As you know, the point of this blog is to highlight fiction that has become fact. Everything from technology to social customs. Let’s take a minute to appreciate Star Trek.
When most people think, Star Trek, they often think fondly of an old sci-fi show with great stories featuring a Vulcan named Spock and cheesy special effects. I’ve only recently gotten up with the times (of 51 years ago) and started watching the original series. The fact that I was born in 1995 and have made it to 2017 without ever managing to see the original series both amazes and shames me to no end. But as an adult watching it for the first time, I’ve learned that Star Trek was an enormous step forward in social equality.The show was written, produced, and generally created by Gene Roddenberry, a pilot in the United States Air Corps during WWII.
It made its debut on the Canadian airwaves on September 6, 1966, reaching American living rooms a few days later. Keep in mind that the show was rising up in a time of incredible social change, which can prove very difficult to navegate:
1. It had only been three years since the Equal Pay Act of 1963 gave women “equality” in the workplace (unfortunately, still not equal in 2017).
2. Spanning the whole decade, there would be huge race riots and more than a little discrimination towards the gay community.
3. The Vietnam War was barely half-way fought.
4. In 1961, President Kennedy had announced that there would be an American on the Moon before the close of the decade. Kennedy had already been assassinated by the time the first episode aired.
I would like to emphasize that in the middle of all of this, Gene Roddenberry had the guts to demand that the ship, the USS Enterprise, be flown by a crew, some of whose most important leadership roles were filled by women and racial minorities.
In addition, George Takei is an openly gay man, even offering up his last name as a substitute for the word “gay” since so many people seemed offended by it. For instance, “That’s so Takei” or “It’s okay to be Takei.”
As you can imagine, the studio wasn’t excited about taking on all of this controversy in 1966, even for a great show.
“I had insisted on half women on board [the Enterprise]. The network came to me and said, ‘You can’t have half women. Our people say it will make it look like a ship with all sorts of mad sexual things going on – half men and half women.’ So we argued about it like a poker game and they finally said, ‘Okay. We’ll settle for one-third women.’ I figured one-third women could take care of the males anyway.” – Eugene Wesley Roddenberry
While racism and sexism continue today, we are not nearly as blind to the issues as we were in the 1960s. At least now women and racial minorities are supposed to be equal! Star Trek, becoming one of the most loved shows in television history, was a forerunner in social thought, and was likely a big part of launching American, and indeed global thought in the direction of equality. Props to Roddenberry. Seriously.
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