First the Irreverence:
1) Deanna CAN wear whatever she wants.
2) Speaking of Deanna did she take a stab at humans during that first meeting with the Ligonians? Where did that come from?
3) Geordi shaves wherever he wants. Data walks right on into Geordi’s place and finds him shaving. If he understood human humor more he would said, “You do realize you’re shaving inefficiently IN THE LIVINGROOM!”
4) If Data’s just walking in wasn’t hint enough that he and Geordi are friends, Data’s insistence on saying “my friend” over and over might just clue us in.
5) French has become an obscure language. Ouch. That was an awesome scene. Possibly the best part of the episode.
You know, Data is awesome. When I was young and watching these episodes for the first
time, I never got that. My favorites were Riker because he was so cool macho and Wesley because he was my age and Picard because he was always right. I missed out on the fact that Brent Spiner was doing a lot in such a subtle way. Really little things like the way he corrects his captain in front of guests.
I wish someone would stick up for Data and bring the hammer down on Geordi for saying it always goes back to the human equation.
What the Episode is All About
Have you ever been to a fast food restaurant in Midtown Manhattan? The customers are white people in suits, and the employees are black. The uncomfortable feeling I got there is pretty much the same one I got watching Code of Honor.
Let’s take colonial depictions of African and Arab cultures, mix them up with a comparison to China, and top if off by making all the Ligonians black. Then when they demand respect have our heros give them a condescending round of applause.
Tasha Yar and Lutan exchange glances. Thank God no one said anything like, “Jungle Fever.”
You know? The 1991 film by Spike Lee.
Speaking of colonialism and its literature, how about this cure thing? Here are these aliens who basically represent all the people subjugated by Europeans and they possess some kind of cure that we can’t even replicate with science. Sounds like voodoo to me.
Another important part of these colonial images is that natives are duplicitous and cannot be trusted. They smile and agree and then stab you in the back. That’s Lutan in a nutshell.
This is Lutan in a nutshell: “Interesting. How did I get into a strange, alien nutshell this big? It matters not. We will use our own transporter technology to get me out. I will take the nutshell with me, and the honor will be great.”
Now I’m sure that most conversation about this episode would focus on racism, but I felt something deeper was going on. So take a breath, I’m about to go where no one has gone before.
What’s Really Going On
Lutan wants to be a woman.
He says from the get go, according to his planet’s culture, women own property and men protect. Yet his entire plot was devised to make him the owner of his wife’s property. He wants his wife’s gender role. Moreover he finds in Tasha Yar a woman who can fight well enough to make it happen, a woman who can protect his claim.
These things would, according to his culture, have him fulfilling female gender roles.
This is a psychological yearning that was created in part by the relationship between Ligon II and Starfleet. After all, Ligon II owns the property, which is the cure. Just as it owns the strong honor bound culture. The Enterprise is powerful enough to take anything it wants from the Ligonians, so on the behalf of his people, he must ask Starfleet to protect these ideas and their ownership.
Starfleet’s strength has given the Ligionians interplanetary female gender roles. As the leader of the planet, Lutan is fulfilling that role.
The power inequality leaves Lutan with the desire to be a woman and only one way to do it. A timeless device used by the powerless when their desires conflict with those of the powerful: manipulation.
Picard is Awesome (and other morals, messages, and meanings)
Picard sees what is going on. Well I mean, he doesn’t maybe realize that Lutan wants to be a woman, but he sees himself and everyone else as agents caught up in a structure of relationships that is creating a problem.
Who knows? He might also know that Lutan wants to be a woman. He is after all awesome.
He says, “We’re all being manipulated. Myself most of all.”
He realizes that this is a matter that concerns the prime directive, but also that there is a weakness to the directive. The act of observing something changes it. Starfleet’s presence and its needs affect the Ligonians. Non-interference is not an option. By being, they’re interfering.
He even gets meta. He starts a Kirk speech, and then slams on the breaks. He’s like, we all know this stuff, and now he’s talking to his crew and to us.
We know because we all know the structure of society that constrains how we act. Yet there is this problem, and Picard must act. How can he act and still be right?
The answer: by giving everyone a choice. Not by taking choices away.
That is the main message I took from this episode.
1) efficiency doesn’t mean best
2) men can show their nipples on national television and it’s OK #freethenipple
3) we have to change ourselves and not have change be imposed on us
Does the Episode Hold Up
On makeup and music alone.
The sound stage.
As for the other stuff… well I asked my wife if she wanted to watch the episode a second time with me, and she said, “What? Do you want me to be offended again… on multiple levels.”
It kind of feels like someone from the European cultures asking for a futuristic do-over as far as all that annoying colonialism stuff went because now we’re more enlightened we could do a better job. However, they forget that we’re more enlightened because of those struggles, so no do-overs.
But that message. Man, that holds up.
Because Picard IS awesome.
And choice is better than control.
One Last Thing
As far as the seven parts of the personality are concerned, I had suggested that Worf represents a sense of honor. But did you notice that there was no Worf in this episode in which honor was mentioned several times? Is that because there is no honor in the episode either?
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