Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Conversation With Professor David Greven About Gender, Sexuality, and Race in the Star Trek Universe

David Greven, professor and expert on Star Trek is the guest on this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show.

David is the author of numerous books including Gender and Sexuality in Star Trek: Allegories of Desire in the Television Series and Films.

He is also Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of South Carolina.

In this episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, David and Chauncey talk about the Star Trek TV and film universe and how it both represents and struggles with questions of gender, sexuality, and race.

David and Chauncey also discuss Kirk and Spock's "brotherly" love, Trek's problems with representing black masculinity, Voyager as a show where questions about gay and lesbian rights and agency were channeled via the holographic doctor, Data as a sexual being, and many other Star Trek related topics.

Chauncey and David also reminisce about their favorite childhood toy disappointments and the joys of watching early and mid 1980s New York television stations such as Channel 11 and Channel 9.

Chauncey DeVega offers some thoughts about the Oklahoma fraternity racism imbroglio and the Department of Justice's two reports on Ferguson.

This episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show with Professor David Greven can be listened to below or "watched" on the official Youtube channel for

The Chauncey DeVega Show can also be followed on Itunes and listened to via Stitcher on your smart phone or other related technology.


OldPolarBear said...

Lately, I've been checking in here late; looks like I will be first today lol.

Wow, that was one damn fine podcast! Fun, as you said, and really thought-provoking. And you epilogue bit was spot on, too. I have almost completely quite watching TV; my partner and I use the teevee machine pretty much exclusively for movies. It is good to be reminded that there is some value in being aware of pop culture, even when it is quite trashy.

But this was mostly about Star Trek. And I will say that I loved it in high school and for years afterward, watched ST:TNG religiously and saw quite a bit of both Voyager and DSN before I dropped out somehow. Some of the movies, too, but not all.

So much in here but I will talk a bit about the "Ultimate Computer" episode. I remembered the character was black but had forgotten that his name was Daystrom, I assume the same after which the eponymous Institute always mentioned in the later series was named. You and David mentioned how many of the black men depicted on the show were depicted as crazy or unstable somehow. I never thought about it too much at the time when I first saw that episode -- I just assumed that he cracked up from various pressures of being super smart, like getting bullied as a kid for being a nerd, etc. That was pretty much projection from my own experience in small-town Iowa!

Now, I have a somewhat different take on it. See, much as I loved, and still love, the show, as well as the Federation, the Enterprise, and all it's crew, I see it much differently than I did back then. The thing is, to me, The Federation is the neoliberal empire. They are always going on about peaceful exploration and cooperation, but they are also always blasting away at somebody with the phasers and photon torpedoes. And Daystrom was reacting to that and cracking up because of that. I'd have to watch it again to get the exact wording, but there is a line in his speech when his computer creation has "gone crazy" and he finally cracks, too, where he says something about how interstellar space "was ours neither to give or to take." He is rebelling against the endless "growth for the sake of growth" of the human expansion (and implicitly that of other spacefaring species). He just isn't having any more of it. Of course, YMMV.

On the sexuality in the various series: It was always there, even in the original. ST:TNG and Voyager just had tons of it just below the surface, and occasionally almost breaking through.

FWIW, I took it as a given from nearly the first episode that Tom Paris and Harry Kim were lovers.

chauncey devega said...

There is a neat book in international relations and Trek that does a great job of asking hard questions of the Federation. One of the claims is that TNG is a direct mirror of Clinton's politics abroad.

Totally random, there is actually a halfway decent adult film done for Trek. Ain't bad if I do say so myself. Kim and Paris were lovers. I always took that as a given. If you can find it, Garak on DS9 is the subject of a book written by the actor who played him that explicitly talks about the character's bisexuality.

Black Romulan said...

That was a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking podcast CDV. But then again, you had me at "Star Trek" :)

My contribution to the discussion is that I get my name from the TNG episode, "The Pegasus" which featured the first dark-skinned Romulan commander, Sirol (played by Michael Mack). I was over the moon when I saw that depiction because I always did like Romulans and I do (in support of your argument on the podcast) like to see a bit of myself in my fantasy portrayals. Exploring difference is good, but we imagine to explore ourselves, I say.

You and David went to so many interesting places I can't just pick one; I gotta plug into the M5 for a while and let it process it all for me a while.

Please accept some strips of gold-pressed latinum for the hour full of chuckles, 80s nerdom remembrances (BTW, make mine a Col. Wilma Deering action figure, thanks very much) and "I never thought of thats" (Giordi and Data, why didn't I catch that?).