The Star Trek television series was truly a groundbreaking show not just for its plot lines and ideological messages, but also for its revolutionary cast. Two of the main actors were Jewish, one main actor was a gay Asian, and of course, one was a black woman. Uhura was one of the first main black characters on a television show – and of course, her kiss with Kirk was the first interracial kiss ever on television. For a show in the 1960s, Star Trek broke many barriers across religious, racial, but most significantly gender lines.
From television to film, from music to advertising, men are often portrayed as strong willed and powerful, while women are often shown as submissive, powerless, and sexually promiscuous. Particularly in American film, however, these gender stereotypes are most evident. In many films, the main characters are heroic men, while the main female lead is primarily the love interest of the male lead. The 2009 film Star Trek did not echo the television show, but echoed the stereotypical tendencies of American film – particularly regarding the main female lead, Uhura. Although Uhura is presented as a strong figure because of her role in the Starfleet, in reality the film fails to break out of traditional gender stereotypes because of the eroticization of Uhura, her shallow dialogue, and her general role throughout the film.
In the film, there is an illusion that Uhura is a strong and powerful woman. She is a high-ranking officer on the starship Enterprise and is a part of every battle scene involving the starship. Indeed many women in the film are portrayed in similar fashions. Prior to investigating the anomaly on Vulcan, it is a woman officer who is giving commands to the soldiers. En route to the officer’s training, it is a woman officer of higher rank who is asserting her power over a male counterpart. Spock’s mother is depicted as a strong woman who defied traditional marriages on Vulcan, as she is a human, and married a Vulcan man. It seems that the film breaks out of traditional gender stereotypes. However, looking a little deeper one will see that in all the fight scenes, Uhura plays no part in giving out commands or taking initiative, which perpetuates the stereotype that women don’t take initiative. The women officers are shot with the camera from the top-down – rather than from the bottom-up as the men are – which emphasizes the physical size difference between the men and the women officers and belittles the power of the women officers. Although the film appears to show strong women, the women in fact are weak and are depicted as mostly useless – the women also don’t break out of any traditional gender stereotypes.
Despite, the apparent strength of Uhura, the film eroticizes Uhura through camera angles, her romantic action toward Spock, and her costume. At the end of the film, the camera darts back and forth between the main characters aboard the Enterprise. All of the men shown are siting up straight, and shot...