Race and Masculinity in Star Trek Into Darkness

Race and Masculinity in Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek is a prime example of the arts acting as an agent for thinking differently.  A recurring theme in these films is friendship.  Additionally, because Spock’s Vulcan side lacks emotion, the issue of feelings and the difficulty expressing them is common.  Because most of the characters are men, we get to see the exploration of emotions by these men in the form of friendships that endure quite a bit of challenge.  This particular film focused pretty heavily on the friendship between Kirk and Spock.  They saved each other’s lives and there were some good buddy moments.  No surprise there.  However, when Spock is overcome with emotion at the prospect of losing Kirk, it was nothing short of powerful.  Roughly every 12 minutes in the Trek films, there is a reference to Spock’s emotions or lack thereof.  This is how writers set up the audience for Spock’s human moments.  It makes them powerful.  If your human half can’t cry at the loss of a dear friend who has not only saved your life (singularly), but now has exchanged his own life for the lives of his entire crew, at what can you cry? Nicholas Lezard of The Guardian wrote an interesting article about men and tears in response to the film back in May of 2013 (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/16/spock-crying-star-trek-into-darkness).  He said “we are reaching a point where the currency of male tears is becoming valueless.”  He makes this comment after reminding his reader that Khan, the film’s singular super-villain, also sheds a tear.  But I only partially agree with his assessment of masculine tears:  that they should be rare and under extreme circumstances.  First I recognize that in our society, a man who cries too often appears…not so much weak, but rather lacking a degree of stability.  I get that, but how often is too often?  I have for many years been an advocate of authentic male tears.  “Grown men don’t cry” is a useless adage.  Because I am so passionate about the arts, spiritual authenticity, racial equality, and education (to name a few), I cry pretty easily when a film really removes the viewer’s blindfolds on one of these topics. However, I recognize the need for restraint when putting male tears on screen and I believe that is exactly what director J.J. Abrams did.  A quick Google search tells me that Spock has been brought to tears before, but rarely.  The same search also tells me that many Trekkies were furious about him crying.  Again, it was done with taste and for me, put roots on these two durable characters that have inspired multiple generations.  Remember that the new films are exploring the origin of this leading friendship.  I do admit that Spock’s primal “Khaaannnn!” yell that followed the tears was a bit much. Abrams examines male emotions even more deeply by addressing father issues.  Kirk never knew his dad other than by reputation according to the first film.  We saw in it that he has anger issues about his father’s absence.  However, Admiral Christopher Pike seems to fill some kind of an emotional hole for Kirk even in the first film.  But, wow, in the second Pike is clearly set up as a father figure.  That set up is handled beautifully (brutal scolding and loss of the Enterprise for lying on the captain’s log, followed by a redeeming behind-the-scenes vote of confidence) and then we see Kirk respond to losing him.  I think this is the first cry we see from Kirk…and what a cry it is. When a grown man cries, it’s bad.  And why do you think that is?  Probably because men do hold it back so often, so when they lose it, they lose it.  And Kirk did lose it, right in front of Spock by the way.  No other science fiction franchise does character development as well as Star Trek.  These moments are how they do it. Star Trek has lead the way on issues of race and diversity since the 1960s.  I do not claim to be a Trekkie, but I’ve seen most of the films, most episodes from the original series, and several episodes of the subsequent series.  I have often thought this was a strength of the series but in writing this post I found a blog post by a proud Trekkie that develops this idea much more clearly than I could.  The excerpt below can be found at http://sto.perfectworld.com/news/?p=923821:   From the very beginning, Star Trek has been about diversity and acceptance. It’s easy to miss the messages behind the storylines today, but in 1966, Star Trek was revolutionary for its depiction of racial and gender...

The Adams Street Bridge

The Adams Street Bridge

The world is broken. Have you heard that before?  Does that statement resonate with you? In the film The Matrix, the character Neo begins to believe that something is not right with the world.  Morpheus offers answers to Neo but requires that they meet.  The meeting place?  The Adams Street Bridge. I often find myself wanting to explore ideas or possibilities that are rooted in solving a problem or looking at the world differently.  While many of these relate to who we are as spiritual beings, many of them simply relate to issues we confront daily:  marriage, children, work, money, friendships, and community.  I have decided to start writing about those ideas…here. I landed on The Adams Street Bridge as a blog title because, just as Neo faced a dilemma that night, so do we once we believe something to be true.  In my posts, I will often ask if there is room for thinking differently about the topic at hand.  In other words, could our paradigm shift somewhat?  From there, we will face a dilemma similar to Neo’s:  action is required.  When we believe something, we act on it.  If you fail to act on something you believe to be true, you’ll be miserable. You are reading this because I had an Adams Street Bridge experience of my own.  I began to believe that I had something unique and valid to say.  That belief required that I take some action. What can I expect from The Adams Street Bridge? Overall, I plan to bring attention to examples of thinking differently.  Eventually, I hope readers will be compelled to share their own paradigm shifting ideas.  Posts will likely fall into three broad categories:  personal life, professional life, and the arts. Personal Life Because I hope to write about things that are common to the entire human experience, I will address spiritual things.  I know this is one of those topics that either brings people together or tears them apart.  Therefore, I will attempt to write about such things with as little cultural bias as possible.  My views on spiritual life are at the core of who I am, so avoiding this topic would be foolish and disingenuous.  I suspect that readers will let me know if I write something that is out of place.  Thank you for being gracious as I fumble through.  As a husband and father, I will also explore the challenges, pitfalls and treasures of marriage and fatherhood under Personal Life. Professional Life The work we do is often what first identifies us to our community.  That is not necessarily a good thing, but it is true.  Our work also brings about interactions with people who are often very different from ourselves.  That is what makes professional life interesting…sometimes more so than the work itself.  Unfortunately, much of what takes place at work is anything but professional.  I want to confront some of the behaviors that drive peers, superiors and subordinates crazy.  And because I am passionate about my work, I will also explore issues of content.  My content area is education and I feel very strongly about the importance of its role in society.  However, I am the first to recognize that it is incredibly complicated and even messy. The Arts The arts are somewhat related to professional life for me, but I believe they are also the most significant tool available within the human experience for looking at the world differently and inspiring others to do so.  I will explore both what that looks like for me and how I believe the arts are central to the life experience of every human. The world is broken. It is a wonderful world.  But it is also tragic.  I want simply to shed light on some hopeful ways of thinking differently about difficult issues.  I also want to celebrate those who have already inspired others to think differently about specific things.  Finally, I am thankful to have you along on this journey. Welcome to The Adams Street...

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