This post originally appeared December 1, 2013, on the Contact – Infinite Futures SF blog.
We recently passed the 45th anniversary of the first scripted interracial kiss between a white man and a black woman on American television in the Star Trek episode “Plato’s Stepchildren.” The episode aired to U.S. audiences on November 22, 1968.
The kiss between Uhura and Kirk wasn’t the first interracial kiss to ever appear on TV. The British soap opera Emergency – Ward 10 aired the first TV kiss between black and white actors in 1964. On The Wild Wild West, James T. West (Robert Conrad) and Princess Ching Ling (Pilar Seurat), kissed on the episode “The Night the Dragon Screamed,” aired in January 1966. Star Trek actually did its first interracial kiss earlier, in the episode “Space Seed,” aired February 16, 1967, when Madlyn Rhue (Lieutenant Marla McGivers), a white woman, kissed Ricardo Montalban (Khan Noonien Singh), of Hispanic heritage. (Source: Wikipedia)
The Uhura/Kirk kiss is the one everyone remembers because it occurred during the Civil Rights Movement, in the wake of Loving v. Virginia, a landmark civil rights decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
As science fiction so often does, Star Trek challenged the United States to boldly go in a new direction. Forty-five years later, it seems like SF/SFR fans have a harder time with the idea of human/alien romance than with the idea of human/human romance of any color.
There’s been a lot of discussion the past couple years about the difficulty readers have relating to alien lovers. Vampires, angels, werewolves and ghosts, no problem, but heck no lizard skin or tentacles.
Personally, I would much rather go on a date with Ambassador G’kar or Gul Dukat than Tom Hiddleston or Matt Damon. As I’ve said before, I think it goes back to my favorite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. When you look like a beast, you must earn love with your personality – bravery, wit, charisma, humor, actions – and not just your appearance. When someone has a monstrous or alien visage, we are forced to see his true self without the distraction of superficial attractiveness. When someone is bold, suave, noble, eloquent, shy or lonely, it makes his personality and emotion even more vivid in stark contrast to the inhuman appearance.
~ J.L. Hilton
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