Is Star Trek Interracially revolutionary?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Hyfen_Underskor, Jan 8, 2013.

  1. Hyfen_Underskor

    Hyfen_Underskor Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    The comment doesn't just involve American media, but American society as a whole. The American media merely reflects our society.

    I admit, "The Flower Drum Song" is a bit unique....to some degree. That is if we center on the movie and not the stage play. It's very common for leading Asian male characters to be portrayed by White males (commonly referred to as the "Yellow Face"). On stage, the leading male character was played by Larry Blyden. Fortunately, the movie producers decided to go with Jack Soo who played the MC in the Broadway production.

    I'm not implying that Asian male actors are never depicted as having female mates, but usually they are in relatively non-romantic roles, like elderly shop owners. Or, like in a movie that I don't recall the title of, where an Asian woman has a crush on a white leading actor (I think he was a clergyman), who insists that she goes back to her chauvinistic Asian husband (which she does reluctantly). We kind of see this theme played out in "The Joy Luck Club". The liberal Asian female breaking from the traditional, old-fashioned, Asian male.

    As far as the Sulu/Uhura scene goes, I had not forgotten it (or ignoring it), and glad you brought it up.

    Asian males and Black females have one thing in common...they are both...I guess we could say, victims....of an interracial marriage/dating disparity. That is, the ratio of Asian females and Black males dating/marrying outside of their race far exceeds those of their counter race/gender. While both Blacks and Asians face stereo-types as a whole, the Asian male and Black female are subject to their own unique stereo-types. In fact, Michelle Obama has been noted as being a stereo-type breaker of Black women. A rare Asian male stereo-type breaker would be that Korean actor (can't remember his name) from "Hawaii 5-0".

    So although we may not see many depictions of Asian males and Black females, it's probably a safer depiction than an Asian male with a white, or even Asian female as far as what Americans want to see.

    Not that this is anything to use as an all-in-all example, but I happened to run into this on the web:

    This only made the honorable mention on given list:

    Sanaa Lathan and Chi Muoi Lo in 'Catfish in Blackbean Sauce'

    http://blog.moviefone.com/2010/03/12/most-compelling-interracial-romances/
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Daniel Dae Kim. Although he's only Korean by birth, American by upbringing and citizenship.


    That seems to be less and less the case over time. The younger generation is more used to multiculturalism and these matters aren't as big a deal to them. I see plenty of interracial relationships on TV these days, and it's not treated as an "issue" or a big deal anymore. Not to mention that there are increasingly many bi- or multiracial actors and actresses these days, people who blur the lines between ethnic categories.
     
  3. Hyfen_Underskor

    Hyfen_Underskor Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    At best, that's very questionable. I think it's important to realize that in the case of Asian American depiction in media, there is an Asian media watch group that confronts the media when they feel they are being unfairly portrayed in specific TV shows, etc.

    No change has ever come about solely due to media teams deciding what they are doing is wrong. The changes are generally made due to being confronted by those who feel they are being victimized by media stereotype.

    The Asian racism issue is quite a bit more subtle than the Black racism issue. From what I gather (not being an Asian male), they have more of a low-key approach because they want to avoid certain extremes like the Black exploitation movies, where certain people cashed in on portraying Black alpha-male types with multiple women (including White), and putting down the evil White crooked businessmen.

    There really has not been a lot of change. And what little there is is probably due to pressure the media normally wouldn't give in to. The media is somewhat forced to take negative Asian stereotypes a bit more seriously, although they will still attempt to appease to the common American male who still wants to see the Asian geeks, Kung Fu eunuchs, etc.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Certainly there's a way to go, but I think we are seeing change with the growing prominence of actors like Daniel Dae Kim and John Cho. Beyond any single ethnic type, I'm seeing an increase in multiethnic casting in general on TV.

    After all, the assumption that the "common American male" is a WASP is becoming increasingly less true as demographics shift. We saw that in the 2012 election, when the party that catered principally to white males was trounced by the party whose coalition included just about everyone else. Countless analysts have agreed that the Republican Party can't win any more elections unless it broadens its appeal beyond white males, and if the evolving demographics of the country make that true for a political party, it's likely to be true for a TV studio as well.
     
  5. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It's worth noting that I Spy, in which Bill Cosby had an essentially equal co-starring role with Robert Culp, debuted in 1965, a year earlier than Star Trek.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^That's right. Overall, I'd say that Alexander Scott (Cosby's character) and Barney Collier from Mission: Impossible had a bigger cultural impact in terms of positive portrayals of black characters than Lt. Uhura did. They certainly had much bigger roles in their respective shows. (And what's sad is that the 2002 Eddie Murphy/Owen Wilson I Spy remake portrayed its black lead in a far more stereotypical light than a show from 37 years earlier had done.)
     
  7. Sector 7

    Sector 7 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I agree completely with your post, BillJ. I only knew one black kid in K-12 in our farming community and he was Puerto Rican. (I remember everyone always throwing that PR part in... every time).

    We moved to Charlotte, NC just before my senior year started. My new school was 60% black, so there was some culture shock. Fortunately, TOS and a community where people were respected for what they do, not their ethnicity... made the transition much easier.

    In the 1960s, we lived in Dayton, Ohio and I remember being told not to go into certain areas, because The Black Panthers were there. As a 2nd & 3rd grader, I didn't know what it meant, but knew I wasn't to go there. The 1960s were a different time than many younger people can comprehend.
     
  8. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    [yt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRxu0ooBrPE[/yt]
     
  9. Sector 7

    Sector 7 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^What movie was that clip from? He's right, though. When you are 5, you have no idea about those things. Would that we kept our childlike innocence.
     
  10. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

    Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I spent part of my childhood living on or around Air Force Bases in Texas and Japan. There were always people of color in my schools and in the neighborhood. My friends were white, Asian, Hispanic, black and bi-racial. Of course when I was overseas, there wasn't a choice when it came to neighborhoods and housing. You lived where and with whomever the USAF decided. Though all of the schools I attended were predominantly white. Even my parents, who grew up in South, had non-white friends. Two of my aunts, who lived with us for awhile, wound up marrying Mexican-Americans.
     
  11. Sector 7

    Sector 7 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^The US military was de-segregated by the 60s and 70s... much sooner than the rest of America. You were fortunate to be the beneficiary of this.
     
  12. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    President Harry S. Truman's Executive Order 9981 ordered the integration of the armed forces in 1948, though the Army didn't officially desegregate until three years later.

    It's from The President's Analyst (1967). I highly recommend it if you haven't seen it -- in some ways it's an amazingly prescient satire. Wait till you see what it has to say about the phone company!
     
  13. Sector 7

    Sector 7 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks, scotpens. I'll look it up. That clip really hit home with me.
     
  14. Hyfen_Underskor

    Hyfen_Underskor Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    That can actually be part of the problem. When there are one or two isolated role models to point to to suggest change. Those 2 have little to no chance of going further unless the element of racism is somehow eliminated.

    The change tends to backslide like the waves at the beach. One of the problems is that racism is a commodity. It sells. So it has to be strategically marketed. And each race has to be worked differently. I think the careful marketing of racism for the most part began in the 70's, but may have started earlier.

    The demographics for each race has it's own uniqueness. The reason we see the Black and Hispanic hero role model is because they target those who have their own separate communities (neighborhoods, districts, towns). The Asian community with few exceptions is more integrated into White communities. And the subtle message to Asian Americans is that the White hero represents their role model. They are just not supposed to notice the absence of the actual Asian role model.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I think you're being too pessimistic. I think the American people are becoming more diverse and more comfortable with diversity, and I think what I see on TV reflects that. Certainly there is still prejudice and racism to be overcome, but I think the progress toward greater inclusion is building momentum, and we can help it along better by believing in it and supporting it than by sinking into pessimism.
     
  16. Hyfen_Underskor

    Hyfen_Underskor Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I don't think pessimism is really the issue. Being comfortable as things are I would say is more the issue, and I think it always was. Being a White male, things are very comfortable for me in the American-racial sense. At least now. There are people today who are very uncomfortable, and the only solution is to push for change. The media as it stands now, has no intention of changing on it's own. It's as comfortable as it was prior to the 60's.

    I wasn't alive at the time, but I'm sure Hollywood, and Americans in general were very comfortable with the black-faced minstrels, black characters who couldn't articulate well, and afraid of their own shadow. I don't think there was any intention to remove those character types at all. Those that were uncomfortable had to take action to remove the discomfort. And the uncomfortable party is generally a representative of what is being stereotyped.

    Like I think you indicated when referencing Obama, change came about partly due to a shift in racial population. There's always a chance that through time, things may change due to a minority population shift. But that's not to say that another minority group won't take it's place as far as media stereotype/racism.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^I never said I was comfortable with how things are. I explicitly and repeatedly acknowledged that there are still problems to overcome, so you have no business accusing me of complacency. Optimism is not complacency. It's not the blind assumption that things are fine. It's the recognition that we have the power to make things better if we work at it hard enough and long enough. But in order to make that effort, you have to believe that it's possible to succeed, that the goal is attainable. Optimism is an incentive to fight harder for improvement. Pessimism is an excuse to give up trying.

    Indeed, this is exactly why Star Trek was so important, so progressive in its portrayal of equality. It didn't give us a dystopian future, show us how bad things could get, and leave it at that. It showed us a vision of a world where we'd solved our problems, let us see what such a world could look like, and helped us to believe it was attainable. It gave us a goal to strive toward, not just a warning of what we should avoid. And that's something very valuable, something that's far too often lacking in science fiction. Positive reinforcement is a better motivator than negative.
     
  18. Hyfen_Underskor

    Hyfen_Underskor Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    My apologies. I did not intend to give the impression that I think you personally are complacent. I was making the statement in the very general sense, even including myself. As far as I'm concerned, for all I know, you may be twice the humanitarian I am. I really don't know.

    As far as the visionary aspect of Star Trek goes, that's great. But if we sort of look at a hypothetical future identical scenario, Uhura, or the equivalent thereof, we could say would be a product of the Civil Rights Movement which was a fairly aggressive, and necessary event.

    The change was very drastic in the 60's, and a decision had to be made. Either honor the request of those feeling discriminated, victimized, and degradingly portrayed in the media, or refuse. Things are getting better, and being optimistic were not good enough in and of themselves.

    Now we can resolve that this issue doesn't matter, but apparently it's a very real issue with some even today in our (somewhat questionable) progressive world. Our American society has a tendency to promote personal empowerment over racial empowerment. So typically when an Asian person voices discontent with negative media portrayals, they at times are accused of being personally insecure. It's suggested to be a personal problem instead of a racial problem.

    There is still a voice, it's just probably not as loud as it was during the Civil Rights Movement. The question is, what do we do if/when it gets louder? Either we're going to grant the requests being made, or deny them. Is it wise to even wait for them to get louder?
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I'm not waiting for a damn thing. I promote inclusion and diversity in all my writing. But what I see as I get older is a world that's getting increasingly closer to the way I've always believed it should be, and I feel good about that. It's worth celebrating the gains and victories. That doesn't mean you're blind to the hurdles that remain.
     
  20. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Star Trek was one of the first mainstream television series to be progressive about race.

    But, the message and the subconscious message aren't necessarily the same thing.

    Message: Judge by the content of the character not the color of the skin
    Subconscious message: Treat everybody like an equal so long as they're human shaped, are pleasing to the human eye, and think the same way we do