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Student Guest Blog: Zach Landau on Star Trek slash fiction

Who wants to talk about something non election related? How about some good old fashioned gay talk?

I actually specifically chose to not post about the election at all yesterday. At least not on my own blog. Some people wrote and asked me my opinions and I commented some other places, but I just kinda wasn’t in the mood to write about it. I got the result that I had been expecting for several months but that I didn’t want. I had come to terms with it quite some time ago, but it still hurt. Personally, I very much believe that there’s going to be a bunch that I don’t like in the next four years, but that in the end everything is going to be “okay” more or less. Sucky… but okay. This oddly puts me in a much more optimistic place than the vast majority of the media that I consume. Being an optimist is not my strong suit. It’s… WEIRD for me. Uncomfortable even. But I understand. I’ll just be much happier once everyone else starts to heal a little bit so that I can go back to being everyone’s favorite dreary and mean-spirited internet asshole curmudgeon. But really… it’s going to take some time. Take your time. I’ll wait. I figure I’m going to have no shortage of political things to complain about over the next four years.

So in the meantime, in the spirit of healing… let’s talk about something different. Star Trek slash fiction!!! It’s time for me to continue my series of student guest blogs from my Sex, Violence and Comics class. This one was composed by Zach Landau, a junior Digital Media Arts major. As always, this was posted with permission, and I’m sure that Zach would appreciate any feedback that you might have.


star_trek__kirk_x_spock_by_technoranma-d4ikcidIn this graphic, we get an artist’s approximation of what a romantic enounter between Captain Kirk and Officer Spock from the 2009 Paramount Pictures theatrical-remake of the seminal classic, Star Trek, would look like. Depicted is the two coworkers engaging in a clear public-display-of-affection, as evidenced by the pursing of the captains lips, the proximity of those lips with those of his subordinate, and the intimate look in the officer’s eyes. This is obviously a gross over-stepping of what is acceptable in a work place (a government work place as well), which may elicit a sort of dangerous feel from the two lovers. At any moment, they could be caught by any one of the many workers who could be on the Starship Enterprise with them. This thrill suits the adventuring duo nicely, as the two are no strangers to danger.

The body language also characterizes the two, complimenting their canon personalities perfectly. We have Kirk, the natural born leader, asserting dominence over a supine Spock. His finger presses the lips of his officer, silencing any dissention as he moves in, eyes-closed, to lay his passion bare. Spock is wholly welcoming of this, as his calculating eyes take in the entire situation as he keeps his hands on his superior’s upper arms. His body language is both simultaneously accepting of the captain’s advances, yet also maintains a distance as if the raw intensity of the moment is still overwhelming to a man who is only still accepting his more human, and emotional, side.

Clearly, the artist, TechnoRanma, has a firm grasp of the accepted cannon of these two characters. What compels this bit of fan art beyond the norm (which is to say, beyond the typically shit art that is out there), is how they utilizes these confirmed characteristics to develop their non-canon homosexuality. This image is not a far leap of the imagination. If a relationship between Kirk and Spock would develop, it would probably look a lot like this (except maybe they would choose another place to show their affection).

What makes this image even more plausible is that it also feeds off of the canon relationship that Spock and Kirk already exhibit. Brought together by work, they have developed a friendship more profound than what is usually displayed on the show. It is so different, in fact, that it even over-steps the boundaries of what is normally accepted in the realm of male-intimacy. Many people already think Kirk and Spock are gay despite them never showing really romantic behavior towards each other. Unfortunately, many people see two men who respect each other’s opinions and work well together and have complimenting personalities as a gay couple.

I say “unfortunately” because this assessment comes from a place of strict heteronormativity. It is such an unfathomable idea that two guys can like being around each other, that it has to be different and weird. Because of course, men shouldn’t act that way. If men were to ever be in the same proximity of each other for any extended period of time, guns, alcohol, or sports must be involved, they shouldn’t say anything to eachother meaningful, and Jesus H. Christ help them if they make eye-contact.

This type of masculinity is ingrained into our minds, and whenever we see characters who deviate from that norm, they are immediately given a label that communicates their “otherness.” It can’t be that two guys talk to each other and are around each other all the time because they like each other; no, they’re obviously gay. That can be the only explanation.

 

3 comments for “Student Guest Blog: Zach Landau on Star Trek slash fiction

  1. avatar
    November 10, 2016 at 6:58 am

    Marie Lillian Vibbert, you need some cheering up. 🙂

  2. avatar
    Katya Gorecki
    November 10, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Cool piece and good point! I’d be interested to know how you consider this piece within the larger context of Kirk’s character, particularly in the original TV series where he has several encounters with female characters. Granted, different actors but if memory serves most of Kirk’s relationships with women follow patterns similar to those you have identified which may have influenced the artist’s portrayal. I wonder what contrasts and similarities you see there and whether or not that has any bearing on how you would interpret the image or the idea of a homoerotic relationship between Kirk and Spock.

    As your analysis deals with Star Trek and homosexuality I also wonder how you would put the desire of fan art to produce homosexual representations in conversation with other representations on the show itself, for example the choice to make Sulu gay in the new film series. Since the series is known for pushing the envelope, such as the first televised interracial kiss, could this be understood as a continuation of that history? I agree that male friendships ought to be celebrated as well, in fact one of the reasons I think Kirk and Spock’s friendship on Star Trek is so iconic is precisely because it often tries to celebrate that. While I am unaware of the larger context of this particular piece of art, I’m not sure that the piece is only or necessarily a stance against or a critique of their non-sexual relationship on the show but perhaps a desire to see more diverse representations generally. Perhaps the two concepts can co-exist through both the show itself and fan art?

    Someone selfishly, as a scholar of science fiction I often think that the is a one of the best places to push a variety of boundaries and I’m glad to see students engaging with it!

    -Katya Gorecki, PhD Candidate, Duke University

    • avatar
      Zach Landau
      November 11, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      Hey Katya! As for your first point, I am actually not /that/ much of a fan of “Star Trek” (as in, I haven’t watched every single episode ever haha), so I cannot comment with 100% confidence on how this bit of art mimics Kirk’s romantic conquests in the show. From what I have seen, Kirk does exhibit a sort of “alpha,” or “leader,” role in relationships, taking control and setting the pace. I wouldn’t doubt that at some point there was a woman who was the one to initiate a relationship between her and Kirk, but those instances are probably in a minority.

      However, I don’t think or believe that Kirk’s past romances necessarily affect my or anyone’s perceptions of his homosexuality or homosexual behavior. Past sexual expression and behavior neither confirms one’s sexuality nor does it predict future sexual exploits, or, to put it in a less pretentious way: Just because Kirk banged chicks in the past doesn’t mean he’s straight and it doesn’t mean he can’t help himself to a dish of dude in the future. So for Kirk and Spock want to go have some consensual diddling, so be it; it doesn’t change my perception of the character.

      If I understand your second paragraph, I would say that Kirk/Spock fan art is actually more of a reaction to the inclusiveness of “Star Trek” than anything else. I think it is fair to say that “Star Trek” is one of the most inclusive shows, certainly of its time, and as such, it almost invites fans to imprint their own wishes onto the characters. It is easier to imagine characters in a more accepting universe to represent the audience’s wishes for representation than a universe that uses the same cookie-cutter characters seen in all media. So for “Star Trek” to show POC characters, and to show them in positions outside of the tired stereotypes, is an open invitation for the audience to imagine any other possible character. And I think the mainstream media (as much as I hate that term) has caught on to this desire and are capitalizing on it.

      My last point was more of a comment on the wider trend of, for lack of a better term, queering of mainstream characters rather than just “Star Trek” or this piece of fan art in particular. While I would love more LGBTQ+ characters, and all types of industries need to put a bigger effort into fairly representing this community, I worry there isn’t any actually “good” representation for straight men and, more importantly, boys. While there are TONS of examples (too many examples, to be frank) of basic-heroic men, there are not as many mainstream examples of men who are not heroic, men who exist naturally without having to be exemplars. My whole argument basically boils down to trying to stem the tide of “toxic masculinity,” and I would love for more straight male characters resist, both in appearance and behavior, the standard that’s constantly perpetuated by mass media. I also believe this isn’t a zero-sum game; it is entirely possible to have more LGBTQ+ representation as well as more healthy representation of straight men.

      Sorry if that was a little long-winded!

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