Like many of my fellow people of color, I have a love-hate relationship with the Star Trek franchise. Firstly, I always rolled my eyes the demographic inaccuracies of the 24th century. The fate of white folks has been sealed as of the 21st Century, yet in the 24th Century, they're not only shown outnumbering POC, but as usual, they're still shown being in charge of everything...and as the default aliens.
Secondly, there's a saying amongst Star Trek fans of color that "humans are the white people of the galaxy". Not only does this one species constantly seem to magically outnumber hundreds of thousands of others, but once again, almost all other species seem subject to their authority, or are portrayed as culturally inferior somehow.
Now, while listening to the commentaries on the DVDs of the various series, I've come to understand that the writers and producers actually did want to do more for women, homosexuals, and people of color on the show, but the studios which owned the rights to the show weren't so forward-thinking, regardless of Gene Roddenberry's vision.
So here's a mini-feature designed to strictly focus on specific Trek characters of African and Asian descent, starting with Ensign Harry Kim, from Star Trek: Voyager.
First of all, I loved the choice of Garrett Wang. He was youthful, good-looking, and an excellent actor - big ups to Garrett Wang. I think he broke stereotypes in some ways, but his character maintained them in others.
1) Though a competent officer and fighter, Harry Kim isn't a martial arts master.
2) For Asian Americans who longed to see someone more like them on TV, Kim didn't speak with an accent or constantly make meaningless statements about culture or honor. His character was not defined strictly by his ethnicity.
3) Seven years is an awful long time to be stranded in another quadrant, and Kim didn't spend those seven years sleeping alone. We see him on multiple dates with various women, and he even begins the show already having a girlfriend.
4) Along with humans, we see Kim pursue and be pursued by alien women as well.
5) Harry is fine. That's an undeniably good-looking man right there.
1) Kim is an Ensign. Keep in mind, he's the third Asian member of regular bridge or ops crew since the original series back in the 1960s (Dr. Julian Bashir was the second), but for some reason, we've yet to see an Asian Captain or even First Officer as a series regular.
2) Kim is a clarinet-playing math nerd who wishes he had more confidence with women (like his white male friend Lt. Paris). Fail.
3) In his relationship with every man on the ship, Kim is always the "beta male". Fail.
4) When a character was required to be victimized or tormented somehow by the writing staff, Kim was often first choice (Garrett Wang confirmed this).
5) Only once do we see Kim romantically/physically involved with a woman portrayed by an actress who isn't white.
All in all, I thought Ensign Kim was a great character. There could've been definite improvements in some place, but obviously none of his flaws were the fault of the actor.
Harry Kim and Rinna (Screen Caps)
"Favorite Son", an Historical Cookie