… 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.