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Monday, March 3, 2014

Captain Janeway Cheffin' Up Some Feminism

I grew up watching and being enchanted by the men in my life and their love of all things “geek”: their Magic the Gathering, Star Wars figurines (which came packaged in a plastic Millennium Falcon), the original “Lost in Space” (Sorry Matthew LeBlanc), Street Fighter, Riven, and my dad’s favorite, Star Trek. We Watched “Wrath of Kahn” when I was about 9 and I’ve had a thing for Star Trek (and an aversion to Q-Tips) ever since.

When I was 10 or 11, I started watching the new Star Trek T.V. series on my own. I loved Next Generation but my favorite was always Voyager. It was Captain Janeway and that little side smirk; almost always accompanied by a witty retort deflecting an insubordinate comment. In many ways, I took for granted just how “cool” it was that a woman was not only the lead character in a popular sci-fi, but also the captain of her own ship. Captain Janeway wasn’t some robot bombshell like 7 of 9, there mostly to allow writers to act out their internal, imagined dialogue with attractive women. No, Janeway was an experienced, sentient and capable captain. This is something I’ve come to realize is relatively rare in television today, with fewer and fewer examples of shows that pass the “Bechdel Test”. 

I look back on Voyager and find strong, positive, female characters missing from most new media, especially in areas like sci-fi where their role is almost always secondary. What brought this to mind was Kate Mulgrew’s portrayal of Red on Orange is the New Black. Although incarcerated, this character seems to run her prison kitchen with military precision and her own code of ethics (smuggling is allowed but no drugs) to make due with the circumstances she’s been given. Especially considering her difficult past, I appreciate this character’s motherly regard for the other inmates and her ability to win the respect of the authority figures around her by displaying her wit and business savvy. With the new season approaching, I am excitedly waiting to see what this character does next and am hopeful about her prospects (I doubt they would try to re-shape or cheapen her character to appeal to a broader audience).

Here’s hoping that the only show new teens grow up with (where women actually talk to each other), isn’t one where they’re also forced to be in prison together.

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