Saturday, March 23, 2013

Star Trek On Rape

Thanks to a post by George Takei[1], I found Star Trek on Hulu[2] and have been watching The Original Series.  I noticed something interesting in the episode, "The Enemy Within"[3].  The premise of the episode is a transporter accident causing Captain Kirk to be split into 2 different halves.  One good, one evil.

In the scene at 9:19 Evil Kirk goes to Yeoman Rand's quarters and attempts to rape her.

In scene soon after, at 12:40, Rand is in sickbay with Spock, McCoy, and Good Kirk.  At this point, none of them know there are 2 Kirks running around.  So, as far as Spock & McCoy are aware, they're talking the victim of a sexual assault with the attacker in the room.  Better yet, the accused attacker is in charge of the questioning.

The conversation went like this[4]:
AND: Then he kissed me and he said that we, that he was the Captain and he could order me. I didn't know what to do. When you mentioned the feelings we'd been hiding, and you started talking about us. 
KIRK: Us? 
RAND: Well, he is the captain. I couldn't just. You started hurting me. I had to fight you, and scratch your face. 
KIRK: Yeoman, look at me. Look at me, look at my face. Are there any scratches? 
RAND: I was sure I scratched you. I was frightened. Maybe 
KIRK: Yeoman. I was in my room. It wasn't me. 
RAND: Sir, Fisher saw you, too. 
KIRK: Fisher saw? 
RAND: If it hadn't been. I can understand. I don't want to get you into trouble. I wouldn't have even mentioned it! 
KIRK: It wasn't me! 
FISHER: It was you, sir. 
KIRK: Do you know what you're saying? 
FISHER: Yes, I know what I'm saying. 
MCCOY: Back to that bed, bucko. Come on, let's go. 
SPOCK: You can go now, Yeoman. (Rand leaves) There's only one logical answer. We have an impostor aboard.
The only reason she even reported the attempted rape, by the ship's captain, was the witness.  Had Fisher not been there, Rand would have let the assault go unreported.  She would have just let it happen without consequence.  For the attacker at least.  She would have still had the consequence of working for man who had tried to rape her.

Then there's the final scene.
FARRELL: Status report, green. 
SPOCK: All sections report ready, sir. 
KIRK: Good. Thank you, Mister Spock, from both of us. 
SPOCK: Shall I pass that on to the crew, sir? 
KIRK: The impostor's back where he belongs. Let's forget him. 
RAND: Captain? The impostor told me what happened, who he really was, and I'd just like to say that. Well, sir, what I'd like is 
KIRK: Thank you, Yeoman. 
SPOCK: The, er, impostor had some interesting qualities, wouldn't you say, Yeoman? 
KIRK: This is the Captain speaking. Navigator, set in course correction. Helmsman, steady as she goes.
According to the Star Trek wiki, Memory Alpha, Grace Lee Whitney (the actress who played Rand) had something to say about that[5].
Actress Grace Lee Whitney was very unhappy about the last scene of this episode, in which Spock asks Yeoman Rand, if "The imposter had some very interesting qualities, wouldn't you say, Yeoman?". In her autobiography, she wrote: "I can't imagine any more cruel and insensitive comment a man (or Vulcan) could make to a woman who has just been through a sexual assault! But then, some men really do think that women want to be raped. So the writer of the script (ostensibly Richard Matheson - although the line could have been added by Gene Roddenberry or an assistant scribe) gives us a leering Mr. Spock who suggests that Yeoman Rand enjoyed being raped and found the evil Kirk attractive!" (The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy, p. 95)
No shit?  Praising the attacker, jokingly or not, to the victim is inappropriate?  Weird.

It may be a television show, and the incident is fictional.  But film is a reflection of society at the time.  For a show praised for its diversity[6] and tolerance[7], it really missed the ball on the subject of rape.  This is how one of the most progressive shows of its time portrayed rape.

I guess I would feel a little bit better about their failure 50 years ago if we had learned anything since then.  But then there's Steubenville[8].

Yay for us.  Way to go.  Ugh.

Maybe we'll treat victims properly after another 50 years.


1 comment:

  1. Rand's comment is interesting. I think it's used to make clear her status as a perfectly innocent victim, and enhance the imposter's status as an aggressor with no regard for anyone. From a script standpoint, having a witness makes it easier to get to the point where "we have an imposter" is the only conclusion. Perhaps today she would defend herself in a way that left spots of the impostor's fresh blood on her clothes, and McCoy or someone could prove it's Kirk's blood. (It's been a while since I saw the episode, so maybe they tried that and it failed... oops)

    "Praising the attacker"

    I don't see Spock's comment as praise for the imposter. The imposter is the aggressive half of Kirk, separated from the gentle half of Kirk. As the imposter is at the end re-integrated into Kirk, and Spock is making one of his witty comments, the comment only makes sense to me if Spock is talking about whole-Kirk, not aggressive-Kirk. (A hint to this is the "er" in "er, imposter".) And as the series is about Kirk, it's no surprise that he's interesting. Part of Kirk's character is his supposed attractiveness to female characters (something I never understood) and I think there was sexual tension between Rand and Kirk in the first-season episodes where they interacted. The line could be taken literally ("now the imposter is gone, Kirk is safe to want again"), or equally could be interpreted as a warning ("you've seen what Kirk might be capable of, but I can't call my Captain a scumbag in front of everyone for what the uncontrolled aggressive half of him did").

    While it is true that a human being split into two halves this way (ignore the impossibility of it all) means that Rand was assaulted by someone who fundamentally can't exist as an individual person, and any Vulcan should find that interesting in itself, but also particularly as they struggle to keep their own extreme personalities integrated in similar fashion, and especially human-vulcan hybrid Spock who has even more to deal with, I don't think that's what he was referring to, due to the "wouldn't you say" part, because Rand probably wouldn't.

    But also note that Spock and Vulcans are known for frequent incomprehension or disregard of human feelings, so it's not unexpected he might say something he believes is correct, but insensitive. That's sometimes who he is, which is why we get all teary when he does the emotionally-correct things in movies.