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Robin Bland

Kirk Drift

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Sim   
13 hours ago, Robin Bland said:

Interesting work! I've read the beginning, scanned over most of the rest, but not sure if I got everything on first glance, because I haven't had coffee yet. :laugh:

First reaction: From the top of my head, my first impulse is to say that the author over-analyzes a few things ... well, at least if I count my own reception of Kirk into the popular reception that's being analyzed; maybe mine isn't really the same (certainly, I wouldn't make many of the claims the people make the author cites, which on one side makes me think the author's attacking a strawman, on the other side, I realize that I don't know all that much of the "general view" of Kirk, if such a thing exists).

I do believe Kirk is a womanizer -- defined as a man who has a strong effect on women, regardless if he takes advantage of it, or if that's being used against him, and is not fond of a permanent relationship. This idea neither comes out of the blue, nor is it the result of "rewriting".

First of all, as the author lists, we learn of half a dozen "serial monogamy" ex-girlfriends of Kirk on the show (Ruth, Dr. Wallace, Janice Lester etc), he has sexual contact with 4 or 6 aliens (Deela, Elaan, Miramane etc), and on top of that, a couple of short romances/romantic encounters (Helen Noel, Edith Keeler, etc) -- on 79 episodes. That's a pretty high quota. In one out of four or five episodes, statistically, we encounter *a different* woman that in one way or another is or was sexually or romantically involved with Kirk, regardless of context. And that's not counting mere flirting or charming. If you are a casual viewer, and just catch an episode here and there, chances are you'll get the impression he's got a different thing going every second episode.

Contrast that with the lack of sexual activity of the other characters on the show. If these 79 episodes define the frame, the "representative sample"? Then this mere frequency is a statement in itself. And since within the same sample, the other characters are much less active, this underlines that Kirk's effect on women is stronger than that of other guys (though, in defense of Kirk, one might point out that the entire show puts quite some emphasis on romance as character trope, as even characters who don't even have more than one line in many episodes get a romantic interest at least once -- Chekov in particular, but also Scotty and in some way Uhura, too, even when that's just an illusion. Still Kirk's numbers dwarf the others, even though some of Kirk's image may in reality just be a side-effect of the general "sexy bias" of the entire show). At any rate, Kirk is most obviously not a friend of permanent binding.

 

And I never considered Kirk being a "womanizer" in this sense as something sinister, as I don't share the author's apparently sinister definition of it ("womanizer" dripping with chauvinism, sexism, disregard for a woman's consent and whatnot). Nope. For me, Kirk being a "womanizer" just means that he has a stronger effect on women than the average guy, is aware of it and occasionally takes advantage of it, too (or it works against him, because a bad alien woman throws an eye on him, and he plays along for the tactical advantage). Doesn't mean he's necessarily disrespectful towards the women he meets. When I meet guys (or girls) in real life who are like that? I might give them a wink of an eye, as this is a quirk as other people have other quirks, and hey, good for him/her (and perhaps quite a few partners he/she'll meet, too, right?).

So on one side, I agree with the author insofar that Kirk isn't such a sinister character the author claims people say he is; but yeah, I'm not sure if that's really what people say. That he indeed is a "womanizer" as I defined it, may well be reason enough for people to say what they say (on top of a particular 60s style that evokes weird associations because it's dated in some regards).

 

And I don't know if there really is a "Kirk Drift", or rather just people who don't really care much about pop culture in general or Star Trek in particular, and make careless statements on an insufficient data basis, all the while inserting their own associations or prejudices into it -- basically the same thing that has always happened and will always happen, because invested readers or viewers are sparse, and good taste is even rarer. And it's not new that most people are assholes, has always been that way and probably always will be. So I'm not sure if making this phenomenon into a rampant reactionary "rewriting" of pop-culture is a bit of a stretch. Even back in 1966, most viewers didn't dissect the source material as a literature PhD would, and rather decided to just be mindlessly entertained, which included lack of full attention and too much reflection -- and that's nothing bad and perfectly legitimate, IMO.

In the end I'd like to point out that I don't view male sexuality as something inherently problematic, as so many people from "gender aware" and/or "feminist" circles suggest when dissecting and over-analysing it (or that's the impression I often get): It's not "patriarchy" or "capital" why most men at least have the impulse of staring on boobs or objectifying women (something we all know women would never do, of course, because they're asexual by nature...), it's biology, even if some esoteric people want to make us believe even biology is entirely a social construct -- the way how and if we act on these impulses is what matters, and that's what's culturally shaped. So jabs at the mere existence of male sexuality ("semi-erection on his face") strike me as smug, insulting and hypocritical. You don't have to pretend to be an extrabiological, asexual being in order not to be an asshole towards people who stimulate your triggers; leave that to those who actually believe Jesus loves them so much, they don't have any feelings left for real people. IMO.

How about acknowledging that most of us, males and females, do have sexual impulses, often look silly when that's the case, and focusing on how that can be fun for all of us? How about using our forces to fight disrespect, rudeness and authoritarianism in general, rather than wasting them on fighting the windmills of elaborate smartass (and rude) theories that identify rudeness as a male thing (and surprisingly often just have the effect of affirming the individual character deficits of the females wallowing in them)? Can't we be a little more hippie, please?

Edited by Sim

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Without responding to all your very interesting observations point by point Sim, I'll just say I haven't quite finished reading it either! I'm about halfway through and finding it fascinating. It's not an academic essay per se, but it's a very detailed reading of "the text" which is turning up some great insights. I like that she starts from the POV of defending Kirk from a received cultural reading by a thoughtless bore at a party - that this fictional character and the way he's fallen into a sort of disrepute or become a poster boy for right-wing white maleness is something she feels a need to reinterpret and clear him from. That he - and Shatner's layered portrayal of him - are far more than that reductive view could ever accommodate. That it's a reductive view of maleness and human sexuality in the first place (which I would agree with). The author's arguments for a sexual equivalency are, thus far, very sound and rooted in the kind of positive view and hope for humanity that I still believe is at the core of Star Trek. 

Back later when I've finished it. 

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Sim   
3 hours ago, Robin Bland said:

Without responding to all your very interesting observations point by point Sim, I'll just say I haven't quite finished reading it either! I'm about halfway through and finding it fascinating. It's not an academic essay per se, but it's a very detailed reading of "the text" which is turning up some great insights. I like that she starts from the POV of defending Kirk from a received cultural reading by a thoughtless bore at a party - that this fictional character and the way he's fallen into a sort of disrepute or become a poster boy for right-wing white maleness is something she feels a need to reinterpret and clear him from. That he - and Shatner's layered portrayal of him - are far more than that reductive view could ever accommodate. That it's a reductive view of maleness and human sexuality in the first place (which I would agree with). The author's arguments for a sexual equivalency are, thus far, very sound and rooted in the kind of positive view and hope for humanity that I still believe is at the core of Star Trek. 

Back later when I've finished it. 

Looking forward to your ideas! :)

And despite my reservations above, of course I do agree that Kirk must be defended from far-right attempts of appropriating him -- I guess all kinds of fans often read things into characters that aren't really in the source material, and this is often for the creative benefit of the fandom (who would want to miss the creativeness of the K/S writers, for example?), and certain right-wing types naturally do that too ... but I agree that their view isn't how I would like to see Kirk, and the character deserves more than that. I don't think Kirk was ever shown being openly disrespectful towards women. :thumbup:

Edited by Sim

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19 hours ago, Robin Bland said:

The article writer and his friend were likely not on the same wavelength. The friend probably only saw the new Star Trek movies in passing, where Kirk does try to get with the Orion girl. The author but too much thought into the classic show and made it a massive over thinking project.

The 1960s through 2017 glasses are going to seem bizarre. The fact that Star Trek even brought up social equality issues at the time, when other shows did not, as groundbreaking.

Most roles of powerful men in the 1960s were chauvinists. James Bond, Jim Kirk, It does not excuse them.

The friend of the author probably didn't give it much thought.

Kirk is not like the spoof version Brannigan on Futurama. His is a parody where Kirk is highly intelligent.

 

The far right comment, as not to get too KMed...

Star Trek, was it right or left? It also does not seem a far right or far left ideology going on, because the political poles shifted in the 1970s with Nixon and slightly again in the 1980s with Reagan, and the far right borrowed from the other and they swapped family values in with conservatism. It's different. The writers in 1966 Hollywood were not thinking of those paradigms. (Hollywood was quite what we consider far left then). They couldn't have been. Why should the freedoms of such things not cross party lines, and social lines? Kirk would have been considered a conservative of his day, and his macho was part of the ethos of his day. McCoy was a dixiecrat (and they turned into today's alt right). He would have turned conservative in his old age, as the Reagan era dawned. Spock being the most conservative would have gone more centrist in his older years, and would now be labeled a libertarian. Ha.

Edited by Chimera82405

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Sim   
4 hours ago, Chimera82405 said:

The article writer and his friend were likely not on the same wavelength. The friend probably only saw the new Star Trek movies in passing, where Kirk does try to get with the Orion girl. The author but too much thought into the classic show and made it a massive over thinking project.

The 1960s through 2017 glasses are going to seem bizarre. The fact that Star Trek even brought up social equality issues at the time, when other shows did not, as groundbreaking.

Most roles of powerful men in the 1960s were chauvinists. James Bond, Jim Kirk, It does not excuse them.

The friend of the author probably didn't give it much thought.

Kirk is not like the spoof version Brannigan on Futurama. His is a parody where Kirk is highly intelligent.

Guess a major problem of this "seeing the 1960s through 2017 glasses" is the innocence in the way Kirk's womanizing is depicted: Even though Kirk might not be disrespectful towards women at all, the mere fact he's portrayed as so sexually active -- as a hero, rather than ironically broken or something --, is something that appears off in 2017. We perceive such a degree of sexual activity and its unreflected idolization as smelling fishy today; we immediately assume you can't be a ladyman without being a chauvinist, because, well, most of the time, men aren't. At least 2017 common knowledge tells us so. That's not how 60s people saw it (or they didn't care about the chauvinism aspect). There were still gentlemen ladykillers in the 60s.

So if this view of Kirk as a chauvinist is a side effect of the fact we're used to more layered characters today, and characters that question classic "ladyman" roles by making the many flipsides of such characters a topic -- isn't that a sign that pop culture has made quite some progress (even in a feminist sense, if you will)?

 

Edited by Sim

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4 hours ago, Chimera82405 said:

The article writer and his friend were likely not on the same wavelength. The friend probably only saw the new Star Trek movies in passing, where Kirk does try to get with the Orion girl. The author but too much thought into the classic show and made it a massive over thinking project.

The 1960s through 2017 glasses are going to seem bizarre. The fact that Star Trek even brought up social equality issues at the time, when other shows did not, as groundbreaking.

Most roles of powerful men in the 1960s were chauvinists. James Bond, Jim Kirk, It does not excuse them.

The friend of the author probably didn't give it much thought.

Kirk is not like the spoof version Brannigan on Futurama. His is a parody where Kirk is highly intelligent.

 

The far right comment, as not to get too KMed...

Star Trek, was it right or left? It also does not seem a far right or far left ideology going on, because the political poles shifted in the 1970s with Nixon and slightly again in the 1980s with Reagan, and the far right borrowed from the other and they swapped family values in with conservatism. It's different. The writers in 1966 Hollywood were not thinking of those paradigms. (Hollywood was quite what we consider far left then). They couldn't have been. Why should the freedoms of such things not cross party lines, and social lines? Kirk would have been considered a conservative of his day, and his macho was part of the ethos of his day. McCoy was a dixiecrat (and they turned into today's alt right). He would have turned conservative in his old age, as the Reagan era dawned. Spock being the most conservative would have gone more centrist in his older years, and would now be labeled a libertarian. Ha.

^
That last paragraph.... 

Let's not go there, okay?  That's a can of worms I really don't want to deal with right now.;)

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Sim   
9 hours ago, Robin Bland said:

Without responding to all your very interesting observations point by point Sim, I'll just say I haven't quite finished reading it either! I'm about halfway through and finding it fascinating. It's not an academic essay per se, but it's a very detailed reading of "the text" which is turning up some great insights. I like that she starts from the POV of defending Kirk from a received cultural reading by a thoughtless bore at a party - that this fictional character and the way he's fallen into a sort of disrepute or become a poster boy for right-wing white maleness is something she feels a need to reinterpret and clear him from. That he - and Shatner's layered portrayal of him - are far more than that reductive view could ever accommodate. That it's a reductive view of maleness and human sexuality in the first place (which I would agree with). The author's arguments for a sexual equivalency are, thus far, very sound and rooted in the kind of positive view and hope for humanity that I still believe is at the core of Star Trek. 

Back later when I've finished it. 

Read most of it more carefully again, and while there are a couple of references I didn't get (either to pop culture or social theories I'm not entirely familiar with), I generally sympathize with the author's interpretation of Kirk -- that much I can say, even though I'm not so sure about other things she says.

Has modern pop culture really become so misogynist and chauvinist that this negative view of Kirk stems from us seeing him through the glasses of modern pop culture? While almost every show today features queers, strong women and formerly white roles are being recast with people of color in masses?! Huh? Or is it more like I suggested above, in my reply to Chimera, that we're just not used anymore to flawless unbroken hero roles, whose ladykiller personality is praised in an unreflected manner, but we so much expect such roles to be ironically broken or revealing a dark flipside, that such an innocent hero depiction appears campy and questionable today?

As for our collective rewriting of popular memory? As I said above, I have doubts that people ever perceived Kirk much differently in the first place, generally speaking, back in 1966 (as I suggested in my posting above). Attitudes of people back then were certainly not much more progressive than today (and those were the glasses they were wearing), and people weren't more attentive either -- and on top of that, they didn't even have social justice warriors on the internet providing them with more careful and uplifting inspirational interpretations. :laugh:

Anyway, such an unconscious collective "rewriting" effort (assuming rewriting was even necessary compared to the original careless reception?) will certainly drag down any material that's aiming high, because a large share of recipients is lower; but that's what (non-elitist) culture is, isn't it? A majority of any people is just sluggish in many regards, and progress, if there is any at all, can only be achieved in tiny steps. Maybe we just have to learn to love people how they are, rather than how we want them to be.

But I'm glad there are positive interpretations of Kirk out there. :thumbup:

 

Edited by Sim

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scenario   

When I think of a womanizer, I think of a guy who will tell any lie to get what he wants. Kirk doesn't seem that way to me. He only lied to his declared enemies. I don't remember him lying or playing mind games with women in general. He always came across to me as a guy who wanted to get married and settle down but he was married to his ship. He'd find women that he liked a lot but told them up front it couldn't last.  

We don't know about the rest of the crew. Most never left the ship except for shore leave and maybe at star bases or Federation planets. They could be sleeping around with each other all the time but it was never shown on screen. Sulu could have had 10 lovers on the ship for all we know, 5 male, 4 female and one undetermined. We do know of one pair that got married on the ship. Of course, the marriage didn't last very long. 

You see Kirk, Spock and McCoy talking about their lives outside of their ships duties once in a while but you never see anyone else talk about themselves. You never hear "Hailing frequencies open, oh by the way, guess who I'm sleeping with now," or "The engines can't take it captain, and I can't either, my new squeeze can't get enough of me." They wanted to make Chekov into a heartthrob. He's probably got them lining up at his door. 

I do think that the stereotype of Kirk for people who don't watch the show and don't really like SF is that he's the guy who sleeps around and is always looking for an excuse to take his shirt off. 

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Sim   
26 minutes ago, scenario said:

When I think of a womanizer, I think of a guy who will tell any lie to get what he wants. Kirk doesn't seem that way to me. He only lied to his declared enemies. I don't remember him lying or playing mind games with women in general. He always came across to me as a guy who wanted to get married and settle down but he was married to his ship. He'd find women that he liked a lot but told them up front it couldn't last.  

We don't know about the rest of the crew. Most never left the ship except for shore leave and maybe at star bases or Federation planets. They could be sleeping around with each other all the time but it was never shown on screen. Sulu could have had 10 lovers on the ship for all we know, 5 male, 4 female and one undetermined. We do know of one pair that got married on the ship. Of course, the marriage didn't last very long. 

You see Kirk, Spock and McCoy talking about their lives outside of their ships duties once in a while but you never see anyone else talk about themselves. You never hear "Hailing frequencies open, oh by the way, guess who I'm sleeping with now," or "The engines can't take it captain, and I can't either, my new squeeze can't get enough of me." They wanted to make Chekov into a heartthrob. He's probably got them lining up at his door. 

I do think that the stereotype of Kirk for people who don't watch the show and don't really like SF is that he's the guy who sleeps around and is always looking for an excuse to take his shirt off. 

Maybe this view of Kirk as "the guy who sleeps around and is always looking for an excuse to take his shirt off" is less based on the perception of the character of Kirk in particular, and more on the very 60s-like presentation?

When you have constant scrim diffuser whenever a woman is in the picture, along with campy music that appears more silly than romantic today, an unbroken hero who is appreciated by women and given a lot of airtime to let his charms play (in a way that would sometimes rather appear creepy than charming today, either because of changing taste or clumsy technical execution of the show), and quite a few scenes when Kirk *indeed has his shirt off*, either because he's on Bones' couch or because a bad guy ripped it off, for the obvious purpose of giving female viewers some eye candy -- then perhaps this clumsy depiction of gender roles and Kirk's masculinity just invites jabs against the character, even when the character himself technically can't be blamed for the conventions of low production value 60s tv.

Edited by Sim

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43 minutes ago, scenario said:

When I think of a womanizer, I think of a guy who will tell any lie to get what he wants. Kirk doesn't seem that way to me. He only lied to his declared enemies. I don't remember him lying or playing mind games with women in general. He always came across to me as a guy who wanted to get married and settle down but he was married to his ship. He'd find women that he liked a lot but told them up front it couldn't last. 

Actually Kirk has played mind games with women to get what he wants; Lenore Karidian comes to mind, as well as his attempted seductions of (arguably non-human) women Syvliva ("Catspaw") and Kelinda ("By Any Other Name").   He also did the same with Deela in "Wink of an Eye" and others, so he is quite capable of shameful manipulation of women.  In my book, attempted seduction of an enemy or opponent still counts as playing mind games with women.   You could just deal with them as equals, of course, instead of objects to be used.  But that's just my opinion.

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Sim   
6 minutes ago, Sehlat Vie said:

Actually Kirk has played mind games with women to get what he wants; Lenore Karidian comes to mind, as well as his attempted seductions of (arguably non-human) women Syvliva ("Catspaw") and Kelinda ("By Any Other Name").   He also did the same with Deela in "Blink of an Eye" and others, so he is quite capable of shameful manipulation of women.  In my book, attempted seduction of an enemy still counts as playing mind games with women.   But that's just my opinion.

Yes, IMO those are examples for my view I explained above, that I think he is aware of his effect on women, and sometimes takes advantage of it.

But I don't think these examples make him a sinister character or chauvinist, because he didn't manipulate these women for his personal benefit, but in order to protect his ship and crew. He had selfless motives.

So in my book? "Womanizer" yes, "chauvinist" no. ;)

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The glasses comment.  It was not literal. The expression is 'seeing through rose colored glasses' as in an old expression about seeing the past as though things were good, but ignoring the bad. It was not such a good analogy. A more apt one would have been 'seeing only the quirks in a show and thinking those quirks make the whole'.

And Kirk did encounter a green woman, Martia, but she was on that asylum planet, and I think he refused.

The point was the article was a little too overdone and obsessive over whether or not Kirk (not JJ Kirk) did certain things, . The detail was probably lost on the man the writer is calling out on not knowing enough trivia. It is kind of ...trivial.

In 1966 the show was progressive for its time and did tackle issues, but then it was not so concerned with space ship (ergo workplace) sexual politics

Look at Connery's Bond, of the same era, an even worse cad among the feminine gender than Kirk ever was.

I recall quite clearly that even Star Trek IV was groundbreaking to some then popular TV magazines for Star Trek putting a woman commander on a starship, in a bit part, in 1986, and that was 20 years later. It would take them another 9 years to have a woman captain on a Star Trek show who did an actual show runner role.

Now in 2017 it is perfectly reasonable to have a woman captain of a show. The tables might even be turned, and she might be the one picking up on the green orion men, or women, or both.

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Hmm.

Something about Kirk would ring ALL my warning bells, I do know and agree with the article insofar that he isn't the mega super man some male fans want to see in him and I can't stand it when men in particular idolize him as some sort of testosterone-driven macho either because he ISN'T - but his behavior would STILL enough for me to step back and be like "back OFF right NOW". Honestly I wouldn't want to be near him, but that might just be me and my admittedly very hyper-sensitive alarm systems (which have never failed me so far tho). He just has this way of pretending he likes someone and be charming to someone simply to achieve a goal, and I HATE it when a man does this. HATE it. This is partly why I like Miranda Jones so much by the way and why she's my favorite TOS guest character - she's one of the few ladies who aren't impressed with Kirk's attempts at all and who he CAN'T easily woo into revealing secrets to him. I really wish they had had more ladies like her on the show. 

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scenario   
48 minutes ago, Sehlat Vie said:

Actually Kirk has played mind games with women to get what he wants; Lenore Karidian comes to mind, as well as his attempted seductions of (arguably non-human) women Syvliva ("Catspaw") and Kelinda ("By Any Other Name").   He also did the same with Deela in "Wink of an Eye" and others, so he is quite capable of shameful manipulation of women.  In my book, attempted seduction of an enemy or opponent still counts as playing mind games with women.   You could just deal with them as equals, of course, instead of objects to be used.  But that's just my opinion.

When the ships in danger, use whatever advantages you have. Sometimes you can't reason with a monster, sometimes you can. I'm not as concerned with someone playing mind games with someone whose planning to kill you.  I agree its an overused plot device but it was common in the 60's. I'm glad it's going away for the most part. 

It  wouldn't be a good plot line to take today. Women are really not a gullible as writers in the 60's thought they were. A cad can take advantage of a lonely woman's affections but it takes more than 43 minutes to do it and in most cases if a problem is going to take months to solve, there are better ways. 

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I agree with Sim's critique.

One thing I will add - this reeks of the same issue as J.J. Abrams' version of Kirk. They both look at Kirk based off of the stereotypes we have of the character:

1) He..... talks ....like ...... THIS. When I went back and marathoned a few episodes (I need to finish that!) - I rarely ever saw Shatner's "famous" type of speech. He mostly talks normal but for some moments.

2) He's a rule-breaker. Which he did from time to time but not to the obsessive point of the movies.

3) He's a womanizer. A lot of female characters fell under his "spell" but I think that reeks more of Shatner than Kirk. It isn't a secret that Shatner wanted plot lines meant for other characters to change to be for Kirk. I wouldn't be surprised if he said that he wanted every female guest star to be enthralled with Kirk. Which is why in the Abrams' movies, he is with Orion women, whistling at cadets, trying to get with Uhura, and having threesomes with Caitians. Because that idea of Kirk being a "ladies man" is reved up to the nth degree.

So the Kirk that is being analyzed here is the same parody we have of modern audiences that only remember Kirk as a "bad ass sex machine". When Trekkies usually remember him less for that and more as part of the great triumvirate of Kirk-Spock-McCoy. Maybe I am alone on this but i honestly don't think of Kirk in the terms that pop culture displays him as.

Edited by The Founder

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Finished reading the whole thing. I think it's a good piece. I do agree with Sim that the idea of "Kirk Drift' itself is arguable, and that maybe, between the (supposed) evolution and progression of society and cultural discourse, there are just lazyass popular opinions out there that caught hold of one meme and spread it, like a virus. You know - like on social media. I'm not sure Star Trek fans per se ever viewed TOS Kirk as the frat boy womanizing prankster of this myth who happened to be in charge of a starship - not until the JJverse came along, anyway. IIRC a lot of fans got peeved about the portrayal of the character in both the 2009 film and STID. I know I did. It wasn't until ST: Beyond I felt I was watching Kirk (and all that is testament to what a good actor Chris Pine is - he did what was in the script and what the director told him to do). The first two movies gave us pastiche-Kirk, assembled from a mass memory of what he was supposed to be like. I'm not saying Shatner's portrayal was perfect, or perfectly consistent throughout 79 episodes and seven movies - but he certainly gave us a nuanced character of far greater depth than is sometimes recognized by BuzzFeed & Co's latest takedown of stoopid SF tropes.

Nonetheless, I think the intent of the article is admirable - to discard cultural baggage, to watch with new eyes, to discern a meaning free of the detritus that's built up around an idea, be it a character or a whole cultural text. She recontextualizes Kirk, several times, from multiple viewpoints. While she takes issue with some of the writing and social mores of that period, she seems broadly positive about Kirk as a much more layered character than he's generally thought of, out there in In Internetland and popular discourse. Yes, he could be a manipulative bastard. But he'd do anything to look after his ship and crew. He was, as the author demonstrates, clearly a monogamous animal when matched with a mind as strong as his own. I think she makes a great case for going back and looking at Kirk again and rejecting this mass-culture idea of him. (Notable that she mentions in passing, several other beloved SF franchises, including Doctor Who to build her assertions.)

Whether you agree or not with the sexual politics implicit in many of her arguments is down to you, but what I got from it is that she's using this examination of Kirk - a character she clearly loves - to talk in broader terms of where we should be, culturally speaking. That is, a little more forgiving about historical artifacts, approaching them on their own terms; a little more proactive in moving depictions of maleness away from cocky a$sholedom towards something that includes vulnerability and sympathy without portraying these finer traits as weakness. (That doesn't mean men "talking about their feelings.") Which Kirk, broadly speaking, had plenty of.

 

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Sim   
37 minutes ago, Robin Bland said:

Finished reading the whole thing. I think it's a good piece. I do agree with Sim that the idea of "Kirk Drift' itself is arguable, and that maybe, between the (supposed) evolution and progression of society and cultural discourse, there are just lazyass popular opinions out there that caught hold of one meme and spread it, like a virus. You know - like on social media. I'm not sure Star Trek fans per se ever viewed TOS Kirk as the frat boy womanizing prankster of this myth who happened to be in charge of a starship - not until the JJverse came along, anyway. IIRC a lot of fans got peeved about the portrayal of the character in both the 2009 film and STID. I know I did. It wasn't until ST: Beyond I felt I was watching Kirk (and all that is testament to what a good actor Chris Pine is - he did what was in the script and what the director told him to do). The first two movies gave us pastiche-Kirk, assembled from a mass memory of what he was supposed to be like. I'm not saying Shatner's portrayal was perfect, or perfectly consistent throughout 79 episodes and seven movies - but he certainly gave us a nuanced character of far greater depth than is sometimes recognized by BuzzFeed & Co's latest takedown of stoopid SF tropes.

Nonetheless, I think the intent of the article is admirable - to discard cultural baggage, to watch with new eyes, to discern a meaning free of the detritus that's built up around an idea, be it a character or a whole cultural text. She recontextualizes Kirk, several times, from multiple viewpoints. While she takes issue with some of the writing and social mores of that period, she seems broadly positive about Kirk as a much more layered character than he's generally thought of, out there in In Internetland and popular discourse. Yes, he could be a manipulative bastard. But he'd do anything to look after his ship and crew. He was, as the author demonstrates, clearly a monogamous animal when matched with a mind as strong as his own. I think she makes a great case for going back and looking at Kirk again and rejecting this mass-culture idea of him. (Notable that she mentions in passing, several other beloved SF franchises, including Doctor Who to build her assertions.)

Whether you agree or not with the sexual politics implicit in many of her arguments is down to you, but what I got from it is that she's using this examination of Kirk - a character she clearly loves - to talk in broader terms of where we should be, culturally speaking. That is, a little more forgiving about historical artifacts, approaching them on their own terms; a little more proactive in moving depictions of maleness away from cocky a$sholedom towards something that includes vulnerability and sympathy without portraying these finer traits as weakness. (That doesn't mean men "talking about their feelings.") Which Kirk, broadly speaking, had plenty of.

Good points and food for thought!

Maybe I should say, for the record, that the reservations I voiced in the first posting don't do justice to my general enjoyment with many parts of the article. Some of the author's interpretations of Kirk were spot on, IMO, even inspiring. For example, her take on "Conscience of the King" even made me see a new angle to that story -- I had first seen the episode at an age when I hardly understood most of its analogies and references, and when I later revisited the episode, didn't quite manage to see it with new, more mature eyes. Her article actually made me curious rewatching the episode with more alert eyes again.

At some points, the article reminded me of our resident Corylea's amazing short story about Kirk, which perfectly hit the character -- although the author of the article is probably a bit younger and grew up in a different pop culture environment, that apparently didn't blur her view on Kirk and she managed to see him with similar eyes as a fan of the first generation. I found that quite remarkable.

In general, it made me realize how much my view on TOS is probably biased by my viewing it at such a young age for the first time: As much as I am familiar with TOS, in and out, after having seen every episode several dozen times over the course of almost 30 years, it's still hard for me to really see it with the eyes of my current age. A bit like a couple that's married for decades, spends all the time together, yet they don't really know each other. The author of the article gave me an idea of such a fresh view. It's remarkable when an author manages to say something about TOS that actually appears new to me, and I want to thank her for that.

And yeah, her take on vulnerability is spot on, IMO. That's an admirable value and she has good words for it, just the kinds of words that are missing way too often. Another reason to thank the author.

 

As for Abrams' NuTrek, I guess I was somewhat forgiving of the "fratboy" Kirk in ST09, because I had in mind he's supposed to be 10 or even 15 years younger than the Kirk from TOS, plus he's an alternative version with a considerably more troubled childhood. Maybe that's why I didn't really take offense, also because his professional side increasingly shone through. However, by the time of STID, that kind of Kirk was certainly no longer appropriate. Another reason to dislike that movie. I'm glad they somewhat eased that with Beyond.

Edited by Sim

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This looks way interesting. I will start reading it. 

Since Ive been re-watching TOS it has hit me our dynamic Kirk was written. He's as complex as Spock with his self-doubt and intentional performance of command for the benefit of the crew. 

One thought--not to pick on the recent movies, although this criticism is true of Generations and maybe even Trek V and VI--is that the writers of those films dropped or forgot about Kirk's inner conflict. In Naked Time and Balence of Terror he literally wishes he were on a beach or a cruise ship--"Not too much deck tennis"--than on the bridge of the Enterprise. It gave the character weight. 

In the reboot movies, because Kirk became Captain in his 20s without having to work for it, the character doesn't seem to feel the burden of command in the same way Prime Kirk does. It's treated more like an awesome joyride. And in Beyond, it's almost like that joyride has gotten boring for him, like he's having an identity crisis that 20-somethings go through when they turn 30. Without passing judgement on the new version, the speeding up of his life due to the timeline changes makes him a completely different character than Prime Kirk.         

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nepr   

I think this essay is terrific.  I've read it through several times and I can sample it almost at random for enjoyable, thought provoking tidbits.  Strangely, I've not yet thanked RB for pointing me to it.  So, thanks RB!

From the beginning of the essay:

You “know” Star Trek before you ever see Star Trek: a ‘naive’ encounter with such a culturally cathected text is almost impossible...

This is a major source of my interest and delight in what the author calls, "the Star Trek project."   In fact, I would be a bit more grandiose and say that if you strip Star Trek from human history, you venture into the realm of counter-factual speculation; that is, to, "What would have happened if...?"  

Certainly, Trek's influence on science, technology, and culture can be, and often has been, over-stated.  Still, it's not easy to extract it from the path society has taken through the last half-century.  It's like that popular demonstration of entropy involving a glass of milk and a single drop of ink and the dilemma of taking it back out.

On 6/26/2017 at 5:33 AM, Justin Snead said:

In the reboot movies, because Kirk became Captain in his 20s without having to work for it, the character doesn't seem to feel the burden of command in the same way Prime Kirk does. It's treated more like an awesome joyride. And in Beyond, it's almost like that joyride has gotten boring for him, like he's having an identity crisis that 20-somethings go through when they turn 30. Without passing judgement on the new version, the speeding up of his life due to the timeline changes makes him a completely different character than Prime Kirk.     

^ Well put, and to the point.   We don't really know right now what, if any, part "Kirk Drift", played in the muddled presentation and development of nu!Kirk.  It does seem that Brash-Womanizing-Kirk made the cut when it was decided which characteristics nu!Kirk would have.  If, as the author asserts, there was no such character in TOS, then we may have an explanation for why the character seemed flat and empty to some of us.

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4 hours ago, nepr said:

I think this essay is terrific.  I've read it through several times and I can sample it almost at random for enjoyable, thought provoking tidbits.  Strangely, I've not yet thanked RB for pointing me to it.  So, thanks RB!

From the beginning of the essay:

You “know” Star Trek before you ever see Star Trek: a ‘naive’ encounter with such a culturally cathected text is almost impossible...

This is a major source of my interest and delight in what the author calls, "the Star Trek project."   In fact, I would be a bit more grandiose and say that if you strip Star Trek from human history, you venture into the realm of counter-factual speculation; that is, to, "What would have happened if...?"  

Certainly, Trek's influence on science, technology, and culture can be, and often has been, over-stated.  Still, it's not easy to extract it from the path society has taken through the last half-century.  It's like that popular demonstration of entropy involving a glass of milk and a single drop of ink and the dilemma of taking it back out.

^ Well put, and to the point.   We don't really know right now what, if any, part "Kirk Drift", played in the muddled presentation and development of nu!Kirk.  It does seem that Brash-Womanizing-Kirk made the cut when it was decided which characteristics nu!Kirk would have.  If, as the author asserts, there was no such character in TOS, then we may have an explanation for why the character seemed flat and empty to some of us.

If you read the memos quoted in Cushman's These are the Voyages, or just watch Season 1 of TOS closely, you see that Kirk is a really complex character. His central trait is that he feels the burden of command so heavily and is pained that he cannot express that side of himself to the crew. But it is all worth it because his only passion in life is to command a starship. He's a lot like Spock--and this was known to the writers at the time--that both characters are hiding their true selves behind a mask. My interpretation of his womanizing is that it is a release valve--and not a healthy one--of the pressure to be so bottled up as Captain. He's almost a sad character in a way. Watch Naked Time where he fantasized about walking on the beach "no braid on my shoulder" and he reaches for Rand. Anyway, none of this is in the Bad Robot movies. It's a terrible waste and a shame because a true prequel--like we are getting on DSC--could have shown what this Kirk was like as a young man.   

Edited by Justin Snead

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15 hours ago, nepr said:

I think this essay is terrific.  I've read it through several times and I can sample it almost at random for enjoyable, thought provoking tidbits.  Strangely, I've not yet thanked RB for pointing me to it.  So, thanks RB!

My pleasure! :)

15 hours ago, nepr said:

.

^ Well put, and to the point.   We don't really know right now what, if any, part "Kirk Drift", played in the muddled presentation and development of nu!Kirk.  It does seem that Brash-Womanizing-Kirk made the cut when it was decided which characteristics nu!Kirk would have.  If, as the author asserts, there was no such character in TOS, then we may have an explanation for why the character seemed flat and empty to some of us.

Works for me. NuKirk is a more or less completely different character. He was different as soon as his dad died to the point that he drove an antique car over a cliff to the sounds of the Beastie Boys. No sign of bookish young JIm here. JJ Abrams and his scriptwriters took a cultural distillation of the idea of Kirk and used that as the basis of the character in the first two Bad Robot films. 

11 hours ago, Justin Snead said:

...Anyway, none of this is in the Bad Robot movies. It's a terrible waste and a shame because a true prequel--like we are getting on DSC--could have shown what this Kirk was like as a young man.   

Be careful what you wish for... they might still do that... 

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nepr   
6 hours ago, Robin Bland said:

Works for me. NuKirk is a more or less completely different character. He was different as soon as his dad died to the point that he drove an antique car over a cliff to the sounds of the Beastie Boys. No sign of bookish young JIm here. JJ Abrams and his scriptwriters took a cultural distillation of the idea of Kirk and used that as the basis of the character in the first two Bad Robot films. 

I take it then that you actually like nu!Kirk?  If so, I can understand (but not forgive)! ;)

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Yeah, nuKirk is different, but I still quite like him. Spock is markedly different, too, and I have no problem with that.

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2 hours ago, nepr said:

I take it then that you actually like nu!Kirk?  If so, I can understand (but not forgive)! ;)

I think it's more like "tolerate in the context of the JJverse movies" than "like" per se! 

I did like him in Beyond, but it was only when I got to see him in Beyond that I realized quite how far off the mark the character was in the first two films.

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