Pasadena, Calif. • Remember the good ol’ days when racists stayed in their houses, occasionally venturing onto their front porches to tell those damn kids to get off their lawns?
Today, they’re all over social media, outing themselves as the bigots, misogynists and homophobes that they are. And, in the case of “Star Trek: Discovery,” displaying their utter ignorance.
“There was a fragment of the audience who were very upset with the show,” said executive producer Aaron Harberts. “A lot of white men felt very marginalized by our show, and it threatened a lot of people.”
(I have to take issue with Harberts’ statement that this involved “a lot of white men.” There was certainly noise on social media from dopes who felt threatened by a “Star Trek” series that centers on an African-American woman, but social media noise is not always proportionate to the number of people creating it.)
At any rate, there definitely were alleged Trek fans who reacted badly to “Discovery” from the get-go. They weren’t happy when it was announced that the series would revolve around the character of Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who is female and African American. And those people blew a gasket when the first “Discovery” trailers introduced Burnham as the first officer alongside Captain Phillipa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), who is female and Asian.
The anonymity of social media allowed trolls to post tweets like one that declared that the show has “only one white cast member & surprise — he’s gay! Another #SJW failure.” (SJW = Social Justice Warrior.)
Another genius declared, “The only white males are a Vulcan a-hole and a wimpy helmsman. This show appears to be fully SJW converged.”
And the idea of “white genocide in space” was bandied about. Which was beyond moronic.
The less important point is that these people were reacting to something they knew little about, which tends to happen on social media. A lot. You know, like people reacting to a headline without reading the story. That kind of thing.
As the new “Star Trek” got under way, we learned that the first two episodes were essentially prologue; that Capt. Georgiou commanded the U.S.S. Shenzou and would not continue beyond Episode 2; and that the captain of the U.S.S. Discovery is indeed a white man (Jason Isaacs stars as Capt. Gabriel Lorca). The regular cast also includes Doug Jones, who, under all that alien makeup, is a white man; and Mary Wiseman (Cadet Sylvia Tillman), who is a white woman. And there are a bunch of white actors under Klingon makeup.
So the trolls were wrong on the facts.
But the bigger point is that “Star Trek” has always been about diversity. The original bridge crew included a black woman and an Asian man in 1966 — when that was far from the norm — not to mention a half-alien. And every incarnation of “Trek” has featured diverse cast members, including an African-American captain in “Deep Space Nine” and a female captain in “Voyager.”
What we didn’t have when those shows aired was social media to allow racist fools to be so public with their distasteful views.
It’s worth pointing out that social media also provides a way to slap these folks back (metaphorically). And the anti-racist backlash was overwhelming.
“Our audience rose up,” said Harberts, “and sort of said to those people, ‘This is what “Trek” is. This is what it’s about. If you can’t handle it, then, A, you’re not a “Trek” fan, and B, you should walk away.’”
A lot of the true Trekkers were a lot less polite than that, which is another byproduct of social media anonymity.
Maybe it’s a good thing that the bigots are so open about themselves and their views online. We can ignore them. Block them.
Or argue with them, which is usually pointless.
In real life, it isn’t always as easy to pick out the racists, misogynists and homophobes. Well, until they open their mouths.
(New episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery” begin streaming Sundays at 6:30 p.m. MT on CBS All Access.)