There are many ways to be a geek, so many fandoms to love and be excited about. Finding people who are as passionate as you about the same things is like finding immediate new friends. I felt this way a few weeks ago when I connected with some guys about starting a new Pathfinder RPG game. I felt this way this afternoon on Twitter while chatting with a fellow about Star Trek. Well, I did until I suggested that the new Star Trek movies, as they're a reboot, were a golden oppertunity missed for increasing diversity in the cast. Apparently this was too against the original concept of the show and couldn't be done. The new Star Treks aren't supposed to be an ad for diversity, I was told. Racism and sexism are things of today, and will be things in the future when Star Trek is supposed to be happening, so changing the cast so Sulu or Chekov were women or black is just right out. They should 'never be changed' and I needed to 'get over it' and wait for a new Star Trek series after Voyager to come out in order to fully address my concerns.
Um, what? I'm pretty sure the idea of boldly going where noone has gone before isn't just for a bunch of white guys, one alien and one black lady. When I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation as a kid, the characters of Beverly Crusher, Diana Troy, Tasha Yar and even semi-regular Guinan made a big impression on me. There were women all over that ship who were making important contributions to missions, diplomatic and otherwise, all the time. Yes, there were problems (Tasha dies for no good reason, Diana is sometimes potrayed as not much more than cosmic eye-candy and a huge part of Beverly's identity is being a mom) but overall they were done well, and there are SO MANY of them!
Less important to me personally at the time, but very important to the geek culture and Trek fans, was the inclusion of two black characters; Worf and Geordi La Forge. Both are doubly Otherd, Worf being both an alien and dark skinned, and Geordi is blind without his visor. Unlike Uhura, both of these men (males? One is an alien after all) attain high ranks in Star Fleet, so that's good too. Yay diversity! Next Generation, not the original, set the tone of what sci-fi shows, and hell, what the future should be for me, so I'll admit my perceptions are coloured.
Then again, what IS the concept of Star Trek? Let's ask the creator, Gene Roddenberry: “Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”
― Gene Roddenberry
J.J. Abrams, Paramount and everyone else associated with the new Star Trek films casting decisions are getting in the future's way by deliberately catering to the old school fans and 60s attitudes and not increasing the diversity of the crew of the Enterprise for the reboot. A reboot is the perfect time to mix things up and correct lingering problems like gender and race inequality. Yes, the original Star Trek was made and shown in the '60s, and therefore was limited in what it could do. But it's 2013! We can, and should do better. I expect more from those who hold Gene's legacy, and I imagine he would too.
Edited to add; it looks like the guy I was talking too has erased all his tweets related to our conversation, but mine are available in the widget to the right, or via my Twitter of @JeninCanada.