When Star Trek premiered in 1966, it was revolutionary in showing a more diverse vision of the future. Not only were women in positions of power, but also men and women of color were shown as equal members of the crew. However, like all movies and shows that show diversity or make strides in that direction, it can and has suffered from the narratives being told through the perspective of the power majority.
That was the position of panelists John Flowers and Damien Williams in the “Diversity & Representation in Star Trek” panel on Friday at 2:30PM.
“Our future is a representation of our present possibilities,” Flowers said.
The audience agreed with Flowers and Williams, and engaged in a lively discussion of both the things Star Trek has gotten right and the areas where there is still improvement to be made. Williams and Flowers both agreed that much of what remains problematic about the vision of the future depicted in Star Trek can be traced to the lack of diversity behind the scenes.
“We need to think about the ways in which things like Star Trek, like science fiction, help cultivate how we imagine the future is supposed to be. … But who is actually creating these visions of the future? It’s not enough to say that Star Trek has cast a black Vulcan, or a black captain, or a woman as chief engineer, and so on and so forth. It is to ask, in these casting decisions, who is writing the future that they are embodying? If you have a very homogenous writers room, then the image of the future will reflect that homogeny even if there’s a bunch of diverse bodies on the bridge of the Enterprise,” Flowers said.
If the show runners and writers remain a narrow cross-section of our current culture, then the shows created will remain bound by the same restrictions of our present era. And, perhaps more importantly, the narratives framed for the characters representing marginalized people may not be reflective of how their marginalization affects their lives.
A lot of hopes are pinned on the next incarnation, Star Trek: Discovery, and some of the discussion focused on improvements the audience hoped the new show would make, mixed with some trepidation that it could pull those improvements off.
It was a mind-expanding discussion, bringing forward the expansive areas of diversity and inclusion that should be considered, especially for future writers. Dare to imagine a future that has room for everyone.