It’s been announced that there’s a new Star Trek TV series slated to air in 2017. Here’s the announcement. There is a worry about the series right off because Alex Kirtzman, who co-wrote and produced the 2009 movie and Star Trek Into Darkness is the executive producer. I’m worried that the new series is going to break existing lore and even destroy what we’ve seen before.
And then, there’s the worry that this television series is merely going to be produced simply for nostalgia and attempt to capture what made the 1966 series so great (while at the same time, ignoring Next Gen, DS9, Voyager, and Enterprise).
But there is a way to make it amazing and it’s just one word: Diversity.
Star Trek was all about inclusiveness. If we walk away from that, and don’t include people of colour on board the new ship, or those who are LGTBQ+ then this new series will fail. So, to the executive producers and to the directors, writers, and everyone else involved in the new show, I’m going to give you something. This is something you can take a look at and help craft a new Star Trek series.
Set it after Voyager. The complaint from many about the reboot is that it completely ignores Next Gen, DS9, and Voyager. That in the universe created by the reboot, those three series can’t exist. So in a new series, set it after Voyager, and make sure to reference Next Gen, DS9 and Voyager. If that means you have to take a month and binge watch all three of those series, then do it.
Put a second woman in command. Janeway was a pivotal fixture in Trek and in Voyager. She was the rock that kept the ship going. As Idris Elba said in Pacific Rim “all I have to be is a fixed point”. That was Janeway. Now we’ve got the opportunity to see what happens to with a woman in command in the Alpha Quadrant. Hell, let’s go a step further. Make the captain a woman of colour. Here’s a character write you, you can have this for free.
Captain Fadra Englen, born 2387, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Ancestry, Palestinian. Graduated McGill University as a medical doctor before accepting an invitation to Oxford University. There, she paved the way at how we look at the human body in a different light. Accepted enrollment into Starfleet where she joined the science division. Ensign abourd the U.S.S. Albion (promoted to Lt. Junior Grade). Lt. aboard the U.S.S. Thunderchild (transfered to command structure after she took command of the ship during a fight with the True Way, received the Christopher Pike Medal of Bravery, promoted to Lt. Commander). Lt. Commander aboard the U.S.S. Lexington (assisted in deep space scientific missions, was in command of a team that investigated the Borg’s technology used to open rifts into fluidic space, promoted to Commander). First Officer, Commander, aboard the U.S.S. Sabre, an escort vessel assisting trading vessels in the newly created Romulan Republic. Sabre recalled after a battle that saw her captain killed and Englen had to take command. Promoted to Captain, given the U.S.S. Ocelot to command.
U.S.S. Ocelot, a retrofit escort vessel, based loosely on the U.S.S. Defiant that helped win the war against the Dominion. Comes complete with a cloaking device.
So there you go. Have it. Take it. Make it your own. But make sure that you fill in the other positions on board the ship with diverse characters. Gay or lesbian, trans-gender. First Nation, African American, Japanese, Chinese, Korean. The show was about hope for the future. If this new series ends up being the same white washed sci-fi as any other, then it fails.
Yeah, I could divide these up into two posts, but really neither is going to be long. I guess I could have titled it Stuff and Things, but that’s a zombie dead horse that we just don’t need to keep beating on right now.
Also, you’re welcome for the Walking Dead Meme being brought back from the grave. God I love puns sometimes.
Mother Teresa is actually kind of a horrible person. Well, was, considering she’s as lively as one can be when they’re dead. We all know Mother Teresa was the wonderful person who tried to help the poor and suffering. But she was actually a person who really got off on other people’s suffering and used it to funnel money into her organization. She managed to raise millions to “help” the poor and suffering when in fact a very small percentage actually went to providing for those who could not afford things like food or medicine. Even the hospitals she helped create were less than substandard and in many cases people who went there for help found that they had a better chance of finding help in an empty rice field than in one of Mother Teresa’s “hospitals”.
And yet, she’s celebrated as a person who cared for the poor. Truth is, she didn’t give a crap about the poor, as long as they could further her own PR work. Sure, she raised money for a good cause, but she never used 100% percent of the money for the actual cause. Even after you’d factor in administrative costs, of the money remaining, it was a small percentage that actually went to help people.
And by help, we really should say put them in a bed so they could die. Don’t believe it? Here’s some reading material for you.
Shia Lebouf recorded a motivational video where he stood in front of a green screen and screamed at people to just do it. Reach for your dreams. Yesterday, you said you’d do it tomorrow. This is possibly the most genius thing anyone has ever done.
Lebouf’s video has gone on to become a viral meme of it’s own, putting the black clad and screaming Lebouf in various situations; on people’s balconies, in movies like 2001 A Space Odyssey, in video games. And all of it adding to the mythos of Lebouf trying to give motivation to whomever he happens to be screaming at. There’s a longer video, which has him standing on his head for a while, but the best part is the motivation talk (or maybe yelling is a better point). Hell, there’s even a TED talk where Lebouf is screaming at the Audience while there’s a larger than life version of him on a screen behind him.
I mean, really. He’s standing in front of a green screen. He had to know people were gonna use that as an opportunity to put him into strange and interesting situations. His motivational speech has actually done quite well, and I really hope it lasts longer than the usual 15 minutes on the internet.
A while back, I talked about Fifth Element and how it actually passed the Bechdel Test. And it passed it in laughable fashion. Another movie did the same, but managed to not only pass that test, but the Racial Bechdel Test and even can be a candidate for the Mako Mori Test.
That movie was Aliens vs Predator.
First, lets take a trip down memory lane.
Aliens had become one of the most successful franchises around, and Predator did quite well in its opening with Arnold fighting an alien species who was hunting humans. It did well enough to make a sequel, so in 1989, a movie was released starring Danny Glover in what had one of the most diverse casts, even by today’s standards.
But in that final scene was something that made fans stand up and take notice. It was an easter egg, but it still asked the question of what if the Predators hunted Aliens.
There in the the trophy case was an alien skull. It was the thing that began that question. One which would become a reality in a series of comics published by Dark Horse.
In the first series, humans are caught between Predator Hunters and the Aliens. The only survivor is a woman named Machiko Noguchi. She fought of the Aliens with a Predator, Broken Tusk, who marked her with his clan’s symbol. When the clan arrives again and finds Machiko, they accept her into their hunting clan.
Those comics continue, including Aliens vs Predator: War, a follow up to the original which sees Machiko betray her clan to aid the humans.
Over the years there was always rumours, always questions whether there would be an AvP film. Nothing was ever confirmed. Until the early 2000s.
In 2004, fans got their wish.
Aliens vs Predator would hit screens, and tell a story that took place in Antarctica. It would also introduce Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) as the CEO of the Weyland Corporation. And Sanaa Lathan had the lead role.
Sanaa’s character is Lexa Woods, an environmentalist, mountain climber, glacial expert, and often times a guide. She is hired on to lead an expedition into the frozen South Pole to find a heat bloom that appeared on satellite.
So how exactly is it that this movie is able to pass three tests?
Let’s take a look at the first test, the Bechdel test. As I said with the Fifth Element, passing this test is laughably easy, and AvP is no different. The highlight comes in a conversation between Lexa and one of the security officers of Weyland,
Rousseau herself doesn’t have a lot of lines in the movie, but there is a conversation between her and Woods.
Alexa ‘Lex’ Woods: [Rousseau is loading a pistol] Seven seasons on the ice, and I’ve never seen a gun save someone’s life.
Adele Rousseau: Same principle as a condom. I’d rather have one and not need it, then need it and not have one.
Rousseay also comments to Lexa how she’s glad that she decided to stay with the team. That’s the one and only conversation that happens in the movie between two women, and it’s actually more meaningful than the conversations between two women in Fifth Element.
I mentioned before that AvP also passes the Racial Bechdel Test. For those not aware, Sanaa Lathan is black. So is Colin Salmon who plays Maxwell Stafford in the film. Stafford is basically Weyland’s right hand man. He is Bishop’s assistant, he’s in charge of security, and he acts as body guard to Weyland.
And there’s a few (or rather a couple) of scenes where Stafford and Woods talk that has nothing to do with or about a white person.
Alexa ‘Lex’ Woods: We’re gonna round up the rest of the team and get to the surface. Let’s move!
[Stafford and Verheiden open their cases and pull out machine guns]
Alexa ‘Lex’ Woods: My job is over when everyone is back on the boat safely. And that gun doesn’t change anything.
[Stafford cocks his gun]
There’s actually a couple of other scenes where Woods and Stafford talk, the first being a phone conversation (which Woods finds out Stafford is at the top of a cliff face she is climbing when he calls her) where Stafford offers her the job.
Needless to say, Woods is the only survivor in the entire group.
Which brings us to the last test. The Mako Mori Test.
Woods is the last survivor. She even comes up with an idea how to kill the queen when she comes racing after Woods and the last Predator. Even that Predator eventually dies (who, it should be added, was also infected with an Alien chest buster), leaving Lexa the lone survivor of the expedition. The story is about her, and how she survives in the cold of the South Pole, standing alongside a Predator who doesn’t speak the same language.
Lex has to make a lot of rash decisions, including killing Sebastian who has become infected with a chest buster. Is she emotional and scared? Sure, I defy anyone not to be when in a situation like that. But she survives.
That was a movie in 2004, and it had more notches in its belt for diversity, for having women as lead characters, and women of colour as lead characters in an action film. And it wasn’t a major blockbuster at the time. It did well at the box office, but didn’t shatter records. Well enough so the executives gave the green light for the horrid Aliens vs Predator Requiem.
But if a movie like that can have a woman, a woman of colour no less, and still have fans enjoy it, then everybody can shut the fuck up about the new Ghostbusters.
There’s often talk about games that need to be all inclusive, progressive, and forward thinking, even if the genre happens to be high or epic fantasy. Often we think of single player games that way, because in single player games we pay more attention to the story than we do in an MMO. But in this case, I’m looking at the Guild Wars franchise.
When Guild Wars was launched, it started with Prophecies, and the story of a group of humans from a nation called Ascalon. They were under attack by a war like species called the Charr. Now, because we were playing humans, we didn’t really know about the entire history of the conflict. Just the human side.
But as the story progressed, we encountered many people and heroes throughout Ascalon, Kryta and into the Maguuma Jungle. It was all very Euro-centric when it started.
Then, in Early 2006, ArenaNet released an expansion. The first paid expansion of the franchise. Called Factions, the players were no longer in the familiar setting of Kryta or Ascalon, but in the nation of Cantha. The conflict with the Charr was very far away.
Cantha had very Eastern Asian aspects to it. A mix of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Tibetan. But it really wasn’t any different that other games that had come out before, as many aspects of Far East Asian folklore had been used as a building block for video games. The big change came in late 2006.
ArenaNet released Nightfall, the second expansion of the GW franchise. Like Factions, Nightfall was a standalone release, but it had something very different.
Nightfall took place in Elona. Which had very distinct African features. Drawing from Egyptian, Yoruba, and even Zulu folklore and myths, Elona was very different than any video game seen previously. It is incredibly rare when an African setting is the backdrop, but ArenaNet did it, and they managed to create a wonderful story complete with interesting heroes and complex villains.
In mid 2007, Eye of the North was released. It would eventually become the last expansion in the Guild Wars franchise before the release of Guild Wars 2. Originally, there was a different idea for Eye of the North, and there were many who believed that there was something pointing to a Meso-American backdrop. Instead, we learned that there are other species on Tyria aside from Humans, Dwarves, Tengu, and Charr. We are introduced to the Asura and to the Norn.
The Asura are small, but highly intelligent species. The Norn are massive, hunter like species that take a great deal of their story from First Nations myths and folklore and Scandinavian myth and folklore.
The progressive attitudes of the franchise sort of slowed, almost to a halt until Guild Wars 2 was released, and we came to the living story. That is where we were introduced to Kasmeer and Marjory. At first, one can just assume that they are a pair of humans in a Guild that was dubbed Destiny’s Edge 2.0. There was Rox, a Charr ranger who had no warband, Braham Eirsson, and Taimi, an incredibly intelligent Asura progeny (a child) who is a student of the College of Synergetics.
Taimi is stricken with a degenerative disease that does not allow her to walk around as fast as others would. But she doesn’t let that stop her, as she has her Golem Scruffy to assist her, and her incredible thirst for knowledge that pushes her forward. Many times this is at the chagrin of Braham, who has taken to caring for the small Asura.
Toward the end of the Scarlet Briar story we find out for certain that Kasmeer and Marjory aren’t just good friends, they are in fact a couple. There had been hints that the two had a relationship, but this comes to the fore in the final battle with Scarlet. As Marjory and Braham are both injured in the final assault, Kasmeer and the player attack Scarlet, while Rox stays behind to ensure Braham and Marjory are protected. Once Scarlet is defeated, Kasmeer rushes to Marjorie’s side, and end holds her in an embrace, giving her a deep kiss.
This produced a metric shit tonne of fan art. Seriously, fans got really happy with this.
During the assault on Lion’s Arch, we also meet an Order of Whispers agent named Symon, he wears a hood and mask and has the distinctive Whispers light armour, who assists with the evacuation of the citizens of Lion’s Arch. Later, when Lion’s Arch is rebuilt, the player can meet and talk to a woman called Sya. In the conversation with her, she reveals “I’m Sya. Back then I was known as Symon.” She goes on to say “Scarlet destroyed so much in the blink of an eye. It reminded me how short life is and how we should spend every moment embracing who we are.” Sya is a mesmer, and as a master of Illusions, she is able to make her outward appearance look the way in which she feels inside.
Even the Sylvari of Guild Wars 2, one of the five playable races, have a gender fluid feel to them. They are a plant based species, and while they do have male and female appearances, many players have used this as a way to create a masculine looking female or even a feminine looking male. The Sylvari even view love and relationships differently, as they do not have the boundaries commonly associated with such things. While same sex relationships in the world of Tyria aren’t frowned upon, the Sylvari are much more free to take up such relationships. This may be because Sylvari find a bond with each other that is closer than any of the other five species.
As the player roams the world and learns of the dangers in Tyria, they discover a great number of things that the rest of the populace looks down on. The Sons of Svanir and even the Flame Legion are two antagonistic factions that feel females are not worthy as warriors and that their only place is tending to the needs of the males. With the Sons, this stems from the lore that when Jora and Svanir first found the great dragon Jormag, Svanir accepted the gift of corrupted power while Jora rejected it. For the Sons, this meant Jormag’s power was not meant for them, and if a female Norn is corrupted with the dragon’s influence they will kill her. Jormag, for his part, doesn’t really care.
With the Flame Legion, they are a legion of Charr who at one time held an oppressive hand above all other legions. The Flame Legion lead the attack on Ascalon. But they also felt that female Charr were not worthy as warriors and demanded all females step down from their place in the military and take up a more domesticated role. This was later reversed as the other Legions pushed back and eventually defeated the Flame Legion. An impressive event came several decades after the events in Eye of the North, when Kalla Scorchrazor, a female Charr of the Blood Legion, secretly trained other females and lead a revolt against the Flame Legion. She forced the shamans to surrender, but paid for it with her life as a shaman stabbed her with a poisoned dagger. Presently in Guild Wars 2, players can find talk of a warband dedicated to the memory of Kalla Scorchrazor. Nicknamed Kalla’s Killers, it is an all female warband dedicated to taking out the Flame Legion.
There is still a long way to go regarding inclusive actions in video games. And let’s not be too hasty, Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 isn’t without it’s flaws. There’s an entire thread one could do that could be posted on either Escher Girls or Bikini Armour Battle Damage. But, as far as things go, at least Guild Wars is a game that moves in the right direction.
It’s been a thing to make animals into human type characters, or as it’s called, anthropomorphized. An early representation of this is in Kenneth Graham’s Wind In The Willows, with the characters of Ratty, Mole, Badger, and Mr. Toad. While Wind In The Willows had animals living in holes but also wearing suits and rowing row boats and talking about cars (as Mr. Toad did), Richard Adams’ Watership Down gave a colony of rabbits more socialized human characteristics while keeping them looking like rabbits.
Naturally, Star Trek has their own anthropomorphized creatures with the Gorn, the Caitians, the Ferasan, and even the primate, acquatic, insectoid and reptilian Xindi. The Xindi as a combined force felt threatened by Earth and attempted to destroy the planet. This plan to destroy humans was pushed primarily by the insectoid and reptilian Xindi, while the primate, humanoid and acquatic Xindi were hesitant to use the weapon.
The interesting thing about Caitians and Ferasan (which is a Trek name used because they weren’t allowed to use Kzinti) is their origins don’t begin in Star Trek at all. They began in the Known Space series by Larry Niven. There, mankind battled against the war like Kzinti, a feline race who were the size and strength of Mountain Gorillas. Niven rewrote one of his own short stories to use in the Star Trek Animated Series, adding in Catians and the rest is history. Of course, Trek isn’t the only place you’ll find feline friends who are their own species within a universe.
The Charr, first appearing in Guild Wars Prophecies, are a war like feline species of the realm of Tyria. Driving the humans out of Ascalon, the Charr claimed that region was their own until the humans drove them out. In Guild Wars 2, the Charr have become a playable race, and according to the lore, they are finally calling for a truce with the humans. Mostly because they still have three other fronts to deal with in the Ghosts of Ascalon, the Flame Legion and the Branded (corrupted dragon minions). They are a technologically advanced race, as they seem to have harnessed the ability drill for oil, refine into petroleum and use for massive tanks and other machines. In Guild Wars Prophecies and Eye of the North (where the player meets Pyre Fierceshot), the only Charr that are encountered are males.
Naturally, video games and television aren’t the only place where felines show up. They even appear in the fantasy and science fiction of collectible trading card games. One of the biggest being Magic The Gathering.
In Magic The Gathering there are many different tribes of cat people. Mirri the Cat Warrior came from an unknown tribe and was banished for having two different eye colours which was seen as a taboo among her people. Mirri herself went of alone and eventually became a student among the Multani, and eventually finding that she grew an incredible attachment and attraction to a human named Gerrard. While she never found a chance to tell Gerrard, she did accompany him on many adventures. Throughout the lore of Magic the Gathering there are many references to cat like people, many of whom live a warrior’s life.
So where exactly did our fascination with feline, or even canine, humanoids come from. I’m not talking about were creatures, I’m talking about intelligent species that are felinoid. Naturally cats are seen as important in many different cultures. In the Mesoamerican Olmec culture, jaguars were revered. Shamans and warriors alike would wear the skins of jaguars, and many shamans would claim they could shapeshift into a jaguar. Even the Mayans and Aztecs found favour with the jaguar, though for the Mayans it was more material as the jaguar pelt was highly sought after. In Ancient Egypt, cats were sacred. Egyptians had been domesticating wildcats from the Middle East for thousands of years, and cats were seen as graceful and poised, especially with their ability to control vermin and kill cobras. Mafdet, Sehkmet and of course, Bastet were all Egyptian deities who were depicted with feline heads. All of them were lions at one time, though Bastet’s features softened over time to reflect the domesticated cat. Because of this, many felt cats were sacred to Bastet, so when they died they were mummified and laid to rest so their souls may reside with Bastet for all eternity.
Among many First Nations Peoples, cats were seen as independent, yet enjoying social situations.
Even today, many believe that humans didn’t domesticate cats, but cats domesticated themselves. They saw humans in a non threatening light, among them they could get food, water, and shelter. In exchange, they need only destroy vermin and keep the humans company. Fair enough trade. And over the years, the existence of cats with humans has meant all kinds of folklore from even culture imaginable. Many of which are carried down either verbally or through artwork or through written word until they make it to our minds in the 21st Century. And we change things up for fantasy, fiction, and science fiction.