Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why Martin Luther King Jr loved Star Trek

I sometimes find empowerment in unexpected places. My friend Jay reminded me of an anecdote the other day. The anecdote is about a meeting between Nichelle Nichols (who played Lt. Uhura on Star Trek) and Martin Luther King Jr.

This video recounts the anecdote and speaks for itself:

Some object to the fact that Uhura was portrayed in a tiny mini-skirt and thus cannot be considered a figure of empowerment, contrary to what Nichelle Nichols claims here. But remember the time, there were no black women portrayed in positions of equality and authority then ... there were few women portrayed in such positions period!

Remember that civil and human rights dimension the next time you see Star Trek and if you should see the new film (which I enjoyed) ask yourself, is the presentation of Uhura faithful to that original spirit of empowerment?

One final thought: The first interacial kiss on American Television was between the characters Uhura and Jim Kirk ... "boldly going where no one has gone before" indeed.

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  1. Thanks for sharing this video, Matt. I know the character of Uhura herself was an inspiration for Woopi Goldberg, precisely for the reasons Mr. King expressed to Nichelle Nichols. I remember an interview where she mentioned that it was the first time she saw a black woman on television that was not a maid and that was aninspiration for her.

    I agree with you about the mini-skirt comment, but more than that, I would ask: what does her clothing has to do with anything? I don't see why a woman wearing a mini-skirt can't be a figure of empowerment. Why does a woman needs to hide her figure to be a figure of empowerment? I think the fact that she does not hide her feminine side, that she does
    not have to dress like a man to maintain her authority, makes her a true a figure of empowerment for women.

  2. Rosa,

    You wrote:

    "I think the fact that she does not hide her feminine side, that she does
    not have to dress like a man to maintain her authority, makes her a true a figure of empowerment for women."

    I agree a woman can be sexy, feminine, and powerful! Being empowering does NOT mean women have to act like men!

    Well said!

  3. Matt,

    Your post about Dr. Martin Luther King and Star Trek eventually led me to discover this:


    It's an interview with Nichelle Nichols, in which she talks about how she got the part, what her character's name means, Uhura's relationship with Spock, etc. The interview really makes me appreciate her character more.

    From a different source, I found a piece of trivia that also supports the Spock/Uhura romance. In the episode "Plato's Stepchildren," Spock plays a musical instrument and Kirk kisses Uhura. That was, as you know, the first interracial kiss shown on tv. What many people don't know is that in the original script for that episode, Uhura kisses Spock! Shatner didn't like that, so he had the writers re-write the scene!

    Apparently Bill didn't like the idea of Spock getting more attention from the ladies than Kirk did.

  4. Thanks Dan!

    That's interesting information.


Comments from many different points of view are welcome. But I will not publish any comments that are hateful, insulting, or filled with profanity. I welcome and encourage dialogue and disagreement but will not publish any hate speech.