So, I’ve been one of the biggest proponents of this belief for about a decade now, and as much as I scream it from the rooftops, no one seems to listen. And though I know I’m not the first to say this…
I’m making it official. Because once it’s posted in a blog, it becomes the truth. You know what I mean? It’s like on that State Farm commercial. “They can’t put anything on the internet that’s not true.” Right? Right?!
Anyway, as the title says, I wholeheartedly believe that two of my all-time favorite things in life are in actuality the exact same thing! (In the vein of Superman/Clark Kent, Batman/Bruce Wayne, or Green Arrow/ Oliver Queen)
In this series I am going to list out 8 different reasons why the Genius of Star Trek is really just the Genius of the Bard himself repackaged.
Back at the Helm again with the 6th reason why Star Trek is the Superman version of Shakespeare’s Clark Kent. (Or is that the other way around?)
Star Trek and Shakespeare #6 – The Stories Pushed the Envelope
Let’s take a look at Shakespeare on this one first.
One of the geniuses of Billy Boy Shakes is his ability to put audiences in situations where they have to come face to face with their own morality especially with regard to aspects of Elizabethan society.
For example, in King Lear, one of the main motifs of the play is betrayal. Betrayal of children to their parents, betrayal of parents to their children, betrayal of siblings. But the real crescendo of this motif is played out when Shakespeare suggests that betrayers will ultimately turn on one another as seen in the love triangle between Edmund, Goneril, and Regan.
In fact, this “love triangle” is really more of an “adultery triangle” as the ladies cheat on their husbands for Edmund and Edmund cheats on the ladies with each other. Of course Shakespeare, can’t just let the ambiguities in the story speak for themselves. He has to give King Lear, the catalyst of the betrayals and paramount betrayer, a speech denouncing not only his daughters’ adulterous activities, but the adulterous activities of the world.
Though Lear’s diatribe here is mainly about his daughters, it is impossible not to see a corollary to the Elizabethan world as well. A society known for its façade of devotion and yet promiscuous behind the scenes. Did Shakespeare’s words change Elizabethan society? Not necessarily, but they had to press upon the consciousness of the audience.
In the same way, Star Trek pushed upon the societal mores of the world in which it was produced. One great example of this is the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren”.
In this episode, the crew of the Enterprise are forced to be slaves to a superior race called the Platonians. The Platonians have the power of telekinesis, and it is through this mind control that they force the crew to do whatever they wish. This is most powerfully illustrated when they force Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) to kiss. The first interracial kiss on television. (gasp)
Now, NBC didn’t want to air this on television in certain areas of the country, but according to Shatner and Nichols, Shatner purposely made funny faces to keep the studio from airing alternative shots forcing them to go with the kiss. Were people upset? Yeah, but this wouldn’t be the first (or last) time Star Trek forced viewers to deal with their prejudices. (But that’s for reason 4). Did this change people’s minds? Hard to say, but the episode did definitely make audiences uncomfortable.
In both instances here, Shakespeare and its counterpart Star Trek left audiences with a chance to check themselves about how they view the world and how they act within it. I can’t say conclusively that both wanted to change society, but the genius doesn’t lie in the ends simply in the means.