Nudged by the death of Leonard Nimoy, and the public appreciations that followed, to introduce Munchkin at last to the original Star Trek, I sat down with her last night to watch The Trouble with Tribbles. She liked tribbles, as we predicted; she thought it was funny; it was a good choice. But, she asked, looking at the actors, “why are they almost all guys?”
I stammered a bit before arriving at the obvious correct answer: because the makers of the show were sexist. When they thought of exciting things like space exploration, their imaginations weren’t up to conceiving of anyone except men carrying them out. It was jarring to see it through her eyes. I’m used to thinking of Star Trek as groundbreaking, and maybe it was even in this respect; the women on the Enterprise had jobs, after all, in space no less, even if they were the well-worn options of secretary (Lt. Uhura), nurse (Nurse Chapel), and, hm, what is a yeoman (Yeoman Rand)? Captain’s P.A.? That makes it a striking, and surely deliberate, departure from Lost in Space, in which the wife and daughters are . . . a wife and daughters. I guess someone has to dust the controls and look pretty.
I didn’t want to make excuses for Star Trek, but in the interests of teaching her some history, I told the munchkin that the show was a leap forward. What chiefly struck me, though, was how far we’ve come since 1968, which is, coincidentally, the span of in my lifetime. There is still plenty of tokenism in entertainment and it bugs me a lot, as I’ve written on this blog before. But an eight-year-old girl in 2015 noticed easily what was invisible even to a pioneer like Gene Roddenberry fewer than 50 years earlier, and that’s cause for gratitude and hope. Also, for this mama, pride.