Sunday, December 30, 2007

Please God and all that is merciful in life let this not be true--Tyler Perry to be in the new Star Trek franchise

So troubling if true:

courtesy of

I heard some reeeeaallly interesting things today about J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie. I’ll share all the details eventually but for the moment let’s break a piece of exclusive info: that writer/director Tyler Perry has a role in the new Star Trek movie. If you want to know who Perry is playing and how his character impacts the lives of young Kirk and Spock, beware of spoilers and click on through to read about it. And I mean that: SPOILERS ARE AHEAD!

It looks like Perry is playing the head of Starfleet Academy. Before you go asking if the character is going to be a human being or one of those funky aliens with a dozen more nostrils, it looks like Perry’s character is a plain old fashioned human.

Here’s some background on the dude: Tyler Perry is one of the bigger breakthrough success stories that Hollywood has had recently. He began his career and won acclaim as a playwright before moving into film. He’s directed and written the screen stories for Madea’s Family Reunion, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Daddy’s Little Girls and his latest hit which came out earlier in the year, Why Did I Get Married?. If the man’s a Trekkie he’s kept it quiet or maybe J.J. is just a fan of Madea.

My informant tells me about a big scene that was filmed a couple of weeks back that involved Perry, Chris Pine (the young James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (young Spock) and dozens of other extras. Now really, if you’re here then you already decided that you wanted to be spoiled, but here comes the bigger spoilers…

...Tyler’s character is overseeing some kind of Starfleet courtroom/assembly event where young Kirk is facing expulsion from Starfleet. It turns out that the Starfleet prez didn’t look too favorably on Cadet Kirk for “cheating” on one of his critical tests. And all you Trekkies out there know exactly what it is Kirk did: he rigged the Kobayashi Maru test so he could win it.

(For those that don’t know their Tribbles from Andorians, the Kobayashi Maru is a piece of Trek lore introduced in Star Trek II. Starfleet cadets are placed inside a starship simulator and given a no-win scenario: either try and rescue the survivors of a stranded space freighter trapped behind the Klingon Neutral Zone and thus in enemy space or listen to them die when they are found by the Klingons. The test is designed that there is no possible outcome where you save the Maru survivors and beat the Klingons; it’s supposed to give cadets a taste of what it’s like to be working under pressure as you face probably death. Kirk won the Kobayashi Maru test by reprogramming the scenario so he could actually win it because, as the dude himself said, “I don’t like to lose.")

So young Kirk is standing in front of his peers (human and alien Starfleet cadets and officers) and facing immediate expulsion from the Academy. After hearing the charge from Perry’s character, Chris Pine-as-Kirk delivers a speech in the same vein as some of the classic Kirk speeches from the TV series. He wants to know how his cheating was found out, and it’s revealed that there was a witness to Kirk’s act. Kirk immediately demands to know who the witness was so he can face his accuser.

And that’s when Zachary Quinto-as-Spock stands up. Yup, he’s the one that ratted on Kirk reprogramming the Kobayashi Maru test and he’s the reason why Kirk is about to be expelled from Starfleet. And then…

I’m going to cut it short there for now because I want to follow up with my source and ask some more questions about what happens next. Yeah, I’m leaving you hanging here but it can’t be helped. Besides, it’s the holidays and breaking news is practically non-existent so if I can stretch this out and come back with more spoilers from Star Trek, why not? Plus I want to be able to explain how the new costumes fit into Trek continuity and what they look like…

I promise to be back tomorrow with more. But before I close hailing frequencies I’ve got one final story detail to relate to you: at the start of that day’s filming J.J. addressed the assembled cast and told them that he was extremely happy to have Tyler Perry being a part of his Star Trek movie for many reasons, but one of the biggest was that this would mark the first time
that Perry has appeared in a movie outside of his own projects...


We go from Uhura (random factoid: MLK himself asked her to remain on the show because of her impact as a role model for young black people) to one more minstrelesque, mammy-evoking, carnival of black transvestism. Now introducing Star Trek, The New Adventures: Jigs in Space

So we have Tyler Perry as The Head of Starfleet Academy:

Some additional casting suggestions.

Maybe we could add Eddie Murphy's character Norbit as The Head of Starfleet Security:

Nell Carter as The Head of Starfleet's diplomatic corps:

And of course Monique as Sarak's wife and Spock's mother:

Finally, Chris Tucker's character Ruby Rhod as the alien hottie that Kirk inevitably seduces:

Who else should we add to our cast?

Post-script: One of my friends made the good point that everybody doesn't know who Tyler Perry is, and thus, why would one find this scenario problematic? Tyler Perry is a man who has made a career of playing black, female, mammy characters. For example, see this article which describes Perry's crusade to spread and reinforce these disgusting portrayals of black people (as if Japan doesn't need more reinforcement for its cultural embrace of notions such as Sambo).

Why is this troublesome? The idea of the overweight, black female character (here: the mammy) is rooted in very problematic, and pejorative notions of black personhood. Moreover, the black mammy is a manifestation of a tension wherein black females in popular culture are oftentimes either the 1) overweight, harmless, emotional surrogate for white women and a caregiver for whites (see: "Ohh boss our house be burnin down," aka "The Gone With the Wind Syndrome" or better yet, Miss Oprah) or; the 2) the hypersexualized black female mandigo ("I can't repress my libidinous black sexuality, it must be the melanin" figure). Either way, both are deeply problematic stereotypes that have framed, in a profound manner, the ways wherein some black folk often see ourselves, and how some whites see us as a people. In the case of Star Trek, and sci-fi more generally, I term this the "Jar Jar Binks syndrome" where a poor casting decision distracts the viewer from the overall story through both an appeal to, and/or use of, (either intentionally or unintentionally) actors and/or characters that are laden by problematic racial or ethnic stereotypes.

Now I can exhale. Get me?


gordon gartrelle said...

And here I thought that one couldn't be both a Star Wars geek and a Star Trek geek. Shows what I know.

You'd completely destroy my belief system if you told me that you were into Lord of The Rings too.

T. said...

That post shattered about a million black stereotypes at once due to the sheer geek cred in it.

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

I am (not) sorry to say you ain't seen nothing yet. Being a black geek is not a state of mutual is wonderfully natural.

chauncey devega

Anonymous said...

I'm proud to be a black nerd, although I always hated Star Trek and Star Wars