I’m not highly versed on science fiction classics, or on science fiction at all, really. But I was really impressed by the film adaptation of Star Trek. I feel like the movie did what movie adaptations so often fail to do: It made itself something that can stand on its own, separate from the comic books or novel trilogies or television series that might have come before it.
Billiam introduced me to Battlestar Galactica this year, and based on the couple of episodes I was able to watch, I see it as a viable candidate for my long list of DVD Weekend Marathons.
When he drew me into watching the SciFi (SyFy?) channel with him (I’m not anti-sci-fi, I’ve just never been pro-sci-fi.), he talked about the show’s cultural merits. He mentioned how everyone is referred to on the show as “Sir,” which definitely raised my “Oh yeah, you call that diverse?” Ethnic Studies skeptic brow. In watching the show, I definitely saw people represented when I hadn’t seen them represented before.
The same can be said with ST. Particularly considering the time of its original debut, Star Trek actually had a healthy share of color on screen. And little did they know that Hikaru Sulu would turn out to be a Gaysian! Oh, the Diversity!
This is unlike other shows I enjoy but can’t relate to on a diasporic cultural level. I love my Sex and the City, but those girls are just a bunch of YTs in the end. Token interracial discussions and Asian adoptees never satisfied the cultural broker in me. Was I supposed to relate to Charlotte’s adopted child in the end? Cause I can’t. I never owned a Swarovski-encrusted cupcake purse when I was five, so I just can’t connect to little Lily.
Based on the small sample of ST and BSG, I see a rather promising practice in science fiction, and that’s a globalization of our future selves. Not just globalization in terms of giving laptops to kids who need medicine more, but globalization in terms of sci-fi’s futuristic societies looking far more international and mixed up. Whereas Wall-E focused on a very American, Black-and-White, and overall incomplete picture of our future selves, the more sophisticated stories of ST and BSG threw multiple cultures together all in the name of the advancement of humankind.
I think it’s safe to say that you don’t find ethnic variety like that in mainstream television. The only other regular show I can think of with a true mixture of races (and not just troubled “Hispanic” youth or pigeonholed whatevers) is The Office. Even in Parks and Recreation, Indian Tom Haverford is a bit of a token.
So that leaves us with relatively successful mainstream sci-fi and an NBC anomaly in The Office. Which leads me to the sad question, is diversity really just a thing of science fiction?
I want to give Simon Pegg’s cabbage ewok friend a hug.
His lips look like he’s been either licking them for too long or squishing them into the mouths of glass soda bottles. Come on! Can’t say I can at all empathize with seeing William Shatner as a sex symbol, either. Even if he was young at one point.
Update: Further reading:
- Playing the Master Race by Clive Thompson, Wired. About race in video fantasy gaming.
- Star Trek: Changing races by James Hunt, Den of Geek. About creating race in Star Trek.