Quark Feels Pretty, Oh So Pretty
"Profit and Lace" Plot Summary:
Rom interrupts Quark hitting on a Dabo girl employee to inform his brother that he can't reach Moogie or Zek. He fears a Dominion invasion of Ferenginar, but the couple arrives unexpectedly at the station with good news and bad: the good news being that they've led a feminist revolution back home by allowing females to wear clothes and earn profit, the bad news being that as a result, Zek has been deposed by Brunt as Grand Nagus, and they only have three days to convince the Ferengi Commerce Commission to change their minds. Quark, Rom, and Nog contact all of the members of the commission, but only one - cola king Nilba - is willing to meet with them at Deep Space Nine. Meanwhile Brunt arrives to gloat.
Quark blames Moogie and her evil feminist agenda for destroying the Ferengi alliance and ruining Zek, causing her to have a heart attack as she strains to think of a good enough insult for him. Bashir saves her, but informs Zek that she can't possibly meet with Nilba. When Zek insists that they must introduce the cola king to another impressive Ferengi female, the group comes up with the brilliant idea of giving Quark a sex change so he can do the job. After surgery, Quark has lovely breasts, but no idea how to walk in high heels despite Leeta's coaching and no clue how to act feminine despite Rom's advice.
Nilba arrives early and insists on having dinner with "Lumba," who impresses him with her understanding of commerce. "She" tells the cola king that if he markets his soda directly to female consumers, suggesting that it will make teeth their greenest, he'll make a fortune. Nilba gets very excited by the clothed female and suggests dessert in his quarters. "Lumba" tries to plead virtue, but when Brunt walks in, announcing that the clothed female is really a male, the transsexual Ferengi is forced to bear her breasts and caress Nilba's lobes to prove her femininity. Brunt still insists that "Lumba" is Quark, but Nilba, staring at the exposed bosom, declares her woman enough for him. He promises to support Zek, and Quark blows Brunt a kiss.
Later, Quark admires a ring Nilba gave him and sobs on Odo's shoulder that his hormones are still out of whack. He sees Moogie and Zek off as they head back to the happy females of Ferenginar, where Zek is confident he will soon be Nagus again. While Rom sighs enviously over Quark's ring, Quark declares himself more nurturing and empathetic, and informs the Dabo Girl from the beginning of the episode that she should not have to fool around with the boss to get ahead. He gives her a raise, then wonders what's gotten into him.
Don't get confused: feminist revolution on Ferenginar or not, there is nothing feminist about this episode, from Quark's struggle to wear heels (why would a Ferengi male expect a Ferengi female to be able to walk in heels anyway, considering that they're supposed to be naked?) to Elora's declaration that being Quark's whore sounds like fun. Still, the humor managed to outweigh most of the offensiveness - I suppose I should not have been laughing at the homophobic attitudes underlying Rom's small-lobed swishiness, nor at Leeta's seeming belief that heels and makeup make a woman, but it all seemed pretty harmless on the grand scale of Trek sexism. I wish hope the producers pay attention to the scene in which Quark/Lumba declares that appealing to the female demographic could be critical to the success of big corporations! Glad someone noticed, even if it's for evil corporate capitalist reasons.
Ferengi episodes are not my thing - they are almost a slap in the face to traditional Trek ideals. I really didn't like the writers pulling a Tootsie by knocking Moogie out of commission, then proving that a man makes a better woman than a woman does - though Moogie insists that women are qualified to participate equally in Ferengi financial exploitation, we've never seen any evidence that anyone other than she is really competent, so the need to recruit Quark just seems to support Brunt's point that women are not ready even if they are theoretically able to do so. Quark's hormonal "female" behavior didn't help matters either. This episode is best watched with one's mind turned off and one's sense of humor in high gear, overriding any attempts at political correctness or common sense: taken on that level, it can be a lot of fun. Especially if you don't happen to be a woman, a gay man, or anyone who doesn't believe earrings are an integral part of one's sexual identity.
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