Is Star Trek Interracially revolutionary?

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

  1. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    They made one French, a nationality that in American circles is maligned a lot more often than the Russians. He was played by a British actor, a nationality that America has a love/hate relationship with.
     
  2. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    Just because a person votes for a certain party does not mean they agree with them on every point.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's true. Republican candidates in the US today are obligated to cater to the extreme right wing of the party in order to win primaries and maintain funding and the like, but often have to compromise their own principles to do so, and a lot of rank-and-file Republicans hold their noses and go along with it because they don't see an alternative.

    Also, in fact, the final official vote tally certified by Congress gives Romney only 47.18% of the popular vote and Obama 51.03%, with the remaining 1.79% divided between the Libertarian, Green, and other candidates.

    And really, Russians? Who's got a problem with Russians anymore? I keep asking this. Look, I grew up in a time when there was a lot of political rivalry between the US and the USSR, but I never really saw that translate into hostility against Russians as an ethnic group, at least not on television. There were plenty of movies and TV shows and comics in which Russian characters were presented in a positive light despite the policies of their government, in which loyal Soviet Russians stood alongside Americans as allies or fellow heroes -- Ilya Kuryakin, Colossus of the X-Men, Schwarzenegger in Red Heat. And that was at the height of the Cold War. In the two decades since, I certainly haven't noticed any hostility toward Russians in the American media. If you were talking about, say, Arabs, then hell yes, there's been plenty of unfortunate stereotyping of them in the US media. But seriously, Russians? Where's the evidence of this alleged intolerance? Because I haven't seen any signs of it.
     
  4. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    And Rocket Red from the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League!
     
  5. Blamo

    Blamo Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    In regards to race I'd say it was progressive, but not revolutionary.

    And while it's not part of the topic, in regards to gender politics I'd say it wasn't progressive OR revolutionary. It was pretty much stuck in the 60's.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, it was progressive, just not as progressive as it should've been. Just having women on a military starship crew at all was a very progressive step, something you didn't see anywhere else in the era. And at the time, the miniskirts were seen as very progressive and empowering for women, a symbol of the sexual revolution and of women asserting control of their own sexuality rather than hiding from it and thus being rendered passive and helpless in sexual interactions. Certainly there were still a lot of very conventional gender attitudes that the show failed to overcome -- notably the era's attitudes about rape as seen in "The Enemy Within," or "Turnabout Intruder"'s assumption that Dr. Lester was insane for aspiring to do a man's job instead of being content with her feminine role. And overall the show's portrayal of women wasn't as progressive as something like The Avengers or Get Smart or Mission: Impossible. But it wasn't completely conservative about gender roles, not by the standards of its day.

    Indeed, the Trek fan community of the '60s and '70s was overwhelmingly female, and plenty of women at the time were drawn to it because they did find the show's portrayal of women inspiring and aspirational. Looking back on it today, when we've come so much further, we see all the ways it didn't transcend the assumptions of the time, but at the time, fans saw the ways in which it did, and they made a real difference in a lot of lives.
     
  7. Hyfen_Underskor

    Hyfen_Underskor Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I don't think I made any suggestion that Star Trek discriminated against Russians, and most definitely not Slavs whatsoever.

    But...I will admit that my statement needs more clarification.

    First off, this is not a racial issue, as Russians and Slavs are considered White. But rather, an issue of maybe Americanism. Or maybe even, patriotism. The 60's were not too far removed from the earlier Red Scare that hit Hollywood. The people that fell victim to this scare were those deemed unpatriotic by virtue of being communists (or tendencies in that direction). So a blatant communist, anyone who made a strong declaration of pro-communism of any ethnicity probably would not have sat well with the American public in terms of being a leading character in an American TV series. So probably, a real Soviet Russian, a Soviet Union actor import would probably not have sat well as a leading character in an American TV series.

    I admit, it's not really the Russian ethnicity itself as far as American actors are concerned. Natalie Wood was ethnic Russian for instance, and I don't think she had any problems about it that I know of. Yul Brynner I believe was Russian. But neither of them were Soviet imports. And yes, who knows how many famous Americans, particularly today have Slavic blood?

    The Russian angle in a movie or TV series can play a part as far as the view of the audience. A Russian/Soviet defector for instance could be heroic. Or in the case of Illya, he was in basic good standings with Americans.

    These are my opinions. And what's my proof? I can't claim to have any solid proof, but we do have an obvious lack of Soviet Russian imported actors from that time. One may be able to google some exceptions, but I can't think of any at the top of my head. And imported actors/actresses during that time was happening fairly frequently.

    I did get side-tracked with the Illya comment, but that involved a show depicting international espionage, national patriotism, etc., as opposed to a more unified global theme. But even today, in my opinion, A Russian star ship commander (whether it's only a depiction, or a real ethnic Russian) as a lead character (on T.V.) is unlikely. I don't think there's any consideration being given to the idea.

    Blatant discrimination? No! Something in the American psyche that may prevent such a thing? Yes!


    I'm quite serious about my opinion on that. Even if those particular Americans didn't know the difference between a Russian and a Ukrainian (Georgian, Lithuanian, Estonian, etc.), it could have been explained. And the idea of a conquering Russian majority, a Russian empire ruling over smaller minorities could have gained sympathy for a Ukrainian character. They could have worked the angle a number of ways to gain acceptance for the Illya character if there had been a problem.

    As far a my alleged pessimism, I still don't understand where you are coming from on that. As I explained, not only does racism exist, it's practiced in our very own media. It's actually sold to the public. It has merely been repackaged. We're not talking about racist tendencies merely existing in the minds of some, but it's being perpetuated by some who may not even be racists themselves perse, but are a part of it's marketing.

    A personal doctor could be optimistic about his patient's cholesterol problem. But if he keeps offering a McDonald's double cheeseburger "on him" to that patient, what good is the optimism?
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Except that Ilya Kuryakin was a loyal Soviet agent. And if you look at The Six Million Dollar Man in the '70s, there's a lot of stuff about US/Soviet cooperation in space exploration or teaming up against common foes -- if all you knew about history was from that show (at least its pilots and first season), you'd never know there'd been a Cold War.


    Which, again, is changing the subject. We were talking about characters, not actors.


    Why in the hell are you talking about Soviet Russians in the present tense??? This is what completely bewilders me about this conversation. The Soviet Union ceased to exist 21 years ago. Nothing you're taking about is relevant to the present day, so I don't understand why you think that a television series today would have any problem casting a Russian lead. Many members of the target audience for a new Trek or other action-adventure series wouldn't even have been born yet when the USSR dissolved, or would have no personal memory of its existence. So why you think any of this is the least bit relevant to a conversation about casting in a present or future television series confuses the hell out of me.


    Yes, obviously, but not against Russians, which is the point. You yourself have already admitted in this very post that past issues with Russians were not ethnic but political. And the political issues ceased to exist over two decades ago. So you're contradicting yourself here. It doesn't make sense for you to claim you're talking about racism against Russians when you already acknowledged several paragraphs earlier that you weren't talking about that.
     
  9. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Would a Russian/Soviet actor in the 1960s be allowed to pop over to Hollywood to appear in a film or TV series, the same way a Western European actor would?
     
  10. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Most likely not. And what would be the point? It was a different world then and not many Americans would even know who the actor was.

    "Look! We got a famous Russian actor to play a Soviet agent!" *crickets*
     
  11. Hyfen_Underskor

    Hyfen_Underskor Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    The U.S. is a color coded nation. Ethnic distinction is based primarily on race (color). In earlier American history, there was more relevance to ethnicity, but today Europeans have become so integrated that we're all simply "White".

    I'm half Russian. I was never discriminated for being Russian (that I'm aware of). My ancestors may have been, but for myself, any ethnic discrimination I may have experienced was due to being "White".

    I'm half Italian. And I'll be the first to tell you, I don't feel the slightest bit of offense when seeing a ranting Italian man pushing a tomato cart in New York, or an Italian with a monkey and grinder in old movies. Those old Italian stereotypes don't phase me. Did they bother my Italian-American ancestors at that time? Maybe.

    But that doesn't change the fact that the American/Soviet rivalry doesn't play a part in TV role depictions, even to this day.

    20 years ago Southern and Eastern Europeans were not discriminated against, and could hold any position available; but the idea of an ethnic non-Northern European president was questionable. I would think that idea should be shattered today, but earlier American history reveals that ethnicity probably did play a factor. And the idea of a Russian ensign, or maybe any other position including a captain of another ship other than the main ship of a given ST series is not out of the question; but the idea of a Russian star of the show would be in my opinion.
     
  12. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    You don't really seem to have much of a grasp of American society and culture.
     
  13. USS Einstein

    USS Einstein Commander Red Shirt

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    You would be surprised. At least some people proposed that the Russians constitute an 'asiatic people', so there was/is an ethnic component to some of the rivalry between America and Russia. At the very least, some conservatives/reactionaries/nationalists think of the Russians as belonging to a separate class of people, defined by the Slavic languages or Ortodox Church.

    These kinds of views are like self-fulfilling prophesies - the more people believe them, the more they become true. I think it's ridiculous to suppose the nation that gave us the Periodic Table of Elements is an 'alien civilization', but the more people believe it, the more they make it true.
     
  14. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Michael Dukakis was the Democratic nominee for President in 1988 over 20 years ago. Spiro Agnew was a heartbeat away from being the President 40 years ago. Mario Cumo and Rudy Giuliani have been touted as viable Presidential candidates for decades and Giuliani even ran.
     
  15. Lance

    Lance Commodore Commodore

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    I think at a base level it was revolutionary, in the sense that it very much depicted an "ideal future" where humanity's contemporary differences had long been forgotten (this was hard-wired into the concept, even as depicted in the original 1964 pilot episode). But in terms of television production I'm not quite as convinced. There were many tv series' of the time that had a cast that was at least as racially mixed as Trek's was, it wasn't as uncommon as people have sometimes made it out to be. And let's be honest: at the end of the day, the secondary player's roles weren't really all that progressive. Uhura is basically a telephone receptionist, Sulu does very little more than fill a seat on the bridge, and so on.

    Tops marks for the concept. Less so the execution at times.
     
  16. Hyfen_Underskor

    Hyfen_Underskor Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I understand that. My initial comment was that I don't think a commander with the leading role of a star ship being Russian (whether there is genuine Russian ethnicity or not) was very likely. The problem with these more progressive story lines is that they had to co-exist with the Ivan Drago themes, warring with each other at the same time.


    Okay fine. Like I said, I got a bit side-tracked with the Illya comment.


    Did you know that there's still hatred for the Japanese by some Americans who are not old enough to buy cigarettes? Even in this generation of imported anime, Japanese cars, and various Japanese imported electronic gizmos. Why? Because the hatred has been passed down by ancestors from the WWII era. What makes you think the Soviet era would be any different? If some don't know the difference between a Russian and a Ukrainian, what makes you think they're going to make a grand distinction between the Soviet Union, and post Soviet Russia, when sentiments are passed down through generations?

    As I said, I'm not even really dogmatic about it, but I don't think even today a new Star Trek, or something similar, would attempt to incorporate a Russian main character into a series as the captain. Level-headed Star Trek fans may very well far outnumber the backward thinking viewer to where it may actually work if attempted....maybe. The script-writers of a new Star Trek series could reason that a 24th century space crew would be so far removed from national rivalry, that it's time to present an ethnic/national Russian as the main character captain. But they probably won't, and probably because it may not go over well with the American public at large.

    Then how am I being pessimistic?

    But I don't think I ever suggested racism against Russians. This all started on my comment that I don't think a Russian commander of a Star Fleet (meaning main character of a given new possible TV series) would go over well.
     
  17. Hyfen_Underskor

    Hyfen_Underskor Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Why would that be?

    I'm asking this thinking that you may be assuming that I don't know about ethnic pride, ethnic food festivals, ethnic clubs, ethnic neighborhoods, etc.

    But I'll let you answer, and then I can give the reason for my comment.
     
  18. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    And? There are still some kids who hate black people, Jewish people and gay people as well. But that number gets smaller and smaller every generation.

    You really shouldn't be commenting on something that you seemingly have no first hand experience with...
     
  19. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Why can't people have pride in their heritage and also be part of a larger community? Our strength, as we're realizing, is in our diversity.
     
  20. Hyfen_Underskor

    Hyfen_Underskor Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    If you were to hold me to the 60's, then yes, I would say that there's a problem. If we're talking the 80's, and maybe the 70's, I would say it would have been possible. Maybe not a longstanding TV series, but in movies.

    It's true that in any Soviet era, western Europeans had far greater access to being cinematic imports. But once Soviet cinematographers started winning international awards, talks of American/Soviet co-productions, such an idea of a main character being literally a Soviet was not too far-fetched.