You Got Politics in My Political Show
Is Star Trek "Woke"?
So here's something I didn't think I'd need to address, and yet the Internet (and the world as a whole) being such that it is, we actually have to discuss this: "Is Star TrekOriginally conceived as "Wagon Train in Space", Star Trek was released during the height of the Hollywood Western film and TV boom. While the concept CBS originally asked for had a western vibe, it was the smart, intellectual stories set in a future utopia of science and exploration that proved vital to the series' long impact on popular culture. somehow suddenly woke?" I find this question absurd, not because Star Trek isn't politically minded with a liberal bent (or, as the conservatives like to hurl at it "woke"), but that somehow the show is more so now than it has been at any time in its history. Star Trek has always been woke. That's baked into is DNA.
When you franchise as a whole, we can point to The Original Series (aka Star Trek '66) as the point where the franchise first became "woke". You will note that, by starting here, we're flat out stating that the show started out with a liberal political bent. This was the show that featured the first interracial kiss on TV between Shatner's Kirk and Nichols's Uhura. It regularly features political storylines designed to make people think about their own personal politics: their need for war, their conservative nature, their racism. Remember, this was a series that had an episode where aliens that were white-and-black hated the aliens denizens of their planet that were black-and-white (even though they effectively all looked the same). This show was woke as shit back in the day.
Those that have watched the whole franchise, all of it, shouldn't suddenly be shocked because some of the newer episodes has some political themes to them. Hell, I think it's actually funny that people Online are bitching about its wokeness because, if anything, current Trek is far less woke now than it used to be. Yes, we have Black female leads on two shows. We have characters of all races, all genders. We have people that don't conform to any specific label. Maybe that seems "woke" to you, but that's hardly cutting edge stuff for this series. That's just filling out the ranks and giving the best actor or actress the job.
Certainly Michael Burnham, for all her nonconformist ways, feels far less edgy and political than even Capt. Sisko from Deep Space Nine. That was a show with a two-part episode where the characters get stuck in the past and have to deal with riots caused by wealth inequality. That was a series where the Captain dreamed he was a writer in the 1960s and had to deal with institutional racism. By contrast, Michael has a gender-nonconforming name. She is female, though, and in love with a man, so we're not looking at a character that is somehow pushing a trans agenda, or even a racial one. He stories are more about the future of the Federation than anything that can relate to our current world.
And really, when we're talking about Michael we have to note that she didn't start off as Captain. She was Commander under Capt. Philippa Georgiou, who was played by Michelle Yeoh. Georgiou is the first Asian Female captain featured on the series, although she only lives for a single episode before, due to Michael's actions, she dies in combat. No one is complaining about Yeoh playing a "woke" role, in part because Michelle Yeoh is a bad ass and absolutely deserves to play a cool character in Star Trek. The hate is piled om Michael, and other characters in the current franchise.
There's hate piled upon plenty of the characters showing up currently. It's not just Michael Burnham but also Tawny Newsome's Beckett Mariner (because she's Black and female), Anthony Rapp's Paul Stamets (because he's gay), Wilson Cruz's Hugh Culber (because he's gay with Paul Stamets, and Puerto Rican), Blu del Barrio's Adira Tal (because they're non-binary), and Melissa Navia's Erica Ortegas (because she's Colombian-American). Bear in mind that none of these characters speak about their race, never even mentioning it themselves, meaning it's only those watching the show that have to bring it up. I've seen claims Online about how the show is "purposefully filling its ranks with diversity" which seems silly. Aside from the fact that the show never shied away from race, nationality, or creed (the African-American Nichelle Nichols, the Asian-American George Takei, the Russian character of Chekov), the show doesn't define these characters by their race. You ave to want to make an issue of it.
Now, there are times where Discovery has handled things maybe a little less gracefully than they could have. The plot lines surrounding the non-binary Adira Tal have felt a tad heavy-handed at times. But then, sometimes to make a point you have to beat people over the head and say something. I can see people complaining about this, but that doesn't somehow make this character or this series any less Trek than anything that came before. Remember, The Original Series came out at a time where just having a Russian character depicted in a favorable light was heavy-handed all on its own, without the show even having to point it out. That's just what Star Trek is.
I feel like the people that are complaining about the current Star Trek shows have a conception of the franchise that doesn't come from the actual TV shows. Maybe they grew up on the original movies, which were more Online with standard blockbusters, or perhaps they started watching during the Kelvin series of films, which certainly felt like J.J. Abrams trying to make his best Star WarsThe modern blockbuster: it's a concept so commonplace now we don't even think about the fact that before the end of the 1970s, this kind of movie -- huge spectacles, big action, massive budgets -- wasn't really made. That all changed, though, with Star Wars, a series of films that were big on spectacle (and even bigger on profits). A hero's journey set against a sci-fi backdrop, nothing like this series had ever really been done before, and then Hollywood was never the same. movie before he was allowed to go make Star Wars. Those are films that don't really touch upon the politics, no where near as much at least, as the shows have done since the franchise was conceived. If those were the movies you know, maybe it would be a shock to see any politics mixed into your shows.
And yet, again, I don't really feel like the franchise really tackles politics all that much at this point. Yes, it has Black and Latino and gay characters, sure, but generally those are just the characters and the show doesn't make a big deal of it. We have yet to see a contemporary story that tackles, head on, wealth inequality or abortion or gun violence or anything else that Star Trek '66 would have written about. That series would have gone out of its way to tell story to make people think about their current world while modern Trek is just concerned with telling good sci-fi stories (or, in the case of Picard, bad sci-fi stories). Yes, Picard half-assedly went after immigration and pollution, but that series is bad, for starters, and it didn't even tell a good story with the material it tried to tackle. That hardly feels like it counts.
No, it's fair to say that modern Star Trek isn't anywhere near as woke as it used to be back in the day. That doesn't make it bad as it can still tell some fantastic stories. It's just, if somehow even its few nods and thrusts towards politics are too much for your delicate sensibilities, that's really on you. Star Trek is woke and always has been. If anything, we need more of that in the franchise, not less, and all the whiny little bitch boys in the audience won't change that one bit.