I've always appreciated sci-fi for its social commentary. As a fan, I tend to look positively on it, but I never watched much televised sci-fi. My partner is a big Star Trek fan, and over the past decade, we've been watching together. Something really glaring is sticking out to me. My partner (who dislikes how many things I've ruined for him like when he thought Crash into Me was a sweet love song and not a creepy perv fetish about stalking a woman) thinks I'm seeing things where they aren't, and that may be true. I'm still trying to understand racism as best I can coming from a colorblind family, so I'm interested to hear other women's thoughts, but specifically, I'd love some input from black sci-fi fans.
I've always been uncomfortable that Star Trek touts itself as progressive - yes, I love the story of MLK jr and Nichols, and I can't image how important early representation of black actors as simply characters and not as black characters would have been to the black community, but it seems like in the mythos of Star Trek, the idealized progressive show breaking barriers story is more focused on the first interracial kiss. I also understand how important representation must have been for interracial couples, but I dislike that the "TV's first!" was sexualizing a black woman who was already highly sexualized in her uniform breaking the boundaries of "TV's first!" shortest skirt.
We've been watching the modern shows, and at first I complained because I thought Sonequa Martin-Green was going to be the first black female captain. (then I thought Michelle Yeoh was going to be the captain which wasn't the same, but at least was a minority woman being captain finally, and then it turned out the first show starring a black woman, the captain ended up being a white male.) It felt similar to how the first black Disney princess spent 80% of the movie green - I was bothered, but no one else in the social circles I was in was critiquing that. But then we started watching Lower Decks, and it popped out to me.
There are currently two Star Trek franchises featuring black women as the leads. In both, neither are the captain. Both are the only two times a lead hasn't been the captain of the facility/vessel. Both are the only show protagonists to have been reduced in rank. In fact, both have been almost entirely stripped of rank - removal of all rank as traitor and reduction to ensign (lowest officer rank). (Also of note - the only other lead in the Star Trek universe who was lower rank than Captain was the only other black lead - Commander Sisko) In neither do either of the women have female names - Michael and Beckett, and both are of European etymology.
I feel like this is an unconscious racial bias, or perhaps it was very intentional - it feels like it since it was done twice with two of the three shows currently in production. Who would want them to be so similar if not an intentional choice? All I can think is that consciously or not, this was a racist attempt at making a black woman economically marketable in a lead role. Because black women are stereotyped as strong, was this an attempt at either reducing their power for white/male viewers or projecting them as male (the naming, black women can't be feminine/feminine isn't strong)?
What are everyone else's thoughts? Am I seeing things that aren't here or is this a normal trend for black women in acting roles? I try to read as much as I can from black women, but I haven't read anything about the stereotyping in media that I can pull from here.