Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why I am a Trekkie

I was never really exposed to Star Trek until I started dating Chris, who has a Star Trek shrine and owns every single series and season on DVD.  A common date for us in our first year together would involve having sex like animals, then watching Deep Space Nine while eating whatever dinner I threw together to satisfy our sex munchies.  It got to the point that "Hey, wanna watch DS9?" was code for "Hey, wanna fuck?"  Fast forward to the present and we've been together for two and a half years, living together since March.  We've finished DS9 as well as Enterprise and we're currently on the last season of Voyager

The greatest thing about Star Trek is it gives us a vision for what the future not only could be, but should be.  Even though the first series comes across as sexist (and not just because of Captain Kirk) it was still incredibly liberal for it's time.  Not only were women military officers, but black women were military officers.  People of all different races and cultures were working together toward a common goal of exploration, but rather than pointing out "look what we can accomplish when we work together" in a heavy-handed way, the characters were incidentally multi-cultural.  The fact that they were multi-cultural was a non-issue for the characters, and so it promoted the idea that it should be a non-issue for us.  For this reason, Martin Luther King Jr. convinced Nichelle Nichols to stay on the show, telling her that playing Uhura the most important thing she could do for the Civil Rights Movement.  She was a role model for countless minorities, including Whoopie Goldberg who ran to tell her parents, ""I just saw a black woman on television; and she ain't no maid!"

In Star Trek, the petty divisions that exist in our time are gone.  There is no discrimination.  Now, just because there is no institutionalized discrimination, doesn't mean prejudism doesn't exist.  An individual character can be racist, such as Miles O'Brien against Cardassians or Worf against Romulans, but that doesn't mean the Federation discriminates, nor is prejudism tolerated.  Nearly everyone acts as an ally and will call out prejudiced behaviour whenever it occurs.  That's not an unreasonable future to hope for.

In the future of Star Trek there is virtually no religion, since creator Gene Roddenberry was an atheist.  But this isn't a future where religion is outlawed, in fact there are many instances of religious characters, such as Chakotay's shamanism or Kira's worship of the Prophets.  However, the show often points out the dangers of religion and dogmatic faith, most memorably with Vedek Winn who turns from a devout nun, of sorts, to a tyrant hellbent on destruction because she believes she's being led by her gods and does not stop to question.  And who can forget Q, which is pretty much how I imagine the Abrahamic god would act if he existed.  Star Trek also embraces science and naturalism.  Whenever there appears to be a supernatural phenomenon on the ship, there is ultimately always a scientific explanation for it.  Often the writers will attempt to make these episodes ambiguous so that spiritual people can believe in the supernatural explanation while the rest of us can believe in the natural one.

Diversity is an essential part of the Star Trek universe.  When exploring the galaxy the various crews come across countless different species, many which defy our socially constructed norms such as race, gender, bipedal bodies and more.  Some of my favorite episodes are those that directly confront gender and sex and it is for this reason that Jadzia Dax is my favorite character.  Dax is a joined Trill, a privileged member of the Trill species that has joined with a symbiote, a kind of parasite that can remember the lives and memories of all it's former hosts.  As a result, Dax has the memory of seven (or nine) previous hosts, all of which have been blended with her own personality.  At the start of DS9, Ben Sisko, who was good friends with the previous host, meets the "new" Dax for the first time.  It's a little awkward, considering Dax was a man and is now a woman.  As a result, many trans jokes pass through the show, including Sisko continuing to call Dax "Old Man".  And even though this is uncomfortable for him, as it is for all friends of people transitioning, I'm sure, he handles it respectfully and ultimately learns to love the new Dax as much as the old one.

So why am I a Trekkie?  Because when I think of a future I'd like to live in, I can't think of a better one than what Star Trek shows.  There's no discrimination, diversity is a fact of life, peace is always preferred over war, science and exploration are encouraged, religion is a personal matter and not public policy, and the economy is like communism, except it works.  The human race has grown beyond nationality and is now working together as one planet, which is only a small part of a larger, galaxy-wide coalition.  I know there are plenty of questionable things about Star Trek (faster-than-light travel, for instance) but isn't that vision of the future worth striving for?  Even if we never achieve it it's a noble goal to shoot for.

1 comment:

  1. I got hooked on Star Trek last year and went through Voyager first (as it was on TV) and currently on TNG season 3. A few weeks ago I met a friend who mentioned he preferred Star Wars over Star Trek and my response was almost exactly what you wrote here. Star Trek has an underlying premise of justice, peace, equality, science and exploration whereas Star Wars is little more than just entertainment cinema.

    One of the things that is further unique about Star Trek is that whenever I watch it I actually wish I could be there. I truly believe we will reach a stage in our social evolution where society will be very much similar to the one we see in Star Trek.

    Again, thank you for the nice read.