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Star Trek: Enterprise – Bound (Review)

This May, we’re taking a look at the fourth (and final) season of Star Trek: Enterprise. Check back daily for the latest review.

Bound is, for all intents and purposes, the last standalone episode of Star Trek of the Rick Berman era.

There are five more episodes following Bound, but they consist of two two-parters and the official series finale. Bound is very much the last “regular” episode of Star Trek: Enterprise to be produced, the last episodic adventure in the series. In fact, given the trends in contemporary television that are nudging the format towards serialisation and long-form storytelling, it seems entirely plausible that Bound could be the last standalone episode of Star Trek ever produced.

Strike a pose.

Strike a pose.

As such, it is a shame that Bound is a complete and utter disaster. It is an embarrassment to the series and to the franchise. More than that, it is an embarrassment that was written by the fourth season showrunner and which feels very much like the big ideas of the fourth season carried to their logical conclusion. Bound recalls the horrible sexism of episodes like Precious Cargo and Bounty, cloaking its objectionable sexual politics in the guise of nostalgia. Arguably the best things about Bound is that it makes Rajiin seem well-constructed in comparison.

Bound is easily the worst episode of the season and a strong contender for one of the worst episodes of the series. What better way to remember Enterprise?

Nostalgic sexism, hoy!

Nostalgic sexism, hoy!

UPN lost any real investment in Enterprise as an on-going concern towards the end of the first season, due to a change in network management and its own more pressing problems. However, Enterprise never ceased to be a UPN show. This was very much Star Trek constructed for a UPN audience. The awkward teenage sexuality of Broken Bow never left the series, even if extended sequences of characters rubbing each other down with “decontamination gel” in soft blue lighting became a rarer occurance.

To be fair to Enterprise, the show implicitly and explicitly mocked those sequences. A Night in Sickbay took those rub-down sequences to self-parody with T’Pol rubbing down Hoshi rubbing down Porthos. When Hoshi and Trip returned to the ship in Observer Effect, Hoshi inquired, “Doctor, should we start with the bio-gel?” Phlox politely declined, with the panelists on the show’s audio commentary chuckling at the absurdity of the whole set-up. Nevertheless, that leary and voyeuristic sexuality remained a part of the show’s fabric.

"Thank you for watching UPN. Please enjoy some green-skinned alien space babes."

“Thank you for watching UPN. Please enjoy some green-skinned alien space babes.”

Even during the fourth season, there is something crass and exploitative about Enterprise‘s approach to sex and sexuality. The underwear knife fight between Malik and Persis in The Augments is gratuitous at best. Talas strips down to her underwear to distract a guard in Babel One for the most hackneyed and sexist escape gambit ever. While Linda Park and Jolene Blalock spend most of In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I dressed in more revealing costumes than their male co-stars, it is the gratuitous knife-fight in In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II that feels most excessive.

This is a shame, because the fourth season of Enterprise features a number of sequences that approach sex and sexuality in a manner that feels less adolescent. Archer’s fling with Hernandez on the mountain in Home feels like a much more mature portrayal of a hook-up than anything involving Trip or T’Pol. For all the tawdriness around it, the silhouetted make-out sequence between mirror!Archer and mirror!Hoshi on the USS Defiant in In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II comes quite close to feeling sexy without bring pervy.

"I always appreciate a woman who takes the time to put her sexy lingerie on after making love."

“I always appreciate a woman who takes the time to put her sexy lingerie on after making love.”

Nevertheless, Enterprise has a very adolescent approach to matters of sex. There is a conscious attempt to tease in the most objectifying manner possible. The reintroduction of the Orion Slave Girls in Borderland was excusable as an example of the fourth season’s over-zealous approach to continuity, although it was nice to see a fully-clothed female Orion in In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II. However, building a whole episode around the Orion Slave Girls represents a spectacular error in judgment.

The Orion Slave Girls are an essential part of Star Trek history and continuity, dating back to The Cage. Although Orion Slave Girls only appeared a handful of times on the original Star Trek show, they made quite an impression. JJ Abrams even managed to work one into Star Trek, as a one-night stand for James T. Kirk and as a roommate for Nyota Uhura. Quite pointedly, Abrams and his crew allowed Gaila to wear regular clothes and even included a deleted scene that seems to call Kirk out for treating green-skinned space babes as interchangeable.

"Alright, Manny. Just for this, you don't get to write that Stratos episode!"

“Alright, Manny. Just for this, you don’t get to write that Stratos episode!”

Given Manny Coto’s long-standing affection for classic Star Trek continuity, it makes sense that he would want to revisit the iconic green-skinned space babes during the fourth season. As Coto explained in Before Her Time:

I’d always wanted to do Orions. I’d always been fascination by the Orions and the Orion Slave Girls. And I wanted to explore the Orion culture, the males, what they look like and how they function. The idea of a slave world and slave auctions, I found just wonderfully fascinating.

Bound is a result of the same continuity fetish that led to Daedalus, Affliction, Divergence, In a Mirror, Darkly, Part I and In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II. It is a desire to take something for the original Star Trek and play with it.

"I've got a delivery of nostalgic sexism here. Anybody want to sign for it?"

“I’ve got a delivery of nostalgic sexism here. Anybody want to sign for it?”

Orion Slave Girls are very much part of a pulp science-fiction sensibility. Indeed, The Cage is very much rooted in that classic space opera aesthetic, with Christopher Pike visiting an alien castle with a ringed planet hanging in the sky. The Orion Slave Girl is just one element of The Cage that belongs on the cover to a trashy fifties science-fiction paper back, the aesthetic embodied by writers like Edgar Rice Borroughs and Robert E. Howard. Orion Slave girls exist at a point of overlap between classic science-fiction and fantasy, between Dejah Thoris and Red Sonya.

One of the interesting aspects of the fourth season of Enterprise is its embrace the classic pulpy storytelling associated with the science-fiction that prefigured Star Trek. This is particularly obvious in the season’s big three-parters; the slave trading of Borderland, the desert high adventure of The Forge, the ice world orbiting a gas giant in The Aenar. In some ways, it feels like the writing staff are trying to position the fourth season of Enterprise as an aesthetic prequel to Star Trek, embracing the pulpier aspects of earlier twentieth-century science-fiction.

The Cage.

The Cage.

While there is certianly nothing objectionable about high desert adventures and ice planets, the focus on female slavery conjures up some of the more unfortunate recurring motifs of pulp era science-fiction. These motifs arguably reached their “apotheosis” with the publication of John Norman’s Slaves of Gor series in the mid-sixties, a weird hybrid of softcore pornography and sickening social manifesto. To quote from Tribesmen of Gor:

[T]the slave girl experiences a paradox of freedom; the free woman is physically free, but miserable, fighting to be what she is not; the slave girl, physically in bondage, even to the collar, sometimes chains, is given no choice by men but to be totally and precisely what she is, slave; such women, slaves, interestingly, are almost always joyful and vital; they are paradoxically, in their feelings and emotions, liberated; they are not pinched, not psychologically restrained; why this should be I do not know; to see such women , their heads held high, their eyes bright, their bodies , movements, beautiful, as no earth woman would dare to be, is quite pleasurable; some of them are so insolent, so proud of their collars, that I have cuffed them to my feet, to remind them that they are only slaves.

It is an incredibly creepy and misogynistic philosophy, albeit one that can be traced through a certain strand of pulp science-fiction and fantasy, the reduction of slavery (particularly female slavery) to little more than a creepy bondage fantasy. It argues that women can ultimately be empowered by their slavery, despite the fact that the very idea of slavery involves the complete surrender of power and autonomy. Norman just pushes the idea to its logical extreme.

"Don't mind me. I'll just be creepy back here."

“Don’t mind me. I’ll just be creepy back here.”

Norman arrived at the tail end of the pulp science-fiction era, publishing more explicit meditations on its unpleasant subtext at a time when popular culture was increasingly wary of the implicit (and explicit) misogyny to be found in such stories. John Norman’s concepts were frequently considered unpalatable to the companies actually publishing them. In the eighties, DAW books cancelled the series. In the mid-nineties, Warner books refused to publish any more of his work. Enterprise really should have known better than to try to do something like this in March 2005.

To be fair, this can become a tricky area. It is important to distinguish actual slavery from consensual sexual kink, something that becomes particularly tricky when dealing with the very real issue of sexual slavery that weds the two concepts together. At best, concepts like the Orion Slave Girls seem ill-judged and poorly considered. At worst, they seem cynical and exploitative. It is very much an adolescent approach to sexualised science-fiction, one that is unwilling to approach sex in a mature and considered manner, instead leaning on cliché and fetish.

"Space travel makes me green."

“Space travel makes me green.”

It does not held matters that Bound consciously plays up the exoticism of the Orion Slave Girls. In keeping with the set and costume design of The Cage, Orion culture is framed as Middle Eastern in nature. The name “Harrad-Sar” has a faintly Middle Eastern ring to it, at least as compared to other alien names like “Phlox” and “T’Pol.” His craft is designed in a style that evokes Arabian kingdoms in high fantasy; his guests sit on cushions on the floor and curtains are draped around the room to give a sense of space and privacy.

This aesthetic carries through to the Orion Slave Girls themselves. When the three girls are introduced by Harrad-Sar, their choreography recalls that of belly-dancers. The music is very much in keeping with that featured in The Cage, afforded a vaguely Arabian air. These are all tropes that play off xenophobic and exotic clichés of high adventure in the deserts of the Middle East; a stock depiction of the Middle East, the last of what director Nayla Al Khaja describes as “the three big Bs: bombers, billionaires, belly dancers.”

Yeah, there's nothing stereotypically Arabian about this set design."

Yeah, there’s nothing stereotypically Arabian about this set design.”

Although Bound aired in March 2005, its depiction of Orion culture seems rooted in nineteenth-century portrayals of the Middle East by European and American writers and artists. As Christine Detrez argues in Twentieth Century Arab Women Writers and the paradoxical Subversion of the Orientalist Cliché, these clichés are long-standing and deep-rooted with little to no basis in fact:

French Orientalism mixed the stereotype of the passive woman with erotic phantasms. Flaubert, for example, describes Kuchik Hanem and, in Herodias, Salomé only for their sexually explicit purpose. In the same vein, French Orientalist painting, such as those of Eugene Delacroix or Jean-August-Dominique Ingres, display the same exotic cliché: senuous, even lascivious women, nude or barely clad in silk and velvet, gold jewelry, precious embroidery, waiting for men. Artists, such as Madame Jules de Saux, also known as Henriette Brown, whose works did not conform to the expected Oriental erotic fantasy were criticised. Saux, who claimed to have been inside the harem, painted clothed women with children in domestic interiors without any exotic details, and although it was presumably drawn from life, critics judged her work to be unrealistic. Oriental realism was a construction of Occidental fantasy that emphasised forbidden sexuality, even when supposedly objective first-hand witnesses denied its importance.

Given how much of the fourth season is rooted in the realities of the War on Terror, the decision to portray the Orions as a crass racial stereotype of the Arab world feels like a fairly significant misstep. The Orions who appeared in Borderland were drawn in broad enough terms that they were not explicitly offensive. Unfortunately, Bound attempts to develop Orion culture, but never gets beyond a stock Oriental fantasy.

"We'll talk about appropriate attire in the morning."

“It is very cold in space. But never so cold you can’t wear a space bikini.”

To be fair to Coto’s teleplay, Bound does make an attempt to deconstruct and reconstruct the Orion Slave Girl archetype. Unfortunately, this does not involve developing any of the three central Orion Calve Girls into fully-formed characters or exploring the unfortunate undertones of the archetype. There is nothing here quite as pointed as having a young James Tiberius Kirk unable to distinguish between two different green-skinned space babes. Instead, Bound takes the path of least resistance and attempts portray the Orion Slave Girls as empowered.

At the climax of Bound, it is revealed that the Orion Slave Girls are not working for Harrad-Sar. Quite the opposite. “Captain, you’ve been operating under a misconception,” Harrad-Sar explains. “It is the men who are the slaves, not the women.” Of course, this revelation is very hard to reconcile with the portrayal of the Orions up to this point. Certainly, there has been no suggestion that the Orion Syndicate is a matriarchal organisation, and it is hard to reconcile this suggestion with the fact that the Orions sell their women into slavery.

"Remind me to talk to Trip about some circuit-breakers."

“Remind me to talk to Trip about some circuit-breakers.”

The implication is that the whole Orion slave thing is just a front that is operated by the Orion Slave Girls as a front. According to this model, the male Orions are nothing but proxies who are either knowingly or unknowingly responsible for the Orion Slave Girls expanding the Orion sphere of influence through sexual domination. Even ignoring the fact that this does not reconcile at all with the portrayal of the trade in Borderland or with the portrayal of the Orion Syndicate in Honour Among Thieves, it still feels somewhat implausible and convenient.

Again, this is a potentially complicated issue. After all, third wave feminism completely changed the discourse around female sexuality. While earlier models of feminism argued that concepts like pornography and sexual submission were inherently misogynistic constructs of an exploitative patriarchal society, later feminists were more ambivalent about such concepts. According to those later theorists, professions like pornography and prostitution can even be liberating for women, giving them power and control over their own sexuality.

Safety dance.

Safety dance.

In some ways, Coto’s attempts to reinvent the Orion Slave Girls as empowered characters could be read as an example of thrid-wave feminism. These are, according to the model that Coto proposes, strong female characters who are confident in their sexuality and perfectly capable of using that power to further their own agenda. This is a very conscious attempt to build a redemptive reading for an incredibly offensive and outdated science fantasy trope, and perhaps the only approach that would allow Coto to have his cake and eat it.

This leads to the rather awkward final conversation between Archer, Trip, T’Pol and Reed. Acknowledging Coto’s fascination with the original Star Trek, his script is obviously trying to channel the classic episode-closing conversations between Kirk, Spock and McCoy. “At least we’ve learned something about the Orions,” T’Pol observes. “It proves that even the most disagreeable species have some positive attributes.” All that is missing is the classic Star Trek musical sting. It is a wonder the credits are not in the classic Star Trek font.

"Reed? Who the hell invited you to our triumvarate finale? Don't you have a pineapple to be eating?"

“Reed? Who the hell invited you to our triumvarate finale? Don’t you have a pineapple to be eating?”

Unfortunately, it is not at all convincing. The script might try to build a narrative around the Orion Slave Girls that empowers them, but the results are indistinguishable from old-fashioned exploitation. Navaar, D’Nesh and Maras never feel like fully-formed three-dimensional characters. They are never afforded any true agency or character development. They lack the attention paid to villains like Valdore in The Aenar or even Vosk in Storm Front, Part II. The script does not even distinguish between the three, beyond individual assignments and Navaar’s status as leader.

More than that, Allan Kroeker’s direction plays straight into all the clichés of the male gave. Bound luxuriates in the hypersexualised portrayal of its three female antagonists, lots of low-angle shots to emphasis their curves and lots of attention paid to the hem lines of their robes and underwear. As much as Bound might try to argue that its Orion Slave Girls are empowered women, they are still subject to adolescent male fantasies and to the expectations of the male gaze. These women might hold power over Orion men, but they are still sex objects to the camera.

"I'm a slave... for you."

“I’m a slave… for you.”

Not that the portrayal of the male characters in Bound is any less offensive. Over the course of the episode, the men on Enterprise are effectively rendered slaves to their sexual desires. (It goes without saying that Bound implies that there is not a single homosexual male or female crewmember serving on the ship.) This plays out in a number of different ways, from the fact that T’Pol is cast as straight woman to a quick background gag where a female engineer has to refocus the attention of her male colleague upon D’Nesh’s visit to Engineering.

“I’m just not used to seeing guys trip over themselves like that,” Hoshi reflects to Phlox when she complains about a headache. To be fair, Bound offers a half-hearted justification that the Orion Slave Girls are generating a “pheromone”, but the fact remains that none of this behaviour raises any alarm bells until it is far too late. The implication seems to be that Reed’s awkward oogling of the Orion Slave Girls is not too far outside the established norms of male behaviour, that the creepy stares from the male crewmembers are perfectly in order.

"Hey! It can't be sexist! We're objectivying male bodies too! Kinda!"

“Hey! It can’t be sexist! We’re objectivying male bodies too! Kinda!”

Bound is rooted in the idea that men are unable to control themselves in the presence of beautiful women. This is a troubling assertion on a number of levels, most obviously because it ties into issues of slut-shaming and victim-blaming around victims of sexual assault. As Beth A. Watson, Kelly A. Kovack and Maureen C. McHugh argue in Strange and Acquaintance Rape:

The most commonly applied myths concern women’s participation in the assault in the form of provocation, precipitation, or pleasure. These victim-blaming rape myths are based on the sexual scripts and sexual double standards already discussed. Sexual behaviour of men is acceptable, as they have high uncontrollable sex drives and cannot control themselves when provoked by women. Women, however, are charged with restraining themselves and men from sexual interactions. Thus, if sex occurred, the woman was responsible.

It is an offensive stereotype on multiple levels. In practical terms, it is very close to justifying the rhetoric of rape culture, the suggestion that women have an obligation to presents themselves or behave in a particular way so that men will not be enslaved by their biological impulses. More than that, it is an incredibly sexist portrayal of male sexuality; it denies men autonomy when it comes to their own sexual decisions.

"My, what a big... engine you have here."

“My, what a big… engine you have here.”

It does not help matters that Bound feels strangely prurient in its approach to sexuality. Again, Bound seems a little hypocritical; Manny Coto is trying to have his cake and eat it. As much as Bound luxuriates in the portrayal of its green-skinned alien space babes, the script is clearly uncomfortable talking about matters of sex. Sex is not a positive or beautiful thing, something to be enjoyed and shared. According to Bound, sex is a weapon that can be used to bring men to their knees. This is a very reactionary subtext for a twenty-first century show.

It does not help matters that Trip and T’Pol are implied to be immune to the influence of the Orion Slave Girls because they are in love with one another. Again, Bound is careful not to explicitly frame it in thse terms; the implication is that T’Pol’s “Vulcan physiology” makes her immune and that Trip shares that immunity as a result of their “bond.” However, despite the pseudo-scientific explanation, the implication is clear. T’Pol and Trip are deeply in love with one another and that love explains why they are not affected by the unrestrained Orion sexuality.

"Love conquers all. Including pheremones."

“Love conquers all. Including pheromones.”

In those terms, Bound seems positively conservative. True love is the only way for characters to resist the pull of untamed female sexuality. Only through his devotion to T’Pol can Trip avoid succumbing to his hormones. Given that Trip and T’Pol are not even in a sexual relationship at this point in the series, Bound seems particularly knee-jerk in its sexual dynamics. Trip doesn’t need or want sex, because he is in love and that is something completely separate. It is a very uncomfortable subtext.

Bound is a disaster. It is a terrible piece of television and a terrible episode of Star Trek. However, it is in many ways a reminder of Enterprise‘s original sin, a demonstration that the show can never quite escape the exploitation and objectification that was baked into the premise with Broken Bow all of those years ago.

46 Responses

  1. Since you brought up Gor, how about cleansing your palate with Houseplants of Gor? http://www.rdrop.com/~wyvern/data/houseplants.html

    • Ha! Yeah. Bringing up Gor was not pleasant. But it felt relevant if we were going to be talking about “empowered” Slave Girls.

  2. Oh God, ‘Bound’.

    Even aside from the sexism (and no argument with your analysis here) the Orions as a ‘secret matriarchy’ makes no sense at all in Trek continuity – did everyone immediately forget such a revelation?

    I think it was retconned quite quickly actually. I can’t find the interview but didn’t Roberto Orci say that Galia (Kirk’s Orion girlfriend in the first reboot movie) had escaped slavery via an underground railroad?

    • Yep, it’s just a misguided episode on every level. And coming from a showrunner who is often lauded as the franchise’s potential savior, it leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.

      Interesting about Galia.

      • One of my favourite minor Trek characters – I was rooting for her and Kirk actually. 🙂

        One of the bizarre aspects of this episode is that it feels ridiculously dated even in the context of the time period. Shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer had cheerfully run with the idea that women also have sex drives – in fact the closest analog of this episode in that show was Season Seven’s 7 ‘Him’ where a magical jacket stood in for pheremons and the women are driven comedically crazy about a boy (including the lesbian Willow who nearly used a spell to turn him into a girl.)

        From a perspective of 2016 (where a shirtless Zac Efron being irresistble to young women is a key plot point in a film) ‘Bound’ is absurdly out of touch.

  3. I can’t decide if this episode is grossly sexist or criticizing gross sexism. Make no mistakes, it’s a bad episode. But there is a part of me that wonders if it all isn’t supposed to be a critique on how society (and pop culture) objectifies women. The way the episode encourages the audience to play along but then overturns their expectations at the end I think is supposed to make viewers who enjoyed the sexualized aspects of the show a bit uncomfortable. Even in the Cage, the Orion is actually Vima trying to trick Pike into staying with her, and it’s later revealed that Vima is herself not how she appears. There’s a sense that these characters are using the illusion of sex to achieve their goals (and that those who get caught up in the sexploitation are themselves the fools). Again, not a good episode by any means, but I think I get what they were going for. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into it. It’s certainly better than the way the JJ Abrams Trek films objectify women for gags.

    • But it overturns their expectations in the most half-assed manner, but offering a clichéd appropriation of third-wave feminism suggesting that the Orion Slave Girls are “empowered” by their sexuality. Which feels like an excuse to justify the pervy voyeurism and lingering male gaze that runs through the episode. Generally, I think it’s a good idea to be wary of any male-dominated production that seeks to “reclaim” a grossly sexist idea by presenting it “as is” and offering a postmodern “… but it’s really empowering that these women in a male-run production are flaunting their sexuality” justification.

      With the Abrams films, I think they do a better a job, at least in theory. Certainly, the deleted scenes do a better a job. Star Trek had a deleted scene where Kirk mixes up another Orion with Galia, which seems like the film calling Kirk out on treating alien space babes as interchangeable. Similarly, the gratuitous Carol Marcus cheesecake scene in Into Darkness would be a lot more defensible if the similarly gratuitous “Khan takes a shower” beefcake sequence hadn’t been cut. While the fact the cuts were made doesn’t do the films any favours, it at least seems far more attuned than building an entire episode around how “Orion Slave Girls” are actually empowered.

      • I agree about Bound. Like I said, if it’s supposed to be a commentary about sexism, it’s not very clear or clever about it. Still, I do like the fact that we’re laughing at the males in this episode rather than laughing with them.

        Which brings me to my problem with the Trek 09 movie. I never got the sense that the scene with Galia was supposed to be a criticism of Kirk. On the contrary, I always thought it was part of JJ and Paramount’s attempt to present Trek as “cool” by making Kirk into some sort of galactic “player”. Even the deleted scene about forgetting her name makes it seem like Kirk is so “cool” because he “conquers” so many women that he doesn’t even remember them all (like the guy who brags about getting dozens of women on Tinder). If that scene was supposed to be a criticism of Kirk, I think it would have worked better if we saw some repercussions, if some of the crew lost their respect for Kirk because of his attitude towards women. Uhura comes closest to this when she kicks Kirk out of her room, but it’s not really a character threat that the film continues.

      • I am not so sure about Kirk in Trek 09. I mean, he very clearly and aggressively pursues Uhura using all of his “charm”, but he can’t even find out her first name. This is contrasted with the interpersonal (and, yes, emotional) relationship that exists between Spock and Uhura, which seems to take Kirk by surprise.

        It’s not particularly well-developed, but I think it’s there. Trek 09 doesn’t ace its character arcs, but there is a sense that Kirk is learning as much from Spock as Spock is from him, that together they make a balanced team and that one is not entirely right without the other.

        (Even at the end, Kirk flirts with forgiving Nero to make peace with the Romulans in a handwave bit of a dialogue that the movie quickly renders obsolete when Nero refuses. But Kirk’s willingness to consider it is meant to represent growth. As is his treatment of women like Galia and Uhura.)

        Of course, Kirk’s arc of growth is a little rough. Which is why Into Darkness overcompensates and gives him an arc about responsibility, which it admittedly botches in its own third act by having Kirk completely avoid any consequences of his decisions.

        And I say this loving both films a great deal. Kirk’s character arcs are there, just botched. But I don’t see that as a fatal flaw. Indiana Jones doesn’t have a particularly clear character arc in Raiders or Temple, and it doesn’t diminish those movies. Not that I compare Trek 09 or Into Darkness to Raiders, but you get my drift.

  4. “Talas strips down to her underwear to distract a guard in Babel One for the most hackneyed and sexist.. ”

    Whoa, there. Let’s not be hasty. You’re taking away the one genuinely kinky moment of the series.

  5. Most of the worst episodes of Star Trek seem to be ones focusing on sex… so you’d think maybe they’d STOP TRYING TO DO IT after a while, especially when they keep failing in the same manner?

    • You could say the same about the Ferengi.

      What’s the over/under on a Ferengi sex episode during Bryan Fuller’s first season?

  6. “…sex is a weapon that can be used to bring men to their knees”

    Sounds like ol’ Manny’s taken the red pill!

  7. I don’t know if this episode is “sexist” but it is rather retarded. Somehow, three attractive women in “Slave Leia” outfits dancing around doesn’t do anything for me but make me roll my eyes. The revelation isn’t all that interesting, and apparently retcons earlier iterations of the Orions, which is ironic given this seasons focus on being continuity porn.

    • Well, to be fair, it’s an attempt to legitimise the blatantly sexist “slavegirl” trope, because we like “slavegirls.” So it is pretty tonedeaf, but it is in keeping with the continuity focus of the season in the sense that it tries to justify Orion Slave Girls in the same way that Affliction/Divergence tries to justify smooth-headed Klingons.

      • It is? Im not even sure what you mean by “slave girl trope” though. To me it’s just an attempt to make some “twist” in old Star Trek canon, like “oh, its really the slaves who are the masters” or whatever. To me that isn’t sexist, it’s just stupid.

      • Well, the slave girl is quite blatantly sexist and occasionally a little racist, in that it imagines women kept in bondage for men’s sexual pleasure, usually kept by an exotic foreign culture.

        (And, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with finding the image of the opposite sex in bondage sexy. But the use of it as a pulpy and literary trope is very much an imperialist masculine fantasy about traveling to far realms in indulging carnal desires with natives who are completely subservient to male sexual desire. It’s very much tied to the idea of sex as something that exists outside civilised society and even builds off the Victorian idea that women who indulge in their sexual appetites risk turning feral.)

        Acknowledging that the “slave girl” trope is sexist seems like a fairly simple starting point in the twenty-first century, but Bound doesn’t do that. Instead, Bound tries to weasel out of it by having a male pulp writer coloured by his own nostalgia insist that the “slave girl” trope is actually empowering because it reduces men to a set of carnal impulses they can’t control. (Which is another bit of pseudo-sexist rhetoric that is used as justification to control or “rein in” female sexuality because men cannot be trusted.)

      • I doubt very much the writers intended to be “sexist”. It does seem nowadays a lot of people see sexism everywhere, almost like a moral panic, so I’m naturally skeptical of claims of sexism nowadays.

      • Intent has little to do with something being sexist, to be fair. You can write something with the best will in the world and still have it come across as racist or sexist.

      • It does? I thought sexism and racism and things like that required intent?

      • That’s a tricky question.

        I think if you’re going to call out a writer for being sexist or racist, I think there’s a higher threshold that leans towards intent. In the same way that if you’re calling out any individual, particularly given how damaging a claim like that can be.

        But for a work or even a body of work, I think there’s a lower threshold that doesn’t require intent. Death of the author is handy here, but it’s only part of it. I think talking about whether a work or a trope or a convention is sexist is more useful that targeting a particular person, because it feels less like a personal attack and it allows for a broader conversation about the mechanics and the history and the context. And I think being more aware of these things is a good thing of itself, because it allows us to understand where other people are coming from.

      • I’m confused, is this trope about women enjoying being “slave girls” or is it just showing slave girls period that’s the problem? The latter I have no issue with, but the former I can see being a problem though I never have encountered it, I guess outside this episode though even then that seems like a stretching analysis.

      • Well, definitely the former is problematic. It’s very much “women like or need to be subjugated”, which is obviously pretty offensive. Of course, that’s not to say you can’t have submissive female characters or anything like that, but when you are building an entire race around the concept, it gets a little icky.

        With regards to slave girls, it’s about how you present them. In that sexual slavery is something that actually exists, and it would be crazy to say that drama cannot or should not explore that. However, there is something super creepy about portraying sexual slavery in a way designed to titillate or arouse male viewers, because it suggests male sexual desire trumps everything, including women’s right not to be sex slaves.

        The problem with Bound is that it wants to have the sex slaves, but it realises that the concept is super dated and sexist, and so it concocts some weird logic that sex slavery is really empowering because aren’t men the real slaves to their sexual impulses? Which is problematic on its own terms, but particularly problematic because it feels like that pretzel logic only exists so we can get those sex slaves on the show in the first place.

    • “(Which is another bit of pseudo-sexist rhetoric that is used as justification to control or “rein in” female sexuality because men cannot be trusted.)”

      Not sure why you put “pseudo” there, but yes that is a sexist idea that actually has pervade many cultures, it’s why things like burqas exist to begin with. However acknowledging this idea in and out of itself isn’t “sexist”, because indeed it was a prevalent idea in many cultures (and still is in some cultures, such as in the Middle East).

      • Yep, but playing it entirely straight, which Enterprise does in Bound, is kind of a problem.

        In that you get the sense at the end of Bound that the Orion men would be perfectly justified in putting their women in space-burqas to protect everybody (both the men and the women themselves) from their sexual energy. Which is a very troubling retrograde message for a Star Trek show.

      • Well to be fair, this wasn’t something people pulled out of their asses for some nefarious reason, it was based on observations that men are more easily enticed sexually than woman, and it was a primitive solution to issues and biology they didn’t understand. Of course there’s no justification nowadays (if there ever was) for such drastic responses, but nevertheless, it’s the reasoning.

        But this is reading far too much into this crappy episode. If anything, this episode was trying to show the Orion women as powerful, but it’s a crappy script and a crappy idea, what can I say?

      • “Which is a very troubling retrograde message for a Star Trek show.”

        Not to sound like a broken record, but to be fair, Star Trek in all of its incarnations has had both amazingly progressive and amazingly regressive messages.

      • That’s fair.

        But there’s also a narrative around the franchise (cultivated by the fandom) that exaggerates the progressivism and downplays the regressivism.

      • True but that’s on them, to be fair. I don’t expect anything to be perfect, let alone a television/film franchise that is bound to be contradictory given its length of time and multiple different writers/producers/etc

    • “but when you are building an entire race around the concept, it gets a little icky”

      Well, this is just my opinion of course, but the Orions are not an interesting race to bring back into Star Trek. I personally think they should have just been left alone, partially because of some of the stuff you bring up. That’s just me though.

      “However, there is something super creepy about portraying sexual slavery in a way designed to titillate or arouse male viewers, because it suggests male sexual desire trumps everything, including women’s right not to be sex slaves.”

      To play devil’s advocate, doesn’t this mean BDSM and BDSM stories are “sexist” and “creepy”? I mean I guess they are creepy but that’s just my sensibilities and opinion, I wouldn’t they they’re “problematic”.

      I mean wouldn’t this mean the first thirty minutes of Return of the Jedi evil and bad, even if it doesn’t present it as a “good” thing, since Jabba the Hutt gets strangled to death in the most BDSM way possible.

      The rest I agree with so I don’t think we disagree with all that much.

      • Well, I did specifically exclude bondage in in an earlier post. What a person does in their own home with a consenting adult, and all that. Plus, people can’t control their sexual kinks. (Obviously, within reason. All things within reason, before this disappears down a rabbit hole. 🙂 )

        And, yeah, I do have an issue with slave!Leia, as I think a lot of people do. In that it’s a rather tasteless and tacky choice that unfortunately came to define the character. Of course, that’s just one element of the sequence. I think it’s reasonable to acknowledge that the opening of Return of the Jedi works quite well as a fun action sequence while still acknowledging that this was a poor choice. There are plenty of great films/shows/stories that have problematic elements that I still deeply enjoy. I don’t think it’s as strictly binary as most critics would contend.

        (For example, I adore Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker. I think that The Prestige is his best film, and probably one of the best films of the century to date. However, the film does have a number of issues with its female characters that carry across Nolan’s work. Is that problematic? Yes. Does it make the film bad or evil? No, but it’s something of which to be mindful. It’s worth noting that Nolan’s more recent films have made a point to focus on and develop their female characters in a more nuanced manner, like Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises or Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain’s characters in Interstellar.)

      • “Well, I did specifically exclude bondage in in an earlier post. What a person does in their own home with a consenting adult, and all that. Plus, people can’t control their sexual kinks. (Obviously, within reason. All things within reason, before this disappears down a rabbit hole.🙂 )”

        Yeah but I’m okay with people making their kinks open and portraying them in fiction. If people aren’t, and are easily offended, that’s on them. Of course if your kink involves raping and killing people, that can be problematic but even then I’m not against indulging darkness in fiction, including sick shit like that, even if Im not likely to be interested.

        “And, yeah, I do have an issue with slave!Leia, as I think a lot of people do. In that it’s a rather tasteless and tacky choice that unfortunately came to define the character.”

        Well that’s because the character is as bland as oatmeal (I love that phrase). If it were say Kira Nerys or Jadzia Dax, I would probably find it tacky and a bit tasteless, but it was Princess Leia, who literally has nothing else memorable going for her, other than being a Star Wars character. But then again, even Carrie Fisher says it isn’t sexist, which is only a claim I’ve recently encountered, and not one I thought anyone took seriously outside ravings on Tumblr. And all in all, I love the sequence, and love ROTJ, mostly for the last 30 or so minutes, but overall it’s my favorite Star Wars film.

        Come to think of it, for whatever reason, the Star Wars films always have incredibly bland female characters, including The Force Awakens. Oh well.

        I actually don’t like Christopher Nolan much, outside his Batman films. His films are really pretentious and overrated. Just my opinion of course.

      • On a side note, I thought the Dark Knight Rises was terrible, and Catwoman in it as well, again just me 😛

      • Each’s own.

        I’d argue Nolan is by some considerable margin the best blockbuster director working in Hollywood today.

      • And the fact that Leia kills her enslaver with the very chains of bondage that bound (see what I did there?) her to me makes it “not sexist” not that I expect films to cater to my sensibilities. But again, the character is so bland and uninteresting that the fact a costume change made her more memorable is practically a blessing. And I think tacky defines Star Wars (though not tasteless)

  8. Oh and the fact that women love cosplaying as slave leia, but then again, they could be secret sexists..who knows

    • Yes, and some black people like using the n-word. And I certainly wouldn’t presume to tell them that they are right or wrong in doing so.

      But that doesn’t mean its original use was justifiable.

      • I don’t think you can compare cosplaying to a racist slur, though the fact that even blacks use it makes the word somewhat acceptable. I’m not black and I use it with black friends who don’t care. I think you should mellow out

      • As I said, it’s not my place to comment on its use by black people. But I can still think that the slur is not appropriate for white people to use based on its history and legacy. But, as ever, that’s just my own view.

      • “I don’t think you can compare cosplaying to a racist slur, though the fact that even blacks use it makes the word somewhat acceptable. I’m not black and I use it with black friends who don’t care.”

        Would they care if they were called that word by a random person in the street? Or the person selling them popcorn at the cinema? Or the cop who’s just pulled them over? Likewise, would you use it to describe a black person at the office? Or the 6 year old daughter of one of your black friends?

        Your friends may say that they don’t mind (and hell, maybe they don’t) but if you think that makes it even vaguely acceptable for a non-white person to say you’re either tremendously naive or Quentin Tarantino. And it’s bad enough when he does it.

  9. The episode is admittedly lame, but the makeup is awesome. Compare that to the new films, where the Orions look like drunk girls on St Patricks Day. I miss good makeup effects

  10. “In those terms, Bound seems positively conservative. True love is the only way for characters to resist the pull of untamed female sexuality. Only through his devotion to T’Pol can Trip avoid succumbing to his hormones. Given that Trip and T’Pol are not even in a sexual relationship at this point in the series, Bound seems particularly knee-jerk in its sexual dynamics. Trip doesn’t need or want sex, because he is in love and that is something completely separate. It is a very uncomfortable subtext.”

    Archer is in love with Hernandez, even though they ultimately put their careers above their relationship. Needless to say, it didn’t protect him. And the many fanfiction writers who did post-Bound stories of Trip and T’Pol falling into bed would disagree with your point about sex and love as separate.

    Personally, I think Bound is a better example of women raping men than Unexpected. I believe Ah’len when she says she didn’t know a human could get pregnant through the marble game. Unlike her, the Orions have malicious intent.

    • Maybe, but Archer’s love of Hernandez is not an on-going concern, and certainly not to the extent of Trip and T’Pol. Indeed, Trip tries to separate himself from T’Pol using his career as an excuse, but can’t do it. So I think that Trip/T’Pol is a much more conventional idea of “love” than Archer/Hernandez.

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