Pointless Nonsense

Posted in tv by Bill on September 15, 2012

Rather than post stream of consciousness episode by episode ramblings that no one reads, and yet still compelled to vent thoughts at the world as I marathon an older show, I thought it might make sense to stick to single-topic posts as I make my way through Star Trek: The Next Generation. Having just finished “Skin of Evil” where (1988 spoiler alert!) Tasha Yar dies, it seemed a good point to discuss her.

It’s been 15+ years since I’ve seen most of these episodes, and looking at the gender issues they present through adult eyes for the first time (and at least so far, they spend a lot of time on gender issues), Tasha’s character is quite confusing.

The particular things that seemed odd to me are these. In “The Naked Now” a disease causes crew members to act drunk and she becomes promiscuous. In “Code of Honor” she’s kidnapped by a take charge dude with backwards gender views, and she’s very attracted to him. These are both very early in the first season. In subsequent episodes they fill in her backstory as an orphan growing up in a lawless environment, mentioning on multiple occasions how she had to flee from rape gangs. Giving her a rape-filled history (though it’s unclear if she herself was ever raped) after putting her in two scenarios that are often used to defend rapists (she acted promiscuously and she showed an attraction to men who take what they want) seems weird to me.

Without the rape parts, I could get behind her being promiscuous. The show tends to have progressive values, and in the name of gender equality, I would have no problem with flipping the Kirk scenario around, making Tasha the girl that goes to alien worlds and bangs green-skinned dudes. In theory, that could be handled well. Make the future free of slut shaming, give a sex-positive message, etc. But they probably wouldn’t do that because it’s hard to do without seeming exploitative.

Or, and they probably wouldn’t do this either because it’s awfully dark, have her be totally messed up in the head over the trauma of the rape gang stuff. Give her PTSD and associated symptoms, and have her frequently in counseling with Troi. Show that even after living in a Federation utopia for years, the damage doesn’t go away. But this also kinda runs the risk of making her seem fragile, which is the exact opposite of who she is.

But that really wasn’t this at all. Maybe there was a message in all this that I missed, but it seemed like they just threw in rape for no good reason.

Also strange, after spending a lot of effort building up a character, confusing though she may have been, they pretty much abandoned her after the 6th or 7th episode. She was still security and tactics, so she has phasers to fire and exposition to give, but developed basically no relationships with other characters or revealed more about herself. Which is probably why Denise Crosby wanted out.

On a more autobiographical note, I didn’t start watching this show from the beginning, so I picked up the earlier episodes in reruns. And, totally undermining any impression of being an enlightened, non-superficial man I may have given in the previous paragraphs, I always thought of Tasha as mannish and unattractive until I saw the third episode. The aforementioned drunk condition results in a shot following her swaying ass down the hall (warning: terrible music) and her wearing an awesome stomach and underboob revealing outfit when she banged Data. This totally reversed my opinion on her hotness. And then after leaving the show, Denise Crosby appeared in a Red Shoe Diaries, which teenage me considered quite awesome.

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