The Thing I Like About …

Into Darkness:  Navigation Officer Darwin ( played by Aisha Hinds).

Star Trek is known for – among many other things – images of diversity.  Oh, sure, it’s had the usual images of aliens of all types and colours, with bizarre things dangling around their faces or extra eyes or whatnot … but that sort of diversity is expected in science fiction.  Star Trek has always offered actual diversity, presenting to a 1960s audience black women and Asian men working on the bridge of the Enterprise with white men and women.  The new movie, although perhaps not pushing as obvious a social boundary as Kirk and Uhura’s on-screen kiss, is continuing in its predecessor’s footsteps, not just by showing the usual exotic-looking aliens and allowing people with different levels of melanin to be romantically involved, but also by offering to viewers – particularly younger viewers – a very different image of women.

Carol Marcus does not allow Captain Kirk to ogle her.  Uhura – now as before – is not afraid to speak her mind, even to the captain.  And Darwin – clearly a female, and wearing the little feminine skirt and go-go boots that are for some reason the standard uniform – is not what has heretofore been promoted in our culture as a typical beauty.  She is not petite or scrawny; she’s bigger than Lt. Sulu.  She does not have flowing locks of hair; she doesn’t have hair on her head at all.  Like all the other  Star Trek women, she is given the same respect as the men around her, and she does her job competently.  Young girls – and boys too – can look at her and say to themselves, “So that’s what women look like.  That’s what women do.  That’s how men and women treat each other.”

When I consider how it affected me as a young girl to have Nichelle Nichols (“Uhura”) to look up to, I think all the kids looking at Navigation Officer Darwin are lucky indeed.  So bring it, heroin-chic bobble-head girls in designer-jeans ads.  We have an antidote now.

The Thing I Like About …

Star Trek:  everybody brought the “old country” with them.

In Star Trek, if someone’s distant ancestor is from Africa, why, then, that person still speaks that language and dresses in the traditional garb and remembers the traditional myths and stories.  If that person is from France, or Russia, or Japan, or Vulcan, then everything about that place – its culture, its people, its history – is embodied within them as though the conformity of the Star Trek world is the same as the conformity of their workaday uniform, and as easily removed.  Everyone gets along; if they don’t, it’s because of the great social equalizers:  card games, love triangles, and arguments over their favourite physicist.  If groups in the shows/films are not getting along, then they are “the bad guys” – but their culture or dress or language or appearance is never judged.  They are judged solely on the basis of not being able to play well with others.

People from different planets marry one another and create offspring that can look completely bizarre but who are entirely accepted from birth to death.  Blue skin?  No problem.  Green blood?  No problem.  Giant head ridges and a predilection for living food?  Awesome.  Black, white, multi-limbed, psychic?  Fantastic.  Everyone is accepted, and no one “conforms” … in fact, Star Trek is a celebration of the preservation of culture and diversity.  And that’s in the military; the regular population must look like a giant tangled mass of skittles.  Yet there is peace.  There is honour and respect.  There is rational conflict resolution (except for card games, love triangles, and physicists).  Much importance is placed on each person representing his or her ancient cultural roots, even as they all come together to make a whole.  In fact, the worst “bad guys” in the show are the ones who want to assimilate everyone and take their uniqueness away.

I know it’s just a television show, but I see how much of it has come true: the cellphones and Kindles and medical scanning equipment; the growing acceptance of people of all colours, genders, and creeds.  They said in 1967 that the Communicator was science fiction, but I have one next to me on my writing desk.

I think if we can imagine it – this Star Trek world of diversity and acceptance, of peace and freedom – then we can build it.  If we can dream it, we can be it.

Who’s with me?