Fame Day: Sir Patrick Stewart

There are just so many reasons to love Sir Patrick Stewart.

He gets into the Halloween spirit, for one.

He doesn’t take himself too seriously.

He seems to have stopped the aging process.

And when him and his BFF Ian McKellen get together they start acting like 5-year-old kids.

I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with my dad, so for years I just called him Jean-Luc Picard. Then, of course, there was the X-Men franchise where he became a familiar face again, this time as Professor X. But as an English major I’ve been most recently impressed by his many Shakespeare performances. Did you know he played Claudius in two different BBC versions of Hamlet?

But it’s not actually Stewart’s epic acting career I want to look at, but rather what he has decided to do with all that fame.

Prior to his involvement with Amnesty International I had no idea that Patrick Stewart experienced domestic abuse as a child. In the video I’ve included below he explains how his father’s abuse towards his mother compelled him to get involved with Refuge, a home and helpline for victims of domestic abuse. After learning that his abusive father most probably suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following the War he was also compelled to become involved with Combat Stress, a charity that targets veteran mental health.

His most recent action against domestic abuse, the Ring the Bell campaign, asks for promises from men to take action in stopping domestic violence.

It’s pretty easy to be skeptical of celebrities getting involved in social justice campaigns. It seems common now for NGOs to use a celebrity for a front man and sometimes that can end up feeling pretty fake, and often just useless. But there are two big reasons why I am excited about Patrick Stewart getting involved in this issue.

1) Patrick Stewart is a man

It’s not fair, but the reality is the majority of the world still gives more weight to words spoken by a man than those spoken by a woman.

Even I’ve had conversations about feminism and/or issues regarding women (with men or women) where I can very quickly see the person I am talking to begin to go a little dead in the eyes. It’s like I can actually hear my voice begin to translate itself into “blah blah blah, woman complaining, blah blah.” In a couple of those situations my lovely husband has been next to me and has spoken up in support of what I am saying, or presented it with his own angle. Within a few moments you can see the person perk up and listen.

I’m not saying this happens to me a lot, or even that it is always because he’s a man and I’m a woman, but this does happen. I think sometimes it’s just because people are tired of feeling yelled at by “the angry feminist” who makes a complex idea into a oversimplified “you’re with us or against us,” but sometimes it’s also because we still tend to frame feminine qualities in the negative.

“You play ball like a girl!”

2) He’s a part of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy World

I love me some sci-fi and fantasy. Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate (SG-1, none of this Atlantis nonsense), Harry Potter, Avatar (The Last Airbender cartoon, I never saw the movie), Doctor Who and most especially Lord of the Rings. Bring them on! I’d love to pretend I’ve reached the level of awesome geek-dome made cool by The Big Bang Theory, but I’ve never really gone beyond just enjoyed my sci-fi through reading and watching shows/movies (and the occasional Halloween costume).

In some ways this subculture is an amazing place. In one of his Fame Day posts Evan even talked about the many efforts put into encouraging an atmosphere of respect at a comic-con in Minnesota. That being said, the sci-fi/fantasy world does have a way of catering to the male gender, particularly in two of the realms I am less familiar with: Comics and Gaming.

Evan has discussed problems with rape culture and other gender issues in comics better than I ever could. And while I don’t want to get into rape culture in gaming just now, I thought I’d at least share the Fat, Ugly or Slutty website with you. The website is basically a running pile of screenshots taken by female gamers of messages they receive from male gamers once their gender has been divulged.  I should probably warn you that the language is fairly offensive. 

Anyways, I realize that not all gamers are into Star Trek and not all of us who enjoy a little Star Trek are into gaming, but there does seem to be a convergence of all things science/fantasy fiction at the various conventions around the world (at least as far as I can tell from online. I’ve never been to one… yet). And it tends to be at these kind of conventions that Patrick Stewart, as a Star Trek veteran, has the opportunity to share his story. In fact, the video I shared above was actually taken at Comicpalooza this year.

So who really knows, maybe some of the many punks who harass female gamers online will end up at a convention where Patrick Stewart is speaking and hear, I mean really hear from someone they just might respect, why it’s not okay to treat women that way.

If nothing else he is just one more voice against a tide of media that suggests otherwise, saying “go make your own damn sandwich.”


4 responses to “Fame Day: Sir Patrick Stewart

  1. Thumbs up for 1) the best start to a fame day post ever, 2) showing the extent of his career, which is impressive. He’s also been in several video games and as far as “doesn’t take himself too seriously,” see his self-parodying roles in Extras and American Dad. And 3) the info not only on Stewart’s passion for social change, but for including his personal reasons for doing so. I love that he’s not only making a plea to stop domestic abuse, but also striving for help in preventing possible causes (PTSD).
    Finger-wag for 1) not including his title, even in the post title. “Fame Day: Sir Patrick Stewart.” Also, 2) including LOTR and Harry Potter under science fiction. I don’t want to sound nit-picky, but you could’ve just acknowledged that Sir Patrick is involved in sci-fi/fantasy (he is in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, The Pagemaster, and other fantasy titles) instead of putting all the nerdy genre literature under the heading of sci-fi.

  2. I’m going to have to side with Orion on this one, conflating science fiction and fantasy underneath the same banner made a little uncomfortable.

  3. You guys are oh-so-very right. I changed most of the sections where I am talking about Sci-Fi to include Fantasy Fiction as well. Hopefully that covers my bases. I think my point about having a solid voice like SIR Patrick Stewart at comic cons is still applicable since as far as I can tell from looking up awesome comic-con costumes people tend to personify characters from both the Sci-Fi and Fantasy world. Plus some areas (like Doctor Who) are seen as both Science Fiction and Fantasy. Really depends on who you talk to.
    Also Orion, does that mean I’m allowed to just call all fandoms “the nerdy genre” from now on?

  4. Pingback: Culture War Correspondence: 4th Wave Feminism | Culture War Reporters

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