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Old January 13 2013, 06:14 PM   #55
Re: Is Star Trek Interracially revolutionary?

Christopher wrote: View Post

Again, I have no idea why you'd think that about this generation of TV viewers. A quarter-century ago, maybe, but today? Like I said, the Cold War ended quite a while ago.
I'm not dogmatic about it, but I don't think stereotypes die that quickly due to changes in politics. Whether or not a Russian star ship commander (main character) would be accepted by the American public may depend on the viewers. Devout star trek fans may very well far outnumber the more backward thinking casual viewer who still think Russia as one of the bad guys. By the latter, I'm referring to those who would watch Star Trek as they would Monster Trucks, and action movies like the typical Rambo flicks. Those in it (the viewing of Star Trek) for the laser beam destruction of alien ships...viewers who love to watch things being blown up as opposed to storyline (and would never go anywhere near a Star Trek convention).

A perfect case study of ethnic sentiment in America has been professional wrestling. The heroes were often racial minorities meant to cater to racial minorities. In the 70's, they still had Nazi German wrestlers, even though WWII was long over with. And even though Japanese Americans are technically part of a racial minority, they were depicted as evil Hirohito clones, throwing salt in the fan favorite wrestler's eyes.

And it's hardly as if television was devoid of positive Russian portrayals even in the 1960s. The character Ilya Kuryakin (David McCallum) of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a heroic Soviet agent working alongside American agent Napoleon Solo in an international spy agency, was hugely popular, a major screen idol and sex symbol in '60s TV. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Roddenberry's real motivation in making Chekov Russian was a desire to emulate Kuryakin's popularity. Reportedly the character had such a legion of screaming female fans that the press dubbed him "the fifth Beatle," and Chekov was clearly meant to tap into the popularity of the Beatles and Davy Jones of the Monkees. So Roddenberry may simply have been drawing on some of the major sex-symbol types of the day in hopes of boosting the show's popularity with female viewers (although it's odd that he'd think it necessary, given that Spock was already immensely popular with female fans). His claims about paying tribute to Russia's contributions in space, and about the Pravda article, may just have been his usual smoke-blowing.
However, David McCallum is not Russian. He merely played a Russian. There was never any problem with the character Charlie Chan that I'm aware of, but in the movies he was always played by a White actor.

And if there had been a problem with the Illya character with the American public, they may have played on the Ukrainian upbringing part of the storyline.

One of the pro wrestling tricks of the 90's, after the wall collapse, was to turn the Soviet bad guys into good guys, and claim they were ethnic Lithuanian instead of ethnic Russian.
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