uhura: can't handle me

December Meme Day Three

illariy asked for the two most under-appreciated things about Uhura.

The short answer: Having a boyfriend doesn't diminish her agency, and she has flaws.

1. Her agency. I feel so frustrated when other fans label her as just a girlfriend -- as if being in a relationship somehow automatically diminishes a woman's role. It's true that some female characters are portrayed as an extension of a man, but that's not what's happening here. That Uhura wants to be in a relationship says a lot about her. She is obviously a strong, independent person who would be fine on her own, but she chooses to share her life with a partner. That she chooses Spock specifically also speaks volumes about her character. She is open to negotiating some serious cultural differences. She's deeply intellectual and very mature, but she's enough of a rebel to want to date her instructor. And most importantly, she knows what she doesn't want, which is someone like Kirk. If she and Kirk had gotten together, I think it would have been problematic: it would have been the stereotypical story about a tough girl who rejects a guy who's actually an asshole, only to be worn down by his relentless refusal to respect her disinterest. Being with Spock is a manifestation of her choice and her agency, and I don't agree with those who complain that too much of her story line involves him. If you made a movie of my life, my husband would be part of almost every scene, and I don't think that makes me less of a woman.

2. Her flaws. My least favorite part of the entire 2009 film is when Kirk is hitting on Uhura, and she responds by saying that he's a stupid hick who fucks farm animals. And yeah, Kirk is being a dick, but her response isn't an attack on him; it's an attack on a whole class of people who choose to live in small towns in the countryside. Having had a lot of that prejudice directed against me when I lived in New York City, I felt stung by her comment. But I'm also glad that she made it because she doesn't need to be perfect. Maybe she's a little snotty, or maybe she just doesn't always think before she speaks, but either way, I'm glad she has a flaw.

I also agree with everyone who said she was unprofessional for bringing her relationship problems into a mission in STID. I just don't think that episode of unprofessionalism is symptomatic of bad writing, or that it diminishes her character in any way. STID is basically a movie about people being unprofessional. Kirk lies on a report, Spock concocts an insane plan to crawl inside a volcano and fails to discuss with his captain what should be shared with the brass, McCoy calls Dr. Marcus "sweetheart," Dr. Marcus sneaks onto a starship with false credentials...basically, everyone in the entire movie does something professionally questionable except Scotty -- who, not coincidentally, is the oldest person on the senior staff. To me, the main conflict in the movie is not Dr. Marcus or the torpedoes; it's a group of young people who have been placed in a situation of extreme responsibility, and none of them are quite sure how to manage it. Working with your boyfriend is super complicated, and it's really okay if Uhura doesn't totally know how to manage it yet.
I love this analysis of Uhura and also of STID so much. You put into words many feelings that I also had about the movie.
I am kind of in love with this entire post :D

But especially the part about STID being a movie about unprofessionalism. Ha! I never saw it put quite that way but it perfectly expresses my major problems with the film. I expected everyone to be more professional by this point and they failed to deliver. Now I wonder if the writers are going to develop the characters in that direction for the next film or not...
I never really realized that either, but it makes so much sense to view the movie through the lens of ALL of them figuring out how to be professional, and occasionally failing. On the whole, they really manage to step up from just being cadets into these roles with amazing grace and competence, and yet it's so true that they all have these key moments when they don't quite get it right. And that's ok. It's one of my favorite parts about the new movies, how they're not all perfect and those flaws make them so much more interesting. I guess I'm ok with the fact that they're struggling with their new roles and I think I expected them to be more professional in this movie as well, and therefore spent a lot of time not liking it, but viewing them as still growing into the people they were in TOS and still being younger, less polished and less experienced lets me have more forgiveness for STID.
Orici doesn't know how to write women I am just gonna say that....look at Hawaii Five-0 Kono is his only sucess

I feel her problems are what make Uhura who she is in this universe. She's a perfectionist someone who lives by the rules but when she's focused like the whole LET ME SPEAK KLINGON SCENE....She kicks major butt. and Zoe Saldana is a fab actress.
I agree with this. <3 I like what you said about her flaws, because I think often as fans we sort of have this expectation that characters are going to AMAZING and PERFECT but really I think the most interesting characters are the ones who aren't perfect, and they're definitely the most relatable.

I think sometimes it can be somewhat disappointing to see female characters become "the love interest", just because that seems to always be done and is sometimes to the detriment of who they are as people, and I'm worried about that happening to Natasha in the MCU, but I've never felt like that was an issue with Uhura, who was great with or without Spock.
I feel so frustrated when other fans label her as just a girlfriend -- as if being in a relationship somehow automatically diminishes a woman's role. It's true that some female characters are portrayed as an extension of a man, but that's not what's happening here.


I love your points about Uhura - yep, she's in a relationship, yep, she does problematic things. These do not detract from the amazingness of her - they add the shades and shadows that we want in characters to make them complex!
I adore Uhura's flaws, and it's true that they're under-appreciated! I've always loved her first meeting with Jim in the reboot because they're both so flawed there (even if Jim is too overbearing...I would hope that he's supposed to be, but I'm never sure). And I totally agree about the unprofessionalism party that is the Enterprise and how stupid it is to single her out on that subject.