In the eighth episode of the sixth season of The Next Generation, I have a lot of questions. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For racial stereotypes
So many questions, y’all.
Wasn’t this Alexander’s fantasy?
There’s no denying that watching Worf figure out how westerns work, not quite doing so, and being ridiculous because of it, but there’s one huge thing that seemed super fucking weird about this episode. Didn’t Alexander want to play out this adventure? From the cold open, it was clear that he’d been begging his father to spend a few hours with him in the holodeck. So it felt super weird when he let Worf steal the show from him! I mean, at one point, his entire job is GOING TO THE BANK. Why isn’t he in a larger role here? Like, if I was this kid, I’d be kinda pissed that my afternoon in a fantasy was completely upstaged by someone else.
Why isn’t Deanna Troi the star of this show?
Let her portrayal of Durango stand as evidence that the writers need to use her more, especially for comedic roles. Also, SHE LOOKED AMAZING IN HER OUTFIT, JESUS CHRIST.
Why didn’t anyone on the Enterprise pull all crew members out of situations involving the computer system?
There seems to be a critical flaw within this episode that’s so glaring that I couldn’t ignore it. I thought all of the odd occurrences about the ship that led back to Data were hilarious. Especially the “Ode to Spot” reference! I’m glad that these characters took a while to figure out what was going on because it made Data’s appearance within the holodeck a lot more effective. However, once everyone – including Data!!! – realized that the power surge caused parts of Data to be written over existing software, THEY SHOULD HAVE WARNED ALL THE CREW. They should have closed all the holodecks, turned off any nonessential features, and made sure that everyone was accounted for. Hell, does anyone else on the crew even know what happened to Worf, Deanna, and Alexander? No? IT’S REALLY WEIRD. Like, what if the holodeck was ACTIVELY MURDERING PEOPLE? Why doesn’t anyone seem to care???
Who thought that horrible stereotype was okay?
Look, I get that this episode is a giant reference/homage to westerns, specifically spaghetti westerns. It’s chock full of references to the films of Sergio Leone and others. It’s deliberately designed that way! But the show was creating this episode years after the genre had its heyday, and they absolutely had the chance to not necessarily include everything that was a staple of the genre.
That includes the horrific bandito stereotype. Jesus, y’all realize how damaging and racist that stereotype is, right? My father used to love watching westerns, so I’ve seen almost all of them because of him. Sometimes I liked them; most of the Sergio Leone movies are pretty cool. I saw A Fistful of Dollars when I was a kid! And my obsession with Ennio Morricone coincided right around with my discovery of Metallica at age eight, so I can’t deny the influence those films had on my life. At the same time, I was a Latino kid in an interracial household watching my whole family laugh at the bumbling, drunken Mexican on the screen, and it was the worst. I would never claim that when I was younger, I had a complete and deep understanding of critical race theory. I didn’t. But I was aware of my race and what it meant at a young age, and even if I didn’t have the means to express what I felt, I knew that the embarrassment and anger I experienced was due to that stereotype on the screen. I knew that my mother’s vicious anti-Latinx bigotry was damaging to me, and I knew that she thought actual Mexicans weren’t that far from the gross things she saw in these films.
I’m making this point for one reason: uncritical examination of the things we pass along results in this. No one on this show’s production cast, including the writes, stopped to think about what a more modern take on a western should and should not include. No one thought that propagating a bandito character would be seen as gross as hell, and that’s the issue that I have here. It’s just passed along, and it really should not have been.
Look, I don’t hate this episode. It’s a lot of fun, if a little bizarre. I don’t think it’s one I’ll love or adore from a distance, either, and I think the flaws aren’t easy to ignore. But I’ve certainly seen way worse from this show, you know?
The video for “A Fistful of Datas” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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