Space Hitler and saint: Star Trek’s Emperor Georgiou and the slippage between postfeminism and fourth wave feminism

Original Research

Keywords: Fourth wave feminism, postfeminism, Star Trek, sci-fi, diversity, Emperor Georgiou


One of the most recent Star Trek series, Star Trek: Discovery (2017-present) (DSC), seems self-aware regarding the contradictions inherent in what Star Trek claims to be and what it actually is. In an attempt to realise Gene Roddenberry’s vision, DSC includes a far more diverse cast than any Star Trek series before it. As Judith Rauscher (2020:256) suggests, DSC’s ‘highly diverse cast’ combined with its extended Mirror Universe plot ‘complicates the representation of female characters of color’. At the same historical moment, a new wave of feminism—the fourth wave—that claims to be acutely aware of diversity, inclusivity, and intersectionality is entering the mainstream. While both Rosalind Gill (2016, 2017) and Nicola Rivers (2017) make convincing cases that we still live within a postfeminist “sensibility”, one cannot deny that recently, audiences and producers of popular cultural texts seem to have become aware of the overarching white, heterosexual narrative of postfeminism, and radical changes in terms of representation are taking place. In this paper, I explore how the slippage between postfeminism and fourth wave feminism manifests itself in contemporary representations of women in sci-fi—specifically women of colour in Star Trek. One character from DSC—the Terran Emperor, Phillipa Georgiou—exemplifies the tensions between postfeminist and fourth wave empowerment in terms of her representation and character arc over three seasons.