Starlog – diversity

More homework for Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology.

Why is it important to see yourself on television? Why is television an important subject for scholarly study and how does what we watch shape the world we live in?


Scott asks if you think we’re getting closer to realizing the Vulcan philosophy of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) here on Earth. What would it take for that to happen? What would it look like? How might things be different?

The first question. Well, Scott answers it. It is important to see yourself on Star Trek. Because it shows a vision of a future. That has room for people like me.

I know it from myself. Seeing Jadzia Dax kiss her former wife in rejoined was important. It was not a lesbian kiss as such. And yet it was, and as a gay man, that actually meant something. Especially since we had waited for so long to actually see any representation of gay and lesbian characters in Star Trek, a thing Roddenberry had promised would be adressed in season five of TNG.

This makes a difference. We all to a certain degree view ourself through the stories we are told or shown. Small girls (and some boys) imagine themselves to be princesses when they are read fairytales. Grown men (and some women) imagine themselves to be action heroes when they watch Die Hard. And seeing yourself, or someone like you, portrayed positively makes a huge difference.

That is the real true promise of Star Trek. That the diversity we have on Earth today – not always ideal, will live on in the future, in a more positive and meaningful way, than it does for young people. No matter what their circumstances. In that words of Dan Savage, that it will get better.

That Vulcan ideal, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, is still in the future. But not as far off, as it has been. What it would take to get closer? I could come with a lot of politically correct suggestions about educating the ignorant, and fighting racism. But I think the underlying problem is scarcity, and a clash of cultures. Make sure that immigration does not mean that I have to pay more in taxes to support unemployed immigrants, and that they do not threaten my livelyhood by putting pressure on wages. And make sure that people of all cultures, accept the basic foundation of a liberal (in the original sense, not necessarily the american political sense) society, democracy, equality of the sexes, and non-discrimination, I think we will be all right. Not that we won’t still have idiots discriminating. But we should try to move to a point where idiots cannot get away with justifying their discrimination with religion and/or culture.

If we can do that, and despite bumps on the road, we are getting ever closer, we will be able to realise the alien ideal of IDIC.

Maybe that also explains why television makes sense as a subject of scholarly study. Television is one of the most important common representations of popular culture. We are placed in front of this entertainment for an inordinate amount of time every day. It affects a lot of people, in diverse ways. If that should not be an important subject of study, I don’t know what should be.

And that gives me the rank I would really like. Commander: