As per usual Star Trek Into Darkness has sparked much fan discussion and even disagreement, but but if there’s one thing we can all agree on: we love seeing Alice Eve in her undies! True, of course, until anyone bothered to ask a woman. There has always been scantily clad females throughout Trek history – it’s a part of what makes Kirk so Kirk – so, why should this one scene be causing such a stir? Why have female fans responded so strongly in this case? Read my analysis below, but beware of SPOILERS.
[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD]
Gratuitous Underwear: How did we get here?
As if you need me to, I’ll set the scene. Kirk accompanies Carol Marcus to a shuttlecraft to discuss sending her to a nearby planetoid to try and diffuse some of these mysterious photon torpedoes aboard the Enterprise. She’s the logical choice since, as we learned in her introductory scene, she holds an advanced degree with a specialty in weaponry. Great, nothing out of the ordinary here, I’ll just go ahead and OH! You’re in your underwear! That’s just great.
But, let’s back up a second. Why exactly is she in her underwear? She tells Kirk to turn around, doesn’t mention why (were we expecting here to require a change of wardrobe?) and then acts coy when Kirk sneaks a peak at her half-dressed body. The scene was flat out gratuitous. It had no point. There was no reason for her to change clothes. There was no reason for her to change in front of Kirk. There was no reason for her to change in a shuttlecraft with the back door hanging wide open. The writers threw the scene in for pure, testosterone-driven shock value. (Side note: lucky she was wearing her brand new Victoria Secret push-up bra. I’m sure that’s real comfortable under her uniform, especially in a combat situation)
Think I’m being harsh? Even Damon Lindelof himself, co-writer of Into Darkness, publicly apologized for the scene saying over a few tweets:
“I copped to the fact that we should have done a better job of not being gratuitous in our representation of a barely clothed actress. We also had Kirk shirtless in underpants in both movies. Do not want to make light of something that some construe has mysogenistic [sic]. What I’m saying is I hear you, I take full responsibility, and will be more mindful in the future.”
Damsels in Distress: Where are all the women?
But, we’ve seen our fair share of half-naked women (and men!) throughout Star Trek. Even in Star Trek (2009) we had one hot Orion woman in her undies as well as Uhura changing for us all to see. Why was it okay then but not now? Two reasons: 1. Those scenes were built into the story well (i.e. it was not gratuitous), and 2. Those scenes did not detract from their characters.
She undressed with purpose!
The Orion girl was undressed because, well, she was getting naughty with Kirk! As for Uhura, she was changing because she was in her personal quarters and unaware that some “mouth breather” was looking on from underneath her roommate’s bed. Those moments had purpose; they made sense. Randomly disrobing in the back of a shuttle craft? Gratuitous.
Secondly, and most importantly, the Marcus underwear scene detracted from the only truly strong female role in the entire film. Let’s start from the beginning. A terrorist attack has occurred (after a MAN bribed the FATHER of a dying child), and all of Starfleet’s finest are gathered together at a round table to talk options. Who do we see? A bunch of old white human males (with maybe a token woman thrown in). Cut to our introduction to Carol Wallace (aka Carol Marcus). She’s cute, she’s sexy, she’s got great hair! But, she’s also brilliant and trained in advanced weaponry — a force even Mr. Spock is threatened by. Meanwhile, Uhura does little more than follow Spock around moaning about him having a death wish. For the girls, it’s Carol who is going to represent us as a strong, smart, beautiful, independent woman! Aaaaand, then she threw her clothes at Kirk the first chance she got. Role model no more. (It’s worth noting that Felicia Day, famed nerd girl/actress, has posted similar thoughts about this on her blog.)
Uhura, who many would point to as a shining symbol of strong African-American women, isn’t without her girl power moments in the film. On Kronos, Uhura really gets to strut her stuff as the only person able to speak Klingon and decides to go up against a whole swarm of them (according to Mr. Barris, 12 Klingons constitutes a swarm). This for her is a moment of true courage. Much of that courageous character is lost, however, throughout the rest of the film as Uhura is given the primary role of humanizing Spock.
Uhura has a moment of courage and strength
Now, I am by no means a feminist [UPDATE: See author’s note below]. As a woman, I’m all for the equal treatment of women. But, I take a pragmatic approach. I’ll let you guys in on a little secret: women sometimes like looking at other women naked. Women, particularly those starring in blockbuster Hollywood films, are beautiful things, and us girls like looking at beautiful things (I’m convinced it’s the same for men looking at men, but I can’t get my boyfriend to admit it). But, even more than that, we like looking at a beautiful, strong, independent women. We like watching someone who we want to be like, and we like being told that you can be smart and beautiful. You can also be strong and beautiful, evil and beautiful, gay and beautiful. After the underwear scene, Carol was just dumb and beautiful.
Don’t look or my clothes might fall off
What about the men in STID? Should we be outraged?
“What about the men!” you say? I’ve heard the argument that we saw men in tight diving suits and a shirtless Kirk, so the Marcus underwear scene should be no different. I couldn’t disagree more. First of all, those diving suits? Hardly flattering for many of the men in question (I was seriously surprised that the costume department didn’t fix that one — wetsuits tend to make one look pudgy). And besides, we saw both genders in those dive suits. Secondly, and I’ll say this again, those scenes had purpose and didn’t detract from the character like the Marcus scene did.
So, tell me: where are all the women in Star Trek Into Darkness? Are they strong, independent role models for our daughters, or are they just dumb blondes?
Follow me on Twitter: @kaylai.
[UPDATE]: Author’s note
When I wrote this article, I wanted to discuss issues important to women in Trek, in Hollywood, and in the world at large, but I did it while making sure everyone knew that I am “by no means a feminist”.
I have now changed my mind.
At the time I wrote this, I did not understand what the often loaded term “feminist” really means. I though it was coming from a place of hate – an “us versus them” mentality. I could not have been more wrong. After reading the comments here, I have learned what feminism truly is. It’s about equality. For all. But, it’s also about recognizing the sacrifices that women before us have had to make and the struggles we are still fighting to overcome today.
Today, I’m proud to say: I am a feminist.