Star Trek is fiction, but since Leonard Nimoy died yesterday, I can’t help commenting on two big mistakes in the show—its racism and misunderstanding of emotion.
It seems like one of the main themes of the show is supposed to be that humans have learned to live together harmoniously, overcoming racial, nationalistic, class, and other differences. Wikipedia says the show had one of the first multi-racial casts. Sounds nice, and they treated humans that way, but non-humans with speaking roles were basically human in everything but some superficial make-up. Outside the show’s reality—that is, in our reality, watching the show from a cultural perspective—we can look at the message of the show’s creators.
The characters all behaved according to their race!
Vulcans acted by logic, not emotions, Romulans did whatever Romulans did, likewise Klingons, and so on. The show was racist!
People didn’t complain, as best I can tell, because the races weren’t nominally human, but outside the reality of the show, they were. The show’s creators created a show where all the characters behave according to their races. It undermined the nominal message of the show. I never understood why people didn’t complain about that.
The second was how it treated emotions because of Vulcans. It treated emotions as a weird counterpart to logic. I guess it said emotions were valuable in not making Spock the captain, but that’s not the point. You can’t separate them from behavior. Emotions motivate us. Treating them the way the show did might work as one of the fictional parts of the science fiction, but it misunderstands emotions in regular humans. We all feel emotions all the time.
Watching Star Trek makes you understand yourself less, the opposite of Know Thyself, one of the most helpful strategies in improving your life. It contributes to the widespread misunderstanding that women are more emotional than men. It’s not like making a fiction where you can go faster than the speed of light. People get that that’s fiction. This fiction is based on misunderstanding an important part of being human.
Vulcans didn’t suppress their emotions or not have them. They still have motivations. They aren’t just lying down and waiting to die. They lower the intensity of their emotions. Totally different!
(I hope no one takes this post too seriously).
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