Okay, look, there are big spoilers for some relatively new nerd media that I’ve probably already given away by the title if you’re savvy, but I’m putting below the fold anyway. And to spoil the post proper, just to be meta for meta’s own sake: I’m going to rant about what I’m spoiling.
Yesterday, I learned through an accidental viewing of a news article that the newest Star Trek movie, Into Darkness, is bringing Khan Noonien Singh into the rebooted franchise. This despite JJ Abrams’ repeated denial that this was the case. SPOILERS. But that’s not what’s been bothering me about all this — from the very beginning, we’ve known that the villain was cast, and that they’re actually scrubbing a significant bit of darkness from its canon by having cast instead of a dark-skinned buff Latino to play the dark-skinned Indian Sikh Übermensch, a pale-as-fuck beanpole British dude.
They cast Benedict Fucking Cumberbatch as Khan.
Yeah. I’m real impressed. Slow clap.
JJ Abrams had a ton of white bad guys from the early series to resurrect, bad guys who could easily have been played by Cumberbatch without raising an eyebrow from even the most hardcore Trek-loyalist fans. Bad guys like Gary Mitchell, with his God-like powers and grudge against school rival Kirk. Finnegan, perhaps. Hell, slap a funny forehead on him and you could get a good Klingon story out of the deal, even though THEY’RE all over the place race-wise, but trend toward providing parts for darker-skinned actors. Cumberbatch coulda been a damn good Romulan, even. But no, they mucked with one of the most iconic characters ever instead. What a wasted opportunity!
A few weeks ago, I’d argued (mildly) with Stephanie over the possibility of casting Khan as a woman in the reboot. I said something along the line of, “the timeline split from the first movie, when the Reman dude went back in time and destroyed Vulcan, happened a few hundred years after Khan was already put in cryogenic stasis in the Botany Bay. We already know he’s a Sikh male. The timeline split wouldn’t reboot the entire history of Earth, just what happened after the point when the new events started happening, e.g. Kirk’s dad dying in action.”
I went on to describe a scenario that might get a female Khan without destroying canon: say after the timeline split, the Botany Bay is never picked up by the Enterprise because Enterprise’s own timeline was severely compressed (Kirk, the new recruit, barely out of having cheated through the Kobayashi Maru, is suddenly captain without any intervening missions?). So the cryo pods that the Eugenics War criminals are in aren’t opened at the other timeline’s scheduled time. Thus, Khan’s pod might fail, and he dies. One of the women in one of the other pods might take up his name then, and start trying to live up to his ideals and teachings. She could be the second Khan, like how in comic books multiple people could take certain names.
But Stephanie, at this point, rightly pointed out that the fans would go nuts over a pretender being an inferior copy of the original, no matter how big a badass villain she is.
After seeing them whitewash Khan, I’m kinda feeling like, fuck it. If they’re allowed to change canon to make characters more white, and fans aren’t screaming about it, Why not make Khan a woman with zero explanation, just a straight gender swap, despite the howls of protest from those same fickle and entitled fans? A woman Khan. Yeah. Whose evil plans are powered by the douchebro fans’ tears.
I like it. Someone pitch Paramount for the next reboot. Now that Abrams is jumping ship to Star Wars, another reboot’s bound to follow suit soon enough.
(And seriously, that’s way better suited to him, with his tinkering with canon and inability to get the “gist” of Star Trek’s exploration of the unknown and pluralism about races and difference — might as well try to undo all the damage Lucas has done to his own franchise!)