The Monster Inside: 19th Century Racial Constructs in the 24th Century Mythos of Star Trek

The Monster Inside: 19th Century Racial Constructs in the 24th Century Mythos of Star Trek

The Journal of Popular Culture
Volume 31, Issue 1
(Summer 1997)
pages 23–35
DOI: 10.1111/j.0022-3840.1997.3101_23.x

Denise Alessandria Hurd

That is the ineffaceable curse of Cain. Of the blood that feeds my heart, one drop in eight is black—bright red as the rest may be, that one drop poisons all the flood. Those seven bright drops give me love like yours, hope like yours—ambition like yours—life hung with passions like dew-drops on the morning flowers; but the one black drop gives me despair, for I’m an unclean thing—forbidden by the laws—I’m an Octoroon!

Zoe in The Octoroon, 1859

Myself, I think I got the worst of each… that [my Klingon side] I keep under tight control… some times I feel there’s a monster inside of me, fighting to get out… My Klingon side can be terrifying, even to me.

K’Ehleyr from Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1989

Judging from the above two quotes, not much has changed in 130 years of racial image management, The language may have become less poetical by the time of Star Trek, and the “Other” race less specifically marked as an existing ethnic group, but the construction of the Other, especially the Hybrid Other, even down to the implication of an inevitable atavistic biological essentialism when two races are mixed, remains the same. In the world of Star Trek, the society of the future is a pattern card of egalitarian homogeneity. Prejudice is gone and brotherhood reigns supreme, at least theoretically. It is just those pesky “alien” cultures that repeat outmoded cultural conflicts. Or is it? In this article I wish to examine how this television series, whose original intent was to explore and disprove the encoded prejudices of contemporary society by displacing this debate onto a future and presumably Utopian society, still tends to reify a particularly loaded image from nineteenth century psychology and anthropology in the United States: The Tragic Mulatto.

Beginning with the character of Spock in The Original Series (TOS) and on down to B’Elanna Torres on the newest series. Star Trek:  Voyager, (STV) the following familiar crisis is enacted: A Hybrid character…

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