't notice. He, because of his profession, only notices things that are made by engineers. Same with streaming, he doesn't even use the word. He just writes Netflix. I can now watch any movie ever made, at any time, at home. The thing is, most transformative technologies do not come from engineers anymore but from programmers. Then there is machine learning where stuff is happening that would explode most peoples brains. Did I mention 3D printers? Or wireless internet?
The text makes the argument that there will be less innovations but more improvement. I think that is just a certain way of seeing things. What is a microwave? It is an appliance that heats your food by exposing the food to a certain energy form. Is that fundamentally different from a hot plate? I would say no. Same is true for the washing machine and many other things.
But back to Discovery and TOS/TNG. Let's keep one thing in mind. The stuff TOS showed: Talking into a thing and another person hears it, a view screen, a scanner. These things were in sense already in existence at the time. The inventions that are still out there are replicators and transporters. What major invention did TNG come up with? Furthermore, most of stuff TOS showed already featured in sci fi that came before that show.
Now to Discovery. That show, as you said a while back, did not jump into the future to show us new tech but to get away from established Star Trek, to do it's own thing. It was essentially a do-over to start from an early stage of federation development. Building something up is always more interesting than maintaining something.
About the positive future. I think that is really more about what Max Weber called the "iron cage" of modern societies (he came up with it around 1900).
The problem is more about the fact that the fundamentals of western societies are not great. The rich become more powerful every year. Normal people are worth less and less and there is this believe that this is all inevitable or to quote an often used word by our former chancellor Merkel "Alternativlos". Sooner or later some kind of fundamental change will come. It always does and then artists will imagine a better world and most importantly normal people will believe that this better world is possible. To quote Spock:"History is replete with turning points,..."
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 6:55am (UTC -5)
But I digress.
I distinctly remember years ago reading about actual scientists who were inspired by Trek, both TOS and TNG, to not only go into science but also to invent new technologies like the cellphone (communicator) and VR (holodeck). Sure Trek was a bunch of fantastical nonsense too, but people watched those shows as kids and grew up to invent the very things they saw on screen claiming they got the idea from the show. That is a special thing.
That hasn't been true anymore for a long time. Something about the 60s and even the 80s made people open to a certain kind of message that Trek capitalized on - a message that really inspired people to see the future with positivity, to see technology as something that could change the world for the better.
It would be easy to blame Discovery for its shitty writing, but all I am saying is that I don't know that in 2021 anyone could really recapture the idea of Trek. Sure you could imagine a world where Mrna vaccines have cured disease but does it capture the imagination like a holodeck or a simple com badge? Not everything is engineering but engineering gives us tangible artifacts that we live with every day. I am not sure that the latest social media app or even a life saving vaccine has that visceral quality that fores the imagination quite the same way.
Whether or not you subscribe to the idea of the end of innovation that Schwartz does you have to concede that the world has moved on from Trek and my view is that it's not coming back, not with the best writing in the world.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 8:06am (UTC -5)
" a message that really inspired people to see the future with positivity"
Economic conditions for huge parts of society improved significantly in the USA. The last economic reform phase of which the majority of the US population benefited from were 1930s, since then all changes in the economic structure of the USA harmed the lower classes, with the considerable exception of mid 1960s.
It is my believe that TOS and TNG had a more positive spirit because the American Empire was still in ascend. It plateaued between 1990-2005 and since then it descends, exhibiting all the signs of a fading empire. While the groundwork for it's descend were laid between 1970-2000, these things only have become apparent around 2010. The USA, still being the leading cultural force, has filtered a lot of it's imperial malaise through it's media, including science fiction.
There are other reasons, of course, global risks like climate change, pandemics, pollution and a new even more formidable imperial opponent: China.
That is why the Expanse is more fitting for the times. Earth and Mars, the blue planet vs the red planet. Earth (essentially the USA) is incapable of solving it's own social problems. As long as that reality and the perception of that reality continues there will be no positive star trek.
"but also to invent new technologies like the cellphone (communicator) and VR (holodeck)"
Walkie talkies existed since the 1940s and VR is only recently becoming something the masses can use.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 9:33am (UTC -5)
"And fine you can blame Discovery's writing. But to be fair could you have done better? I honestly don't know that I could have. Or to do better, I would have to delve into technologies that frankly would put us more into Black Mirror territory. Basically I would have to envision something like the Borg, except in a positive 'Trekkian' way - and that ain't easy."
It's funny that you say "it can't be done" and then immediately proceed to give a compelling way of doing so.
Spinning Black Mirror style tech into an optimistic vision of the future is *exactly* the kind of thing that Star Trek should be doing. Yes! Show us a society where all this crazy tech is used for good rather than evil. Show us a society where progress is not being hailed for it's own sake, and technology is only a tool for the betterment of our lives.
Now you say this is difficult. But why should it be? The only difficulty I see here is getting used to the idea. We just need to let go of the crazy way our present society works, and start with a blank slate. Just like Roddenberry did in the 1960's when he imagined a world without racism, prejudice and povetry.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 9:40am (UTC -5)
I think this is what you are not getting. Shows about the future are so overwhelmingly dark because people believe that the future will be dark. If you would create a show were the future is positive then the audience will probably not accept it.
You recommended Anne with an E. I'm laughing and crying the entire time. Thanks for the tip!
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 9:55am (UTC -5)
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 10:02am (UTC -5)
"The audience" is not a monolithic entity.
There are plenty of people (including yours truly) who are sick and tired of all this grimdark stuff and long for a new positive vision of the future.
There's a reason why Classic Trek still has millions of fans, including a younger audience.
There's a reason why The Orville, despite its numerous flaws, amassed a fan club in the millions.
The claim that - somehow - there's no market for this kind of show is simply baseless.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 10:09am (UTC -5)
It's funny, because while the 60's had a certain glamor around futurism, notably seen in the Jetsons and in the Disney type parks, this futurism seems at least in part centered around what I would call household improvements: flying car, futuristic appliances, and so forth. That all of this happened during the threat of the A bomb didn't seem to register in terms of people being afraid of technology on an everyday level. But now that we have some of Trek's technology - viewscreens, PADD's, early version hyposprays, and even hypthetical models of the Alcubierre warp drive, we are currently experiencing technology as a threat more than a treat. I think this can largely be attributed to social media, and maybe to an extent to things like drone warfare and possibly bio research (hence the concern about the covid lab theory). So while I don't agree that people wouldn't accept an optimistic future, I think the current state of affairs is that the abilities granted to us by tech right now seem to make life more complicated and onerous, rather than freeing us up to do nice things. So to the extent that scifi might be seen as a projection of the present into the future, the 60's was an age of increasing ease whereas comparatively it seems that we're now in an age of increasing demands put on us, rather than ease. Productivity is up, but more productivity is required. It's not like using computers means we only need to work 15 hour weeks as 'full time'.
That said I don't think it should be that hard to write contemporary sci-fi that gives us new things in the future to look forward to. The only requisite is that the writer needs to be a bona fide sci-fi writer who is into that type of thinking. A hack Hollywood writer being tasked with a nominally sci-fi show isn't going to be able to write sci-fi any more than a sitcom writer tasked with writing for a mystery show is going to be able to concoct an Agatha Christy story.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 10:32am (UTC -5)
Sure, I'm sick of grimdark and hunger for heartwarming and/or positive content but that is still a long way from me believing a positive vision of the future. One also has to keep in mind that sci fi shows are very expensive to produce. That further decreases the willingness of a streaming service to risk trying something that goes completely against the times and while the Orville is more positive than DSC, I wouldn't call it a positive vision of the future.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 10:58am (UTC -5)
Star Trek has already told us that the 2020's are going to suck. TNG's utopia has risen from the ashes of some very ugly events in the 21st century, and I don't recall a single Trekkie who ever claimed that was "unrealistic".
So why do it now? Sure, it's more difficult - emotionally - to seperate the short-term and the long-term when we are actually living through this sh*t. But if you remember the way you felt about this storyline (say) 20 years ago, then you should realize that we have no reason what-so-ever to lose hope now.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 11:13am (UTC -5)
"while the Orville is more positive than DSC, I wouldn't call it a positive vision of the future."
I agree that the Orville is far from being an ideal example of the trope.
But it's still far more positive then what's happening in the real world (even before the 2020's madness started). If you told me humanity would look like that in 400 years, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.
Besides, do you seriously think that the Orville would have been less popular if it followed the formula more closely? Had they toned down the tasteless jokes and made everything more TNG-like (to a degree), would you have liked the show less or more?
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 11:44am (UTC -5)
"But if you remember the way you felt about this storyline (say) 20 years ago, then you should realize that we have no reason what-so-ever to lose hope now."
There is a difference between living in fairly good times and watching a show that tells us of a utopian future, while also mentioning that it was difficult to get there, then living in those bad times and imagining a utopian future. Paradise never seemed so far away during my lifetime.
"Had they toned down the tasteless jokes and made everything more TNG-like (to a degree), would you have liked the show less or more? "
The fact that they did tone down the creep humor after a while was what kept me going, otherwise I would have not watched the two seasons.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 2:20pm (UTC -5)
"You recommended Anne with an E. I'm laughing and crying the entire time. Thanks for the tip!"
oh, that makes me super happy! isnt it just wonderful, and heartwarming?
also, it kind of gives me peace of mind even regarding the topic discussed here. you know, from time to time a little self reflection does not hurt, so i try to always also ask myself, all the stuff you hear about people only disliking DSC for its female empowerment etc pp., is it true?
and then, whenever i watch a show that *does this well* (and boy, does anne with an E do this in most elegant ways), i come back to, no, thatts not it. i do not have a problem with any of these topics. i love the female empowerment narrative in that show. i love the Anne character, compared to which even tilly is a polished hollywood trope. the actress is simply amazing.
or the trans stuff. i loved sense 8 and how they just incorporated this into the story flow with a complete sorry-not-sorry attitude. there, this character is trans, end of story, deal with it or go away. not this dancing-around-with-metaphors schtick. as if anyone would still need a show in 2021 to dance around this with metaphors. grow a spine, DSC, goddamnit, have your trans character experience some interesting plots, instead of reducing it to the trans-ness.
its just not well done. thats the bottom line for me.
enjoy Anne with an E. its such a lovely show. right to the very end of the last episode. not a single drop in quality throughout the entire series, in my book. i havent been this sad when i had finished watching a series for many many years. such lovely, nuanced characters, and what a great cast that is, oh my.
Tue, Dec 21, 2021, 3:47pm (UTC -5)
"isnt it just wonderful, and heartwarming?"
It is, it is. When Anne was stroking that little dead mouse, I was sobbing uncontrollably. I'm tearing up just thinking about it. All feels earned and natural. It is far too soon to say anything more about it. I had to open a bottle of wine.
About the whole trans issue. Discovery is not a smart show, so obviously this and other hot button issues are done in a stupid way. What more is there to say.
"all the stuff you hear about people only disliking DSC for its female empowerment etc pp., is it true?"
To me it sometimes looks like people dislike the Discovery in general and then pick their favorite topic. For a misogynist that will be empowerment, for a transphobe that will be the trans stuff. While keeping in mind that you can have a problems with how the show represents these topics without being either misogynistic or transphobic. I'm very much pro trans rights and even I was rolling my eyes last season when the whole pronoun stuff happened.
"enjoy Anne with an E. its such a lovely show."
Thanks again. :)
Wed, Dec 22, 2021, 10:55am (UTC -5)
"To me it sometimes looks like people dislike the Discovery in general and then pick their favorite topic."
That's a sharp observation. Convinced me right away.
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 12:49am (UTC -5)
And I'm not just talking about better semiconductors, or perfectly smooth and symmetrical polished surfaces, or materials like carbon nanofibers--strong and light--space elevator, anyone?--but I'm also talking about organs. Need a new heart? I will print you a new copy of yours. It will have your own DNA.
It'll be really cool once we have artificial wombs. Roe v. Monsanto should be an interesting case. But don't worry, America. We'll still be America. We'll find something else to fight about. (Like guns. There's always guns.)
And the thing is, we already KNOW right now that we should be able to do these someday. The science we have right now tells us we should. We just need to spend some more time creating the things that will let us create the things that will let us create those things.
The future of innovation isn't all going to be mild iterative advancements and new applications of existing technologies to new use cases. There are leaps on the horizon.
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 12:49am (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 7:29am (UTC -5)
Artificial wombs are also great. Keeping your fetus in a box is the surest way to prevent a "Roe vs. Monsanto" dilemma from ever arising in first place.
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 8:55am (UTC -5)
"it's funny how unimaginative Trek's usage of these near-magical devices usually is."
Unimaginative yes and not very realistically thought about.
The hype surrounding the capabilities of today's technologies is huge. You would think that 3D printing is just a snap of the fingers .'Let's 3D print a house' (I've seen). Much of that 'future is here today thrill' comes from the oft-misleading titles of news articles. Doing it is another thing. Reality is E.g., 'My ABS plastic didn't melt properly, so therefore I have to do the print all over again.' followed by an explicative (deleted).
Not to mention the fact that the printable area of most 3D printers is no larger than 27.94 x 43.18 cm (11 x 17 in). A lot of individual prints will be needed to build a house. Hard work. In other words, somewhere in the background of these "modern miracles" is a lone operator, dealing with tiny technical details of matter and machinery and possibly bored to death much of the time.
This is the same issue surrounding holograms. Holographic images are certainly possible ...but the image works in the way that it does, because the viewer's eyes look at the hologram from one position. It is not yet possible to interact with them around them. The viewer has been sold on the idea that holographic images are "easy" because that "easiness" is a special effect presented within movies and television (basically a photographic effect not a holographic one (and we do not enter the same space or time in which the filming editing and CGI was done)....then there is the Pepper's Ghost optic, effective as it is, it is not holographic.
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 9:54am (UTC -5)
I have little doubt that in a few decades, we will have 3D printers that are as versatile and as easy to use as a Star Trek replicator. Just think of how computer tech has evolved in the past few decades: What started as a tool for professionals and a toy for geeks (including yours truly) is now an integral part of everybody's lives.
One wonders how future society is going to deal with a situation where every kid has access to a device which can create almost any object at will. The social, legal and economical ramification of this technology will be staggering.
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 10:20am (UTC -5)
And it’s true, Star Trek mainly uses them to make chocolate sundaes for Deanna Troi. Though they did 3d print that shuttle on Prodigy a few weeks ago. That was neat.
Thu, Dec 23, 2021, 11:49am (UTC -5)
Check out The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson, for an excellent novel that thinks about just that, among many other things. The replicators are more like printers than replicators: not instant, but fairly quick. And economic power comes largely from supplying them. (The "unlimited" aspect is not initially present in the story, with restrictions imposed, but is then considered.)
It's really great, and my daughter loved it too. A great gift for highly literate girls especially, but really for anyone who doesn't mind looking up some vocabulary! (I'm not getting a kickback, just loved the story.)
Tue, Dec 28, 2021, 12:26am (UTC -5)
Don't you need said engineers (Stamets, Reno, Adira) on standby in case of problems with that evacuation? Especially when the captain goes to a dangerous area?
Would have made much more sense if the crew first did the evacuation, and THEN did the experiment with the mini-DMA. But may be they needed Saru to have something to do while captain Burnham was off again to save the galaxy?
Wed, Dec 29, 2021, 8:21pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 3, 2022, 9:02pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Jan 28, 2022, 9:17pm (UTC -5)
- Ooh! they named a ship after Janeway. 'Member Janeway? It feels like the writers have been re-watching Voyager episodes, perhaps in order to make notes on what makes a strong female leader in Star Trek. Consequently, this episode feels like a couple mediocre Voyager episodes cobbled together.
- Reno's back! 'Member Reno? Sprinkling DISC with small doses of her dry humor is always welcome. The operative word being 'small'.
- Ruh-roh. Arrogant domineering SWM alert. Make that two! I honestly didn't care that much about Burnham dressing down the Magistrate. By now it's to be expected. "I hope you find a more just society than the one you had a hand in creating." Hint hint, SWMs! As for Tarka, I love the energy and unpredictability he lends to the scenes he's in. But since he's VERY white I'm going to bet that he'll turn out to be a primary antagonists of the season.
- "Why me?" Why you, Culber? Mainly because of irate gay fans, but more importantly because you're a good actor and you didn't deserve to be written off in such a cheap and callous way. So go on and relish this new lease on life. We all love you.
- Come on you silly billies! Couldn't you just wait a couple hours until the emergency evacuation was over before attempting such dangerous experiments that require all the ship's power?
- LOL @ sitting around taking all this time to share personal stories, retrieve cultural artifacts, and then share more personal stories about said cultural artifacts while the clock is ticking and the planet is minutes from being obliterated.
- LOL @ the literal holographic family tree with all the little faces on it. Also, just a reminder that this hokey 'lil trinket is something a man killed another man over and hung onto for decades.
- "Please don't save me, savior Burnham!" Could someone please tell me what was the point of that whole side-story with that prisoner? Maybe he's just a vehicle to demonstrate how Burnham is evolving as a leader?
SWMs Maligned or Killed So Far: 3
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 3:52am (UTC -5)
Ok, I guess you are perpetuating some kind of right wing narrative about the oppression of SWM.
1. You really only know that they are WM, they could all be pansexual perverts.
2. SWM are the dominant social group in the USA by any sense of the word. We are having this discussion on a review board owned by a SWM. So what if there are one or two shows out there where they are not dominant?
3. There was a time in German history where SWM convinced themselves that they were oppressed and it that did not go well.
So what is your angle here? By the way, don't rewatch Columbo because on that show the murderers are almost always SWM and Columbo is a Latino played by Jew. In 1971.
""I hope you find a more just society than the one you had a hand in creating." Hint hint, SWMs!"
So when a black women in the 31th century says to a male Alien that she hopes that he will do better in the future than that is a critique of societies created by SWM in the past?! Maybe look up confirmation bias.
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 8:00am (UTC -5)
Wow, this is news to me.
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 8:10am (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 8:27am (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 9:41am (UTC -5)
But don't worry Jamahl, this isn't some alternate timeline where they won with the help of time-Hirogen!
That said, I do hope you have more hair now:
Otherwise next thing they'll be calling you a skinhead ;-)
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 9:52am (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 11:38am (UTC -5)
"Germans are weird"
True. On purpose.
"even the Japanese were W for them when it was convenient."
Their skin color certainly seems white so...
If that is not white then what is?
Germany was also allied with Italy (Ur-Latinos).
African, Asian, Native American for me they are all white people. That's how post racism I am.
Kind of like when Kirk said:"Spock, you want to know something?, Everybody's Human." and Spock more or less agreed. :)
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 11:58am (UTC -5)
No, I am not right-wing and it's not my intention to suggest that SWMs are being oppressed in society in general. I don't even identify as SWM myself. I elaborated a bit more on my take when I commented on the review for the first episode of this season. But to reiterate, it has to do with cultivating progress in non-divisive ways, and pushing for inclusivity instead of alienating any particular identity. Especially since this is Star Trek which has always had fairly humanist themes, showcasing as much diversity and representation as possible. All people should be able to see people like themselves represented in this future because it means that they, by extension, would be welcome in it. This is very important in maintaining the existing fanbase, and partially explains why so many fans of previous Trek are disgruntled by Discovery. It's not because they're all right-wing bigots with oppression complexes.
Also, it doesn't matter whether the group in question is dominant or marginalized -- to deliberately and persistently sideline or malign them is always going to rankle my humanist scruples.
"You really only know that they are WM, they could all be pansexual perverts."
This is the same sort of argument that was leveled at queer folks when they complained that they're weren't seeing the quantity or quality of representation that they'd want to see. They are indeed welcome to fantasize in their heads that their favorite characters are actually queer (hence there being a lot of fan fiction), but this argument is cold comfort for those who had to repeatedly resort to such imagined representation when they were confronted by the desert of the Canonically Queer stretching in all directions. So, in terms of invisible identity categories, it is quite normal and uncontroversial to assume that a character belongs to the dominant category unless stated explicitly or coded implicitly.
"So when a black women in the 31th century...that is a critique of societies created by SWM in the past?"
Hey, I wouldn't be teasing about that if it was just a one-off instance, but it fits a recurring pattern that I believe coincides with authorial intent. The jury is still out whether this is actually the case, but the tone and attitude heard in interviews with the showrunners suggests to me that this idea isn't without substance. Star Trek may be set in the future but it is has always been a social commentary on the past and present.
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 12:30pm (UTC -5)
I wrote that you might have picked up a right wing narrative, doesn't mean that you are right wing. That might sound confusing but is actually quite common.
"it has to do with cultivating progress in non-divisive ways,"
Progress is always divisive. We had sympathetic SWM on the show. One gets his own spin off show now. If being non divisive means you have to include a sympathetic straight white man into every season then that is a pretty high bar.
" All people should be able to see people like themselves represented in this future because it means that they, by extension, would be welcome in it."
Yes in theory but in practice you can only include a small subset of humanity and if you make it so specific like sympathetic straight white man, then you will always have shows in which this specific group isn't included. Like many other.
"This is the same sort of argument that was leveled at queer folks when they complained that they're weren't seeing the quantity or quality of representation that they'd want to see."
There is a difference between the purposeful erasure of LGBT people for hundreds of years and you assuming the sexual preferences of an alien species. The magistrate from that episode isn't human, maybe the Akali have sex with trees or do it like salmon. Who knows.
"Also, it doesn't matter whether the group in question is dominant or marginalized -- to deliberately and persistently sideline or malign them is always going to rankle my humanist scruples."
Again Spock, Sarek, Pike, Kovich, Vance (if you consider Jews white people). How often does this group have to be included with sympathetic characters?
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 4:28pm (UTC -5)
"you might have picked up a right wing narrative, doesn't mean that you are right wing."
I'm uncertain if that's a point you want to press or if you're just clarifying your earlier hedge. It just doesn't feel pertinent to me.
"Progress is always divisive."
And I would maintain that it's not, at least not necessarily. Think of MLK, Mandela, and many leaders in the Buddhist tradition who have endured great hardships and oppression but have paved the way forward.
"If being non divisive means you have to include a sympathetic straight white man into every season then that is a pretty high bar."
Inclusion and exclusion goes beyond mere presence or absense. DISC takes exclusion one step further by not only creating a vaccuum of decent characters of the sort (I'll get into Spock & co. later), but making sure to cast most nasty/arrogant/villanous/morally weak characters as SWM. It would be easier to forgive or overlook if it were just the former but when DISC does both, the imbalance is all the more palpable and I think it's understandable that some fans perceive it as an intentional "statement".
"in practice you can only include a small subset of humanity ... you will always have shows in which this specific group isn't included"
We're talking about Star Trek here which happens to have a lot of SWM fans, in addition to many other kinds of people. I'm not going onto Tyler Perry forums and decrying the lack of white people. That would be silly. Diversity is a laudable goal and makes sense where it's relevant to the demographics of the intended and actual audience. We may not be able to achieve 100% representation in such shows but having the right intentions from the get-go and making the attempt is still better than deliberately making some groups feel excluded. Diversity in Star Trek is about as relevant as it gets, so I applaud the attempts to make it as diverse as can be when it comes to other identities.
"There is a difference between the purposeful erasure of LGBT..."
Even so, I think my point still stands. If we're going to analyze or critique a show, it's important to distinguish between what's apparent within the text of the show for all to see (including how characters are implicitly coded and how they would typically be "read" by most viewers) and one's idiosyncratic headcanon of what could be. Heteronormativity and Whiteness can be coded in the text without explicit mention, whereas unsupportable hypotheticals really don't count for much in such discussions.
"Spock, Sarek, Pike, Kovich, Vance..."
I feel like this road has been trodden many times before by others and I don't think I can add anything new. I don't consider pale-skinned Jews to be white even though other people may read them as white. I consider Spock, Sarek, and Pike to be grandfathered-in as part of fan service (others have made this point more eloquently than I). That's not worth nothing but I still think it puts them into a different category of analysis because their aura of fan recognition overrides their group-identity. It's also something that can be cynically traded on by the IP holder because the positive or negative baggage attached to them is passive and already present, unlike the active creation of a new character, where the intentionality isn't muddied by such factors.
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 4:51pm (UTC -5)
Pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one:
"Inclusion and exclusion goes beyond mere presence or absense. DISC takes exclusion one step further by not only creating a vaccuum of decent characters of the sort (I'll get into Spock & co. later), but making sure to cast most nasty/arrogant/villanous/morally weak characters as SWM. It would be easier to forgive or overlook if it were just the former but when DISC does both, the imbalance is all the more palpable and I think it's understandable that some fans perceive it as an intentional "statement"."
It's simple facts and math. One just has to look at how many SWMs feature as regular crew on DSC either on the bridge, sickbay, engineering -- ZERO. Then combine that with how often they are the bad guys or get killed -- I've lost count. Then combine that with how many non-SWMs make up DSC's crew -- it's all non-SWM! And how many times is a non-SWM the "bad guy" or get killed -- can be counted on 1 hand.
The pendulum has clearly swung too far into wokeness on DSC. Whether it is an intentional statement on the part of the DSC showrunners or not -- people can up to their own conclusions based on the facts.
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 5:46pm (UTC -5)
"Wow, this is news to me." "
Geez, Jammer is gay? But he has a wife! And children!
Now I feel like I am understanding his "Confessions of a Closet Trekkie" article from 2004 so much better!
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 8:27pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 29, 2022, 11:36pm (UTC -5)
"Bryan pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one"
That's on the up side.
On the down side, Bryan already replied to Booming twice, which - in your book - is a mortal sin. I wonder how many additional strikes will you allow him, before you tag him as a troll (like you already did with half a dozen regular members here).
As for the discussion at hand:
I have plenty to say in favor of your view. But given that you've made it clear that my input on these topics is not welcome here - I won't.
Sun, Jan 30, 2022, 4:27am (UTC -5)
"I'm uncertain if that's a point you want to press or if you're just clarifying your earlier hedge."
You said that you aren't right wing and I just wanted to point out that I never said you were. The narrative that white men are oppressed has started to drip into the mainstream over the last few years. Considering the demographic shifts in the USA that is not surprising but still concerning. When the dominant social group starts to believe that they are oppressed things can get ugly quickly because they have the means to cause a lot of harm.
"And I would maintain that it's not, at least not necessarily. Think of MLK, Mandela, and many leaders in the Buddhist tradition who have endured great hardships and oppression but have paved the way forward. "
MLK was killed for his believes by a racist and hated in many parts of the USA and Mandela was the leader of the armed wing of the ANC. Under his leadership more than a hundred bombings were committed. Buddhists have on numerous occasions used violence to achieve their goals, the vast majority of Vietcong were deeply religious Buddhists and even the non violent Buddhist protest in Vietnam were far from non divisive. Self immolation being the most prominent.
"We're talking about Star Trek here which happens to have a lot of SWM fans, in addition to many other kinds of people."
Is the argument here that the racial make up of Star Trek should reflect the racial make up of the audience?
"I don't consider pale-skinned Jews to be white ... ."
Could you elaborate? Are you arguing that Jews no matter what can never be white? I probably should have asked that already but what does being white mean to you?
"I consider Spock, Sarek, and Pike to be grandfathered-in as part of fan service"
So you are saying they put sympathetic straight white men into the show as fan service? I see light skinned Jewish people who live, let's say in Canada, as white, so my count would be at least 5 sympathetic SWM, one could probably add Saru (In Europe we see people from Spain, Italy and Greece as white. While "Whiteness" in the USA has become more and more exclusive, it seems). All of them had or have important roles. The only important bad SWM I remember were Jason Isaac's character and Leland. Less important characters I remember were the guy who worked for the green lady and the nameless magistrate here. Who else did you count?
As you mentioned yourself, they included several sympathetic SWM but if we assume for a moment that your view that SWM are depicted negatively on purpose is accurate why do you think that is?
I also want to point out that considering US culture and norms being killed in the line of duty or as an act of redemption can be seen as a positive depiction.
Sun, Jan 30, 2022, 5:57pm (UTC -5)
"You said that you aren't right wing..."
And in addition to that, I also said that I don't believe in nor am advancing the narrative that white men are being oppressed in society in general. So it's case closed whether the two are connected or not.
"MLK was killed...Mandela did some bad things...some Buddhists had questionable tactics...." (I'm paraphrasing)
I'm honestly baffled by this and I don't know where to begin. It's not that these things are untrue, but if the point you are making is that progress is ALWAYS divisive and I list some examples of when it wasn't, I don't see how you can cherry-pick your way out of that...the extent of selective memory required is so staggering and I can only surmise that you're being disingenuous here.
But to suspend my disbelief for a moment and assume the possibility of good faith, I will point out that just because progress can be non-divisive doesn't mean that there aren't setbacks or that it never gets messy along the way: not every single person will be on board with the cause and good people who work toward progress will get hurt, or killed -- people who certainly didn't deserve to die. Some may even feel that their sacrifice wasn't worth it. (Please don't misinterpret my words as saying that the path to progress is paved in blood, because that is not what I mean).
It also doesn't mean that progressive leaders are perfect angels who don't have skeletons in their closets, that all of the actions they took in the course of their lifetimes were good. People change, often for the better, and none of this diminishes the progress that was made as a direct result of the particular actions that were made in service of the good. So I don't think we should be downplaying the accomplishments of MLK and Mandela.
Also when I referred to "leaders in the Buddhist tradition", I didn't mean ALL Buddhists -- because, hell, that's a lot of people -- and I certainly wasn't referring to the guy who set himself on fire (I can't believe that I'm in the position of writing this sentence unironically). I don't know if you're heard of them but was I thinking more of the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, the latter of which actually inspired MLK.
"Is the argument here that the racial make up of Star Trek should reflect the racial make up of the audience?"
Okay. Phew. Back to the topic at hand. The argument here is to know and respect your audience and everything that should logically follow from that. That doesn't necessarily mean that Star Trek needs a 1:1 proportional representation between audience and cast, and certainly sometimes following rigid pre-calculated ratios of representation can be taken too far and miss the whole point of diversity within TV/Film in general. However, it would be more prudent to have SOME proper representation when a large proportion of the audience are white males who have come to expect that sorta thing from the show in question. That's not the only way to go about achieving inclusion but it's perhaps the easiest and most intuitive way.
"Are you arguing that Jews no matter what can never be white...what does being white mean to you?"
I think it depends. I wouldn't say never. It's a pretty complex subject with lots of nuance required to even wade into it and I'm not sure if it would be fruitful to try. It might have to be one of those 'agree to disagree' / 'accept the ambiguity around those terms' type of situation.
"So you are saying they put sympathetic straight white men into the show as fan service?"
I'm saying that the inclusion of Spock, Sarek and Pike had nothing to do with them being sympathetic SWMs. That's purely incidental. But they
were briefly inserted for reasons of fan service, yes.
Sun, Jan 30, 2022, 6:20pm (UTC -5)
"one could probably add Saru (In Europe we see people from Spain, Italy and Greece) as white."
Saru is actually a really interesting case. This is also a good place to specify that I don't think the ethnic particulars of the actor are the only factor when it comes to evaluating representations of whiteness here. It has more to do with how the character will be "read" by the audience than what would come up if the actor took an ethnicity test. So I'm not to one to split hairs over Mediterranean ethnicity, but I do believe that Saru's sheer alienness -- not just with the all the prosthetics but also the way he is portrayed -- likely excludes him from the category of Whiteness. That's not to say that that matters of race are completely irrelevant when an actor plays an alien. It's fair to say that most would "read" Spock as white just as much as several of the evil Orions also read as white despite the green face paint.
This brings me to a somewhat tangential point. I think the reason Klingons were changed so drastically in DISC season is because the progressive show-runners were concerned that past Klingons had read as Black, which is especially problematic if 1) they seem to reinforce negative stereotypes, 2) they're typically portrayed as villains, and 3) non-black actors playing Klingons would sometimes darken their skin, which could be construed by some as blackface. Whether these concerns were well-founded or not, I don't know, but they seem to be the main impetus behind making Klingons pale. Now, whether this also feeds into the broader Whiteness = Bad motif is not something that can be decisively proven as no one would ever openly admit that if it were intentional. But even if this implication with the Kingons were unintentional or unconscious, it just adds more fuel to the fires for those who take issue with it.
As for myself, I think the subject of whiteness in Star Trek, before and after DISC would make for a fascinating academic paper, which is to say that there's plenty of material to discuss without it becoming a neither a polemical attack on the show-runners nor an ideological defense of wokeness.
"Who else did you count?"
Oh I wasn't seriously counting or taking notes throughout the whole series. The tallies I left this season were mostly meant tongue-in-cheek. It doesn't make much difference to me whether the actual number is, say, 9 or only just 7. So I could probably name some more but those lesser known characters could be counted on one hand.
"if we assume for a moment that your view that SWM are depicted negatively on purpose is accurate why do you think that is?"
I think that the mentality of Kurtzman and his ilk are simply part and parcel of a larger ideological trend in identity politics that they've gotten swept up in. It's a set of ideas that have been growing in popularity within the political Left of the USA and elsewhere within recent years. It's simply not possible to engage in social media without being inundated with these ideas and it's not a complete surprise that the more humanistic Leftist politics of earlier Star Trek would transition into the ideology of this new non-humanistic and more divisive kind that often requires there to be an US and a THEM to be pitted against each other across lines of group-identity, however subtle.
There's been a lot of rage directed at SWMs, some of it deserved when they're viewed more systemically in looking at everything that's wrong with the world, but unfortunately sometimes this rage is channeled non-productively when some people feel like they need an outlet. The SWMs of DISC and other Kurtzman-Trek are simply the cathartic whipping boys that serve this purpose. It's non-productive because it alienates long-time fans and makes for shoddy storytelling. And many would argue that it's completely out of touch with the original values and principles that made Star Trek so great and drew them in to begin with.
"I also want to point out that considering US culture and norms being killed in the line of duty or as an act of redemption can be seen as a positive depiction."
Which is why simply doing a kill count isn't enough and you need to look at the context and how things are framed. There are two main kinds of kills happening here. Cathartic kills and Pathos kills. When the space ninjas kill the Star Fleet officer defending the dilithium, that's a classic Pathos Kill. We're reminded time and again that this is a terrible thing that people are angry and upset about. Burnhan repeatedly wants to see that justice is done. I think it's no coincidence that the officer in question is Black as the aims of BLM would have been on the show-runners minds. That's not a knock against that sort of thing. It just shows that social commentary has always been a key concern in Star Trek and as the times change, so must the commentary.
A good example of a Cathartic kill is when a young arrogant SWM Starfleet Officer from an earlier season (maybe season one?) disrespects Burhnam. It's not long before she and him and flying through an asteroid field and she warns him to be careful. Naturally he doesn't listen to her due to his cocky attitude and gets himself killed. He is never mentioned again and there is no framing to suggest that we should feel bad about his death. Rather, the framing suggests that since he was a dick, he got what he deserved.
So if we were to look back, the deaths of nearly all the SWMs have been cathartic, whereas the deaths of non-SWMs have tended to be Pathos kills.
Mon, Jan 31, 2022, 2:44am (UTC -5)
""MLK was killed...Mandela did some bad things...some Buddhists had questionable tactics...." (I'm paraphrasing)"
It's a little more than paraphrasing. Mandela using terrorism and Buddhists fighting against the US occupation and the south Vietnamese puppet government was completely legitimate. Being a terrorist doesn't mean that you are wrong, it only means that you are fighting a far superior enemy. If a terrorist organization gets stronger it transitions to guerilla warfare and if it becomes even stronger it starts to operate as a regular and/or paramilitary army of some sort. In the USA the word terrorist has a strongly negative connotation because the USA normally is the vastly superior side in a conflict. That is why they are mostly fighting guerilla armies or terrorists. I just mentioned what King, Mandela or those Buddhist guerillas did to highlight that they were divisive figures or acts. Progress and the people representing progress are always divisive because progress is about changing power structures.
"So I don't think we should be downplaying the accomplishments of MLK and Mandela."
"but was I thinking more of the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, the latter of which actually inspired MLK."
I'm not saying that peaceful resistance is wrong. It can be a useful strategy in some circumstances. I'm just saying that people who fight for progress are always divisive. The Dalai Lama is a highly divisive figure, for example. Maybe not in Europe but certainly in Asia.
"However, it would be more prudent to have SOME proper representation when a large proportion of the audience are white males who have come to expect that sorta thing from the show in question"
CBS or Kurtzman as the showrunner made this business decision. Maybe they thought having a different mix of people would bring in a new audience. Considering that Kurtzman is still the showrunner of the quickly expanding Star Trek franchise one could assume that the multi billion dollar global media and entertainment conglomerate that is financing him is satisfied.
"as several of the evil Orions also read as white despite the green face paint."
So now even the green skinned aliens represent white men? That is a stretch. I think the problem here is that "white" is a very imprecise category. In the social sciences we often avoid that category because it is so hard to define. It's not just about skin pigmentation because that would include Mongolians, Japanese and hundreds of millions from central and northern China. But is also not just about culture because for example a black man can absorb the German culture but he doesn't become white because of that. And it is also not about origin because as you pointed out for quite a few "white" people Jews are defined as not white even though many have lived in Europe far longer than for example the Hungarians who would probably considered to be white. So "whiteness" is vague amalgamation of the aspects I just named and probably a few more, interpreted differently from person to person.
"I think the reason Klingons were changed so drastically in DISC season is because the progressive show-runners were concerned that past Klingons had read as Black"
That could be true but the Klingon leader T'Kuvma was still black. That is another aspect. The Klingons could be seen as representing black people (another hard to define category) because they were often painted black. That is really the only reason. The Klingons weren't running around saying stuff like:"YO! Give me that bloodwine or I will shizzle you with ma dizzle, dawg" On the other hand is straight white male behavior really that distinct that even green orion men are definitively stand ins for them? Were the founders representing white people? Were the Cardassians? Benzites? Is anybody who doesn't have dark skin a representation of white people? What alien race is representing more than half of the earth's population aka Asians?
"I think that the mentality of Kurtzman and his ilk are simply part and parcel of a larger ideological trend in identity politics that they've gotten swept up in."
Has Kurtzman made any statements showing leftist or anti white opinions. His earlier projects mostly featured straight white men as the leads/heroes.
"I think that the mentality of Kurtzman and his ilk are simply part and parcel of a larger ideological trend in identity politics that they've gotten swept up in. It's a set of ideas that have been growing in popularity within the political Left of the USA and elsewhere within recent years. ... . There's been a lot of rage directed at SWMs"
It sounds to me like you are saying that the "left" (Another term in need of definition) in the USA is purposefully discriminating straight white men and that Star Trek Discovery is a representation of that discrimination? Is that what you believe? Bernie Sanders as the most prominent leftist in the USA is not against white men as far as I can see.
Portraying the left as hating western culture or white people is a very old right wing narrative.
Personally, I think the stories and the cast choices of the NuTrek shows are far more influenced by business decisions aka optimizing revenue streams than some real or imagined leftwing extremist anti white male ideology.
"There's been a lot of rage directed at SWMs, some of it deserved"
How can rage directed at a group as whole defined by their inborn features ever be deserved? Being straight or white or male does not make you guilty. Doing something wrong does.
I have mentioned that already but Asian women get a far worse treatment than straight white men. We had four female Asian characters on Discovery. The one good Asian woman (Good Georgiou) was killed off immediately and the other three were somewhere between shitty and mass murdering psychopath. One could add that the main villain in Star Trek Picard was also an Asian women, who was a mass murderer as well. That's 60% mass murder for Asian women.
I cannot rewatch Discovery because it is no longer available for free and cannot comment on any kind of kills, cathartic or otherwise.
Mon, Jan 31, 2022, 5:49am (UTC -5)
"Progress and the people representing progress are always divisive because progress is about changing power structures."
Changing power structures is usually disruptive, particularly when not everyone impacted is ready or interested in the change. But being disruptive is not the same thing as sowing division. Most revolutions have merely flipped hierarchies on their heads, and the oppressors and the oppressed swap roles. The same divisive rhetoric and actions are maintained. Mandela had the means to do just that, but chose to try to unify his country through peaceful coexistence. The power structures changed, disruption occurred, but instead of exasperating old divisions he tried to mend them and progress came about with a decline in bloodshed.
"The Dalai Lama is a highly divisive figure"
I suppose he might be considered a controversial figure by some, but divisive is the last word I would use to describe him. For me, being a divisive figure has a lot to do with their actual goals and intentions and less to do with how they are perceived by others.
"Considering that Kurtzman is still the showrunner ... the entertainment conglomerate that is financing him is satisfied."
Apparently so but the dollar sign wasn't the main consideration I was referring to. Seeing 20% audience approval rating on RT. That isn't a healthy indicator for the integrity of the fanbase or the longevity of the franchise. There's also such a thing as overdrawing on all the good will that a franchise has cultivated in the past and wearing the IP out in the name of short-term financial gains, pumping out spin off after spin off in rapidfire succession. Eventually the bubble's gotta burst and then no one wants anything to do with it anymore. They're sick and tired of it.
"whiteness" is vague amalgamation of the aspects I just named and probably a few more, interpreted differently from person to person."
Which is why instead of strict definitions I prefer the 'I know it when I see it' factor, which you will not get 100% consensus on but I believe there's a significant degree of overlap that pushes it beyond pure subjectivity and it's the best measure we have.
"The Klingons weren't running around saying stuff like:"YO! Give me that bloodwine or I will shizzle you with ma dizzle, dawg"
The negative stereotype I was alluding to was more 'African war tribe' than African-American ghetto culture.
"Is anybody who doesn't have dark skin a representation of white people? "
I don't think it's that simple. Whiteness is not simply the 'default'. Again, the actor chosen plays into how an alien may be read, but it's not the only factor.
"Has Kurtzman made any statements showing leftist or anti white opinions."
I don't have any quotes in front of me but I believe he's explicitly said that he's using Star Trek as a vehicle for progressive messaging, especially around diverse representation of marginalized identities. He's also wanted his Star Trek to stand as a bulwark against Trump and the alt-right, which the social commentary was maybe more readily apparent in ST:Picard. I thought it was generally assumed that the show-runners are fairly Leftist, but if there is any evidence that they're not, I am all ears.
"It sounds to me like you are saying that the "left" in the USA is purposefully discriminating straight white men and that Star Trek Discovery is a representation of that discrimination?"
First of all it's not the "Left" per se. It's a divisive faction within the Left that is wielding identity politics and intersectionality as a weapon. There are certainly leftists who employ those theories without being divisive or adversarial about them. Because of the baggage attached I would prefer to avoid the term 'discrimination' except in the weaker sense of making distinctions based on race. Just like some Leftists behave and speak as if one's social class is the overriding characteristic that people can be reduced to in order to understand them, other Leftists reduce humans to their race, gender or sexuality. While still other Leftists are not so reductionistic at all.
I would say that within the lens of some progressive circles, straight white men have a target on their back (even if that just means elevated scrutiny and criticism) simply by virtue of being straight white men. Classic Trek never had the slightest whiff of anything like that, but now it seems like New Trek might.
"Bernie Sanders as the most prominent leftist in the USA is not against white men as far as I can see."
That's because Bernie Sanders is a different type of leftist than one who would do that. He belongs more in the Marxist/socialist camp of Leftist thought that is more concerned with social class than the camp that concerns itself with matters of race and gender.
"Portraying the left as hating western culture or white people is a very old right wing narrative."
Again, the left isn't a monolithic entity and I'm saying something different. A conservative might worry that leftists want to topple the pillars of western culture that they have come to admire or benefit from (and they might be wrong about that). I worry that polarization and division will tear society (and fandoms!) apart when that doesn't have to happen, and these problems stem from certain people on both the left and the right.
Hate is also too strong a word though I have no doubt that some individuals do. When anyone can empirically observe a phenomenon it ceases to be merely a "narrative" that is the exclusive domain of any one group. The whites of the right wing are merely canaries in the coal mine, hypersensitive to the rhetoric flung in their direction. They feel it the most strongly, remember every instance they come across, and may actively seek it out, so it makes sense that they are typically the ones to complain the loudest about it. They may even overstate their case and are often guilty of the same divisive rhetoric aimed in the opposite direction but I do not believe they are imagining it entirely.
"How can rage directed at a group as whole defined by their inborn features ever be deserved? Being straight or white or male does not make you guilty. Doing something wrong does."
Indeed, at an individual level that's how it works. Or at least, that's how it should work. But there can be things like systemic racism that go beyond the choices of individual people. So when I say "deserved" I mean that the anger people feel towards systems of oppression that SWM benefit from is not unfounded. People have good reason to feel angry, that's all. Not everyone is capable of being so abstract about their anger, however, and it can boil over onto individuals who may or not be as guilty when it comes to their actions.
"Asian women get a far worse treatment than straight white men"
I hadn't really noticed that. I guess I would have to look back and see how the murders and deaths were framed. Whether they're all truly maligned or just kick-ass.
Mon, Jan 31, 2022, 12:43pm (UTC -5)
"For me, being a divisive figure has a lot to do with their actual goals and intentions and less to do with how they are perceived by others."
I thought it was more about perception and while for example the racist laws of the southern US states seem obviously bad from our point of view, they had a lot of support back then, same is true for Apartheid. If you country does something bad being divisive can be a good thing.
"Seeing 20% audience approval rating on RT. That isn't a healthy indicator for the integrity of the fanbase or the longevity of the franchise."
Personally, I think Discovery and Picard are bad shows, because of the writing, but Discovery has just gotten a fifth season meaning it is now a longer running Trek show than TOS and Enterprise.
" Eventually the bubble's gotta burst and then no one wants anything to do with it anymore. They're sick and tired of it."
Especially the new Trek shows for kids and young adults seem to be popular here. Lower decks has a 7.3 on imdb. Discovery has a rating of 7.1 which is pretty good. One wonders though if companies or certain social groups influence these scores.
"I thought it was generally assumed that the show-runners are fairly Leftist, but if there is any evidence that they're not, I am all ears."
Well, most are rich people so I do not expect that they have a strong desire to overthrow capitalism. I also would like to mention that liberals in most European countries are not considered left because they are pro capitalism. For the Democratic party I would say progressives are leftist while liberals are centrists. I could now go on a deep dive because my work touches on these issues to some degree but that would probably not be interesting for anybody here. :)
To give a very simple version of my personal views. Identity politics are to a significant amount for middle class kids who want to feel like they are doing something good while at the same time not really challenging the economic system that will provide them with an above average station in life.
"Which is why instead of strict definitions I prefer the 'I know it when I see it' factor"
That sounds like you arguing that everybody should have their own definition which in my opinion will lead to lots of misunderstandings. Maybe that is just my scientist brain talking. They kind of train strict definitions into you.
"Classic Trek never had the slightest whiff of anything like that"
Apart from Uhura and Sulu TOS was as white as snow storm. In TNG the captain, first and second officer were white. :) Voyager and DS9 were more diverse, though.
"but I do not believe they are imagining it entirely."
I would tend to agree but I don't think that there is any real threat to white men that would justify the constant state of alarm. I guess you agree?
"So when I say "deserved" I mean that the anger people feel towards systems of oppression that SWM benefit from is not unfounded."
Sure, I hope that people go back to thinking more about the system that creates these injustices than about a vaguely defined group that benefits the most. I'm fairly certain that discussion about economic realities will become more important over the coming decades. The identity focused politics are probably just the last rumblings of the so called third way politics. Not that fighting against racism or misogyny isn't very important. It would probably be desirable that a black man can identify with a white men and vice verse, same goes for homo and hetero.
"Whether they're all truly maligned or just kick-ass."
I guess evil Georgiou was somewhat kick ass later but she was still a super evil psychopath. Landry was bad in our and in the mirror universe. The less evil Landry just walked into the room where they had the tardigrade and started shooting at it and was then mauled to death. The mirror Landry was shot by Burnham after mirror Landry had shot mirror Detmer.
Thanks for so patiently responding to all my questions.
Mon, Jan 31, 2022, 2:04pm (UTC -5)
"I thought it was more about perception and while for example the racist laws of the southern US states seem obviously bad from our point of view, they had a lot of support back then, same is true for Apartheid. If you country does something bad being divisive can be a good thing."
I don't think there's a fundamental disagreement here after all. We seem to be using slightly different definitions of 'divisive', where the kind you're talking about is different than phenomena that I am referring to. The issue was more that the equivocation of using both kinds of "division" simultaneously was distracting from my initial point.
"Identity politics are to a significant amount for middle class kids who want to feel like they are doing something good while at the same time not really challenging the economic system that will provide them with an above average station in life."
"That sounds like you arguing that everybody should have their own definition which in my opinion will lead to lots of misunderstandings."
I'm not really one for relativism so I don't think I'm arguing for anything like that. It's just that some ideas that we hold in common via culture are so intuitively simple yet conceptually challenging that it makes more sense to lean into the Intuitive by example rather than try to definitively pin them down with words. That's all I mean by 'I'll know it when I see it'.
"I don't think that there is any real threat to white men that would justify the constant state of alarm. I guess you agree?"
For the most part I agree. Affirmative action and other forms of representation are double edged swords that can potentially be mismanaged when used in practice. So it's not unwise to stay vigilant. There has been talk of triaging in hospitals across lines of group-identity such as race which has me a little concerned, but I wouldn't sound any alarms just yet.
"Thanks for so patiently responding to all my questions."
For sure. It's been years since I've willingly involved myself in a marathon debate but I think it's useful in the sense that I have the chance to fully flesh out and distinguish my position from what otherwise might sound like typical right wing talking points from a superficial glance.
Mon, Jan 31, 2022, 6:59pm (UTC -5)
Here’s Discovery in a nutshell: 1. Convoluted plot arcs that makes you give up trying to understand how and why anything happens; 2. Routine stories that do their best (and fail very hard this season) to disguise their recycled nature; 3. A rotating cast of characters who model different attitudes and styles, but who make it hard to connect to them because of the show’s tendency to kill or cut away from them out just when they get interesting.
I like the new scientist guy Tarka, but what happened to the crippled Emerald Chain scientist? Are these guys one off guest stars or will they stick around? Who knows?
This episode has some nice character beats and interactions, but it’s supremely dull. The prisoners are tell and the tech mystery is dull. Each episode this season rushes through different characters who then oddly don’t show (Grey? Adira?) up in the next one. People pop up, have a moment, but it’s all disconnected. And now Discovery is trying to go talky after being hyper-kinetic for half its run. Color me fatigued. I think this series is now circling the drain with nowhere left to go dramatically. Let’s wrap it up this season, cancel it, and focus on the other new Trek shows.
At least Tilly stayed gone in this one. We already have too many characters. Unlike the TOS, TNG and other crews, however, they don’t have chemistry. It’s hard to bond with a main cast that keeps changing (and changing roles) every episode or season. #CancelDiscovery
Tue, Feb 1, 2022, 3:31pm (UTC -5)
I think you meant Hahaha, Whoopie.
Tue, Feb 1, 2022, 4:05pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 1, 2022, 4:27pm (UTC -5)
From what I can gather after a 5 second search, it seems the offensive part was that she said that the Holocaust wasn't about race which is obviously an idiotic thing to say.
I really don't follow all the media outrage cycles. US media is like an endless knife fight. Always reminds me of this scene from Nightcrawler.
The News you get when money is the deciding factor. Schools get worse, Life expectancy decreases, streets and bridges are a nightmare, worker poop into bags but hey let's talk about what some actress said on TV. It could barely be less important.
Tue, Feb 1, 2022, 7:08pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Feb 2, 2022, 3:34am (UTC -5)
Wed, Feb 2, 2022, 4:13am (UTC -5)
Plus, I do recall reading "Maus" once back in the 80s, and I thought it was great!
Wed, Feb 2, 2022, 7:11am (UTC -5)
But I can't stay mad at Guinan. I sincerely hope she keeps her job.
Wed, Feb 2, 2022, 8:16am (UTC -5)
For anybody who wants to know a little more. There is a nice little Hitler quote in there.
So technically some Jews could be called (the definition nightmare) "white" people even though many Jews are obviously not white, like the Jews who always lived in Africa or India.
That Miss Goldberg, a person who is rich and famous for decades now, in other words completely disconnected from reality, would not know these things is not really surprising. The two weeks suspension on the other hand seems a little excessive.
Wed, Feb 2, 2022, 8:20am (UTC -5)
Racial categories used now are complete nonsense now, too. So what?
Wed, Feb 2, 2022, 9:10am (UTC -5)
"Racial categories used now are complete nonsense now, too. So what?"
Only because racial categories are nonsense doesn't mean that people don't use them to differentiate themselves from others. In Ancient times it was more about citizenship than racial categories but no matter what system is used, it is about access and more often about the denial of access to economic opportunities.
Wed, Feb 2, 2022, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
Fair point regarding the link between racism and economics. I do think, however, that ancient peoples could dehumanize groups they feared or wished to plunder. Sadly, denigration of 'the other' has always been available to our species when group unity is required.
"Let This be Your Last Battlefield" is necessary viewing. It captures how empty claims of racial superiority connect to economic inequality.
Bele and Loki: Two equally divided individuals with the color placed differently -Loki is said by Bele to be of an 'inferior breed' and the outward indication of this inferiority is that Loki and all of his people are "white on the right side". It is a meaningless distinction to Spock and Kirk which works well to expose the nonsense. Did Whoopie ever watch that episode?
Nonetheless, Whoopie G. is being pummeled. Her suspension makes me uncomfortable.
Wed, Feb 2, 2022, 5:27pm (UTC -5)
Sure, racism isn't monocausal but when racism gets institutionalized (regulated by the state) than economic factors are normally dominant. In very racist countries it can go beyond that like limitations on marriage or freedom of movement.
" It is a meaningless distinction to Spock and Kirk which works well to expose the nonsense."
That is the thing. If people see something as real, it becomes a reality and can start a dynamic process. Look up the thomas theorem and maybe the matthew effect if you are interested. There is a text from Merton about both but you need university access for that.
Thu, Feb 3, 2022, 6:05am (UTC -5)
Thanks for the suggested reading.
Had a look at the Thomas theorem and Matthew effect ...depressing stuff.
Must find a work-around. :)
Thu, Feb 3, 2022, 7:19am (UTC -5)
This is one of the foundational theoretical texts about self fulfilling prophecy (Thomas theorem) from Merton.
" ...depressing stuff."
Sure, lots of things are when you study human societies but on the other hand one understands why the world is the way it is. For example many people are easy to manipulate, hold on to disproven beliefs, understand very little about the political system and the topics discussed but often see themselves as well informed and rational. And that is only some of the stuff about politics. In relations to the text, a majority of Americans (the highest amount of any developed nation) believe that it is personal drive that determines if you have a good life or work your way out of poverty. It is far from the truth but because people believe it they are far less compassionate towards the poor which then makes social policies possible that makes it even harder for the poor. That is why social mobility is decreasing for quite a while in the USA and it was very low to begin already and has almost reached UK levels which has the worst social mobility in the developed world. The best countries for social mobility are in Scandinavia and also Canada. So it's not all hopeless. :)
Another funny thing a team of researchers I was part of found out a while ago. If a man is taller than 185cm he will earn on average considerably more than a man who is less than 168cm. Humans... you gotta love them. :D
Thu, Feb 3, 2022, 8:04am (UTC -5)
You're being equivocal here by conflating "working your way out of poverty" with having a "good life" which aren't the same things. There are many ways to live a "good life" depending on your circumstances. And not everyone agrees what a good life is.
To one person living a good life means running a Fortune 500 company and owning 6 houses. To another it could mean a wife and kids and a steady job.
What is certain is that "personal drive" (which I am interpreting as meaning having a good mix of ambition, talent and resourcefulness) will always improve a person's lot in life, whether that person was born into riches or rags.
It is true that personal drive (alone) may not be enough to lift someone out of poverty, but it most certainly will make that person better off than another equally impoverished or similarly situated person without such characteristics. Even in a slum there are winners and losers (relatively speaking).
Personal drive is a universal benefit.
In addition, even if we recognize the reality that any system is "rigged" on some level, and take the view that class mobility is largely illusory (even with individual drive, not very many slum dwellers become bankers and doctors) it is psychologically beneficial for an individual to work on the premise that he can get ahead, rather than wallow in anger over how unfair life is. It is beneficial at the societal level to propagate the myth of social mobility and personal responsibility.
I am aware of the counterpoint, which is that if we don't recognize unfairness, we are unlikely to make the world better. But that doesn't negate the fact that to be successful on an individual level, a person is better off NOT approaching life on the premise that the system is rigged against him.
And frankly, as of today, as the world's most powerful, innovative and influential liberal democracy to date, maybe Americans aren't so stupid as you think?
Thu, Feb 3, 2022, 9:35am (UTC -5)
Thu, Feb 3, 2022, 10:33am (UTC -5)
It can be even messier than that, because the "they are lazy" argument can sometimes be true of people who never get anywhere, but a deeper inspection might make one ask why some people are 'lazy'. A lack of motivation or connectedness to a problem can be caused by all sorts of factors, including especially disillusionment and hopelessness. Jason R's point is technically correct, that in a vacuum anyone can do better, mechanically speaking, if they find motivation and act with a sense of hope. But that might well be putting the cart before the horse, because if you have already had the motivation and hope whipped out of you, how can one get it back? I don't think anyone does anything alone. In fact there is a question of whether correct-mindedness might not be a communual affair rather than a private one.
Star Trek took a 60's approach in suggesting that virtue is a species-wide thing rather than an individual thing. You can't figure out why a person isn't an enlightened person; rather one should ask why our society, or planet, is not an enlightened place. I have my own view on that, but either way the connection between ethos-motivation-action is not as trivial as 'try harder'. Not that Jason R was saying that, but that's the cliche.
Thu, Feb 3, 2022, 11:02am (UTC -5)
You know Jason when me quoting a few facts about the USA leads to such a sentence then I have doubts that you are interested in any kind of meaningful debate. Countries with little social mobility have a strong tendency to become unstable. The USA has been downgraded from full democracy to flawed democracy in the EIU democracy index a few years ago and is still sinking and in the Freedom House democracy index they are now on the same level with countries like Ghana, Poland and Mongolia. I would be surprised if the USA are still an actual democracy in 20 years.
"Personal drive is a universal benefit."
Sure, a positive outlook is better than a self destructive one but you cannot create such a perspective in a petri dish, it is developed based on experience and even if you develop such a perspective for some reason, the system is in fact rigged.
If you try to work your way out of the "slum" or any kind of poor region to a well paying job there is an endless amount of obstacles to overcome. Let's assume you have the above average intelligence needed for higher education which already excludes more than half of all people. Your family neither has the habitus nor the financial means to support your aspirations. They cannot help you with homework or pay for homework assistance. The schools in your area will probably be below average in educational quality meaning that you fall more and more behind even if you are excelling at your school and the school is probably a hostile environment where violence is frequent. Your social circle will dislike you for wanting to get out of their ghetto. Maybe you have to choose between supporting your parents by getting work or continue your education. Life events can happen like severe or chronic illnesses which are more common in poor populations for numerous reasons and often financially ruining in the USA. So let's say you overcome all that and get a good high school degree and do not need to work to support family members. The average cost for a 4 year degree at a public university is 37.000$. A huge amount for a poor family. Let's say you get a student loan and are willing to take on a potentially crushing amount of debt for the rest of your life because you believe that you can get a job to pay off that debt. You overcome your subpar education and get a degree . You apply for a job but because companies screen for addresses in bad neighborhoods you will get only very limited responses probably on the lower end of what you could expect with your degree. This would be aggravated if you are black which would half you chance of getting a response. If you are a women and black your chances of being promoted are significantly lowered. You also cannot have children. The chance of all that happening are slim and I could mention quite a few more obstacles you will have to overcome but I did not want to write 50 pages. And I have only mentioned the obstacles of a poor kid and not the endless amount of advantages a wealthy kid has on top of not having any of the obstacles of a poor kid.
The chance that a poor child with the same abilities as a kid of a wealthy family achieves a PhD is 16x less, in Germany, which is a middle-ish country when it comes to social mobility. In the USA it is even less likely.
William is also correct that telling poor people that it is their own fault that they are poor leads to self destructive behavior which then costs society even more than improving the actual conditions would. As we can see in Scandinavia or Canada, countries with far better social mobility are far more stable.
Thu, Feb 3, 2022, 11:05am (UTC -5)
But my point here is that a society that successfully propagates a myth of social mobility (and I use the term "myth" more in the anthropological sense of a system of shared ideals and not as a synonym for "lie") will probably be more successful than a society that successfully propagates the myth of a "rigged system".
So even if the myth here really is an actual lie straight up (and in a country like the USA that's extremely debatable), that society will still probably be better off for it. People who believe that they can get ahead, even falsely, don't "give up" as easily and will probably get much farther than people who don't believe they can get ahead, even if the latter people are technically correct in their belief.
Thu, Feb 3, 2022, 11:11am (UTC -5)
I stated that the USA was the most '"powerful, innovative and influential" of the liberal democracies.
1 is not even up for debate.
3 is maybe debatable in the sense that the USA's influence has waned of late - but in absolute terms the influence of US culture and economic power is undeniable.
The only one that is really controversial is 2 and even there when you stop and think of the most world changing societal changes of the past 20 years, from social media to woke culture, they are all innovations that began in the USA.
So I stand by my claim.
In answer to the rest of your post, see my latest response to Peter G. and William. I am not sure that you are actually going to end up disagreeing with me as much as you think.
Thu, Feb 3, 2022, 11:53am (UTC -5)
my critique was aimed at you making the accusation that I in any way meant to say that Americans are stupid.
I'm not debating that the USA are still a superpower or the global center of innovation.
Thu, Feb 10, 2022, 1:08am (UTC -5)
I don't see anything inherently wrong with "off-topic" discussions. Nor do I share Rahul's childish stance that merely talking to Booming is some kind of mortal sin. I'm simply asking for some common sense here: If a person has openly and repeatedly admits to deliberately stirring trouble, is it really a good idea to enter endless debates with them?
Food for thought.
Thu, Feb 10, 2022, 4:10am (UTC -5)
" a big part of her motivation here is to (a) piss people off and (b) get a reaction?"
That is a willful misrepresentation of what I said. I like to engage people and tell them how things really are from a political science/sociological perspective. That will sometimes cause strong reactions. I just read a very interesting paper about how right wing parties shift strongly towards topics of identity and culture when economic inequality increases and why voters changed from Obama to Trump in 2016 (among other topics), which highlights what I said about right wing narratives. (open access)
Additionally, nobody seemed bothered by this spirited debate. Some may have found it enriching.
To quote from Bryan's post:"For sure. It's been years since I've willingly involved myself in a marathon debate but I think it's useful in the sense that I have the chance to fully flesh out and distinguish my position from what otherwise might sound like typical right wing talking points from a superficial glance."
That sounds like a good thing to me. I enjoyed the exchange.
Sigh2000 had a few questions about some aspects and said
"Thanks for the suggested reading.
Had a look at the Thomas theorem and Matthew effect ...depressing stuff.
Must find a work-around. :) "
and then there was a little back and forth about how poverty in certain segments of the USA continues to exist.
Furthermore, we (ok, mostly me apparently) found out that Jammer is black. Everybody learned something. :)
A week later you come in and make this post.
Thu, Feb 10, 2022, 1:33pm (UTC -5)
If Bele and Lokai (I had mis-spelled the character's name as Loki in my original post) are discussed in connection with 'constructed notions of racial inferiority,' that is appropriate to this thread, and relates to Whoopie's slippage into the idea that if everyone is one big, happy color on the outside, somehow racism doesn't affect their interactions.
Booming suggested some texts for me to read. I did so. I learned a few things. Is learning something inappropriate to this thread? Nope.
It's always fun to discuss Trek mythology, such as the tube of Brylcream inadvertantly left on that shelf in engineering behind Scotty's head (never happened, but plausible given the overall character of Doohan's hair). Sometimes other topics arise and that's okay.
Thu, Sep 1, 2022, 12:21am (UTC -5)
Mon, Oct 10, 2022, 4:33pm (UTC -5)
Wed, May 17, 2023, 5:19am (UTC -5)
I laughed at the cheesy family heirloom, too! I said, “It looks like something you’d buy at the Hallmark store.”
Maybe they ran out of money for special effects.
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