The new Netflix show “Space Force” and the shallowness of socially aware irony
I was watching the new Netflix series “Space Force” and quite enjoying myself with the clever yet easy jokes, the tone of Trump-era comedy like feminist irony and ridicularisation of traditional behaviours really got me going. Until I reached episode 3, which came with two slaps on my smiley face that turned it into a disgusted frown.
The slaps were related to the part where General Naird is at the budget hearing. The first one came when a group of feminist protesters invaded the hearing to protest by accident, dressed as maids from the famous story “The Handmaid’s Tale”, by Margaret Atwood. You see, they had mistaken the date of the hearing they planned on disrupting, so they quietly leave after being advised of their mistake. What exactly is this show trying to insinuate with this ill-hearted joke? Is this an attempt to delegitimise the seriousness of the struggle by staging those protesters as just dumb women who can’t even get the date and time of their hearing right? Or was it normalising activism as something that happens so often and for so many things that it’s not even worth supporting anymore? This is definitely not what I was expecting from this show based on the last couple of episodes, where there seemed to be quite a mature understanding of gendered biases and toxic masculinity, very often played out in a delightful yet exposing way. If it was to be “just a joke”, I’m sorry, this wasn’t funny to me whatsoever.
The second slap came right after the first one, when Doctor Mallory starts talking in order to save General Naird from losing the support of the congresspeople. He’s saying beautiful arguments for why Space Force should have its budget increased, explaining that this technology could save millions of lives and save billions of dollars in disaster relief by improving meteorological forecasting. But then the argument takes a turn. He says that “not every country with a presence in space believes in good for all”, implying that nations, specifically China and Russia, are once again villains that must be contained by the immaculate American superheroes, holders of the highest righteousness that every individual in the face of the Earth should be aiming for, and those who do not possess American virtues, like China and Russia, are just the embodiment of everything that is evil in the world. I was willing to let go of this outdated US vs. China/Russia cliché when I first saw it on the show because I thought it eventually would turn into another of their acid jokes that would challenge the status quo, but after the scientist’s declaration in the hearing I’m afraid this is just another show with a highly xenophobic and supremacist attitude disguised as a superficial awareness of the social issues brought by US hegemony and white cis-male supremacy. This confirms that the apparent acknowledgement of those issues is just another way to capitalize from a youth that is ever more conscient of what types of behaviours and misconceptions need to be brought down along with the status quo.
I started connecting some dots and I realised that throughout the show there is a tendency of maintaining shallow ironies but never reaching a deeper understanding of what those jokes mean in practice. For example, all of the Joint Chiefs are white men with the exception of the Joint Chief of the Navy, played By Jane Lynch, a white female who is very masculine. That is not a problem in itself, but when we put it in context it is basically reinforcing the idea that only masculine women can achieve seniority. The only black character is Captain Angela, played by Tawny Newsome, a very competent pilot who often gets stuck on tasks such as looking after the General’s teenage daughter. Here we see the “perfect black” myth, always grateful and never complaining about the tasks they’re given, even if they’re well below their qualifications. The only Russian character is Captain Yuri, played by Alexey Vorobyov, who is apparently dating the underaged daughter of General Naird with the only purpose to obtain classified information. Do I have to say anything about this stereotype? The lab scientists do show some cross-nationality, with one person from India and one from Sri Lanka — people from Asia playing super-smart characters. What a surprise.
I will keep watching the show in a hope that I am in fact wrong about all I’ve noticed so far, after all, I’m only on the third episode. However, this is still something to be taken seriously as we will not accept these shallow crumbs of enlightenment from capitalist opportunists anymore. The time has come for the change to happen, and you can be sure that we see right through your petty attempts to portray an image that is not real and alleviate the guilt of being the very thing that is wrong with society, masquerading and somehow justifying the encouragement of ill behaviour through a few jokes that reflect social consciousness.