I have a longer rant about this, but I’m pissed as everloving fuck that Benedict Cumberbatch is, indeed, playing Khan Noonian Singh.
You can argue till you’re blue in the face that well, Ricardo Montalban wasn’t Indian, and he was of European descent and therefore white, but let me tell you, Montalban in the US was not white-passing and would have been parsed as Mexican. While that’s still not Indian, he’s still at least Not A White Guy. Montalban also founded the Nostoros Foundation, an organization to advocate for Latinos in the film industry and help them continue to get roles.
Furthermore, Khan Noonian Singh, while a villain, is still one of the most prominent desi characters in American cinema. He’s iconic. And he’s not some withering racist stereotype either; he’s cunning, clever, brilliant, and dangerous. Nothing is EVER made of his race, we only know that he’s probably desi because of his name and appearance; the bigger point is that he’s been genetically engineered to be a perfect human. Let me repeat: in the 1960s, Gene Rodenberry decided that the perfect human was an Indian guy.
Also look at this handsome face:
DAYMN. seriously go watch the TOS episode “Space Seed.” I’ll wait.
So, while Benedict Cumberbatch is doubtless a fantastic actor, making his character into fucking KHAN NOONIEN SINGH for what to me reads as little more than a publicity stunt (“look! it’s khan in the second movie! just like how in the original movies it was khan in the second movie! :O”) is an insult to the original character, an insult to Gene Roddenberry, and an insult to Ricardo Montalban.
And it’s not as though there aren’t fantastic desi actors who could have portrayed the character. Need I remind you all that India has one of the largest film industries in the WORLD? Why not cast Shahrukh Khan? If you insist on an American, there’s always Sendhil Ramamurthy. But no, we’re going to cast LITERALLY the most British man in existence.
It is whitewashing at its most vile and heinous, and it’s yet more evidence that fundamentally, J.J. Abrams does not understand the Star Trek universe in the least. I will not be going to see this movie, and in fact I’ll be avoiding Abrams productions and anything Cumberbatch is in from now on (Yes, that means I won’t be going to see the Hobbit, despite having wanted a Hobbit movie since I was a small child).
i loved your post about Khan, and I absolutely agree with what you said. Not only do I feel anger about the whole casting but also sadness because there’s people out there, who claim to be fans, that are okay with the casting. Now, I don’t want to be thought of as those “elitist star trek fans” who say “oh you’re not a real fan if you like the reboots, or if you’ve only seen one series or movie” No, this isn’t what this is about. I believe that if you love Star Trek then you are a fan, but I also believe that you should know what Star Trek actually means and what it represents. The point of the show, to quote Gene Roddenberry is “Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms” That is what Star Trek is about, it isn’t about stupid stereotypes, relentless action or the hotness of actors in any story. This show, the whole franchise, was to show you that there will be hope, friendships, love and acceptance. To a lot of people it isn’t just a show or a movie, it’s something important, something that picked them up when nothing could and something that made them feel like they belonged. The fan base is broad, and for a lot of us, it shows us in some way. The reason people are completely upset about the casting for Khan is because it’s just the same garbage and mistreatment that people have put up for years, not just in show business but in real life. Star Trek fans have come from all over the world and when we see people like us on screen, we feel less alone and like we’re just as important as anyone else because we are but it’s not always often that films or programs highlight this. To understand why it’s a huge deal you’d have to fathom how awful it is to feel like a second class citizen in your life, or to see it happen to someone you know. What Star Trek did was tell you “hey it’s alright to be yourself, you’ll be okay, you have a place with us”
A lot of people will argue that only the acting matters, that Khan was engineered and he can look like anything, that Ricardo himself wasn’t Indian, and some people even think he was white; all of that is not the point and you are missing the big picture. Khan and all the other people who were not white or appeared white on the show made a HUGE difference because they weren’t suppose to be there according to the politics in those years, Gene Roddenberry had to fight and take jabs from those that would try to get rid of what he wanted. He wanted to show the world that equality could be achieved, that what was then was not okay, that we’re all one. Granted that even back then there was whitewashing, and believe me, the fans are not okay with it, at the time it was the only way more diversity could be shown sadly enough, and throughout all those years, until now, it’s terrible that these people in charge believe that they can still stop the change that Gene had in mind. Things were not perfect at all but they tried and now at a new era it’s so disheartening to see it still happening and people defending it. It’s incredibly insulting, to those of us who are not white - or even to those who are white but believe in equality! it’s just saying “We have money, we want more money and we don’t give a damn about what Star Trek means to you. We will use a white actor because he’s well known and will bring us more money. We do not care how it makes you feel”
People who accept this change of Khan don’t know what it’s like to feel inferior, to feel like an outcast, or uncomfortable to be in your own skin - we do and that’s why it’s important to us because it’s basically sending us to the back again, only those with money and white skin can be in power - the exact opposite that Khan was about, the opposite message of what the creator of Star Trek desired. And if you get upset by this, only because you love Benedict Cumberbatch, then you should be smart enough to realise how pitiful that is. No one wants to attack his looks or his acting skills, it is beyond him. I urge those who believe that to see it through a logical point of view instead of a vain one.
I would also like to throw in that Montalban came to the U.S. during a time when restaurants had signs like “No dogs or Mexicans allowed”.
Do you understand this? Montalban was cast in a prominent role for a popular TV show during a time in which non-Whites were (more) overtly discriminated against. So I really don’t have time for the tears when we’ve very clearly regressed and nay-sayers are giving every excuse in the book as to why the nu!casting isn’t horrendous and upsetting.
You love Cumberbatch? Great, I’m happy for you. This was not the role for him and you should be upset that your fave is being used to uphold the status quo