Wednesday, February 2, 2011

To Boldly Go...

Today Fairfax ran a story on homosexuality in Star Trek - or the lack of it.

Producer and writer Brannon Braga expressed regret at not having a broader sexuality on the long-running series.

As a big Trek fan, I can't say this has niggled me.  Star Trek has often challenged mainstream ethnic, gender and sexual norms: The Original Series had the first inter-racial kiss on television, for example.  Deep Space Nine had a romance between two women (or at least two gender-neutral slugs with female hosts), and Voyager had a female captain.  Many episodes dealt with prejudice and bigotry, such as The Next Generation's 'The Outcast', in which the womanising Riker falls in love with an aberrant female on a supposedly genderless planet.  ("Commander, tell me about your sexual organs.")

These all sound tame now, but given America's generally conservative free-to-air television culture, each was something of a coup.

Nonetheless, for a series that has prided itself on its liberal, tolerant outlook, it's odd that there wasn't a single gay in the village.  In many episodes of The Next Generation, the characters bang on about their enlightened civilization: no hunger, no poverty, no war.  But no queers, either.

Does it diminish my esteem for the series?  No, not at all.  

But it's a healthy counter to Star Trek's self-congratulatory utopianism, fictional and from the studios.  The general principle is this:  when we imagine a utopia, we have to overcome our own prejudices, not simply those of others.  

And this is partly why utopias are impossible.

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