November 12, 2014

Racism in Stargate SG-1

Everyone is the Same (Stargate)Speaking of the SGC, there is a definite lack of persons of color who are actually characters on the show. I’ve seen a lot of black guys walking around the base in the halls, so it’s not that the SGC itself is racist, and instead that the show doesn’t hire persons of color for major roles. Teal’c is kind of the token black character and he’s an alien turncoat not really in the U.S. Air Force. Most persons of color on this show are Jaffa or Goa’uld hosts like that of Apophis and Ba’al, members of exotic foreign cultures, while the good guys at home are white.

The homogenous casting also has some unfortunate implications with regard to Stargate’s pre-Darwinian take on evolution, where every being changes for the better until Ascension. According to this, lower life forms turn into modern humans, modern humans turn into superpowered psychics, and superpowered psychics turn into godlike Ascended beings. This is a set pattern that happened before ages ago with the Ancients and can be seen happening at the time of the show. So, it’s unfortunate that all of these superior forms into which beings evolve happen to be white. Oops.
Traveling Through the Iris: Re-producing Whiteness in Stargate SG-1Alien encounters and SG-1's response to these encounters are fundamental to the narrative of Stargate SG-1. I argue that a significant feature of Stargate SG-1 is the conflict operating between whiteness and nonwhiteness. Whiteness is represented as linked to the superior white human and white alien, while the nonwhite human and nonwhite alien are linked with inferiority. As my thesis demonstrates, Stargate SG-1 narratives also associate whiteness and humanity, with liberty, democracy and superiority. These associations are set in opposition to those of darkness and alienness, which are linked with tyranny, inferiority and savagery. Such simplistic severances are used to reinforce classic stereotypes of the other.

Unlike Star Trek with its aim to present a multi-cultural image through having a diverse cast, the early seasons of Stargate SG-1 do not represent a multi-cultural format. In fact, the only substantial role given to a nonwhite actor who is part of Stargate Command in the early episodes is that of the alien, Teal'c. Other nonwhite actors appear occasionally but function mostly as background to the central narrative. When nonwhiteness is made visible it is done so in terms of alien representation. Hostile aliens in the series are predominantly nonwhite, and often black.
Comment:  I watched the first episode of Stargate SG-1 a few years ago. The problem quickly became evident to me. The Terran heroes were white; the alien Goa’uld were brown. I checked online and found these postings discussing the obvious.

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