Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by Merry Stripmas, Sep 3, 2022.
Yeah, we posted that before, but that's a better quality screen grab.
(Watch them swirl around in your spoon.)
Even one of my college profs repeated the notion that the Uhura/Kirk kiss was the first interracial kiss on TV. This claim has been echoed over and over again for years. I wonder who first made the assertion.
I submit the names of three people based simply on speculation:
It was def in Gene's wheelhouse to make the claim.
And to be fair, whoever made the claim first probably thought it was true. In 1970, you could not research some things unless you had extraordinary access. We're accustomed to the mature Internet, but long-gone TV broadcasts are so ephemeral that some of the facts can be out of reach, even today.
The kiss best remembered has been conflated with being the first.
While true, part of the problem with "Plato's Stepchildren" getting the undeserved 1st interracial kiss credit was largely due to Roddenberry, particularly in the early convention era of the 70s, where he would pile on as many "groundbreaking", "daring", "first time" credits to TOS to elevate its status as both TV series and growing cultural phenomenon (and Roddenberry's self-promotion as a one-of-a-kind innovator). Indeed, TOS was a very groundbreaking, unique series, to the degree it did not need Roddenberry (or anyone else) to lay on credits it did not earn, which only inspires some to want to pick at all aspects of TOS, as if its reputation had been built on lies.
Reminds me of the myth that Spock was the first Vulcan in Starfleet, the origin of which I've never been able to figure out.
I wonder if we might possibly see the genesis of some of these ideas in @Neopeius's chronicle of early fanzines.
So, I read the archived article, and first, I have to take issue with:
"The first interracial kiss could have actually happened on My Mother the Car, but no one would ever know, because there haven’t been My Mother the Car conventions happening steadily since the 1970s, where cast and crew can reunite and tell the same anecdotes over and over until they become generally accepted truths."
And I want to know how the author knew Jerry van Dyke kissed Cicely Tyson on the lips in episode five but didn't think to post pictures...
(I'm kidding -- that never happens. And, God's truth, I've seen My Mother the Car. It's not as bad as it should be.)
Seriously, people fall over themselves to explain that the Shatner/Nichols kiss wasn't the first interracial kiss on American TV...
And then they just move the goalposts. We're not talking about Culp and his wife, France Nuyen. We're not talking about (the still rather risky) hasty peck between Davis Jr. and Nancy Sinatra. We're not talking about British TV. We're not talking about Poitier and Hartmann in A Patch of Blue.
We're talking about the first, extended, black/white kiss on American TV. Something they made sure never to do on I, Spy or Mission: Impossible, two other hip, contemporary, Desilu productions.
For fuck's sake, why can't Trek get the win on this one?
@Harvey and I have done a ton of research on this. The simple fact is one must have qualifiers to even get Star Trek in the running since it'd been done—and far more boldly—in other countries years earlier.
Claims like this are akin to reports which state "the blue whale is the largest animal that ever lived," as if the fossil record were complete and we've seen evidence for every single creature that's walked the earth or swum the seas. The statement ought to be "the largest known animal" but people dislike non-definitive statements hence the qualifiers get filed off. Likewise, much of TV history is lost. Virtually every program aired on the Dumont network...poof. Do we know what happened on every station in the nation for the 2+ decades of TV before "Plato's"? No, ergo we don't have a complete fossil record of Cambrian TV.
As such the more accurate claim ought to be that it was the perhaps first black-white on-the-lips kiss on US national network entertainment television. But that's loaded with those pesky qualifiers no one likes.
And even with them Star Trek doesn't automatically get the win because the execution of this so-called kiss was a cheat all the way around.
Shatner dips Nichols and their lips don't even appear to touch. Heck, they don't even appear to pucker. Is that a kiss? It's a best a pantomime of a kiss (even Shatner has said it was a "no-contact kiss" that made it to the airwaves).
During it, Kirk glares at the camera, resisting. That's not a kiss. That's forcing someone to push their face into someone else's. If Spock grabbed Kirk's arm and swung his hand to McCoy's face did Kirk actually slap Bones? Nope.
This is why Variety called out the timidness and wanting to have it both ways.
Because it doesn't deserve it, at all. There's way too much history, and little details that get in to the way of this supposed cultural shift. Even reading some of the memoirs paints a less than rosy picture of it, which means that it's hard to take a measure of pride in something that feels very icky in the context of the episode. And that's without the research that @Maurice and Harvey have done.
Why bring other countries into it? I thought the question was whether it was the first in American television, given how deeply black/white racial tensions are ingrained in American history. After all, Americans didn't see that much foreign TV back then, so it wouldn't have had much impact on what American audiences had seen before.
What does that even mean?
Trek didn't cause a cultural shift with the kiss, that's true. It was just at the head of the wave. But that's significant, too.
Just like Star Trek put a woman on the bridge, and then a Black woman on the bridge. Given that I can count the number of science fiction stories in a year (in the mid/late 60s) that do that, that's even more significant.
That's not quite as innovative as it's often touted. You can find dozens of '50s and '60s sci-fi B movies that include a woman on a rocketship crew or scientific expedition, in order to give the male lead an obligatory love interest. She's usually an exceptionally brilliant scientist who's suppressed her feminine side and is cool, aloof, and utterly career-focused until she ends up falling in love with the hero and quitting her job at the end to marry him. Number One in "The Cage" and Dehner in "Where No Man" were textbook examples of the cliche. And the other women on the Enterprise were almost always in traditionally feminine roles like secretary (yeoman), switchboard operator (communications officer), or nurse. True, having them be officers in a military fleet was progressive, given that the US Navy didn't let women serve on ships until something like the 1990s. But aside from that, their portrayal didn't really break new ground.
Well, I guess Uhura deserves some credit for being clearly a competent, dedicated professional woman without having to be cold or sexless. That might be a more impressive breakthrough than having her be on the bridge.
Dehner may be a textbook example. Number One was definitely not. She was in command of the ship for half the episode.
Both. They are both important.
The bridge crew was significant. The kiss was less so, and the context makes it even worse. So, no I cannot give it a win for something that doesn't feel earned.
For the question of first black/white kiss on TV in the context of fact-checking the Uhura/Kirk myth, considering another country matters only as an example of how norms compared between the US and that other country. The international question isn't really on point for fact-checking the Uhura/Kirk myth.
Coming up with a definitive answer of when it was done first on television period, no matter in what country, would be a truly daunting task, likely impossible to carry out.
First black/white kiss on an American TV show is what is meant. If the question needs to be qualified further into whether it's open to variety shows, whatever other non-dramatic format there might be, daytime programming (i.e., soap operas), and so on—or not—so be it.
edit - Considering the points made below about The Avengers being British but nevertheless broadcast by ABC, arguably foreign-made shows that were broadcast in the US at least during prime time could be relevant.
I believe there are some earlier cinematic precedents for female scientist characters in positions of authority, comparable to Number One's second-in-command role. People oversimplify by assuming that prejudices were absolutes, but there's always been the idea of the exception to the rule, the woman who succeeds in a traditionally male role by being unlike the rest of her sex in her intelligence, coldness, drive, etc. It was often obligatory in sci-fi movies to justify having a studio-mandated love interest character in what would otherwise be an all-male story.
Also, Trek fell short of contemporary shows like Mission: Impossible and The Avengers in that it relegated its female leads to supporting roles. Number One was dropped after the pilot (even though the network only asked for a recasting). Rand was meant to be the female lead, but the actress left the show early on and no effort was made to replace her permanently. And Uhura never got a focus episode of her own.
Well, I've been hip deep in period science fiction since 1954. Hard Way Home, by Richard McKenna (lead story in this month's F&SF) is the first time I've ever seen women CPOs. Women are almost completely absent from space-based SF of the time, love interest or otherwise. Seeing women officers on Trek is a Big Deal.
Avengers is British. They were ahead of the US on this issue. Q.v. Danger Man.
M:I has one woman character, and she's usually a femme fatale. That's '40s level "progressive."
Separate names with a comma.