Yes. In fact, in "The Corbomite Maneuver" there's a deleted line where Uhura indicates English is not her first language.
There's also an episode when Uhura's memory is damaged and she has to be "re-educated." At the beginning of the process, she keeps speaking Swahili. I always inferred that it was her native tongue.
That's what I was thinking.
Automatically inserting a black character, regardless of heritage, into a story about slave trade comes off as a little bit narrow minded to me. Not all black people are necessarily "African American." That label is something that we Americans have been conditioned to apply by a society determined to avoid offending others.
As I understood it, the Uhura character was supposed to represent the rise above all that nonsense. I never saw her as "black." I always saw her as a capable officer, and a damn attractive woman.
Sorry for rambling.
Good post. Although, I just want to add an observation: It's easy to say 'I don't see color, I just see [insert non-white character from whatever movie or television series] as just a character.' From my online experience, that usually comes from white individuals who usually don't have to nitpick as much as non-white viewers concerning media representations.
(Note: I'm not saying that you in particular have a malicious intent with your comment, urbandefault. Just using your comment as a jumping point. Even though media, particularly American media, has made some
strides, there still is a looooong way to go).
For example, the reason I went to see Independence Day
in 1996 was because a black man (Will Smith as Capt. Steve Hiller) saved the world in a summer blockbuster, and wasn't killed off. (I recall seeing media coverage, where a young black male moviegoer said to the effect in regards to Smith, 'A black man saved the world!') Interestingly, in the recent Pacific Rim
, the black lead - portrayed by the awesome Idris Elba who has more gravitas than the actor playing the 'white lead' - gets killed off, said white lead gets the love interest, an Asian girl who had immediately fell for him in the early parts of the film. With PR, there are some who claim they only saw the film's action or claimed to not see 'color' - yet, with the addition of the poor story execution, the film hits all the negative tropes we've seen in films for years (i.e. black lead dying to save white lead, Asian male characters poorly executed (pun not intended), Asian girl falling for white lead for no other reason than because he is white).
Note: I now find ID4
really, really cheesy. And, as you can tell, I really hate Pacific Rim
I think it's all a matter of execution. Uhura isn't just some random guest character of the week. She's a regular that the audience identifies with. She could easily have stepped into the role McKennah serves in "Lolani" and you wouldn't have to insert anything overt into the discussion. She could merely relate to Lolani on a personal "friendly and sympathetic" face sort of way. The poignant juxtaposition would be in the nonverbal symbolism: Uhura as the symbol for what Lolani and others like her long for.
One quibble I have with Kim Singer as Uhura is she doesn't have Nichelle Nichols' exotic aura for lack a a better term. Uhura was African, not African American, and she spoke English with a touch of accent that added to her aura and distinctiveness. STC's Uhura comes across as American. Now if she thought of it or the STC thought of it, depending on her skill as an actress, maybe Singer could try to evoke a touch of Nichelle Nichols' manner of speech.
Note that JJtrek's Zoe Seldana doesn't have Nichell Nichols' presence either. Nichols gave Uhura grace and poise and something of a feline demeanor. I've no doubt that's actually part of Nichelle Nichols' personality and it's not an easy thing to capture. But it's unmistakably the TOS Uhura.
Of course I'm also thinking that Uhura always deserved a little more screen time, and it would have been a strong message back in the day just to see her up front a bit more. Now a production like STC has that opportunity to do something that should have been done back in the day, but wasn't. In "Lolani's" case I believe Kim Singer was available for only one day of shooting so that might pretty well snuff out more of her involvement in this episode. But I would like to see Uhura given some screen time beyond manning the communications board or singing in the rec-room.
Kim Stinger, I think, has a cute/hotness about her, but that's it in regards to what she brings to her character. I would like to see Stinger/Uhura doing more than just working the communications board. (Shades of what Nichelle Nichols was saying about her own version of Uhura!
On the other hand, Saldana/Uhura is more fiery, but comes off as the hot girl dating the popular guy. Zoe Saldana, right now, is just portraying Spock's girlfriend. And, her role in the films becomes only relevant when it involves Spock. I hope the tentative 3rd film rectifies that.
I like both actresses, but I would like the material to give them both something to work with.