Why Is Diversity Focused Only On Race & Species?

Discussion in 'Future of Trek' started by Knight Templar, Aug 25, 2012.

  1. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    We hear lots of talk about a Star Trek series needing a "diverse cast".

    "Diverse" in this sense seems to always mean different races for the human members of the crew and for different alien species for the nonhuman crew members.

    Isn't this a pretty narrow minded view of diversity?

    What about diversity of values, morals, character, personalities?
     
  2. Mars

    Mars Commander Red Shirt

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    I was thinking the same thing. Seems to me Battlestar Galactica the new series had a greater diversity of characters in its crew. In Star Trek the diversity comes from all the strange aliens they meet and planets they explore, yet all the Star Trek Crews come from the same mold. DS9 gets a little away from this however. Hard to imagine Quark in the Enterprise D's Ten Forward, isn't it.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Huh? Diverse personalities are a given. But since there are actual real live actors of various races auditioning for roles in Star Trek productions so that they can earn money and feed their families and stuff, it shouldn't require explanation why you don't want a cast consisting entirely of white people, because that would be job discrimination. We're not just talking about philosophical abstractions, we're talking about actual employment opportunities for people who actually exist.
     
  4. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    Oh please.
     
  5. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    ^How is that a response?
     
  6. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    It sounds a lot like you're advocating a new Star Trek series should serve in some way as a jobs program for out of work minority actors.

    Which to me is beyond ridiculous.
     
  7. MANT!

    MANT! Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Gosh please keep personal political beliefs out of the Trek forums...

    TOS had a diverse cast even for the 60s..
    TNG
    DS9
    Voy
    and Ent all had diverse casts..because that's the way the United States is..

    and has always been.. In the past that diversity wasn't reflected as much in popular culture..but beginning in the late 50s, TV shows and movies began to reflect the real America.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    No, it sounds like I'm saying that the casting process, like all employment processes, should be racially neutral and give equal opportunity to everyone. After all, most actors are out of work at any given time. It's not remotely an easy profession to make a living in. So it's only fair to want every actor to have an equal chance.

    And before you make assumptions about who's a "minority" in Hollywood, you should consider that non-Hispanic whites make up only 29.4% of the population of Los Angeles as of a 2005-9 survey. It's a simple fact that the talent pool is ethnically diverse, therefore it logically follows, just as a matter of statistical sampling, that a fair and unbiased casting process would produce a diverse cast. I see that as a given and a non-issue.

    Now, I'll grant that I may have misread your original post. It sounded to me like you were saying you wanted to see "diversity of values, morals, character, personalities" instead of ethnic or species diversity, which I found very confusing, since there's no reason why that should be an either-or choice. But perhaps you just meant that the racial/species diversity is fine but is often used as a surrogate for more meaningful character diversity. Perhaps the emphasis implied by the thread title led me to focus on the wrong part of your actual point.

    However, I'm not sure I understand the position that Star Trek is lacking in diversity of values or personalities. There's always been a lot of variation between personalities -- as I said, that's kind of a given in any work of fiction with an ensemble cast. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy had very different personalities, and Spock and McCoy had wildly differing values. Worf's values and morals often differed from those of his crewmates. Data had a very different personality from Geordi. Sisko and Kira had very different beliefs and values. Bashir and O'Brien had very different, clashing personalities. Quark and Garak had very different morals from the Starfleet characters. Seven of Nine and the EMH had personalities that often clashed with those of their shipmates, and Seven's morals often clashed as well. Tuvok and Neelix had radically different and conflicting personalities. And so on. And of course the casting directors always try to find a diverse mix of personalities and talents so that the ensemble cast will be engaging to watch and the actors will stand out instead of blending together. (They don't always succeed in every case, but that's the goal.)

    So I really don't understand the premise of your question. I don't think it's true that the franchise is lacking in character diversity, and there's no reason why it wouldn't feature ethnic and species diversity. So I just don't get where you're coming from here.
     
  9. Saito S

    Saito S Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    ^ What Christopher said.

    I really don't see a lack of the kind of diversity you are talking about in the shows. And not just in terms of basic personality, but also in values, even as regards a specific situation - the main characters are not always just sitting there nodding in agreement about how to handle every crisis. See "The Masterpiece Society," "Ethics", and "Hippocratic Oath", to name a few. Trek - the entire franchise, as a whole - has its share of problems, but "a bland, same-y cast" generally hasn't been one of them.

    I also don't I see anyone advocating for NOT continuing to have this kind of diversity in future Trek productions. I think the reason you don't see people talking about it much is because to some degree, it's assumed. When discussing what a future potential Trek series might be like, few are going to bother to speak up just to say "And we also need a cast with some diversity of personality, and they need to not always agree on everything!", because everyone already knows that that's something we'd hope to get, because that's simply having good characters. As Christopher points out, at the very least, we know the writers/producers will try to provide that (whether or not they succeed is a separate issue, but they're not going to go in intending to make bland, boring cut-outs).

    Aside from that, as discussed in another thread in this sub-forum, diversity of sexual orientation is certainly LONG overdue. So there's one kind of diversity that goes beyond "just race or species", and in that regard, I absolutely agree that going forward, Trek should incorporate such diversity. :techman:
     
  10. Spock/Uhura Fan

    Spock/Uhura Fan Captain Captain

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    I think that from what I've seen of Star Trek (and I've only seen all of one series - DS9), that's what the plot lines of the episodes consist of. If you watch DS9's Waltz, that entire episode is Gul Dukat's values, morals, and character being challenged by Sisko. In The Pale Moonlight is another episode where Sisko has to go against his values, morals, and character in order to do the "right" and ultimately "moral" thing. So then what does that say about his morals and values if he's willing to go against them to uphold them--and is that moral? Then there was Kira and her disgust with Collaborators because she thought they lacked moral integrity and sold themselves out only to find that her mother was a Collaborator, and why, and that made her have to rethink her thinking...

    One of my favorite moments where a character is confronted with their own values and double standards is when, I think in season 7, Damar was talking about how bad the Dominion was and how they were harming even the weak and defenseless of the Cardassians. He said something like "Who would do something like that," and then Kira replied with something like, "Yeah, who would do that!" That's what the Cardassians had done to the Bajorans for 50 years and he didn't see a problem (for various reasons) with it until then.

    I don't know, but I think the kind of diversity you're looking for is there. At least, that's what I think. If you're just talking about the main cast (or crew), strictly, then there was that too. Everyone had a different take on things, and heads did butt.
     
  11. IndyJones

    IndyJones Vice Admiral Admiral

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    By diversity, he means more Christianity. He thinks it's sad that these other groups are given precedence while Christianity is relegated to the background.
     
  12. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    Citation needed.
     
  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Exactly, which is why the question confused me. It's a given. If all the characters agree with each other, there's no story. Now, one could say that TNG suffered from a lack of interpersonal conflict, but they still managed to find ways for the crewmembers to differ over moral and philosophical issues at times.


    Yes, absolutely. And there's room for more religious diversity in Trek as well. Sure, ST is mainly a secular-humanist, science-based universe, but there are religious humanists as well, and there are scientists who are religious, or at least who believe in some higher power of some type. Heck, many of the great scientific innovators of centuries past were Muslims or Christians. I was always a little disappointed that they didn't make Dr. Bashir a Muslim and explore that aspect of human diversity. Voyager did make an effort to explore Chakotay's spiritual side at first, but it was a bit of a copout because he didn't belong to any real tribe so it was kind of a fictionalized amalgam of Native American beliefs -- and then they pretty much completely abandoned it after a few seasons.

    In that case, though, I suspect the heavy hand of UPN, which restricted VGR and ENT in so many other ways, came into play here as well. Networks are often afraid to tackle religion for fear of offending viewers. Even DS9, a syndicated show, had to fight with the studio execs to work in as much Bajoran religion as they did. (Which is probably a factor in why Ron Moore based so much of Battlestar Galactica and Caprica on religious and spiritual questions. Those shows were his effort to do all the things he was constrained from doing on Trek.)
     
  14. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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    I think claiming that there were a diversity of personalities in ST:TNG would be a major exaggeration.

    Worf, Data, and Troi to name just three had virtually everything about them defined by their species.

    Riker, Picard, Crusher, La Forge, Yar, Crusher....all generally similar. Noble humans joining Starfleet to explore the galaxy.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't think that's true. Worf did strive to be a pure Klingon, but he was influenced by his unique situation of having been raised among humans, and when he interacted with Klingons, we learned that he was more acting out a stereotype of what he thought a Klingon should be than actually being a typical Klingon. Deanna had numerous traits that weren't just racial -- she was a psychologist, she loved chocolate and Westerns, she clashed with her mother, she eventually sought to pursue command authority, etc. And Data was hardly typical of his "species," since every other Soong-type android we met -- Lore, Julianna, B-4 -- was entirely different from him.

    And yes, obviously a bunch of people working together in the same profession are going to have some similarities; you're not likely to see someone who doesn't want to explore the galaxy aboard a starship whose mission is to explore the galaxy. But there were certainly differences in their backgrounds. In particular, Tasha had a radically different background from the others -- rather than being raised in the paradise of 24th-century Earth, she was raised in a hellhole and rescued by Starfleet, coming to admire what they stood for. There was a lot of potential for her to be a very distinct and complex character, but unfortunately it was mostly squandered. (The best look we got was her speech to Wesley about drug addiction in "Symbiosis." People tend to dismiss that as a preachy "Just say no" speech, but I see it as a clear admission that Tasha had personal experience with drug addiction, which was a very important insight into her character.) Geordi had the unique perspective his VISOR gave him, and the constant pain that came with wearing it, but again, that ended up getting de-emphasized as the show went on. Beverly had the unique perspective of being a widow and a single mother.


    Anyway, you're making a lot of vague statements about what you didn't like, but what's your solution? What, specifically, would you have liked to see them do instead?
     
  16. Sindatur

    Sindatur Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I don't think diversity of Ethics, Morals, personality, religion, have anything whatsoever to do with casting (Other than acting abilities). That diversity can only come from the way the character is written, you won't get that diversity based upon the color, creed or face of the actor you hire, and you won't get it by putting a prosthetic forehead or antennae on a character
     
  17. Knight Templar

    Knight Templar Commodore

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  18. billcosby

    billcosby Commodore Commodore

    We could always start a petition to see spider people represented on the bridge of a starship.
    Petitions always work. ;)
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't think anyone disputes that TNG's cast was fairly homogeneous and light in the conflict department; I'm just saying that there was at least some effort to individualize them, although a lot of the early potential for differentiation was squandered. But DS9 and VGR definitely tried to create casts that had more basis for conflict, people who came from a variety of different backgrounds. The various people on DS9 had all sorts of different reasons for being there, and a number of them didn't initially want to be there at all. And VGR's crew was also designed to have a mix of backgrounds and goals to provide a similarly rich basis for conflict. In both cases, the creators were reacting to the relative homogeneity of the TNG crew and trying to build conflict potential into the series from the start. Although, again, VGR fell pretty far short of this aspiration because UPN insisted on downplaying the character conflict, preferring that the show be more like TNG.

    So again, Knight Templar, I don't buy the assertion that Star Trek never had what you're asking for. Sometimes it didn't, but sometimes it did.
     
  20. Spock/Uhura Fan

    Spock/Uhura Fan Captain Captain

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    I haven't seen enough of Voyager to have an opinion, but I think Deep Space Nine didn't just try, they succeeded. I don't think it gets much more diverse, in whatever way you'd like to think of it, than DS9. Let's look at the characters:

    Sisko - Regular human made Emmisary. He had to really expand his thinking and beliefs for that one.

    Jadzia Dax - A Trill that's lived 7-8 lives, one of which as Sisko's best friend, and ended up working on 2 in that department. She had the most open outlook on everything out of everyone. To be a Trill accepting that many lives inside of you (and being able to manage that and still hold onto yourself) would require being open.

    Bashir - A genetically enhanced human.

    Odo - A Changeling raised by Bajorans and ended up having to work for Cardassians and then with Starfleet. Then he had to work out what being a Changeling meant for him when he finally met the other Changelings and differed with their ideals and philosophies on race relations.

    Nog
    - The first Ferengi Starfleet officer. And there was some conflict about that.

    Miles - The regular human that remained "ordinary" for the entire series run.

    Kira - Bajoran who is deeply religious and loyal to her own people after they'd been enslaved by the Cardassians for 50 years.

    Worf - A Klingon that was raised by humans.

    No one or "type" is ever represented twice! This is the MOST diverse cast, any way you want to put it, in the history of Star Trek, if you ask me. They really did succeed in the diversity department.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2012

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