8.31.2011

Star Trek: Ensign Harry Kim

~ Special Inaugural Post ~

Like many of my fellow people of color, I have a love-hate relationship with the Star Trek franchise.  Firstly, I always rolled my eyes the demographic inaccuracies of the 24th century.  The fate of white folks has been sealed as of the 21st Century, yet in the 24th Century, they're not only shown outnumbering POC, but as usual, they're still shown being in charge of everything...and as the default aliens.

Secondly, there's a saying amongst Star Trek fans of color that "humans are the white people of the galaxy".  Not only does this one species constantly seem to magically outnumber hundreds of thousands of others, but once again, almost all other species seem subject to their authority, or are portrayed as culturally inferior somehow.

Now, while listening to the commentaries on the DVDs of the various series, I've come to understand that the writers and producers actually did want to do more for women, homosexuals, and people of color on the show, but the studios which owned the rights to the show weren't so forward-thinking, regardless of Gene Roddenberry's vision.

So here's a mini-feature designed to strictly focus on specific Trek characters of African and Asian descent, starting with Ensign Harry Kim, from Star Trek: Voyager.

First of all, I loved the choice of Garrett Wang.  He was youthful, good-looking, and an excellent actor - big ups to Garrett Wang.  I think he broke stereotypes in some ways, but his character maintained them in others.

Pros

1) Though a competent officer and fighter, Harry Kim isn't a martial arts master.
2) For Asian Americans who longed to see someone more like them on TV, Kim didn't speak with an accent or constantly make meaningless statements about culture or honor.  His character was not defined strictly by his ethnicity.
3) Seven years is an awful long time to be stranded in another quadrant, and Kim didn't spend those seven years sleeping alone.  We see him on multiple dates with various women, and he even begins the show already having a girlfriend.
4) Along with humans, we see Kim pursue and be pursued by alien women as well.
5) Harry is fine.  That's an undeniably good-looking man right there.

Cons

1) Kim is an Ensign.  Keep in mind, he's the third Asian member of regular bridge or ops crew since the original series back in the 1960s (Dr. Julian Bashir was the second), but for some reason, we've yet to see an Asian Captain or even First Officer as a series regular.
2) Kim is a clarinet-playing math nerd who wishes he had more confidence with women (like his white male friend Lt. Paris).  Fail.
3) In his relationship with every man on the ship, Kim is always the "beta male".  Fail.
4) When a character was required to be victimized or tormented somehow by the writing staff, Kim was often first choice (Garrett Wang confirmed this).
5) Only once do we see Kim romantically/physically involved with a woman portrayed by an actress who isn't white.

Final Verdict

All in all, I thought Ensign Kim was a great character.  There could've been definite improvements in some place, but obviously none of his flaws were the fault of the actor.

Recommended

Harry Kim and Rinna (Screen Caps)
"Favorite Son", an Historical Cookie

10 comments:

  1. damn...i accidently hit the back button and erased my reply. It went something like this:

    is it weird that although I have a solid crush on this man that I avoided episodes with him involved because of the serious emasculation he underwent sans writers?

    I have that love/hate relationship, gag moments, even a few episodes that made me so angry I swore off of the whole series and deleted it from my queue.

    Now, if only Harry, Tuvok and Chakotay had more screentime... Seriously. These beautiful men <<< seven, kes, paris, emo self-hating wannabe-human/white belanna, et al any day and everyday. Stupid writers. Stupid industry. Stupid world. So much potential wasted because stereotypes sell. Weirdest. Logic. Ever.

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  2. is it weird that although I have a solid crush on this man that I avoided episodes with him involved because of the serious emasculation he underwent sans writers?

    No, it's not. I do the same thing. If it's an episode where I know I'm going to see Kim humiliated in some way, I automatically skip.

    My favorite ep of his so far is "Favorite Son" - not just because of the BW/AM kiss, but because of how quickly he smells a setup.

    Now, if only Harry, Tuvok and Chakotay had more screentime

    Indeed. That was quite a waste.

    human/white belanna,

    She's actually Latina, but she strikes me as the kind who really wants to be white. She didn't let them put her in proper Klingon/human hybrid makeup, and once Seven (*retches*) joined the show, she started lightening her hair.

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  3. Sorry, I should have been more clear: I know B'elanna is Latina, but the whole 'wannabe-human' thing reeked of society's 'wannabe-white' mantra, thus my /comment (and you pretty much hit it with your comment too).

    I don't recall the episode but there was that one about B'elanna getting separated into her human and Klingon parts, and wishing she could stay human. That one made me want to put a fist through my tv. She clearly hated that she was bi-racial, and that was the message that I found problematic.

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  4. Oooooh, I remember that one (it's in Season 1, I believe) - and her Klingon counterpart was AWESOME!!!!

    But remember the ep where she experiments on holograms to see if she could filter out her Klingon genes altogether, so her kid would be the blondest, whitest human she could create?

    And what amuses me to no end is that one of the things attracting Paris to her is her Klingon side!

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  5. Jazzy Jane said

    I am such a Trekkie I love this post. Off of Asians and on to women for a moment, did you notice how when they finally got a female in charge she got lost? Aren't women supposed to be the ones that do ask for directions?

    Anyway, as a trek nerd I was able to secure and read a book documenting the journey Roddenberry made as he created his show. He was such a forward thinker and so interested in breaking stereotypes and freeing peoples mind while giving people a peek into what the future could look like in people getting along with each other while embracing peoples background. He had to fight to keep his show on and he had to fight to keep the cultural composition he had. Uhura and Sulu were supposed to have much bigger roles (check out the first episode) but as the series continued the producers kept trying to their best to white wash and strangle the progressive focus out of the show as best they could. Once he died, successors could do so much without Gene's voice as a thorn of change in their side.

    I would have love to see what Gene would have done unrestrained.

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  6. "In a 2007 interview with scifiworld.com, Wang voiced his displeasure about the show. He felt the Harry Kim character was "underused", passive and one-dimensional. Prior to Season 2, he went to the producers and said: "Listen I want to have a stunt double, I want to do some stunts, I want to run, I want to kick; I want to have a love life". He also stated to only have had "minimal" creative impact upon Harry Kim: he desperately wanted Harry Kim to be funnier, but the producers felt that Neelix or The Doctor fit better as comic relief. In the end, he described it as unfulfilling,[5] and also spoke of a "rift" between Berman and him.[4] When he complained that every other character on the show got promoted except Kim, he was told that he had to remain the lowly Ensign because "well someone's got to be the ensign"

    from wikipedia.

    Me and my mom said that Voyage was the worst series along with Enterprise. I thought it was good but the producers messed it up. I'm glad that they did a reboot with the series and had more POC in the Movie (yes I do count Quinto as a POC)

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  7. (yes I do count Quinto as a POC)

    Don't let white fangirls hear you say that.

    I'm not surprised Wang felt unfulfilled and disappointed by this role. And it's no coincidence that all this happened to the Asian character; that's Hollywhite for you.

    It's such a shame. He's a really good actor and they had him in his prime. When I was teenager, he was the sole reason I watched this show. I didn't even notice Chakotay or Tuvok until I was in college.

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  8. It seems like everytime minorities be justified in asking about more clout in Hollywood, the directors will either tell them that they can't have it and/or they will get fired from the show.

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  9. @M: That's true. That why there are so few POC actors in Hollynazi.

    Also not to detrail, but Asian actors that I've see (Drama and non-fighting movies) can act as much as a white actor. But instead of relying on the Nazis in Hollywood. POC should make a public stand for equal roles in Hollywood and support other POC directors, Actors, and other big wigs.

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  10. And keep churning out their own webseries. I maintain it's the future.

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