Home Featured News One small step for man… progress in pop culture

One small step for man… progress in pop culture

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A column straight from the unorthodox mind of Jamie Miller. Often written during the middle of the night, Miller provides reviews of TV shows and movies, books, and details life through from his perspective (artwork by Abby Haywood/The Collegiate).

By Jamie Miller – 12:17 a.m.

Greetings dwellers of day and darkness, it’s me, “the arachnid-loving agnostic author,” Jamie Miller, here with another issue of Night Light. Now as many of you have probably heard, the TV show “Cops” has been cancelled after 32 seasons… a small eternity as far as television goes. The cancellation appears to be a result of the George Floyd protests, as it is seen by many to glorify the police and often demonize minorities and those of color. Now while I can’t confirm or deny that the show was full on racist I did tend to notice that a great many of the suspects were minorities, and as a pro wrestling superfan I can tell you having an unscripted live television show is not a very good idea.  However, this is not the first time “progress” has affected pop culture and vice versa. For proof of this, comrades, just read on.

“Star Trek” has been around for decades, and it’s given us many things, from the Vulcan salute to the iconic theme song. But did you know it also gave us the first or at least one of the earliest examples of an interracial kiss on television? I mean, the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” was kind of goofy but the fact that Lt. Nyota Uhura, a black woman, and Captain James T. Kirk, a white man, kissed on screen is significant. The studio originally was going to film two scenes —  one with the kiss, one without it — as the studio was nervous about “rocking the boat.” Well, William Shatner, who played Kirk, intentionally messed up every other scene until the studio just decided to go with the kiss. And now while I’m not the biggest fan of Shatner or Kirk… I’m a Picard guy, I still have a great deal of respect for Shatner for doing what he did. It makes me proud to be a second generation Trekker. It’s just a shame that it took that long to have an interracial kiss on television and was the hard to even get it to air.

“Roseanne” was the tale of the blue collar Conners and their daily lives in the fictional town of Lanford, Illinois and was on for many years, and at the moment the spin-off around the other members of the family is still on air. If I’m being honest I never liked the show because Roseanne Barr always came across as a bit arrogant, not to mention hateful as exhibited by the Twitter comments she made when she was “Ambien tweeting.” My dislike is compounded by the fact that my mother ruined it for me by watching it for three years non-stop everyday. However, all of that being said the show was oddly enough pretty progressive for the time it began airing. And while some of the portrayals of these sensitive topics were done in what would be considered poor taste in today’s culture, the fact that they even tackled the subject, is impressive nonetheless. Take for example the episode “White Men Can’t Kiss.” The premise of the episode was that Barr’s son, DJ, doesn’t want to kiss a girl in a school play because she was African American. By the end of the episode, Barr is forced to confront the fact that despite her thoughts to the contrary, she has racist tendencies. Other episodes dealt with domestic abuse and mental illness, and there are countless more examples. 

This wouldn’t be a Night Light about progressive shows if I didn’t mention “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” The tale of Buffy Summers, a young woman living in Sunnydale, California who is a “slayer,” a woman gifted with superhuman strength, agility, endurance and reflexes whose job it is to protect the human race from vampires, demons and other things that go bump in the night. The show broke many boundaries. For one, the female protagonist Buffy, much like Xena, is never a damsel in distress. The show is also an early example of a non-stereotypical LGBTQ relationship. In fact, one of the most powerful and prominent people on the show, Willow Rosenberg a nerdy witch, was a lesbian. Her relationship with her girlfriend is one of the most stable and healthy on the show for the most part. In fact, the show later had  one of the first portrayals of a lesbian  sex scene in television history. The show also tackled things like bullying, misogyny, domestic abuse, loss, addiction, and numerous other topics. The sister show “Angel ” a spin off of the show dealing with Buffy’s former lover the vampire Angel in Los Angeles  dealt with drug abuse, bigotry, the question of free will etc., but that is a story for another time and place.

So there you go. Living proof that while shows like “Cops,” “Live P.D.,” and the siamese cat scene from the 1955 version of “The Lady and the Tramp” aren’t the only example of progress and pop culture as in those cases they have aged poorly and in the case of the latter just plain racist, but pop culture can also be an ally to progress. A voice to the future. We just have to listen.

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