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?
This chapter deals with the diversity of the Enterprise and the revolutionary ideas it had that all races of the world could cooperate and work together.
Thus this Starlog got immediately a loaded question “Why is it important to see yourself on television?. The question itself just assumes that is a fact that it is important to see people with my own skin color on TV. Additionally in this context actually just means a person that shares the same skin color as you.
What a stupid question, as if I would identify myself primarily with my skin color. Other people see my color and during my lifetime I had to deal with a lot of racists. Some of them shared my skin color and others hated me because of my skin color. People are afraid of ‘otherness’ – and that is ok, as long as they do not resort to violence, I am also afraid of that, but then I think I go and get to know that person, then I will see that everything is ok, he is also only human. We all can learn from each other, but we cannot learn if we put people into boxes.
TV can ‘help’ to be less afraid of the otherness – to show a world where everyone is equal. Star Trek TOS, TNG, DS9, and VOY did a beautiful job with that. People started to stop seeing ‘skin deep’. Then a terrorist attack happened – and the news machine fueled the fear of the ‘otherness’ – the ‘bad guys’ have a different skin color, believe in something else, and have beards. Now almost 20 years later, of this constant fueling of hate through the media, we are in a fractured world – where one side says: we do not see color and the others say we do not see enough colors in media.
From a storytelling point of view, it does not matter. When I see Star Trek, I do not want to see myself, I want to see great characters, people with flaws, characters that grow, change, think about life and overcome obstacles. Characters I aspire to be like Miles O’Brien and Captain Sisko. Their actions their decisions their ‘life’ makes them interesting and important for me.
The troubling trend of the current ‘diversity’ debate is, that large media corporations are trying to maximize their profits. They know that when their core fanbase is male, they have a large growth opportunity if they target women. They think their female audience is so stupid that only when the main character looks like themselves they will consume the media (and men will anyway consume it, no matter if it is a female or male lead). Then they create flat, one dimensional, ‘perfect’ characters just to pander to a specific demographic – regardless if it is beneficial towards the story or not.
No, I do not believe it is important to see myself on television. I believe it is important to see great characters, and they should be played by the best person for the job. Media may shape some ideas, visions, but overall reality is much more influential in how the world is shaped than fiction.