A logical conclusion: Vulcans=Asians

So AzN.

This fervent, unapologetic geek was very pleased last Tuesday to receive her pre-ordered copy of Star Trek Reboot. The next week or so was spent viewing and savoring the delicious nerdy goodness. I even coerced the roomie and Lisa into watching it–both of them sat down thinking they’d just humor me for a few minutes, and then…excellent.

This film confirmed a long-lingering suspicion that has dogged me since I first began watching Star Trek: Vulcans are Asians.

My proof:

1. Vulcans like logic. They don’t express emotion. The stereotype goes something along the lines of Asians are rather logical as well; brainy, calculating, very good at math and science. Model minority much.

Learning: on Vulcan, it’s the pits!

I mean, it’s the Vulcan Science Academy that Spock applies to, for chrissakes. I can’t really picture a Vulcan liberal arts college.

2. Vulcans are the perpetual aliens. Anyone who knows an ounce of Asian American history gets this.

For no good reason, two Spocks for you.

3. Vulcans are…mysterious! Cue the erhu music.

For Kirk he offered “a sense of building, and of inevitability,” says Abrams, and for Spock “something sad,” says Giacchino, “with a voice that felt alien, not of our place,” that led to the choice of the Chinese stringed erhu as lead instrument. LA Times

French horns signaled Kirk’s nobility and a Chinese stringed erhu denoted Spock’s alien nature. Variety

The first time I really listened closely to the music in the theater, I turned to my dad and said, is that a freaking erhu?! For the most part I love Giacchino’s soundtrack but the erhu/Vulcan theme always makes me squirm.

4. Vulcan homes look like zen retreats. Not the best image, but this was from Enterprise episode “The Awakening”.

Please take off your shoes before you come in.

5. The clothes! Vulcans dress like Han dynasty Chinese. Or, if you prefer, in Japanese kimono. (Except that Japanese kimono are derived from Han dynasty clothing, thus confirming my mother’s assertion that everything, including Japan and Star Trek, was invented by the Chinese.) This influence was not so pronounced in the older incarnations of Trek, particularly in TOS and TNG, where Vulcans wore what looked like pajamas decorated with gigantic rhinestones. But it’s definitely noticeable in the Enterprise series, as well as in First Contact.

Hello humans!

Han dynasty mianfu

Japanese (male) kimono

Ambassador Soval

Modern Chinese TV soap opera hanfu. 漢服


I’m not sure what happened in the reboot movie, where the Vulcan outfits look like some barfy Edwardian-middle ages-Galliano grab-bag. But I guess the erhu makes up for it.

6. And I have saved my most potent proof for last.

THE BOWL CUT.

I admit it. Every Asian child I have known–including myself–has been subjected to the bowl cut. Perhaps Vulcans will finally make this ‘do cool.

Star Trek, I love you. And Vulcans, I love you too, although love is an illogical emotion for your species and my race. Just kidding. Glad we could hash this all out. Live long and prosper.

(Or, if you prefer, longevity and prosperity.)

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22 thoughts on “A logical conclusion: Vulcans=Asians

  1. chris

    good points.
    i like the perpetual alien thing. i’m the first half generation irish of my family but will always be taken for north american over my asian friends who’ve been here for three generations.
    you also have to talk about the ‘years of violence threatening extinction’ which led to the need for zen meditation and inner self-discipline. surak=buddha (siddhartha)

    Reply
  2. William Schuler

    It all stands to reason. Asians are descendants of extraterrestrials who colonized Earth hundreds of thousands of years ago. These e.t.’s also settled Mars and dwell in underground cities on Mars. Originally, from the Pleiades Cluster out of a proto-Vulcan stock. This is also so of Native Americans (whose DNA carry these genetic markers).

    Reply
  3. Guy

    Asian!!!? With a snoz like Nimoy’s? What Asian would look like that and not demand immediate, mercy rinoplasty? I always thought that Vulcanians were what the total-sum-hybrid of humanity could look like in, say, about 200 years. That is – if we actually get logical, and somehow manage to “not” extinguish all life on the planet by some ingenious method. The pointed ears would, of course, be a tribute to Star Trek, due to so many survivors being descended from Trekkers. Sort of: life, imitating culture, imitating art… From what I hear, Trekkers were one of the few subcultures that managed to reproduce around the turn of this millennium. Go figure, about all the jokes about them all being male, nerds, and virgins? ( The nerd part was correct ;-) . )

    Reply
  4. Yalana Cotu

    - and, I have been told by a friend that most space aliens in Asian fiction, and in Japanese Anime, look suspiciously… Amish.(???!!!) ;-)

    Reply
  5. Trek Chick

    “…the bowl cut. Perhaps Vulcan’s will finally make this ‘do cool(?) ”

    Looks like it happened. The guy who drives for UPS out here in Santa Fe, NM sports one. – And he is the CUTEST!!!!! ;-D

    Reply
  6. Trek Chick

    By the way – we checked to see if he was a superglue-hand-victim (Trekkie joke). HE WAS!!! LOL! We almost fell off the sidewalk! He really was that cute!!!

    Reply
  7. Jia

    I always thought Vulcans were slightly Asian, although never in the obvious ways that you pointed out. It’s not that obvious in ST:XI, eg. the Vulcan bullies seemed more like American hick rednecks than Asian whiz kids, and the stuffy old Vulcan councillors wouldn’t have been out of place in a Charles Dickens novel. I actually think it was a lot more obvious in ST:TOS, where I felt they deliberately cast actors who looked “Oriental” to play the Vulcans (eg. T’Pau, T’Pring) and gave them “Oriental”-looking make up. Costumes aside, the Vulcan women’s elaborate hairdos looked particularly Asian and T’Pau looked like some kind of Mongolian priestess.

    However, it is a bit weird that erhu is used in ST:XI to convey “alienness” since I grew up listening to it. Being Chinese myself, I don’t know whether to feel honoured or embarrassed. I felt honoured at first, because I grok Spock with the best of them, but those quotes above about the erhu’s alienness kind of leads to the self-reflexive, logical conclusion, that Asians (particularly Chinese and/or other East Asians) = alien. Now I don’t know whether I should be offended. (I mean I think it worked well for the movie, I just don’t like the implication that Chinese people and culture are alien to a Western audience. It’s an uncomfortable idea to swallow, even though it’s something I’ve probably known for many years.)

    Do Westerners really see us as “other”? I think they do, they just don’t really say it out loud in this politically correct climate, but subconsciously I do think they recognise Asians and Asian culture as foreign and alien. Kind of weird. Makes me sad that we can never really be fully accepted as the same as Western people…”you will always a child of two worlds” etc. I don’t *feel* different from other people, so it bothers me that other people will perceive me, and other Asians, as different based on our looks. (Even my boss, when I first started working for my company, had to constantly point out that I was Asian and how much it amazed him…I think he’s over it now, but maybe not really.)

    But I guess I used to feel the same way around Africans so maybe all humans have some degree of ingrained xenophobia. I just wish people would get over it.

    Reply
    1. apricot Post author

      I think that Westerners generally do see Asians as “other.” Less so than other groups, perhaps (thank you, model minority myth–I do mean that sarcastically), but there it is nonetheless. I don’t really take offense, because none was intended, but it does induce a bit of the ole eye-roll on my part.

      Humans will probably always function on the in-group out-group basis. Whether that separation is by race, gender, class, etc., it’s going to stick with us one way or another, as much as we wish it would go away! I think the best we can do is to be aware of our own prejudices.

      All that said, in terms of Star Trek (which I will always love, unreservedly), I really like the Vulcans. They could do far worse in terms of awful/awkward Asian stereotypes in scifi (I’m looking at you, Ming the Merciless).
      :)

      Reply
      1. M.L.

        You fail to recognize that Asians often see themselves as ‘other’, even more so than Westerners. I’ve always been amazed at how even 2nd and 3rd generation Asian Americans who speak perfect English and no other language often refer to “Americans” as though they do not see themselves as Americans.

        As for the model minority myth, it is a myth, but not in the way you suggest. It’s a myth because nobody in the real world actually uses that term. It’s a concept invented by nervous white liberal academics who obsess on race.

        In reality, what I observe is that there are very roughly two types of Asians in the US, those who are shamelessly assimilated and those that are envious of the pity and attention blacks and Hispanics recieve. They do not resent being seen as model minorities but in fact resent the fat that they aren’t seen as minorities at all. These are the types that join Asian clibs in college and parrot the angry race rhetoric used by blacks (which frankly, is laughable). They’re embarrassed by the fact that Asians are generally well accepted by caucasians and wish they were seen as ‘oppressed people of color’ like blacks and Hispanics.

        Of course, the crazy part is that many Hispanics are actually fully caucasian Spaniards descended from white suremacist imperialists. The white Spaniard is clearly the big winner in the sick game of American race politics. They were on top as whites in the days of slavery and segregation yet (due to the widespread historical and anthropological illiteracy of most Americans) they benefit today from affirmative-action and political correctness because they are seen (irrationally) as ‘oppressed people of color’. So swarthy Greeks, Italians, and even French who are indistingusihable from many Hispanics are labeled mean, priveleged whities yet their Spanish cousins are seen as oppressed victms. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

        But I digress…

  8. Jia

    Oh yeah, and I always did think that “Live long and prosper” sounded like a Chinese saying, since Chinese people are so obsessed with wealth and longevity.

    Reply
  9. Pingback: John Liu and the New Voter Majority in NYC — Asian American Action Fund

  10. Samuel

    I suppose the bowl cuts look Asian but I don’t really think you can say that Chinese are emotionless, I would rather say Germanic people are emotionless but hmm… The clothing Vulcans and Romulans dress in looks like ancient clothing from everywhere on Earth, and it is not always portrayed as silky so I don’t think the Vulcans can be modeled solely on Chinese – as the Chinese do have liberal arts.

    In my personal opinion I view Vulcans as traditionalist nature worshiping Pagan peoples of Northern Italy and central and east Europe whilst the Romulans represent the all conquering Roman empire.

    Vulcan (Vuk, Volk – Volf, because of the pointy ears) Romulans are also Vulcans.

    Most importantly though, we must remember is that Vulcans are make belief and what created them is imagination as well as taking many good aspects found in people on earth in order to present them as a superior species.

    Reply
  11. M.L.

    There is nothing to debate here; Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry openly acknowledged that the Vulcans were based on East Asians (the Klingons were based on Middle Easterners). In fact, in one original series episode, Kirk describes Spock as “obviously Chinese”. In the latter day Star Trek the Vulcan’s ‘Asian-ness’ and the Klingon’s ‘middle eastern-ness’ is less pronounced. They even had a black Vulcan on one of the latter day shows, which (no offense, blacks) I thought looked ridiculous.

    It’s fairly obvious, isn’t it? The bowl hair cut, the lack of emotion, the logic/scientific orientation, the exotic culture.

    A tad stereotypical perhaps, but probably more flattering than insulting. If anyone should be offended it would be Middle Easterners.

    It kind of provides some insight into the way white Americans perceive ‘alien’ cultures. If such a show were made in Japan or China, I suspect an alien race modeled on Europeans would probably be some big lumbering Neanderthal like creature.

    Reply
  12. Lily

    Many of the common Chinese ceramic bowls and plates have the words “長命富貴” printed on it. It means exactly “Live long and prosper.”

    Reply

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