Star Trek Voyager // Is It a Problem When a 90’s Show Out-Diversifies Most 2015 TV?

I will admit it, barklings: I have become a Trekkie. And not just any Trekkie. Nay. Not a Star-Trek-reboot-movie-Trekkie. An old, cheesy Star Trek Trekkie, aye. My friends, I have spent the months following my sudden bout of White Collar obsessiveness obsessively watching Star Trek: Voyager. And oddly enough, while watching it one day, something struck me: I ran the Bechdel Test, the Mako Mori Test, the Sexy Lamp Test, Tauriel, Deggans, Racial Bechdel… and found that the show, in one episode or another, passed each and every one.

11097037

Left to Right: Neelix, the Doctor, Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres, Commander Chakotay, Captain Kathryn Janeway, Seven of Nine, Lieutenant Tuvok, Lieutenant Tom Paris, Ensign Harry Kim (we seem to be missing Kes!)

Now, I know that the number of male characters to female characters is still a pretty high ratio; in this banner alone, we have a 6:3 male:female ratio (2:1). But… oddly enough, that’s still a higher ratio than those for many TV shows in 2015. If you look at the POC ratio, it’s 5:4 European-descent:PoC. That’s only one more European-descent character than PoC. Now, Voyager was made in the 90’s. NEARLY TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, I SAY. And yet… somehow it has more representation than most “modern” TV shows??

I mean, just LOOK at all this fabulous representation!

Captain Kathryn Janeway (center) is white, yes, but she’s Star Trek’s first female captain. Commander Chakotay (left, center) is a Native-American AND the first officer. Seven of Nine (right, center) is white, yes, but a woman and one with a physical disability (borg!). Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres (left) is white and Hispanic, and the head of Engineering. (So she is utterly fantastic.) Lieutenant Tuvok (right) is black, Vulcan, and the chief security officer on Voyager. Ensign Harry Kim (right) is Chinese and doesn’t fall into blatantly offensive stereotypes. Kes (not pictured) is white too, but she’s a woman who trains as a doctor. And I’ll be the first to admit that the Doctor, Neelix, and Paris add kind of nothing to the diversity, but I guess you could say one of them’s a hologram, another’s an alien who isn’t quite appealing to the eye… and I guess we could have one character that falls into general stereotypes.

Not only do we have a multitude of diversities, with two-thirds of the main cast being female or non-white, but we also have “diverse” people in high-level positions. Think about it: out of the ten main characters above that serve on the ship, seven are diverse in the fact that they are non-white or female, or both, and five of those seven serve key positions. It’s a given that all of the women aboard are familiar with and utterly brilliant with science. And that’s not even talking about all the interracial romance!

(Now, I find this incredibly odd. I mean, it surely completely contradicts real life. The women don’t often talk to each other about men, and the composition of the cast alone allows it to pass the Ellen Willis, Racial Bechdel, Mako Mori, Tauriel, Deggans, and Bechdel. How is this supposed to be possible? If we look at all the other representative-of-real-life-stuff TV shows, they’re all white and the women only talk about men! What’s WRONG with this show??)

In fact, if we look at this on the Diversity Bingo chart I used a few posts back, it looks like this:

voyager1

An 89% pass ratio for some of the hardest tests in diversity.

… But if you look at something made in recently, say, Doctor Who (since it’s the same genre) it looks something like this:

doctorwho

A 56% pass ratio in diversity bingo.

And that’s not even scratching the surface! Doctor Who has had a lot more representation in 2015, if you really look at it, than most mainstream Hollywood TV shows. And it’s been starting to occur to me that this might be a problem. We’re trying to PRO-gress, not RE-gress, after all. Why are we struggling so much to obtain just a little diversity in 2015 when a show in 1990 could put so much in? And Voyager just proves that we can’t use the “low-budget” or “it happened a long time ago” excuse. Voyager was made in the 90’s! Even if it was set in the future, the writers still said, “Oh, hey! Let’s cast Native-American, black, Hispanic, and Chinese actors for some key roles!” And obviously, Voyager was not the highest-budget show in the world. I mean, they used a LOAF OF BREAD AS A RAT in one episode, for goodness’ sake.

Is it a problem when a show made in the 1990’s out-diversifies most shows in the same genre made today? And how hard is it really to write diversity?

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2 responses to “Star Trek Voyager // Is It a Problem When a 90’s Show Out-Diversifies Most 2015 TV?

  1. SABRINAAAA!
    HI
    LONG TIME NO TALK
    Just wanted to let you know that I deleted my old blog and created a new one at http://starrywriteblog.wordpress.com. I’d love it if you could follow me on there 🙂 I just wanted to let you know so that you’d know I hadn’t fallen off the face of the earth or something. I’M STILL ALIVE

    -Meghna

    • Hey Meghna!
      I just gave you a follow. I’ve disappeared from the blogosphere for quite a while, too, recently. I HAVEN’T FALLEN OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH EITHER. I’m looking forward to new posts from you! Although sometimes I’m a bad, bad blogger and can’t seem to find the time to comment on others’ blogs because HOMEWORK.

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