I am not Star Trek’s biggest fan. I love science fiction; I like Star Trek. I’ve been watching it since early in elementary school (though not regularly until I was watching Star Trek: Voyager in middle school). It’s neat. At its very beginning, it was very cutting-edge. And, for the most part, the Star Trek franchise comes across as progressive.*
The original Star Trek series had the first televised interracial kiss—and that was in the era of censoring comic books because they showed a nameless black astronaut floating in the background. And that’s awesome. But there are downsides to nerd culture, and those are reflected in Star Trek. Star Trek is not always quite so progressive. Sometimes, when compared to other television shows, it lags behind.
While both of these are changing, nerd culture has not, historically, been incredibly friendly to the gay community or to women. To be clear, that has changed a great deal in the past couple of decades (and especially in the past few years). But the women on Star Trek: The Original Series were too often sexual contrasts for the womanizing buffoon that was Captain Kirk.
So, Star Trek had the first interracial kiss. Babylon 5, also known as the greatest science fiction show ever made, had two male characters go undercover as a pair of newlyweds (and, of course, neither batted an eye, because of course same-sex marriage is commonplace in 2260). On Babylon 5, it was also suggested that two female protagonists may have been lovers (though this was progressive for an early 1990s science fiction show, but not for television in general). To my knowledge, the first same-sex kiss between men on a science fiction show was on Stargate: Atlantis. Star Trek tends to convey messages like this symbolically, through interactions with alien cultures.
Star Trek’s treatment of women is, honestly, almost confusing. Captain Kathryn Janeway captained Voyager; she is one of the strongest (and most delightfully terrifying) female characters (or characters, really) whom I can imagine. With Kate Mulgrew’s fantastic …