Let Rihanna Love Star Trek Without Judging Her [Op-Ed]

Hey there, fellow Star Trek fans. It seems like some of you are really angry about Rihanna’s “Sledgehammer” video and its tie-in to Star Trek: Beyond. I’ve seen people say some really ugly things about Rihanna in comments. I mean really, truly, ugly and hateful things, for no reason other than she claims to be a Star Trek fan.

Before I get going, I want to clarify a couple things. I’m not here to talk about how we feel about Star Trek doing a cross-promotional marketing campaign with a huge pop star and how that makes us feel about Star Trek and its ideals, nor about the quality of the song or the accompanying music video. I want to comment on the reactions I’ve seen to Rihanna’s video, where she talks about being a fan of the series.

I’m going to sample some of the comments I’ve seen to give you an idea of the vitriol. (Abusive language follows, be warned.)

“some tramp that gets her t*ts out to sell music is Trek fan, its sad day indeed.”

“Go and die, b***h.”

“Shes never seen an episode in her life.”

These are some of the examples. They’re awful. In these three comments alone we have slut-shaming, misogyny and death threats. There is a lot to unpack in these and other things I’ve seen. There are two concepts I want to discuss in order to circle back around to this.

The first is the “Fake Geek Girl/Idiot Nerd Girl” meme (you can find a thorough description and history here, which is the idea that some women or girls pretend to like nerdy or geeky things to make themselves seem more attractive to men, or some variation on that theme.

The second thing I want to bring up is called gatekeeping. This in general means people deciding who is or is not welcome to join their group. In specific it means that some people (usually men) think they have the right to decide if other people (usually women), are good enough or know enough to be a part of the community.

We see both of these concepts in their full glory (or horror?) in the reaction to Rihanna declaring herself a Star Trek fan. The Star Trek community is far from the only place this happens, too. I asked for examples of this happening to other women in fandom before writing this. Here is some of what I got. Responses have been edited for length/clarity.

From one woman, describing joining a Star Trek discussion group and being given a trivia quiz to pass for entrance: “After some posts to that little fan group, it turned out that anyone listed as “female” in their profile self-reported a trivia quiz when joining, but none of the men did. It was my first experience with this kind of gatekeeping, and it definitely changed the way I looked at fan groups.” (S.K.)

Another dealing with dating: “In college a guy handed me a literal test, several pages long, that I was supposed to pass before I could date him. It covered stuff from like Babylon 5, and Douglas Adams etc. I passed it and then told him I was never gonna date him.” (A.V.)

There is this entire article by Corrigan Vaughan about her experience at the Into Darkness premiere.

I’ve had my own share of that sort of situation, too. From a man at the gym looking at my Star Trek t-shirt and asking “Do you actually like Star Trek, or are you just wearing that?” to a myriad of comments about my appearance and how I don’t look like a “Trekkie.”

So, let’s go back to Rihanna. The major problem that people seem to have with her is that she is a young, attractive pop star professing to love Star Trek, and that doesn’t fit what their idea of a “real” fan should look like. As if she were pretending to be a fan to sell albums or get attention. (Rihanna does not need help selling albums, for the record.) It feels like some people have a problem with a woman who uses sex appeal in her art liking the same thing they do. That she isn’t trustworthy, that there’s some ulterior motive to her profession of fandom.

If Rihanna says she likes Star Trek and that it has always been a part of her life, I’m going to believe her. I’m not going to assume that just because she’s a young woman and a pop star she couldn’t possibly REALLY know or like this thing. It’s not my job, or anyone else’s to determine who is or who is not a real fan. They may not have the same depth and breadth of knowledge some of us do, but we should welcome them with open arms nonetheless.

A lot of fan communities, and not just Star Trek, still have problems with marginalizing their female members, particularly the younger ones. There’s no point in doing this. They end up turning people away from taking part in something they love and dedicate hours of their lives and countless dollars to. It’s getting better little by little, and more discussions about it are happening, but it’s clearly still a major issue.

I promise, we are not here for attention. We’re here because we love Star Trek (or Doctor Who, or Babylon 5, or video games, or science) and because we want to be a part of a community of people who love the same things.

Let Rihanna love Star Trek without judging her or calling her a fake. Let’s take “infinite diversity in infinite combinations” to heart. If nothing else, hey, we now have a totally awesome, high profile new member of our fan community. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you’ve seen every episode or only one, or if you’ve been a fan for years or just discovered it. If you enjoyed Star Trek and it touched you in some way, you’re a fan just as much as anyone else.

Michelle Toven

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Michelle Toven lives in northern Minnesota, where she does normal things by day and nerdy things by weekend and night. Her interests range from Star Trek, to history, archaeology, languages, fantasy and sci-fi, politics, and cats. Find her on Twitter at @mtoven.

53 Comments Join the Conversation →


  • jips1993

    Great post! I really don’t understand why it matters so much that Rihanna is a Star Trek fan. I’m not a fan of her music (although I do enjoy Sledgehammer) but I mean.. if she likes Star Trek that’s awesome! More people should like it. Everyone should!

    • Morgan Morris

      Exactly. It’s a great show. That doesn’t change based on the viewers appearance or what’s between their legs.

  • Wytse Kloosterman

    Thank you Michelle!

    Star Trek means friendship, love, not judging, acceptation of other cultures.

    Personally I hated all the “haters got to hate” comments. If I read the comments on Star Trek websites, you almost think Trekkers/Trekkies are all just haters. And you keep wondering why Star Trek is still popular because Star Trek fans do not love Star Trek anymore.

    I know. The haters are just a small group in the enormous majority of people who like Star Trek. That majority does not speak out and do not respond on the Star Trek website.

    Trekkers/Trekkies love change, the are positive and they are curious about other cultures. The are not internet trolls or a racists.

    Personally I love Star Trek. Off course some more than others. And I love Rihanna. I ´am very excited about the new movie. Rihanna sparked that excitement only more.

    Stop racism! Be a true Trekkie!

    Welcome a an true Trekkie Rihanna! You are most welcome in the true positive and tolerance Star Trek universe.LLAP

    • Botany Cameos

      Excellent comment!

      The haters really are a small minority, but they are as loud as they possibly can to try and make people think they speak for all of us.
      The vast majority of the fans is fine with Trek and isn’t posting angry comments on the site or complaining in polls etc., so we are a silent majority and as a result the haters seem more numerous than they actually are.

  • MG

    Excellent, thanks for posting.

  • floobish

    Great post!! Infinite diversity in infinite combinations, hello! Glad somebody wrote this, as it’s been on my mind.

  • ADeweyan

    I”ll also thank you for posting this. I hope it gets the attention it deserves and is read widely in the community.

    I haven’t seen any of the comments regarding Rihanna’s video that you mention, but they do not surprise me in the least. It’s fascinating to me that some of the same people who will criticize a movie or story for not being “Star Trek” enough, will turn around and display a misogynistic attitude that is completely counter to Star Trek ideals going back to the original series (given the relative differences in eras).

    • Botany Cameos

      The haters don’t even see the hypocrisy of their behavior: they are so certain of being right, that the same irrationality that allows them to cling to the ridiculous belief that all new Trek is bad, is what prevents them from seeing how against Trek values their behavior towards other fans is.

  • Philip Kaskela

    Agreed. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

  • Morgan Morris

    She’s American. Of course she likes Star Trek. Pretty much all of us do. Even those who say they don’t. We all watched it. Its a fucking good show. I am so sick and tired of geeky men thinking that women can’t be fans because we have vaginas. Get over it a good show is a good show no matter what your reproductive organs are. It also doesn’t matter if you’re attractive or butt ass ugly. A good show it’s still a good show.

    • Orli

      Tiny correction: Rhianna is from Barbados, that is why she uses patois in her music.

    • Neil Daniels

      Just because her reproductive organs are on the inside instead of the outside doesn’t mean she can’t handle anything you can’t, Colonel. (Paraphrasing SG1 for anyone who doesn’t get the reference)

  • geekfilter

    What’s hilarious and sad about all this is that without women fans there wouldn’t be a Star Trek today. Women lead fan groups, fanzines etc. in the 1960s and 70s is what kept Star Trek going. They were the ones who organized letter writing campaign’s to keep Star Trek on the air for a third season. Some of the designs for Star Trek the animated series were based off of fanzines, Alucia Sterling, and those ideas eventually made their way into live action.

  • DangerousDac

    Fuckin’ A.

  • Ward3

    Great post! I don’t care how many episodes she has seen. If she says she is a fan, she is a fan. I am too old to KNOW her music, and that’s fine too. I dont see how anybody needs to pass a test to be a fan. So, welcome Rihanna!

  • Milo

    First, comparing that third example comment to the first to is crazy. Maybe it’s not the nicest comment, but it’s not the same as a death threat. I fully agree, a death threat comment is never Ok.

    Now, as for Rihanna saying she’s a fan. I have no issue with it in general, where I have to question it is more in the timing. Where was such a declaration a year ago? Even two or three years ago? No, she waits till she has some cross promotional tie in music video.

    I find it similar to that Baptist minister claiming recently that Donald Trump has suddenly found Jesus. Interesting considering that Trump is trying to sell himself to Christians and social conservatives right now. So, it’s the same thing. I feel like Rihanna’s declaration of fandom is less about a popular singer supporting the fan community and more like she’s trying to sell me on her music video. And THAT is my issue with this. I find it disingenuous and a little insulting.

    • Steve Cramsie

      When would she have EVER been asked if she was a Star Trek fan until she had the chance to sing a song for one of the films? Honestly, how many people asked Celine Dion if she was a Titanic history buff before ‘My Heart Will Go On’ was released?

      • Milo

        She’s given enough interviews since she’s become famous. If it mattered to her as much as she claims it does now, it would have come up.

        • d_mat

          So… because she likes burgers she should also have declared herself a burger fan to at least one major media source, and it would only count if she sided with EITHER McDonald’s OR Burger King right? If she said she likes both then she is a burger-fan-fraud. If she only said it now because she was asked now because she is making a song about burgers then that is just plain greedy! Ok… I went too far with the analogy, but I hope you get the point anyway!

    • Tom Benton

      I wrote the third comment.

      I didn’t write it because she’s female.
      I wrote it because I thought the promo video about her being a life long Star Trek fan was farcical.

      This whole situation seems to be about making money for paramount. Nothing more. Which is fine I get that it’s a movie and it needs to make money. But don’t try to disguise this as a life long fan doing it because she really wants to. She got paid to do it.

      The other comments are stupid, totally agree.
      But aside from me being cynical I don’t think I deserve to be vilified for having an opinion.

      • Every movie Hollywood puts out is about making money, that’s how hollywood works. They are a business designed to make lots and lots of money.

        And yes, Rihanna got paid to do make the video. That doesn’t mean she isn’t a Star Trek fan.

  • roslyn

    Haters you are few but Millions love her. Stick a fork in your eye and bleed idiots RI rules every time.

  • CG PROJECTSFX

    I like some of Rihanna music and Sia.

    I still think the video is some new age (I don’t know what to call it.) drug up song on hyper colors. There has been Star Trek fans in professional singing and acting fields but you see them without huge announcements.

    So, we do feel like this is some marketing stunt by Paramount and Bad
    Robot(Rabbit) or whatever. It definitely don’t seem genuine. Since they have been crapping on fans including CBS, this might just be some publicity stunt with a A name attached to it.

    • Milo

      Exactly! This is a marketing ploy. Nothing more, nothing less. We need to see it for what it is and not be so sensitive.

      • j820

        Oh no Paramount wants to market their movie! someone stop them!

    • j820

      You don’t know what promotion for a movie means, do you? And btw you’re doing the same thing described above if you say Rihanna saying she’s a fan is a PR stunt. And btw the song is PR! It’s meant to promote the movie. How is that bad?

  • OMG! Amazing post! I wish we lived in a world where this wasn’t necessary, but unfortunately, it is. Thank you so much for writing this. LLAP

  • BreezyBree

    THANK YOU for posting this. I was so horrified by some of the responses this week by members of a fandom I celebrate and welcome people to all the time. I don’t understand why people could be so downright mean to another human being, especially people that claim they celebrate and love Star Trek. I won’t lie, Star Trek asked to post my fan event video submission as one of their “50 in 50” fan videos a couple weeks back and I thought twice about saying ‘yes’ because I didn’t want to see comments from other fans towards me that were hateful, unlike Rihanna who is in the public eye, I am not. I am just an everyday Trekkie.

    As a woman, I continue to enjoy attending comic-cons and Star Trek conventions and enjoy my interaction with most other fans, but every once in a while I meet a “gatekeeper” that wants to somehow disprove I am a member of the same fandom. He typically (because it’s never been a woman gatekeeper) asks trivia questions or inquires about how many of the movies or series I’ve watched. When it’s in regards to my viewing, I typically respond with something like, “I have seen all the live action and the animated series along with all the feature length films. I have been a fan now for almost thirty years, but that doesn’t matter, even if I just saw Star Trek Into Darkness yesterday and loved it, I can be a part of this fandom. Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations. I welcome all who want to be a fan of Star Trek.”

    Thank you for posting this Op-Ed. THANK YOU.

  • Kevin Rubio

    Speaking as someone who was directly involved with the marketing of the video, and a childhood friend of the producer of the video, I can say unequivocally that your assertion is flat out WRONG.
    That’s her T-shirt, from her closet. There would be no way in the world we could get one of the hottest singers on the planet to say she was a Trekkie, if she wasn’t.
    It is something that she shared with her dad, like many kids. This kid just happened to grow up and become “Rhianna”.

    • geekfilter

      I think you misread the article “If Rihanna says she likes Star Trek and that it has always been a part of her life, I’m going to believe her” and “Let Rihanna like Star Trek without judging her or calling her fake” is the thrust of the article. Take another look.

    • BreezyBree

      Kevin, I think you need to take a moment to read the article. This op-ed is in support of Rihanna and a discussion about gatekeepers to a fandom, specifically Trek. Your comment looks like it was meant for a completely different type of write-up.

  • Souto

    I liked your article. I’m a Star Wars fan and I know a little about Star Trek, I don’t know how I arrived here tho. But I really don’t believe she watched any of Star Trek movies. I think the song would sound the best in Sia’s voice, who wrote the song. Rihanna is just a very gorgeus face, btw I’m really surprised she’s still too damn gorgeous without eyebrows and with that caracterization.
    But I didn’t understand the young impasse, the movies and series franchises need new blood to keep getting bigger.

  • I agree with your post. Plus even if she is a ‘fake’ fan — who cares? Plenty of performers take jobs for the money, or have to promote the likes of a movie even though they think the finished product is lousy. In a way, it beats someone like Harrison Ford or Sean Connery crapping on movies that I love. Sure, any success movie studios have is due to the fans, but they don’t really owe us anything. If we don’t like the sounds of something, we don’t have to go see it.

    Of course people should be free to express their opinions such as being disappointed with a movie, a song choice or choice of artist. However, as any smart Mom would tell you, if that opinion is full of hate, keep it to yourself. Better yet, try to recognize that hate is not a healthy thing at all.

    Personally, if a music tie-in or a cheesey merchandising deal brings in more fans, or makes a movie franchise I like more successful (so that more will be made), I am all for it.

    • Steve Cramsie

      She isn’t a fake fan.

      • I wasn’t saying she was. I was saying — that we shouldn’t care either way. It’s great that she is a fan. It would be no big deal if she wasn’t.

  • iron56

    Gatekeepers are the worst part of fandom. I feel sorry for these broken people, as they seem to spend more time disliking people then they do loving the works the fandom is based around.

  • Inari

    It’s interesting to note that no one is doubting Simon Pegg’s nerd cred when he says he’s a Star Trek fan as super excited to get to work on the new movies. Like just imagine for a minute what a thrill it would be to be Rihanna, a big Star Trek fan, and to get an opportunity to work on the new movies! She must have been going just as much “aaah! Exciting!” as Pegg or any of the other male nerds working on the new stuff.

    • geekfilter

      Well, to be fair Pegg is a huge geek and was already in two Star Trek films. People HAVE however questioned Justin Lin, who is also a huge Trek fan.

  • Robert Karma

    I can’t imagine that anyone who embraces the Secular Humanistic philosophy of Star Trek would engage in such boorish and bigoted behavior. Star Trek is all about seeking out and appreciating those who are different from us… aka IDIC. I’m shocked by the behavior of these so-called Star Trek fans towards Rihanna. There is no place in the Star Trek universe for such abusive behavior.

  • Arron Bubba Ratcliff

    If she is a fan or not is not my business,She says she is so she is in my book..I just do not like the song/video.I don’t like most modern music to be honest so i don’t listen to much.I may not like Paramount’s promotional gimmick using her or her song but that is between me and paramount.as far as her being a naughty girl in her non Trek videos well dudes though cookies.She is smoking hot and if she ever spoke to any of these haters in the real world, they’d bust a photon torpedo in their pants so fast it’d break the light-speed barrier.Let us not forget two of Treks greatest heroes Captain James T. Kirk and Commander/Captain William T. Riker tried to hump everything with a heartbeat.

  • dommyinlosangeles

    nice post… it’s sad that the small group of haters ruins things for the rest of us… it’s hard to avoid these days… the good news is the sledghammer video and trailer overall on youtube and facebook and vevo etc has probably 17 million views and 90 percent or more of the votes are of the LIKE or LOVE variety… so the haters are the huge minority but they are also the loudest and meanest.

  • Al

    How do Star Trek fans feel about Lucille Ball? Because it’s a fact that Star Trek would not be the phenomenon it is without her and her producer role at Desilu but her legacy as a female comedienne and her image seem like they could be at odds with male-driven trekkiness.

    • Milo

      I love Lucy, but I don’t think that’s the issue at hand. I think it has more to do with some pop song being tacked onto Star Trek. I bet a male singer would have received the same heat.

      • Molly Burke

        I seriously doubt that a male pop star would get as much flak, because of the rampant misogyny in geek culture. So many mad sad little men getting their knickers in a twist over someone with a vagina loving Star Trek. I’ll bet Gene and Majel are both shaking their heads and I imagine them being deeply disappointed in those people.

        Your comments only serve to demonstrate the point being made.

      • d_mat

        If a male singer had performed the song, there would be questioning (which would be as ridiculous as now) and discussions of worthiness (have any of those people understood infinite diversity??). BUT, there would not be misogyny or comments related to gender.

        We actually have a direct example! Remember the criticisms of the Enterprise theme?? So many hated it… of course! And there were some nasty comments made about it. But was there any discussion of whether Russell Watson should be “allowed” to do anything Star Trek? Any comment on his worth as a human?

        If there is one good thing to be said about all this… people can’t get away with such sexist behaviour nearly as as easily as they did in the past… let’s push for more progress! THAT would be something worth of true Star Trek fandom!

  • Stelios Arianoutsos

    Love your article Michelle. This is something I was always hate in Star Trek community. Each self-determine fan think understands Star Trek better than all the others!

  • madmadia85

    I swear trek fans can be the WORST. I don’t know if I have to laugh or cry for the irritation of reading someone having to EVEN make a post like this because people in this fandom have to be so damn problematic and stupid.

    anyway, it’s cool and cute Rihanna is a fan or likes trek. But it’s not a requirement for her to make a song featured in the movie. She’s just doing her job and she should have the same right to be an artist as other singers who have their songs featured for other movies even when 90% of them don’t give a damn about what those movies are about.
    Some trek fans need to get over themselves and grow the fuck up. Trek is not a damn sect, but it might as well be from the way some people talk about it. Also to quote Shatner: get a life.

    ps/eta: totally on point about the fact that, indeed, some trek fans preach so much about how progressive, positive, inclusive etc etc trek is, yet their behavior is not very ‘trek’.

  • d_mat

    Fantastic article! The fact this article exists is at the same time a great example of the good the internet can inspire in people (at a time when we usually only hear about the muck at the bottom of the barrel) and the bad that we need to fight against every day. Let’s make sure no one forgets, and everyone learns to truly understand, the words “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations”. And as a life-long Trek fan myself, I want to officially state that anyone can include themselves as a fan. The only act that will get you rejected is hate and bigotry.

    “The miracle is this: The more we share the more we have” -Leonard Nimoy

  • Brian Lambert

    Don’t know if she’s a fan or not. Doesn’t matter.

  • grkpektis3

    No one is going to bitch and whine about how Wiz Khalifa and Lil Wayne are fake nerds looking for attention in the Suicide Squad music video I wonder why fucktards are only complaining about her

  • Lyndsey Voidreaver

    No, she literally *is* a gold digging tramp trying to stay relevant by whatever means. She’s done a lot of *really* desperate and embarrassing things for attention in the media over the years (which is sadly difficult to try and ignore) and not once has she mentioned Star Trek until she got a paycheck.

    This isn’t a gender issue, I would be equally annoyed if a brainless male “celebrity” tried to pull this stunt.

    As a female who has reasonable taste, doesn’t this even remotely annoy you when people do this shit? The clique exists for a reason and that reason is so that complete annoying trolls don’t get into the club. It’s shits like this is exactly why this stereotype even exists. >_>

    You passed the test, you’re in the club… what’s the issue?

    Let’s say there was some sort of role reversal… some nice old ladies in a knitting circle and they let a 20 year old man join said circle (not saying *all* knitters are old ladies) but the man kept showing up high on ketamine, foaming at the mouth and rubbing the wool all over his crotch (which is not completely unlike some of Rhianna’s behaviour in the past) If you were said old ladies, you would not want that man in your knitting circle would you?