Star Trek: The Importance of Representation in the Media

In a time where nuclear war was almost a certainty, Star Trek became a message of hope and optimism for those who watched it, with a Universe beyond prejudices and divisions, where humanity had come together as one.

Gene Roddenberry created this show with the vision of equality, inclusiveness and diversity, casting actors like Walter Koenig to play Pavel Chekov (a Russian in an American tv show at the pinnacle of the Cold War), George Takei to play Hikaru Sulu  (a character that was meant to represent all Asia, symbolizing peace in the continent) and  Nichelle Nichols to play the famous Lt. Nyota Uhura, one of the first African American characters to play a non-menial role (at that time it was customary for a black women to play maids) in an American tv show.

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Uhura became a ground-breaking character, although some may argue her role was “just answering the phone”, by putting a black woman as part of the main cast, sharing the first interracial on-screen kiss with William Shatner as Captain Kirk and being part of something bigger. As Martin Luther King Jr. (a fan of the show) said to her:

“[Uhura] signifies a future of greater racial harmony and cooperation. You [Nichols] are our image of where we’re going, you’re 300 years from now, and that means that’s where we are and it takes place now. Keep doing what you’re doing, you are our inspiration. […] Don’t you understand for the first time we’re seen as we should be seen. You don’t have a black role. You have an equal role.”

Now, with Star Trek: Discovery, it looks like they are going to follow with this tradition of inclusiveness and diversity, with its first black female lead, actress Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead) as First Officer Michael Burnham.

Burnham will be the first human raised by Vulcans, a First Officer that will have to face a great decision in the war against Klingons.

When talking to Entertainment Weekly, Sonequa said about being the lead:

“I can see the beauty of it, and I can hope for the impact of it. Being the first black female lead of a Star Trek show. I don’t know if I can put it into words how honoured I am and how blessed I am to be in this position, at a time such as this.”

Star Trek: Discovery will also feature the franchise’s first openly gay character, played by actor Anthony Rapp (Rent). Rapp will play Lt. Stamets, an anastromycologist (that’s a fungus expert) who has a crucial role in the show’s story.

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Right now, women are talking major roles in science fiction and action movies, with big franchises like Star Wars with Rey, Doctor Who with the 13th Doctor, the DCEU with Wonder Woman and Marvel with Captain Marvel, or independent movies like Atomic Blonde. And although is great to see women having major roles and being represented in the media, they’re significantly white.

With Star Trek: Discovery we get a woman of colour as the lead of a tv show in this franchise, and, if successful, it could prove to Hollywood that people of colour do watch shows and movies where they are represented and Sonequa could be the first of many, many women of colour being the leads on geek franchises.

What do you think? Are you excited about this new tv show?
Let us know in the comments below!

Star Trek: Discovery will premiere September 24 on CBS All Access in USA and Canada, while premiering on Netflix in the rest of the world on September 25.

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