Star Trek's Impact on American Society

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For many people, nothing is quite as captivating as good television. A good show has a lot of power, and there have been many good shows. In the history of television, however, few shows have been quite as influential as the Star Trek series were. Star Trek has something for everyone: accurate science for sci fi nerds, great plots and actors for traditional T.V. lovers, and hopeful ideas of a future with world peace and no poverty for optimists. However, one part of Star Trek that appeals to almost all who watch the show is the mindset of equality for all, no matter gender, race, or alien species. Star Trek’s humanistic social commentary inspired those who watched it, especially subjugated groups, and as a result, the mentality that was developed was one of hope and breaking barriers, which in turn led to a progression in America’s societal mentality. This was able to occur because the humanistic values that are championed by Star Trek are the natural tendencies of human nature. Star Trek simpply brought these values to the forefront of the American mind.

The Star Trek franchise began around the same time as two very important equal rights political movements of the 60’s: the women’s rights movement and the civil rights movement. 1966, the year in which Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) first aired, was politically and socially a very chaotic time. The women’s rights movement was beginning to build momentum, and many reforms were starting to actualize, including the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Griswold v Connecticut Supreme Court case in 1965 (the right to use contraceptives), the formation of NOW (National Organization for Women) in 1966, and the extension of affirmative action to include women in 1967. At a time when a woman holding a job outside of being a housewife or some sort of secretary was unheard of, actresses were expected to play these roles, and these roles alone. Similar restrictions and reforms had to be overcome by African Americans with the Civil Rights Movement. From the Civil Rights Act (banned discrimination in employment) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (to investigate claims of disregard for the above act) in 1964, to affirmative action in 1965, African Americans were steadily reforming their subpar status, just like the women of the Women’s Rights Movement. But up until now, blacks were hardly ever on television; they were featured even less than women. For most minority groups and for women, this all changed with Star Trek.

The Star Trek franchise has been a prominent part of American society for a very long time, and has had the time to build up to the large franchise that it is. TOS first aired in September of 1966. Although it only ran for three years, it broke a lot of barriers: the first interracial kiss on television, and the first black actress to play in an authoritative position. What’s more significant is how popular Star Trek became. Throughout the 70’s baby boomers and their parents watched reruns on TV; apparently, the popularity was great enough to have Paramount Pictures create a movie in 1979. In 1982, the second and most popular movie, according to box office reviews, The Wrath Of Khan came out, and in 1984, The Search For Spock. TOS movies continued being made, on average, every two years until 1991 for a total of six, but in the meantime, a new TV series had started. Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) ended up being such a hit that it continued for 8 years, 7 seasons, from 1987-1994. TNG was the foundation for the next four movies that concluded with Nemesis, in 2002. Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise, the three other series, were not quite as popular, but the franchise and even the less popular series had a huge fanbase. The myriad of books, conventions, and paraphernalia that went along with the series, from action figures, to fake phasers, showed what a hold the show had over people. This was, by no means, what creator Gene Roddenberry had...
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