Borg Babes, Drones, and the Collective: Reading Gender and the Body in Star TrekDocument Transcript
Womens Studies in Communicalion Volume 27, Number 2, Summer 2004Borg Babes, Drones, and the Collective: Reading Gender and the Body in Star Trek Mia ConsalvoThis article studies how representations of the Borg challenge as well as reinforcetraditional ideas about gender and the posthuman body. The Borg demonstrate that whiletraditional ideas about gender are hard to shake, there are some clear challenges to oldstereotypes. The article examines the embodiment of the Borg at both the individual andcollective level, and how current concerns about posthuman bodies, gender, and liberalindividualism are dealt with in this regard.A s a dedicated Star Trek viewer, I was intrigued when Seven of Nine(played hy actress Jeri Ryan), the ex-Borg drone, was added to the recentlyconcluded series Voyager. Brought on to hoost ratings, the spandex-cladactress initially inspired love and hate among diehard fans, hut grew tohecome one of the most interesting characters on the show. Seven of Ninehas never heen easy to "pin down" with regards to a simple reading—should we focus on her Barhie-like figure or her sexless personality? Is herintelligence and rationality a step forward for traditional female represen-tations, or does her ambivalence about femininity bespeak a valorizationof masculine norms of behavior? Questions tike these arise when watchingthat creation. Easier to pick apart is the Borg Queen (Alice Krige)—initially appearing in the film First Contact hut then hecoming an occa-sionally recurring character in Voyager—as a foil to Captain KathrynJaneway (Kate Mulgrew) and a competitor for Sevens loyalty. But be-yond the enjoyment of watching these visual spectacles, what do themedia representations Seven of Nine and the Borg Queen, and the Borg ingeneral, reveal about ourselves as we potentially become posthuman? Arethey harbingers of our future selves—the results of biotechnological androbotic development mixed with the human and gone awry?Mia Consalvo is an assistant professor in the School of Telecommunications at OhioUniversity. Portions of this manuscript were taken from her dissertation, "The Best ofBoth Worlds? Exploring Bodies, Technologies, Gender and the Borg of Star Trek,"completed in 1999 at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at theUniversity of Iowa, and directed by Professor Sue A. Lafky. The author would like tothank the reviewers of this piece, Marcyrose Chvasta and Douglas Thomas, for theirinsightful comments and thoughtful consideration of her manuscript. Their suggestionsand ideas made this piece much stronger.
178 Womens Studies in Communication If current titles of academic and popular books are any indication, thereis a growing anxiety about contemporary developments in biotechnologyand technology generally. The titles of recently published books such asFlesh and Machines: How Robots Will Change Us (Brooks, 2003), OurPosthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution(Fukuyama, 2003) and Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age(McKibben, 2003) point to a heightened attention to matters of the humanand its accepted boundaries. These boundaries are also usefully (andsometimes prophetically) explored in science fiction. As Inness (1999)points out, science fiction is a useful harometer for exploring how far ideasabout gender and women have progressed, as it presents "future possibil-ities" for the human race, but must still be acceptable to contemporaryaudiences. Theorists such as Hayles (1999) and Graham (2002) argue thatthese cultural representations are bound up with scientific and technolog-ical discourses more than ever before. Hayles, for example, shows howideas about cyborgs and cybernetic systems developed in scientific con-ferences, yet also infiuenced popular accounts of what it means to be"human" in everyday life. These authors argue that science fiction repre-sentations are important not just for their embodiment of popular fears andexcitements about technologies and futures, but also for how they helpmutually constitute life today, and areas of scientific inquiry in the future.It has been well documented, for example, how watching Star Trek whilegrowing up influenced many future scientists and astronauts to go intothose particular fields (Penley, 1997). Likewise, science fiction has fa-mously directed science fact, as attempts to create spaces such as StarTreks famous "holodeck" are now part of serious scientific study (Krauss, 1995). Viewing Seven of Nine work through her struggles with a technolog-ically altered hody to regain her "lost" humanity hecomes oddly prescient,and critical to analyze, as we now grapple with the developments that StarTrek has prophesied as a future possibility. And as 1 will argue, the strugglebetween technology and "the human" or the "posthuman" and how thatstruggle is configured, is always gendered. Past analyses of Star Trek have provided complex interpretations ofhow the show constructs and comments on related cultural barometers—including gender, race, economic systems and political ideologies. Forexample, researchers have examined how the political ideologies of theshow (non-interference in less-developed worlds, unless of course its aplot necessity) have mirrored U.S. foreign relations from the 1960s
Mia Consalvo 179onward (Collins, 1996; Worland, 1988, 1994), and have also studied therole that technology plays in the evolving series (Braine, 1994). Mostcentral for this article, gender has been a consistent focus of research, asstudies of characters from the motion pictures, original series. The NextGeneration, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager have investigated how anallegedly "utopian" show (as defined by creator Gene Roddenberry)portrays male and female characters, their relationships, and how genderinforms power relations and drives show narratives (Ferguson, Ashkenazi& Schultz, 1997; Henderson, 1994; Projansky, 1996). For example, fem-inist researcher Robin Roberts (1999) has found that although femalecharacters in The Next Generation were portrayed as equal to malecharacters, and were given more attention than in the original series, theywere constructed in stereotypical fashion, (such as the nurturing doctorand empathic ships counselor) and were subordinated to the male char-acters in the shows hierarchy as well as in the storylines of the series. The later show Voyager challenged many of these traditionally gen-dered representations, featuring the first regular female captain (KathrynJaneway), as well as a female head of engineering (BElanna Torres). Theshow went further in its fourth season with the addition of Seven of Nine.As mentioned above, the character is complex and contradictory, beinggiven some typically feminine traits (portrayed as a blond bombshell in acatsuit), but avoiding others (the character did not become romanticallyinvolved until the end of the last season). In contrast, the Borg Queen islargely a monolithic creation, a techno-bodied femme fatale. I examine these two central characters as well as the larger Borgcollective, to determine how the "utopic world" of Star Trek has pro-gressed in representing gender, as well as the posthuman body, in thetwenty-fourth century. The Borg are an excellent candidate for this study,as they were initially introduced as a genderless cyborg species, withbodies extensively augmented with technology and biotechnology. Howthe Borg became gendered is explained below, as is the history of theBorg. This study asks, "How do representations of the Borg challengeand/or reinforce traditional ideas about gender and the (posthuman) body,and what they should be in contemporary culture?" In undertaking thisanalysis, I use a feminist media studies framework, and also include andintegrate body and disability theory, as how bodies are represented isalmost always a gendered process, and in examining these intersectingaxes of identity, more can be uncovered about the ways that Seven of Nine
180 Womens Studies in Communicationand the Borg Queen challenge and reinforce, in complex ways, contem-porary ideas ahout gender, bodies, and technology. Feminist Media Theory Research concerning previous Star Trek series has reported that previ-ous portrayals of women have remained secondary to male leading rolesand have contained traditional feminine traits. Roberts (1999) in particularexamines female characters on The Next Generation. She critiques thecentral female characters Dr. Beverly Crusher and Deanna Troi, findingthat although these characters are presented as figuratively equal to themen on the crew, they possess traditional female characteristics and arecontained in gender-appropriate jobs. The one female character that brokeout of this mold, weapons officer Tasha Yar, was killed off at the end ofthe first season. Roberts concludes that these portrayals and constructionscan he both progressive and restrictive. Other researchers have echoedthese findings, suggesting that even as women characters have progressedheyond the "space receptionist" role of Lieutenant Uhura, they must stilladhere to traditionally feminine ideals of heauty, and are continuallyrelegated to subordinate status (Ferguson, Ashkenazi & Schultz, 1997;Henderson, 1994; Projansky, 1996). While feminist media research has provided a relevant portrait of howwomen are represented in entertainment television, that approach mostlyconsiders how gender is socially constructed, and how and whether theseconstructions change over time. What is largely absent from that line oftheory, however, is a consideration of body theory. Representations ofwomen are "embodied," and are usually judged on how closely theyconform to social and cultural bodily norms of female attractiveness. Bodytheorists, and particularly feminist disability theorists, have argued thathow society constructs "acceptable" and "unacceptable" bodies is criticalto understanding who is and is not given power in social systems, and howworth is ultimately judged (Wendell, 1996). That has particular ramifica-tions for women, who are judged on their bodies on a regular basis. Howtheir bodies measure up—or fail to—is an important consideration, and inresponse feminist disability theorists explore cultural constructions ofnormally functioning bodies, and what the disabled body is alleged torepresent in contemporary culture. Feminist theorists have also explored how technology has been repre-sented in relation to the body, and what potential "incursions" of technol-
Mia Consalvo 181Ogy into the body might mean for the human, as well as the gendered,body (Balsamo, 1996). More recently, Hayles (1999) argued that theintegration of technologies into the body has led to a questioning of whatit means to be human, and the "potentially revolutionary . . . idea that theboundaries of the human subject are constructed rather than given" (p. 84).While Graham (2002) does not go as far as Hayles in arguing that we arealready posthuman, she also believes that "technologies are not so muchan extension or appendage to the human body, but are incorporated,assimilated into its very structures. The contours of human bodies areredrawn: they no longer end at the skin" (p. 4). Both authors also believethat popular culture "should therefore be considered as a significant site ofthe contemporary genealogy of subjectification" (Graham, 2002, p. 13). And, one of the hest areas to investigate this "genealogy" is popularscience fiction. Anne Balsamo (1996), for example, has studied howfeminist sci-fi novels critique early technophilic dreams of a disembodiedfuture lived in a "matrix" of information or cyberspace. Yet it is alsoimportant to deconstruct more popular images, such as those found ontelevision. Such constructions are developed to be commercially viable,and therefore give a useful barometer of more "mass" pop culture than themore restricted area of feminist sci-fi novels. Representations such as Seven of Nine and the Borg Queen are impor-tant, because they point to a potential future for humanity—read throughdiscourses of gender, technology, and the body. If Hayles (1999) arguesthat we are already posthuman, while Graham (2002) brackets the ques-tion and asks what are the effects we would prefer from technologies,images such as those of Seven and the Queen pose potential answers, withdifferent consequences. The images also, importantly, re-center the im-portance of gender in defining this "post/human" potential existence. Thatmove is critical, as neither Hayles nor Graham fully develop gender as anelement of the "posthuman" or "post/human" body that is tenuously tiedto technology. These representations, then, argue for the continuing im-portance of taking gender into account in figuring bodies. Balsamos(1996) insistence on the articulation of bodies, technologies and genders inways not usually beneficial to women is critical here in understandingthese representations, and how the figure of Seven in particular, may offerhopes for re/defining these configurations. In the following analysis I examine gender and the body as bothprimary and secondary mediators of experience. First, gender is high-lighted for how it produces particular bodies, and then bodies are inter-
182 Womens Studies in Communicationrogated for how they construct gendered identities. To conduct this re-search, all appearances of the Borg from the seven seasons of Tiie NextGeneration, the first four seasons of Voyager, and the film First Contactwere textually analyzed. Stuart Hall (1982) argues that in examining atext, exploring the language used and not used, the stories told andsuppressed, finding the ideologies embedded within and perpetuated bythe text, we gain a better understanding of our current social and culturalsystem, which is ultimately responsible for the production and reproduc-tion of these particular images. The polysemous nature of the language inthe text allowed for—at times—multiple, sometimes contradictory under-standings of the text. These contradictions and multiple layers of meaningare central to the text, and must be acknowledged. This article exploresthese multiple meanings by first examining the gendering of the individualBorg body, focusing on the Borg Queen and Seven of Nine. This sectionexplores how an initially genderless species come to be gendered, and howdifferent Borg "individuals" are represented as gendered beings. Next, thegendering of the collective Borg body is examined, as the article exploreshow representations of the Borg comment on public and private realmsand how gender is figured into these spaces. It questions how the Borgpotentially throw these gendered divisions into flux, yet ultimately makemoves to recuperate and preserve them. Finally, I study the embodimentof the Borg at both the individual and collective level, and how disabledbodies, gender, and the concept of liberal individualism are dealt with inthis regard, I conclude by showing how these representations may pre-serve some traditionally gendered/embodied notions of women, butthrough characters such as Seven of Nine, powerful, challenging andpopular representations of the posthuman can also be found. History of the Borg But first, a brief history of the Borg is needed. The Borg (derivative ofcyborg) are a cybernetic race appearing in Star Treic: The Next Generation,Star Trek: First Contact, and Star Trek: Voyager. They have been centralantagonists in many plotlines, and are very popular as villains. They areportrayed as having managed to integrate technology into their organicbodies to such an extent that they cannot exist without either. The Borg arealso presented as a collective society, meaning that Borg "drones" do notregister as individuals—they are a part of a group mind, which controlseach drones actions. Their priority through most of their appearances has
MiaConsalvo 183been "assimilating" unwitting individuals into their collective. In thebeginning the Borg functioned as a true, leaderless collective, but with thefilm First Contact they were given a leader—the Borg Queen, The Queenwas especially relevant as previously, Borg drones were said to be gen-derless, but were played by all male actors. The new "Queen" served as anorganizer of Borg experience, much like a central processing unit. Later,in Voyager, the Borg drone Seven of Nine (named for her role in a smallwork unit: worker seven of nine total members) was introduced as aregular character when she was severed involuntarily from the collectiveand became a reluctant member of the Voyager crew. She was portrayedas living her adult life as a drone, and was unwilling to become anindividual or embrace her humanity. Over the course of the show, thatslowly changed. Her regular status as well as the recurring character of theBorg Queen in Voyager allow interesting comparisons to be made betweenthese two characters and their varying constructions of female bodies. Gendering the Individual Borg Body (The Borg Queen and Seven of Nine) With the introduction of the Borg, Star Trek had an opportunity todepict in depth a species with no gender, and the kind of existence thatwould entail. However, images of the Borg have not lived up to thatpromise. As told in the Voyager episode "Unity," when a person isassimilated into the Borg, all knowledge of her ethnicity or race issuppressed. Whether that suppression occurs with gender is not (explic-itly) revealed. While the construction of the Borg as a genderless specieswas never officially changed, the Borg drones initially shown in The NextGeneration were played by male actors, and pronouns used to refer to theBorg were masculine. But more importantly, characteristics used to definethe Borg were largely gendered masculine. For example, the Borg wereoften described as cold and logical. They had no use for emotion and werenot shown nurturing or caring for each other. They were highly skilled indealing with technology, and were not interested in the arts or humanities.Advancement (both technological and organic) was presented as theBorgs reason for being, and everything else was sacrificed in the quest forthat goal. These are all stereotypical masculine traits, applied to a sup-posedly genderless species. With no "official" gender, the Borg defaultedto masculine stereotypes.
184 Womens Studies in Communication That gendering (or re-gendering) of the Borg is most obvious throughone exception—the character of the Borg Queen, Her gender is manifestfrom her first appearance in First Contact. The Queen is overtly sexual,tempting the android officer Data with her own flesh. Her costume is askin-tight body suit that does not have the standard Borg arm, hand, or eyeprostheses that would disfigure her or detract from her appearance. Ratherthan working as part of the Collective, the Queen is cast as a temptress,using her sexual power and prowess to achieve her ends. Her role as"queen bee" to the collective is stereotypical in that she is the leader of thehive, responsible for the perpetuation of the species, using sex or sexualityto attain her goals. At one dramatic moment she asks Data, "You arefamiliar with physical forms of pleasure?" The narrative reveals that theBorg Queen is lonely and wants a consort equal in stature to herself. TheQueen is a throwback to the original series depictions of women—aslimited to using their bodies to achieve their goals (which are many timesto find a man). Thus, it is telling that she considers sex and the flesh herbest means of "persuasion," which, however, fail to bring about thedesired result. The Borg Queen is presented as a strong leader, able to "bring order tochaos" for millions (maybe billions) of Borg drones. Her role as figure-head for the billions of Borg that she commands with (apparently) a singlethought is impressive, as is the significance that these billions are accept-ing of a female leader. But ultimately she is reduced to a sexual being,relying on her techno-femme fatale body to achieve her ends. Her poweris shown as lying in her femininity, and when others resist her wiles, herstrategies collapse. Seven of Nine stands in counterpoint to the Borg Queen, scorningmating behavior as irrelevant and showing little interest in social skills,sympathetic behavior, and displays of affection or emotion. The characterSeven of Nine provides an alternative view to the gendering of women inStar Trek. Seven of Nine is depicted as both the stereotypical "tomboy"and the sexiest member of the crew. She is unparalleled in her knowledgeof technology, and her expertise is often called upon to save the day inVoyager. Her body is feminine in the excess, yet her personality lacksmany traditional feminine markers (e.g. deference to men, interest in men,and a nurturing—or even caring—manner toward others). The characterscentral mission is to "overcome" her Borg assimilation, yet she resistsbecoming fully human,•^
MiaConsalvo 185 The pull to become human (and re-engineer her posthuman body)necessarily entails the taking on of (a) gender, Lana Rakow (1992) arguesthat gender is an activity or process, not a static identity. Gender issomething to be performed or acted out, not a given, immutable part of ourbeing. As a drone. Seven of Nine was not constructed as a genderedcreature, and so was not required to "perform" a gender, or engage ingendered activity, Judith Butler (1993) theorizes that each day we callourselves into being. We are never fully formed, but constantly reinventourselves, and each day we become more completely what we are sup-posed to be. And as we continually do that work, we are also reminded byothers of our usual or proper role—either our own particular genderedperformance, or perhaps a more socially acceptable version. That activity,of hailing or interpellating individuals, " transforms ., , individuals intosubjects" (Althusser, 1971, p, 174), Thus, even as we do the work ofcreating and enacting gender, others also help us (or discipline us) in theongoing work of subject creation and maintenance. The character Seven of Nine has not had to "call herself into being" asa gendered person, she has not had to enact gender (at least since beforeshe was assimilated as a young girl eighteen years ago). As a (posthuman)drone, gender was overtly denied, as was the interpellation of drones asindividuals or subjects. Thus, "gender work"—both from within and fromthe expectations of others—is presented as a new and required task, if sheis to become more fully human. Although Graham (2002) argues thatSevens primary goal is to redevelop her humanity, and that "beinghuman" is always a work in progress (pp, 151-153), 1 would argue that forSeven, redeveloping her humanity is accomplished through the appropri-ate gendering of her body and self. And critically, that is a centralcomponent of what the character resists in regaining or finding herhumanity. Although Seven moves away from the horrors of the Borgsposthuman bodies, she must struggle to redefine what humanity means forher, and how she can balance her remaining cybernetic implants, agendering process, and reclaim some form of humanity. Her struggledemonstrates that the posthuman takes many forms, but that to deny theimportance of gender leads to a disappearance or devaluation of thefeminine. For example. Seven is not portrayed as a feminine person, which has itsrelative advantages. As a female, she would be encouraged to developmore feminine behaviors, as even in the fictional twenty-fourth century,masculine traits have been valorized over feminine ones,^ Yet, in the
186 Womens Studies in Communicationcharacters refusal to take on the traditionally gendered behavior of ahuman female, behaviors that are typically considered masculine arevalorized. Seven of Nine is presented as cold and brusque, businesslikeand contemptuous of small talk. When she was still a member of thecollective and Janeway asked her about her past life, she (as the Borg)replied "do not engage us in further irrelevant discourse" ("Scorpion PartII"), The character is not interested in showing emotion, and has little timefor creating or maintaining interpersonal relationships. She is depicted asphysically strong and technically proficient. In a rare move. Seven isshown as uninterested in the opposite sex, and in developing relationshipswith them. When Ensign Harry Kim awkwardly expresses interest in her(in "Revulsion"), she asks him, "Do you wish to copulate? Take off yourclothes," It is not sexual desire she is shown as displaying, however, butonly curiosity about human mating rituals, Kims subsequent embarrass-ment and refusal of her offer also indicate she was not performing genderas well as she could have, because Harry Kim was obviously attracted toher. About dating or foreplay she comments in another situation "I fail tosee what is accomplished by all the talk" ("Unforgettable"), The charac-ters lack of interest in men or relationships in general provides a chal-lenge to standard representations of women as almost exclusively hetero-sexual and extremely interested in pursuing the "ideal heterosexualromance" (Rich, 1997, p, 85), Seven is instead depicted as uninterested,but also alone, without friends. While the lack of interest in "finding aman" is refreshing, the character is also shown as solitary, unable toconnect with any individuals for friendship or solace. Her singular naturedoes isolate her, yet the character is not shown as wishing to overcome anysupposed social "deficit," Although Seven is clearly shown as unwilling to gender her behavior ina feminine way, her appearance works against this unwillingness andundermines her claims to an ungendered existence. The character isdressed in a skin-tight jumpsuit, has long blond hair and fair skin. Shewears high-heeled boots, and has a thin body and large breasts. Whethershe consciously enacts gender or not, her body is a marker, delineatingprecisely what gender she "should" become. Indeed, her hair, a commonmarker of feminine beauty, is worn in a tight bun/French knot for themajority of the show. In key episodes where Seven is "experimenting"with developing her humanity, she is often shown taking down her hair,and letting it flow in a "softer" style. As Inness (1999) and others haveargued, hair is a significant signifier of sexuality, and for women, the
MiaConsalvo 187display of long, loose hair is coded as very feminine (p, 116). Likewise,toward the end of the series there are more episodes where she comes to"embrace" her humanity, and begins wearing dresses that underscore hernow more traditional female appearance. Her body is clearly marked as ofthe female sex, and provides the map for determining "which" gender"she" must enact as an ex-Borg "human" person. Gender is alleged to be unacknowledged terrain for the Borg. Whilethey are not given an official gender, their behaviors give them away asdefaulting to the masculine. The Borg Queen is the exception that provesthe rule. While the Queen is gendered to excess as feminine, Borg dronestake on the more subdued tones of rational, reasoning masculinity. Andwhen Seven of Nine is separated from the Collective, her genderingprocess must begin. However, even though Sevens resistance to thisgendering process is futile, and her struggle re-asserts the dominance ofmasculine traits, her resulting mix of strength, boldness, and technologicalskill in a female body does refute the belief that women cannot embodythese traits. Seven contradicts the belief that females must possess femi-nine traits or they will be considered unattractive—she certainly does nothave that problem. A dualistic gender system is reinforced along thetraditional lines. However, a challenge is offered to the system when weobserve that Seven manages to retain some Borg characteristics and notsuffer the consequences because she is a female. Further, her need togender herself as she reclaims her humanity points to a concern over thefuture of the posthuman body and the role gender will play in its consti-tution. Gendering of the Borg Collective Body (Public/Private Realms) Just as gender plays a role in defining the individual Borg body, it isalso constituted within the collective body of the Borg—even as that bodyis posed as without gender. While the connections are not as obvious as thesurface sensuality of the Borg Queen, the actions of the Collective pointto, critique, and in some ways, recuperate, gendered models of publicspace in contemporary society. Just as the Borgs supposed genderlessnessboth questions and reinvokes gender, the confusion the Borg create sur-rounding ideas of public and private spaces also relates back to ideasconcerning gender. Many feminists have argued that patriarchal, advanced
188 Womens Studies in Communicationcapitalist conceptions of the world have fashioned for society a splitbetween the public and private realms. While it is debatable when this splitoccurred, capitalism is said to have expanded or exacerbated the split,leaving women confined to the private realm, while giving men theprivilege of the public realm. As much as this public/private split has been challenged, remnants of itremain, or have been refashioned. For example, Sylvia Ann Hewlettsbook Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest For Children(2002) argues that many successful businesswomen are childless by "ac-cident," as they prioritized careers and left having children until it was toolate. Hewlett suggests that women who want to have families should(among other things), search strategically for a husband and plan to havechildren earlier, rather than letting their careers take precedence.** Again,it seems, as women make strides in the public sphere, they are encouragedto (this time "strategically") return to the private sphere. Representations of the Borg both challenge and uphold that public/private divide. On one hand, the Borg do not appear to have any privaterealm at all, suggesting that the distinction is a false one. On the otherhand, the default masculine gender of the Borg and their appearance inpublic space demonstrates that once again, public place is the domain ofmen, best left in their hands. The Borg are shown to operate in a social system far removed fromWestern society. On their ships, they have no bridge or engineeringsections. No cafeterias or mess halls are shown, and though the Borgsregeneration units could be interpreted as living quarters I would assertthat they are not, as the Borg are shown performing work while in theirunits, in addition to engaging in regeneration sequences. There is nomarked public or private space depicted on a Borg vessel. It is allpublic—even within the minds of the Borg drones. The sharing ofthoughts suggests that even that most personal of spaces is really political,or social, as all thoughts are shared, all decisions are mutual. The fictionalBorg challenge the notion that any action or thought is truly private, thatit does not have public or social ramifications. The Borg also question theidea of originality or originary ideas. If everything is public, there are nothoughts in isolation, no ideas produced from one mind, even In addition to their lack of private space, the Borg are not shownengaging in activities that would be considered private. The Borg dont goon vacation, or engage in recreation. They arent shown as having familiesrequiring individual, or personal, attention. They do not participate in what
Mia Consalvo 189is described as "pointless" activities such as creating or consuming art ormusic. Everything they do, and perhaps conversely nothing that they do,is work. The Borg are portrayed as seeking to enhance their quality of life.That is their work, and all of their activity is directed toward advancingthat goal,- which calls into question the notion of work, and what itconstitutes. Is work the opposite of something else? Must we have leisure,to engage in work? The Borg would argue no. Their posited existence istied to one goal—seeking perfection—and every activity they engage in isdirected towards that goal. Thus, for the Borg, any split in activities makesno sense. They are all striving for one goal, in one way. All of, or none of,their activity is a challenge to an assumed differentiation in our sphere ofexistence. On the other hand, while the fictional Borg do challenge the existenceof distinct public and private spheres, they also help in perpetuatingnotions of the present divide. As mentioned before, the supposed gender-lessness of the Borg results in a default gendering of the Borg as male ormasculine, due to the qualities and traits they are shown to value. If we canread them all as men, and their world permits no private sphere, once againa public/private split is recuperated, with the men claiming the publicsphere for their own. Seven of Nine justifies that split herself when shedescribes her own assimilation, "and then the men came for me" ("TheRaven"), Even a former Borg drone acknowledges that the Borg are amasculinized race, and it is the men who do the work of assimilation. Inthe Borg world, women do not exist to challenge that divide. While theBorg Queen is female and an exception to the system, I believe she is justthat—an exception. Her appearance is largely ceremonial (she is theQueen after all), and her statement that she brings "order to chaos" revealsthat while she may be important, she is not a primary actor, but a processoror organizer of experience. She does not engage in activity, but refiectsupon it and organizes it. Thus, more contradictions about the Borg surface when examining thepublic and private, which relate directly to gender. The Borg challenge thedivide between public and private. The Borg ask, "What is the reason forthis division?" I believe that division is breaking down, yet as SusanFaludi (1991) argues, we continually strive to keep that divide a reality.And the reality of the division lies in societys continued need for somedistinction between the proper roles and places for men and women. Whilethe Borg are an important critique of the constructedness of the dividebetween public and private, they also continue to help maintain this divide
190 Womens Studies in Communicationin a traditional sense, preserving the public sphere for the male, andomitting the female. If the public sphere is to remain the place of men,where does the work of women go? In this system, women do not performwork—they dont even exist. Seven of Nine defies her female body, andthe Borg Queen is denied productive work. The male drones do the realwork, and perpetuate the belief that the public sphere is a male sphere afterall. Embodying the Individual Borg The previous sections foregrounded gender as a category of analysis,with references to bodies being important in understanding how, forexample. Seven of Nine and the Borg Queen are depicted, and whethertheir characterizations challenge gendered norms of (body) behavior andappearance. This section reverses that logic, asserting that when theconcept of "the body" is taken as primary, alternative understandings ofthe Borg will also emerge. Here, "the body" is understood as embodyinga set of assumptions about what constitutes a "normal" body, and howbodies are defined and treated. Taken from this angle, scrutiny of the Borgshifts to exploring how depictions of their individual drone bodies signifygender, construct ability, and lead to further understandings of how bodieshelp define selves. As Nancy Mairs (1996) argues, we cannot conceptualize the body as athing apart from ourselves. As Mairs writes, "I am in every way, in mydreams as in my waking, the creature of my biochemistry. The body aloneconceptualizes the body, conferring upon it, among other dubious endow-ments, a mind" (p. 42). Yet for the Borg, with no individual self in anindividual body, that distinction does not exist. For the Borg, the ungen-dered body is just a thing, to be repaired or healed, or if damaged tooextensively, discarded. For the Borg, bodies are expendable, they are theraw material of the Collective, and nothing more—organic as well astechnological parts, they will never add up to what constitutes the whole.The Borg treat the body as alien matter divorced from (the one) mind,creating the perfect Cartesian dualism. While the Borg are depicted as viewing bodies as (truly) "alien matter,"some critics argue that this dualism is also prevalent in contemporarygendered society. Susan Wendell (1996) contends that alienation from thebody is a process that many people, especially women, engage in daily,and is a process that is becoming widespread. Contemporary culture (and
Mia Consalvo 191media) encourages viewing bodies as things, apart from individual selves.And with that split comes the urge to perfect or idealize individual bodies,refashioning them as desired. Thus bodies are viewed as pliable, com-pletely under the individuals control, Wendell argues that practices suchas dieting, cosmetic surgery, and compulsive exercising, all targetedmainly at women, are evidence that Americans believe bodies can be(re)fonned to better suit visions of "our true selves," These pliable bodiesreveal a certain contempt for the unworked, natural flesh, a contempt thathas specific gendered roots. How women view their bodies, and howwomens bodies are viewed by others, are political constructs informed byideologies such as the pliable body, which is able to withstand manipu-lation and undergo transformation provided the individuals "will" isstrong enough. Failure to achieve bodily conformity has come to signal afailure of individual strength and worth. The Borg represent the ultimate alienation from the body and havetaken that notion to its logical extreme. They are depicted as havingliterally refashioned their bodies for centuries, accomplishing a fusion ofthe organic and the technological. When they assimilate other species,they adapt, retaining what is useful and discarding what is not. And thecollective mind is truly separate from the individual bodies of the drones,which do not register as individuals. It is also learned in "Q Who" thatBorg drones do not emit individual life signs, or read as individual. Thus,when "scanning" a Borg ship for life signs, it is shown as impossible toknow how many drones are aboard, as they do not qualify as bodies intheir own right. This alienation from the body reduces the body to matter divorced fromconsciousness. However, there is a further split for the Borg, the organicand the technological. The Borg are scornful of those species that are fullyorganic, believing them to be weak and imperfect, lacking in "harmonyand cohesion." Echoing the words of the Borg Queen, the flesh is weak.Again, the Borg express contempt for the body, and elevate the mind. TheBorg are in fact true mind, as they can exist in almost any-body. Theirbodies are also truly alien (and posthuman), stolen from other species,used and discarded as needed. The Borgs scorn of bodily flesh also signalscontempt for the feminine, traditionally associated with the body asopposed to the mind. Along with alienation from the body comes an idealization of it(Wendell, 1996). Usually, that is expressed in aesthetic fashionings of thebody, culturally constructed ideas about beauty and what constitutes
192 Womens Studies in Communicationattractiveness and a correspondingly preferable body, in particular forwomen. For the Borg, aesthetics are a non-issue. Rather than strive foraesthetically pleasing bodies, the Borg are intent on fashioning the ulti-mately functioning body, which leads to the practical result of male Borgbodies, even for an ungendered species. The lack of pleasing aestheticsseems to "logically" exclude the feminine body, which when deniedpleasing attributes, fail to fully "materialize" or "matter" as female. The resulting (male) body is the antithesis of an aesthetically pleasingbody. Tubes and hoses sprout from parts of their bodies, eyes are removedand enhanced eyepieces are attached. Often, one hand and arm areremoved, and the addition of a machine-like servo-mechanism is shownadded to the body. These enhancements are portrayed as terrifying tonon-Borg, Yet, they are the functional apex for the Borg, and so nomodifications for aesthetics are needed. Their value lies in their function-ality, rather than in how they appear. Their lack of beauty signifies theiractual gender—true "women" need bodies to signify their femaleness, andif denied, they cease to exist,* Thus, the posthuman body—although notexplicitly gendered—defaults to the masculine yet again. The Borg are a challenge to contemporary views of acceptable maleand female bodies. They represent the ultimate alienation from the body,and indeed suggest that the mind/body split is real as well as desirable.The term "individual Borg" is actually a misnomer, as drones are notindividuals at all, instead merely functioning matter, available for upgrade,modification or recycling. Flesh and technology coalesce in a posthumanfigure that is denied individuality, yet the posthuman figure apparentlyfinds this arrangement desirable. And their biologically male appearancefurther defines women out of existence, as women are traditionally definedby their bodies, and these drones are grotesque male bodies. While themind of these drones could be that of the Borg Queen, her own bodysignals her limitations, and the eventual disembodiment of women in theBorg world. Embodying the Collective Borg The Borgs collective body raises different issues concerning publicspaces for the body, as well as the rights accorded to bodies within thissphere. Just as the gendered dimensions of the public/private split areimportant yet implicit, so too the debate about individuality, rights and
^ Mia Consalvo 193notions of collectivity contain deeply gendered roots. Those concerns areaddressed here. Rosemarie Thomson (1997) argues that Americans have a strong faithin the ideology of liberal individualism, Thomson believes that thisideology creates an American Ideal, which is structured by a self-conceptconsisting of "self-government, self-determination, autonomy, andprogress" (p. 42), Each of these elements rests on the assumption of anormally functioning body, one that assimilation by the Borg woulddestroy or suppress, Thomson (1997) elaborates, "egalitarian democracy demands individ-ual self-government to avoid anarchy. A system in which individuals makelaws and choose leaders depends upon individuals governing their actionsand their bodies just as they govern the social body" (pp. 42-43). Bodiesthat fall outside of the norm challenge that notion of self-government. Ifones own body cannot be controlled, how can one assume larger respon-sibilities for government? The disabled body, as well as the assimilatedbody, call that belief into question. Similarly, self-determination "requiresa compliant body to secure a place in the fiercely competitive and dynamic socioeconomic realm" (p, 43), This references the belief in the self-made "man" that has been a large part of the American dream. This requirement places great pressures on individuals to assume responsibility for their own social and economic situations. Again, if they cannot determine or control the actions of their own body, their failure in other situations seems assured. However, even as Americans place great emphasis on self- determination and autonomy, conformity to certain established norms is also expected. As Thomson quotes Tocqueville, (writing in 1835, but still relevant today) "all of the minds of the Americans were formed upon one model, so accurately do they follow the same route" (p, 43), All of these paradoxes are played out, and exploited, in the figure of the Borg. Perhaps most terrifying about the Borg Collective (body) is theirdestruction of the individual and the self. As numerous Star Trek charac-ters have testified, the Borg destroy freedom of choice, and any ability toact independently of the collective mind. That alteration is allegedly worsethan death for the individual involved. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (PatrickStewart) puts it best in "Family" while talking to his brother about his ownbrief experience as part of the Borg: "They took everything I was; theyused me to kill and to destroy and I couldnt stop them, I should have beenable to stop them, I tried, I tried so hard. But I wasnt strong enough, Iwasnt good enough, I should have been able to stop them," Picards
194 Womens Studies in Communicationlament of his dis- or in-ability to fight back reveals many of the implicitassumptions about individualism in contemporary Western society. For the Borg, self-determination (as well as self-government) is quiteliterally irrelevant. In the Borg collective, there is no concept of a selfoperating within drones, only within the group mind is there a collectiveself. That collective self has no use for individuals who can think and acton their own. It is the antithesis of their civilization. Conformity is notonly expected, it is desired. It is the state of harmony the Borg are in theprocess of achieving, infinite voices functioning as one, Tocqueville(1835, in Thompson, 1997) argued that early republican America wascharacterized by forces favoring conformity and the regulation of norms.It could be suggested that such forces are even stronger today. Thus, eventhough the Borg represent a nightmare vision of the loss of individuality,reality asserts that such American individuality has largely been a myth. Inthat way, we are not too far from Borg conformity. In a sense, the Borgrepresent the ultimate achievement of conformity carried to its logicalconclusion. This represents something to be feared and (perhaps) desired.Just as the Borg present a complete loss of individuality they also point outa limitation in contemporary society, where individuality is not as indi-vidual or particular as American beliefs would suggest. The Borg, then,could be a deliberate commentary about the imminent dangers concerningthe disappearance of individuality and the growth of conformity, in addi-tion to their commentary on technologys incursion into and creation of aposthuman body. According to Herbert Marcuse (1978), the concept of individuality orindividualism has indeed changed over time. That is partly in response tothe increasing technologization of the world and the requirement torespond rationally to it. Previously, an individual was defined as "thesubject of certain fundamental standards and values which no externalauthority was supposed to encroach on" (p. 139). Technological progressand the development of mass production changed what it meant to be anindividual. Now, individual achievement has been turned into standardizedefficiency. The result is that "the efficient individual is the one whoseperformance is an action only insofar as it is the proper reaction to theobjective requirements of the apparatus, and his [.sic] liberty is confined tothe selection of the most adequate means for reaching a goal which he didnot set" (p, 142), Marcuses description of the contemporary individualdoes not sound that different from the represented life of a Borg drone.Worse still, the human individual in question is not supposed to question
Mia Consalvo 195his/her fate—to do so would be utterly irrational: "All protest is senseless,and the individual who would insist on his [sic] freedom of action wouldbecome a crank. There is no personal escape from the apparatus which hasmechanized and standardized the world" (p, 143), If Marcuses interpre-tation of individuality today is accepted, Americans are quite similar to theBorg after all. In addition to highlighting fears about loss of individuality, the way theBorg assimilate a person also speaks to another great fear, the loss ofbodily integrity. The Borg not only wreak havoc on the mind, but also onthe body, Thomson (1997) says: The disabled figure profoundly threatens this fantasy of auton- omy, not so much because it is seen as helpless, but rather because it is imagined as having been altered by forces outside the self,., autonomy assumes immunity to external forces along with the capacity to maintain a stable, static sense of being ., , physical alterations caused by time or the environment—the changes we call disability—are hostile incursions from the out- side, the effects of cruel contingencies that an individual does not adequately resist. Seen as a victim of alien forces, the disabled figure appears not as transformed, supple, or unique but as violated, (p, 45) The Borg, in their process of assimilation, are actually dis-ablingindividuals if these ideas of liberal individualism are taken into account.Picard echoes the exact words Thomson (1997) uses, claiming that he didnot "adequately resist" the Borg, and so felt violated in the extreme. TheBorg are the quintessential force "outside the self that destroys a belief inautonomy, as the Borg cannot be resisted. Their assimilation processincludes the vampire-like injection of nanoprobes into the bloodstream,often through the neck, as well as the replacement of specific body partswith additional technology. That process, provided it can be reversed,gives the de-assimilated individual feelings of violation and a profoundloss, because the belief systems operating within the individual werewiped away much more easily than current myths (or beliefs) suggest ispossible. And the Borg once again do double duty here, not only assim-ilating an individuals body but her mind as well. The Borg goad belief inthe mind/body split that is often perpetuated in Western thought, both withtheir assimilation technique and with their lived reality, the ultimate
196 Womens Studies in Communicationmind/body split, with bodies not even registering as having individualminds. The Borg force us to question many dualisms, as Donna Haraway(1991) claimed cyborgs might or should. The Borg question our ultimatefuture—will it be collapsing dualisms, or the imposition of a final grid ofcontrol over our planet? Even as the Borg challenge these beliefs, and are presented as pure evil,I believe there is something redeeming about them, something desirableabout their way of life. As mentioned before, while lip-service is paid toideas of self-determination and autonomy, controls over the body andlimits on individual choices are also prevalent in Western society. AsFoucault (1975) has argued, power relations shape bodies, making themculturally and historically specific, and responsive to ever-present rela-tions of power. The ultimate goal is the creation of docile bodies that areeasily controlled as well as tracked and placed in space, self-patrollingrather than needing direct guidance and coercion. If the system functionswell, Foucault believes, everyone does the job of correctly policing ourbodies and actions, rather than letting others do it for us, Foucaults modelof power and discipline over the body has been criticized for its renderingof the body as fully docile, without the power to rebel (McNay, 1992),Here the Borg drone body is truly docile, disciplined successfully byforces now inside the body, overwhelming the self.^ There is no fear of anultimate power or dictator with individual quirks and whims. Instead thereis a body ruled collectively with each voice having equal input. In the beginning of the fourth season of Voyager, Seven of Nine suffersgreatly due to her separation from the collective, and demands to bereleased to rejoin them. Captain Janeway herself echoes back to Sevenwhat is appealing about living in the Borg collective. "You were part of avast consciousness. Billions of minds working together. A harmony ofpurpose and thought. No indecision, no doubts. The security and strengthof a unified will. And youve lost that" ("The Gift"). Here, the collectivenature of Borg life doesnt appear as horrific as previously imagined. Andwhile the Borg may not question an individual about her choice to beassimilated (or not), "real" humans are not so enlightened either. In anexchange between Seven of Nine and Janeway, the limits of Starfleets(and our own) system.are evident, Janeway refuses to allow Seven to leaveVoyager and rejoin the Borg, claiming she is human and needs to re-develop her individuality, which the Borg stole from her. Commenting onher fate. Seven states, "You would deny us the choice. As you deny usnow. You have imprisoned us in the name of humanity, yet you will not
Mia Consalvo 197grant us your most cherished human rights—to choose our own fate.Youre hypocritical, manipulative. We do not want to be what you are!"Janeway responds that "You lost the capacity to make a rational choice themoment you were assimilated. They took that from you. And until Imconvinced youve gotten it back, Im making the choice for you. Yourestaying here." Seven aptly responds, "Then you are no different than theBorg," Sevens response to Janeway reinforces Tocquevilles (1835, inThompson, 1997) and Marcuses (1978) comments about the uniformityof the American mind. For Janeway, Sevens choice to rejoin the collectiveis unimaginable. This choice is not a choice, but a result of programmingfrom a species that would seem to resemble a cult. Sevens ability tochoose freely has been compromised, and before she can be re-accordedrights within human society, she must be deprogrammed and led torenounce the pernicious ways of the Borg collective. In exposing the limits of liberal individualism. Sevens statementssuggest that the Federation (and humans) operates on the same moralplane as the Borg, Other theorists have made similar arguments aboutthe Borg, suggesting that American societies beliefs in individualismare as dogmatic and narrow-minded as the Borgs belief in a collectivesociety (Boyd, 1996; Hastie, 1996), Both believe they are saving theworld from the other. In placing both systems in counterpoint, if onlybriefly, the narrative suggests that all belief systems are relative. Acollective society may be no more terrible as a lived reality than anindividualist society. By making that move, the Borg world is mademore accessible, more understandable, for the viewer, Borg society, thevery definition of a collective or community, offers a picture of anotherway of life. Americans are increasingly alienated from one another,building gated communities, sitting on the back deck rather than thefront porch, and more likely to be living far from relatives andchildhood homes. According to authors such as Robert Putnam (2000)of Bowling Alone, America has become a nation of strangers who arefearful and suspicious of each other. The Borg, in some ways, perhapsencourage an abandonment of that individualistic way of living. Put-ting aside their conquering tendencies, the Borg live as one—all voicesare equal, all work is shared. Isolation is not an option, discord isunknown. For human society struggling with increasing alienation,rage and fear, this way of life may be tempting, at least on some levels.The Borg offer another way of doing things.
198 Womens Studies in Communication Conclusions I began this paper by asking the question "how do representations of theBorg challenge and/or reinforce traditional ideas about gender and theposthuman body, and what they should be in contemporary culture?" Ifocused on the characters Seven of Nine and the Borg Queen, and thenexpanded to the Borg collective. In doing so, interesting ideas emerged.While the Borg Queen, from a gender perspective, is a powerful femaleleader, managing billions of Borg drones, her power lies mainly in hersexuality, and thus her character is no different from stereotypical femalecharacters in past Star Trek series. Seven of Nine is a different story,however. While she does exemplify current standards of physical femalebeauty, her character is much more complex than the Queen, or otherfemale Star Trek characters. In line with many of Inness (1999) "toughgirls," Seven of Nine is often the character called on to "save the day" inthe show, and has a powerful intellect, rational and cool demeanor, andforceful personality. While it would be easy to conclude that the charactersimply ends up valorizing male personality attributes, that would be toosimplistic. It sometimes seems that much of feminist research on femalecharacters is caught in a bind (recalling the bind of interpellation-.—even aswe seek to define ourselves one way, we are hailed and disciplined in waysnot of our own choosing)—if the character exhibits typically "feminine"traits such as nurturing behavior, we dismiss the character as a throwback,or at minimum lacking in some regards. If the female character shunsthese traits and acts in a more typically "masculine" fashion, we insteadclaim the character is dismissing feminine traits that are always devalued,and instead valorizing the primacy of male traits. What position is left totake? It would seem that female characters are damned either way,^ I believe that the character Seven of Nine is a bold female presence, anda strong character in entertainment television. While the physical dimen-sions of the character are hardly transgressive, it is important to rememberthat this is the current standard for practically all female actors presentlyworking in the entertainment industry. What is more exceptional is theway Seven of Nine is given intelligence, boldness, rationality and aremarkable lack of interest in the opposite sex. These characteristics placeher far beyond other female characters currently appearing, and perhapsfor the foreseeable future. Additionally, Sevens work to (re)gender herselfasserts the (current) importance of that identity marker for humanity—andposthumanity as well. It also suggests that without more careful thought
MiaConsalvo 199and attention, the concept of the posthuman will remain ungendered on thesurface, yet reassert an implicit assumption of masculinity as primary. I also explored how gender materialized in the collective body of theBorg, as the species redefined the public/private sphere as either a mean-ingless divide, or an all male space. Both of these readings have particularimplications, including the suggestion that there is no more real "private"sphere, for good or ill, or that the public sphere is again being contestedas a place for both men and women in which to co-exist. A focus on the body also proved useful. By examining the individualBorg body, concerns about alienation from the body in contemporarysociety, and damaging attempts to perfect the body emerged. In the Borg,notions about the pliability of the body and the transcendence of mindfrom the body are taken to their logical extremes. Here, the Borg paint anugly picture of what Western views of bodies could become. The Borgalso suggest that when aesthetic fashionings of the body are dismissed,women tend to disappear as well, as women are in large part defined andjudged by their bodies. The all male drones demonstrate how importantaesthetics are for the female body, as the Borg Queens body is devoid ofthe external, disfiguring prostheses so indicative of the Borg body. I explored how the Borg collective body could be understood as acounterpoint to the American ideal of liberal individualism. Examining theBorg showed how deeply held beliefs concerning the "self made man"[sic] and self-governance must rest on the foundation of a normallyfunctioning body. Further, the body is supposed to be free of incursion,and those who cannot "resist" such invasions are generally seen as nothaving the "will" to fight successfully. The Borg suggest a possible futurewhere individuality is wiped out, one where America may currently beheading. The Borg are also a possible alternative in their collective system,offering a way out of solitary existence, at least in the imagination. Finally, the Borg and Seven appear to be harbingers—calling us toconsider one potential future as we start to shape our posthuman potential,Graham (2002) and Hayles (1999) rightly argue that science fiction andscience fact are increasingly informing one another, and so the importanceof the Borg cannot be dismissed. Their vision of one posthuman future asfunctional, masculine and collective should give us pause, and lead us tomore carefully consider our hopes and goals as we move toward fullerintegration of biotechnology and technology within our gendered bodies. The Borg have thus demonstrated that while traditional ideas aboutgender are hard to shake, even for a "genderless" species, there are some
200 Womens Studies in Communicationclear challenges to the stereotypes of old. They also reaffirm the impor-tance of looking at larger systems to determine the infiuence of gender andthe body—as these identity markers are found to be critically importantwhen considering public/private life, and ideals such as liberal individu-alism. Thus, popular culture is important in helping us see how farvisionary ideals can comfortably extend, at the current moment in time.While Star Trek is still no real Utopia, Voyager did make some strides inthat direction, at least through Seven of Nines (high heel) shoes.ReferencesAlthusser, L, (1971), Lenin and phiiosophy and other essays. New York: Monthly Review Press,Balsamo, A, (1996), Technologies of the gendered body: Reading cyborg women. Durham: Duke University Press,Berman, R, (Executive Producer), (1987-1994), Star Trek: The Next Generation [Tele- vision series], Los Angeles: Paramount,Berman, R, (Producer), & Frakes, J, (Director), (1996), Star Trek: First Contact [Motion picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures,Berman, R,, Piller, M,, & Taylor, J, (Executive Producers), (1994-1997), Star Treii: Voyager [Television series], Los Angeles: Paramount,Boyd, K, (1996), Cyborgs in Utopia: The problem of radical difference in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In T, Harrison, S, Projansky, K, Ono, & E, Helford (Eds,), Enterprise zones: Critical positions on Star Trek (pp, 95-113), Boulder: Westview Press,Braine, F, S, (1994), Technological Utopias: The future of the next generation. Extrap- olations, 34, 2-17,Braga, B, & Menosky, J, (Writers), & Kolbe, W, (Director), (1997), Scorpion Part II [Television series episode]. In R, Berman (Producer), Star Trek: Voyager. Los Angeles: Paramount,Brooks, R, (2003), Flesh and machines: How robots will change us. New York: Vintage,Butler, J, (1993), Bodies that matter. New York: Routledge,Collins, S, (1996), For the greater good: Trilateralism and hegemony in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In T, Harrison, S, Projansky, K, Ono, & E, Helford (Eds,), Enterprise zones: Criticai positions on Star Trek (pp, 137-156), Boulder: Westview Press,Elliot, G, & Perricone, M, (Writers), & Robinson, A, (Director), (1998), Unforgettable [Television series episode]. In R, Berman (Producer), Star Trek: Voyager. Los Angeles: Paramount,Faludi, S, (1991), Backlash: The undeclared war against American women. New York: Crown,Ferguson, K,, Ashkenazi, G, & Schultz, W, (1997), Gender identity in Star Trek In D, Hassler & C, Wiicox (Eds,) Political science fiction (pp, 214-233), Columbia: University of South Carolina Press,Foucault, M, (1975), Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Vintage Books,Fukuyama, F, (2003), Our posthuman future: Consequences of the biotechnology revolution. New York: Picador Press,
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202 Womens Studies in Communicationf^otes The Borg Queen is depicted as having no external prostheses beyond metal-looking hoses sprouting out the back of her head. However, in the film First Contact welearn that her skull and spinal vertebrae are made of a titanium-like material. And likeall Borg, she has microscopic technological nanoprobes in her blood, ^tt is important to point out that in the marketing of the show, it was primarily the"sexy" side of Ryan/Seven that was promoted. As David Graver (1997) points out, wecan never entirely submerge the identity of the actor into the character she plays. Oneway of retaining the identity of the actor is through seeing the actor as a celebrity, andthat image then competes with the visibility of the character (1997), And in doing so, theactors image is fetishized, as well as seen as an image linked to particular stereotypesand discourses of the culture. Thus, the marketing of the show and of Seven plays offthe "blonde bombshell" sexiness of Ryans body (as perhaps compensation for hersexless personality) as a way to generate interest in the character and the show. Forexample, my own local television station at the time ran promos for late night reruns ofthe show with an image of Seven appearing out of a flash in space, with the graphicabove reading "a star is bom," Much attention was given to the introduction of Ryan tothe show, and many of the plotlines from then on focused on Seven, to the detriment ofother characters development. That "star power" seems to have continued for Jeri Ryan,interestingly enough. After the conclusion of Voyager she joined the cast of the already,successful high school drama Boston Public. Initially one character in an ensembleshow, she now shares top billing with the star, principal Steven Harper (played by ChiMcBride), and many of the plotlines (again) revolve around her character, •We see that in the way that feminine qualities such as empathy and caring are useful in professions such as medicine and psychology, rather than diplomacy and leadership. In The Next Generation Deanna Troi, the stereotypical female, is the shipscounselor, Dr, Beverly Crusher, the other woman lead character, is a doctor, a personwho heals and cares for others. In Voyager, a woman with stereotypically feminine traits,Kes, is recruited to be a nurse. Women in Voyager are also in leadership positions,notably Captain Janeway, but she is often portrayed as duty-bound and cold, if she is notput into a motherly type relationship. Notably, she is denied any romantic involvements,suggesting a woman in charge must give up her sexuality. In contrast, both maleCaptains Kirk and Picard were given some (if not many) romantic involvements, •"Hewletts book has been met with great publicity, as well as a significant backlashto its message, ^Although the Borg Queen is the "leader" of the Borg, and she is supposed to havethe ability to make decisions based on the input of the collective, her thoughts too arepublic, and likewise her decisions are not the product of one mind, but the product ofa collective process of gathering information and weighing the implications of thatinformation, ^Again, the exception of the Borg Queen proves the rule. The Queen needs herbody in order to seduce Data—technological prostheses would render her less attractive,and also less distinctive from the drones. Her (relatively) unchanged body is a coun-terpoint to the drones—signifying her status, as well as her gender. And when Data (andthe Captain) reject her offers, they also show the danger (or foolishness) of relying ona (female) body to achieve ones goals, McNay (1992) goes on to argue that Foucault later revised his thinking on thetotalizing nature of discipline over the body, in response to criticisms that individualscan and do make choices about which actions to take, even in the face of disapproval orimminent discipline, Foucaults later work on "practices/techniques of the self started
Mia Consalvo 203to theorize how individuals could choose, from available cultural contexts, actions andbeliefs in alignment with their own ethics and morals, A later story arc in Voyager hasa minority of Borg drones able to virtually travel to an alternate world during theirbodys sleep cycle, where they are their pre-assimilated individual selves. They thenwork to begin resisting the pull of the collective mind during their waking hours.Although this arc comes very late in the series run, it seems that even the totalizingdiscipline of the Borg collective power can yield occasionally to the practices of the self, *One alternative would be androgyny, where female characters could be evaluatedfor their portrayal of the "best of both worlds" of both male and female traits orbehaviors. While initially an intriguing attempt at working through the contradictions offeminist research, I believe this position ultimately falls into the same sets of problems.For example, who would determine which are the "best" feminine and masculine traits?At what level would they be acceptable? Feminist theorists differ on what feminine traitsto valorize such as nurturing behavior. Should that even be considered a feminine trait?I believe that the debate over how images are interpreted cannot be overcome byattempting to use a category such as androgyny.