Star Trek: Into Darkness is the second of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek films. These films have a good budget, great actors, and are action-packed and endearing in many ways.
They also have their problems. The most recent and notable of which was the casting of Khan. Khan, who originally appeared on The Original Series and later in Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan, was the product of eugenics (less the genocidal type and more the selective breeding and genetic augmentation type) from the Eugenics War. He was a POC, which was a bold move (among many bold moves) for Star Trek (suggesting that a perfect human would be something other than white). And it was not just progress for the sake of seeming progressive—it makes sense that any “perfect specimen” of humanity would not be monoracial.
But I don’t really want to talk about multiracial people or eugenics at the moment—I want to talk about casting. Because (I hope that this is not a spoiler for anyone), JJ Abrams chose to whitewash the character of Khan, as he is played in the film by Banananut Cheerios (Benedict Cumberbatch).
Now, Boomerang Contradict (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an actor on BBC’s Sherlock series, and is therefore entirely unavoidable if you are on Tumblr. He has a lot of fans who would be delighted to watch him play anything. While I bear him no personal ill will (though I am fatigued by how much he shows up on Tumblr), I am definitely in the “seriously this was a terrible choice for Khan” crowd.
The following image was the original post of Butawhiteboy Cantbekhan. And it’s perfect. Because, well, whitewashing a POC into a white dude is a step backwards.
More recently, someone posted on Tumblr that no one should hate Blenderman Crumbucket (Benedict Cumberbatch) “for being white,” on the grounds that that is racist. The following was my response:
It’s not hating on him for being white. It is, in fact, a very justified moral outrage at Khan being whitewashed. Which makes no sense for a number of reasons.
It’s really JJ Abrams who is responsible — actors are, I think, expected to take major roles that they are offered (under most circumstances). But it’s not a lack of diversity on its own, and it’s not just normal whitewashing (like if they had cast a white woman to play Storm in X-Men, which would still be awful).
Khan is a genetically enhanced product of eugenics. He’s a perfect physical specimen (which can have many interpretations, certainly), is absolutely brilliant, and absolutely no augments should, realistically, be monoracial. It makes no sense.
Combine something that upsets me as a nerd (that he just doesn’t fit the idea of Khan) with the great-step-backwards whitewashing of an intellectual mastermind (who was a groundbreakingly progressive choice in TOS), and we all have every right to be angry about Into Darkness.
No one hates Benadryl Copperpot (Benedict Cumberbatch) for being white. I don’t think that anyone hates him for accepting that particular role. But I do think that many of us hate the idea of him portraying that role.
PS: I was pretty fond of Fringe but it seems like it’s JJ Abrams’ mission in life to make me want to set him on fire. He might succeed.
PPS: If you think that I’m getting all worked up over nothing, think about Disney’s Lone Ranger film. In which they could not bring themselves to cast a Native American as a Native American.