Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its ongoing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before…
People sit on their couches awaiting the first-ever episode of Star Trek: Next Generation. The year is 1987, but the show is set in 2364. Fans’ lips move in concord with the famous quote at the beginning of the show, and already it is obvious that some things have changed. William Shatner is not narrating. The words “five-year” are now “ongoing”; “no man” becomes “no one.”
This is only one of many examples of how Star Trek went boldly where none had been before — not only in 2364, but also in 1987. Star Trek brings joy to its fans by hurling them through exciting galaxies at warp speed, but it also brought peace to alien races, and to people on Earth. Star Trek was in many ways ahead of its time. An inter-galactic federation of peace! Hiring a real, live Russian to play Chekhov in the 60’s! Nyota Uhura, a black woman, kissing her white, male Captain Kirk, on TV! George-it’s-okay-to-be-Takei openly gay as of 2005 and still fighting for equality at 77! Exciting stuff.
To me, nerdy entertainments like Star Trek, Marvel Comics, and DC cartoons are perfect. Exciting, but also secure. The place where I feel most comfortable is in these “fandoms.” Pretty much every free thinker has a favorite book, movie, or show that makes him or her feel safe; when others enjoy the same media, the community forged is called a fandom. While I am not necessarily an outcast, I do love being a geek.
But although I feel comfortable in my fandoms, not everyone does.
Miles Morales, the contemporary comic book Spiderman, is a biracial half Afro-American, half Latino-American. I really like him. He is fun. And he looks much more like the average American than Peter Parker. That could mean something big to young readers who look like Miles, and should be a big step towards making everyone comfortable. But DC and Cartoon Hangover just canceled Young Justice because more girls than boys watched it. (They said in a press release they were afraid of alienating fanboys.) Harley Quinn is my favorite super villain, but every time she appears in new material, she is even bustier and more naked than the last time. I love her character, because she is more than the anatomically impossible poses that artists devise for female comic book characters. Then there is Orphan Black, a great British sci-fi show with many strong female characters — but when a trans character was introduced many fans became afraid the show would be canceled.
Even though seemingly escapist comics and television can bring us face to face with real social problems, everyone should still be as comfortable somewhere as I am watching cartoons or sci-fi television. Everyone. That is why I want to write kids’ cartoons for TV, once I am far enough along in my career. I want to explore new boundaries and continue the sci-fi mission to challenge the problematic archetypes in society. I think it can be done before year 2161, when Starfleet swoops in to save us all. Because I do not care that this work is challenging, scary, or designed to force me out of my comfortable place. It matters. So I will do venture on anyhow. Boldly.