ABW’s TV Corner – Stargate: Atlantis and why I hate it
In comments, Dead Man Walking said:
Another show that I believe has good minority characters is Stargate Atlantis. IMO, they are fair and balanced. Teyla and Ronin are good guys. Aiden is a rogue team member who became a bad guy. I don’t think that they can be more balanced.
Unfortunately I am going to have to disagree with his assessment of Atlantis. I think that it’s one of the worst shows when it comes to PoC portrayal and racial issues.
I first formed this opinion in the Season 1 episode Letters from Atlantis. The one where the folks on Atlantis are recording video diaries for their families because the Wraith are coming and they’re scared they are all gonna die. Anyway, in between the main cast doing theirs, there is one female scientist I hadn’t seen before that they bring in for a bit of comedy. She’s Asian, and she spoke in the most stereotypical Asian accent EVER. Like 2 degrees up from ching chong talk. She tells her family all about how her job is wonderful and her boss is especially wonderful. Her comments about her great workplace are interspersed with scenes of Rodney, her boss, yelling at people, calling them stupid, being an ass — you know, typical Rodney stuff. And yet this woman paints him in a crazily fantastic light. Now, either they are playing up on the submissive Asian stereotype or they’re playing up the woman so in love she is too stupid to realize she’s being abused stereotype. Or maybe it was both.
At that moment, I started to wonder how many people of color I had even seen on Atlantis. (After I got over the shock of seeing something so horrendous on my TV, of course.) Upon examination of the reruns, I noticed that NONE of the scientists that came from Earth are people of color. That Asian woman doesn’t appear in any other episode that I’ve seen. Others tell me that there’s one black female scientist who’s never had a line. ALL of the rest of them are white.
The only people of color that come from Earth are in the military, and I think there are only two of them, Ford and Bates. Bates is overly aggressive and shoot-em-up, especially towards Teyla (for no good reason). Ford eventually becomes an intergalactic junkie (no stereotyping there, right??).
Alien CoC include Teyla and Ronan. Both of them are depicted, at first, as being backward, tribal people who are born to kick ass. Rachel Luttrell was even told by the producers to think of Teyla as a ‘simple island girl’. Wha?? Also, why is she the only person of color in her tribe? Everyone else from her planet is white, and we never see her parents. Also, where the hell does she get relaxer in the Pegasus galaxy? Teyla is Teal’c light, speaking in that stilted dark warrior way and being very one with the earth or something. Gah.
(Don’t get me wrong, I love Rachel and I know she’s doing her best with what she’s been given. But Jesus…)
Ronan is a whole other problem. He’s the typical wild warrior man actors of color are often asked to play. He’s shows as overly aggressive and uncivilized. One of the first scenes he has on Atlantis proper is him in the cafeteria eating with his fingers. Later on we find out that he comes from a civilization more advanced than Earth. So why the hell does he not understand utensils?
Atlantis inherited this problem from SG-1, but they take the racism to whole new levels. It’s a combination of no scientists of color with men of color as savage, wild men and/or drug addicts and aliens of color coming from supposedly backwards backgrounds.
Let’s not even get into the Michael as tragic mulatto storyline.
I don’t watch Atlantis anymore.