At A Woman’s Place (AWP), we celebrate Black History Month and Women’s History Month in February and March, by honoring one of the most creative men in the last century, Gene Roddenberry. Gene was not involved with the civil rights and women’s equality movements, but he envisioned a world where people of all nationalities and genders were created and treated equally, and he brought it to life on the TV screen. He was the creator of the Star Trek series.
I grew up watching Star Trek episodes because my Mom always had it on the TV when I was little (I even went with her to watch J.J. Abram’s 2009 Trek movie) but I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the series. Recently during a discussion about Star Trek in our office a co-workers comment really caught my attention. She said, “I loved Star Trek because of how diverse the characters were. It showed women working alongside men and people of different nationalities being treated like equals.” Those two simple sentences are 100% accurate, and they really made me think about the influence that Star Trek had on our culture.
The show first aired in the late 1960’s when the Civil rights movement was at its peak, the Russian Missile Crisis was beginning, and women still did not have the equality that they deserved. The original Star Trek series broke all the rules when the cast was assembled. The characters included an alien (Commander Spock), a Russian navigator (Ensign Pavel Chekov), and an Asian man (Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu). It was also the first show to bring an African-American woman (Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Nyota Uhura) into a leading role. The sometimes-corny stories and catch phrases (beam me up, Scotty!) are still remembered today, but I think that more importantly we should realize how revolutionary the characters were. Before Star Trek, no one would have considered putting such a wildly diverse group of actors together in a primetime TV show.
Terms like “racism” and “sexism” didn’t exist in Star Trek. Occasionally life would try to beat the characters down, and some arguments threatened to destroy friendships. But, at the end of the day, they would work together to reach their goals…and they succeeded. It didn’t matter what country (or planet) they came from, or what gender they were. If they were willing to work hard, they could achieve anything. That message still rings true today and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we finally followed suit?
AWP Communications Intern