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‘Picard’s Boomers vs. Gen Z Showdown Explores the Exploitation of Youth

(l-r) Michael Dorn as Worf, LeVar Burton as LeForge, Jonathan Frakes as Riker, Gates McFadden as Dr. Crusher, Marina Sirtis as Troi, Patrick Stewart as Picard, and Brent Spiner as Data in a scene from 'Star Trek: Picard" on Paramount plus. They are standing together on a shuttle bridge looking out the window at the Federation museum, which is reflected in the glass.

Last week, we finally learned Jack Crusher’s deal as the third and final season of Paramount+’s Star Trek: Picard approached its end, and it brought up some interesting topics, as Star Trek is wont to do.

**SPOILERS GALORE for episodes nine and ten of Star Trek: Picard Season Three!**

Jack Crusher is part Borg. Back when Picard was assimilated by the Borg, they implanted special nanotechnology into him that was undetectable by Starfleet back then—nanotech that he was able to pass on to a child. Now, the Borg Queen has called Jack “home” to the Collective.

Meanwhile, the Borg and rogue Changelings joined forces to seek revenge against the Federation that decimated them. Changelings infiltrated Starfleet at all levels to put the Borg’s altered Picard DNA into every Starfleet transporter to slowly assimilate all Starfleet personnel over time. Every time anyone has used a transporter in the past 30 years, they’ve had Borg/Picard DNA put into them.

However, it took hold faster and more strongly in the younger officers.

Our brains aren’t fully cooked until our mid-to-late 20s

Ed Speleer as Jack Crusher and Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut as Sydney LaForge in a scene from 'Star Trek: Picard" on Paramount Plus. They are walking down a dark ship corridor while back lit by a bright white light. Crusher is a white man with short, dark hair wearing a black, leather jacket, a brown shirt, and black pants. LaForge is a Black woman with long, straight, dark hair with bangs, and she wears a red Starfleet uniform with an Ensign pip on the collar. They're both looking down the corridor in fear.

Human brains aren’t fully developed until we’re in our mid-twenties, and according to the National Institute of Mental Health, our “prefrontal cortex is one of the last parts to mature.” Every person is different, but until we’re about 25 or 26, our brains are still cooking, and we’re not at our full, mature capability for cognitive tasks like planning, prioritizing, and making good decisions. (That explains so much of my twenties!)

So, when the Borg attempted to “switch on” everyone with this altered DNA, it was the younger officers who were activated. My first thought as I watched the young’uns come at the older crew with guns was that their inner monologue was “OK, Boomer.” I had to laugh, and I thought this was an interesting way to examine intergenerational interaction.

There was commiserating among the older crew about being “glad to be old,” and a celebratory tone from the show itself about maturity being valuable. However, it’s not about the older crew being dismissive of young people and telling them to get off their lawns.

It’s about the scientific fact that younger minds are not fully developed, and that no matter how intelligent and capable a young person is, they’re still at risk from predatory exploitation and deserve protection.

TikTok user @lremedy gives a funny and interesting take on why men are, on average, physically stronger than women in the video above. She says that it isn’t to “protect” women, but that “Nature made you stronger so that we wouldn’t f***ing destroy you the first chance we got. […] It’s not for our f***ing protection. It’s for yours.” In other words, women are formidable, and the only way men can surpass us is by unfairly exploiting biological advantages.

The idea that men become misogynists in part because deep down they know women are formidable and that makes them feel worse about themselves is an interesting thought. It’s certainly an explanation for why an older man would be romantically and sexually attracted to younger women. It’s precisely because that woman isn’t fully formed. Her brain is still cooking, and she’s less capable of making good decisions. She’s malleable, deferring to him for guidance and “worldliness.” The older man gets to look more competent by comparison.

Patriarchy finds youth “attractive,” but not because of “beauty”

(clockwise l-r): Levar Burton as LaForge, Jonathan Frakes as Riker, Gates McFadden as Crusher, Patrick Stewart as Picard, MichaeL Dorn as Worf, Marina Sirtis as Troi, and Brent Spiner as Data in a scene from the series finale of 'Star Trek: Picard' on Paramount Plus. They are all standing or sitting at their stations on the bridge of the newly refurbished Enterprise-D. Everyone is white except for LaForge and Worf, who are Black men. Crusher and Troi are white women. Worf is a Klingon with a ridged forehead. Data is an android with white hair and yellowish-white skin. Everyone is wearing all black except for LaForge, Worf, and Data, who are wearing gold Starfleet uniforms.

I think that men’s attraction to younger women has less to do with them being physically attractive in any specific way and more to do with them simply being younger. Because guess what? Young women can be unattractive too! Youth doesn’t automatically equal “physically appealing.”

Older women are sold beauty products to uphold a beauty standard that’s less about women looking “more beautiful” and more about them signaling youth. To the Patriarchy, signaling youth means signaling that you’re less capable of making good decisions. You’re malleable. You’re “what men want,” because you look like someone who can be controlled and “guided.” You look like someone older men get to be better than.

I wish I could say this was limited to the straight people, but I’ve seen plenty of Way-Too-May/December relationships in the LGBTQ+ circles involving people of all genders. That’s the thing about Patriarchy. Its ideals permeate the minds of everyone living under it. If cis men draw power from unfair exploitation, everyone else is encouraged to do the same.

According to the Pan-American Health Organization, “1 in 2 children aged 2–17 years suffer some form of violence each year” globally. Under Patriarchy, youth is something to be strip-mined and controlled to benefit older people, which is why children are the most abused demographic on the planet.

And then Picard blows that mindset up in a Borg cube!

Which brings us back to the Borg.

Jonathan Frakes as Riker, Patrick Stewart as Picard, Gates McFadden as Dr. Crusher, and Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine in a scene from 'Star Trek: Picard' on Paramount Plus. They are standing in a row smiling at something in front of them. Riker is a white man with salt-and-pepper hair and a beard wearing a red and black Starfleet uniform with Captain pips visible on his collar. Picard is a white, bald man wearing a black jacket and black shirt. Crusher is a white woman with dark hair that has thick, white streaks in the front. She's wearing a blue jacket and her arms are folded. Seven is a white woman with long, blonde hair dressed all in black.

Having the Borg/Changeling assimilation plot unfold in this way, across generational lines, obviously allowed the OG TNG crew to shine. Since they were all Of a Certain Age, it emphasized their maturity as a strength. However, the storyline also spoke to an important point: Leave young people alone and stop exploiting their brain development for your own, predatory ends!

The young officers were introduced with a sense of promise and pride, especially the LaForge sisters, Sydney and Alandra. Alandra had a more straightforward life path, while Sydney’s (including her relationship with her father) was less so. Still, their excellence in their respective fields was touted by other characters to varying degrees.

Jack Crusher’s journey has been rocky and full of mystery, but he’s been an intelligent, brave, and loyal presence, contributing positively to the Titan crew while navigating his complicated relationship with his father.

The young adults were each on their own path and deserved the opportunity to see that through on their own terms. When the Borg interfered with that, exploiting youthful brain development to secure their own species, their plot to enact revenge on Starfleet became a metaphor for exploiting youth by violent means to serve the needs of generations past.

In “The Last Generation,” the Borg are dispatched, and the young officers have their hope and futures returned to them to navigate on their own terms, though they will likely need lots of therapy.

And Q returns to mess with Jack? Oh, ffs.

(featured image: Paramount+)

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.