Why It’s Important Michelle Yeoh Kept Her Malaysian Accent in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’

“Star Trek: Discovery’s” spectacular new trailer gave fans of the forward-thinking franchise a lot to be excited about: a high production value, an intriguing premise, and a diverse, stellar cast.

Many applauded the show for having strong women of color leads, including Michelle Yeoh as Captain Philippa Georgiou and Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham.

But while many welcomed the show’s producers of continuing the Star Trek tradition of promoting diversity, there were a few who criticized its cast, specifically attacking Yeoh for her accent. 

There were those, however, who found the decision deserving of praise for keeping the Chinese-Malaysian actress’s natural accent as it further exemplifies how the show values representation.

One netizen perfectly pointed out the hypocrisy of the negative reaction:

According to Swapna Krishna of Blastr.com, Yeoh’s delivery of her line in the trailer made her tear up because she kept her accent. She explained:

“As a young girl of color, Star Trek was the first place I can remember seeing myself represented. Through characters like Uhura, Sulu and Geordi LaForge, I saw people that looked a little like me — that shared the first thing people notice about me, a darker skin color — and for the first time understood that I could achieve anything, even serve on a starship. I, and people who looked like me, existed in this future. It was one of the major forces that shaped my childhood and the adult I have become.”

She further compared her reaction to a Star Wars fan’s viral post on how he felt when his father saw that Diego Luna kept his own accent in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”.

“I personally do not speak English with an accent — I have the bland tones of someone born and raised in the Midwest. But my parents, immigrants to this country, speak with an accent, though they’ve lived here the bulk of their lives. All of a sudden, it wasn’t about me anymore. My parents, who share my love for Star Trek (even if they were somewhat skeptical of my fervor for it as a child), now have a place in this universe.“

In a Facebook post, Yeoh confirmed that the choice to use her native accent was actually deliberate.

Whether it was the star’s or the show runners’ idea, it is definitely a decision worthy of appreciation and applause. Not only does it bring authenticity to the character, it further highlights how the franchise has embraced and nurtured diversity in the past decades. Star Trek has not only been breaking box office records, it has been breaking ground as one of the most progressive franchises in television and film history.

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