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 …

… the WWE:  the message.

Professional wrestling is not Greco-Roman “real” wrestling.  I know.  “Monday Night Raw” is a TV show like any other.  I know.  But in a lot of ways, it is real, and in a lot of ways it’s really not like any other show.

Every week, men and women toss each other around the ring – engaging in jumps, falls, and acrobatics that is at the least difficult, and which often result in injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening.  Every week, the wrestlers engage in varying levels of trash-talk, posturing, and drama – weaving a web that untangles itself over weeks, months, even years.  These “conversations” are usually harsh and insulting, occasionally with language or subject matter that borders on inappropriate-for-the-kiddies – but only very occasionally: the show is determinedly PG in deference to the thousands of families – many, many thousands of children – who tune in to watch the WWE each week.

What do those children see?  They don’t see Greco-Roman wrestling.

The kids see women who are touted as beautiful – muscle-bound women many of whom look as though they could pick up a car, and none of whom put up with crap from anyone, male or female.  These women do not have trouble opening jars.  These women are not afraid to fall down.  These women are not afraid, they are not waifs, and they are not followers.

The kids see men who are judged solely – solely – on the content of their characters as revealed in the dramas:  trash-talking or cheating mean you’re a “bad guy”, posturing means you’re annoying, taking responsibility for your actions makes you a “good guy”, as does playing fair, standing up for what’s right, and accepting that, no matter how popular you are, half the audience won’t like you “just because”.  The best “good guy” can fall from grace if he demonstrates the weaknesses of hubris or uncontrolled temper.  The worst “bad guy” can redeem himself by changing his ways.

The kids see men and women who speak out against bullying because many of them were bullied themselves.  They go around the country talking to kids about how wrong it is to bully – they don’t offer to hurt the kids who are bullies, they don’t say that returning hit for hit or taunt for taunt is the answer, and they show incontrovertibly that a) people of even immense size and strength can be the victims of bullying, and b) bullying doesn’t make you who you are or who you can become.

The kids see men and women of all shapes and sizes, all colours and ethnicities, all nationalities, all ages – who get treated with respect, who are strong and smart, who all meet on a level playing field with the same penalties and the same rewards.

The kids see that friendship is about integrity and honesty.  They see that life can be hard – because sometimes people say things that hurt you, and sometimes people don’t like you, and sometimes life picks you up and throws you at the ground, and sometimes your knee gets twisted into a completely untenable direction.  They see that dealing with life’s blows requires you to take care of yourself – to be strong, or to be quick, or to be flexible, or to have a sense of humour – but always to be your own unique self.

The kids see that all of the WWE Superstars – good and bad – are nice to kids.  They see that it is just as important to give respect where it is due as it is to expect it from others.  They see what makes a real hero, because the WWE honours those heroes, in our country and in our world, every single show.

They see that life isn’t about the falling down.  It’s about the getting up.


What do your kids see on television?  CSI?  The news?  Snookie and the Situation?  Maybe the WWE is right for you….