In this episode, Yar continuously sticks her nose up at the other aliens for eating live, instead of replicated meat. She doesn’t try to hide how disgusted she is by it. (Aside from the fact that this whole scenario is ridiculous. If eating animals is gross, eating replicated animals would gross too. The idea of eating a puppy is repugnant to me. That wouldn’t change just because the puppy is replicated.)
And this is something that bugs me about TNG—the hypocritical sanctimonious, attitude throughout the series. TNG’s approach to morality is often centered on the fact that the characters get to have their cake and eat it too on a continual basis. This scene here is just one example of this, but there are others that are far more problematic, but first this scene.
1. Let’s begin with the premise that the Federation are good people because they don’t eat real animals. But how is that progressive? I myself would love to be a vegetarian, but I don’t have the will power right now. Sure, I’d be a vegetarian tomorrow if you gave me meat indistinguishable from the real thing, using technology from the 24th century. Would my eating “meat” that is replicated in 5 seconds, instead of going through all the trouble of preparing and cooking the real thing make me a moral person? Do I have the right to call a culture disgusting just because they don’t have the technology to synthesize meat like I do and because they aren’t vegetarians? At the most, choosing to eat replicated meat instead of “real” meat means that I’m not a dick. It hardly would make me enlightened. There is no real sacrifice here.
And that brings me to TNG’s bullshit “have your cake and eat it too” morality, demonstrated most problematically in the Prime Directive.
2. The Prime Directive is bullshit and the writers of TNG knew it was bullshit. That’s why they never followed through with it. For instance, Pen Pals, Homeward, and to a lesser extent, and Who Watches the Watchers. The writers presented us with the premise that non-interference is so important that it would be more moral to let an entire planet die than to save them. But the writers never do that. Instead of an entire species being wiped out of existence, we see them happy and thriving. There, TNG leaves us happy that we are moral people, because we have rules in place like the Prime Directive, but at the same time we never get to sacrifice anything or enforce those rules.We never get to sit back and watch as an entire planet of aliens get destroyed. We never see the consequences of the rules that make us moral people. In other words, we get to have our cake and eat it too.