Molly Jackson: The Ongoing Mission
This past weekend I attended Star Trek Mission in New York City. Despite my Trekkie status, this was actually my very first Star Trek convention. It was a great experience to finally have and it was nice to see a whole group of people that share my love and passion for Star Trek. I got stopped on my way to and from there, with other attendees sharing the Vulcan hand symbol or asking questions. It was a great community convention, with a community all our own.
A big theme of the convention was diversity. It was echoed and praised at every panel I was in. Fans referred to it as a major point of the show in their Q&A. The writers for Star Trek Discovery made a point of mentioning it in their very vague show plans. (Seriously, they gave up nothing!) Every panelist made a point to speak about how important that legacy of diversity is to Star Trek. Even the technology panels I attended made a point to speak about it.
That is why this exchange during the Deep Space Nine cast panel on the first day was so impactful. The cast was asked about different ways that Star Trek has been described by fans. Armin Shimerman, a.k.a. Quark, explained a recurring experience he has with fans. He explained that in America, he often gets asked “Do the Ferengi represent the Jews?” But in England he gets asked, “Do the Ferengi represent the Irish?” and in Australia he gets asked “Do the Ferengi represent Chinese?” Hearing these questions helped him see the hate in Star Trek. Shimerman says he believes that the Ferengi represent the outcast culture, the people around you who you don’t really understand or know.
After hearing that, it made every single diversity statement during the convention that much more important but at the same time, I could not forget what he said. It made me wonder if Star Trek had impacted as much as we think that it had. If fans could ask these questions, did they really understand the show? But by the end of the weekend, I was reminded why I love this show so much.
I do truly believe that Star Trek held forth diversity when people kept minorities from any recognition. When Roddenberry put a Russian on the bridge during the Cold War, he signaled that one day we would make peace. When he put an African American woman on the bridge, he signaled that one day we would have equality. And when the producers put a woman in the captain’s chair, they showed that one day we could actually move past gender preconceptions.
As we remember everything that Star Trek has given us over the past fifty years, the best truth is that Roddenberry’s vision has only showed us the way. Entertainment can open up all of these possibilities but only in reality can changes be made. We need to take these lessons to heart if we want to evolve past hate, greed, and violence.
Tomorrow, September 8th, is the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek premiere. Take a moment to see how far we have come, and how much farther we can go if we embrace the ideals of the future.