I was just watching an old Star Trek episode called “Plato’s Stepchildren” which I recalled halfway through, was the first scripted episode of television in the U.S. that had an interracial kiss in it. Watching the show itself, it was quite humorous. I hadn’t watched the episode in years, at least over 10 years, quite possibly double that, not since it was in syndication when I was younger and I watched it religiously after school. It’s funny how you remember things.
I didn’t remember the episode, but I remembered the image that often gets bandied about.
First interracial kiss. Groundbreaking. What most people who aren’t trekkies remember is that the kiss was forced on them by sadistic mind controlling aliens who also made Kirk self flagellate (ie slap himself silly) not 10 minutes prior. Also the kiss screenshot is fairly ‘romantic’ At least in comparison to how the kiss actually ends. Watch the video.
It kind of quickly turns from that to not actually see them kissing, and then have Kirk stare with hatred towards the aliens controlling them. It cuts from that shot to a shot of the blond white very very human looking alien who gets all steamy, touching her neck in an “oh my goodness the scandal” sort of response.
So it’s interesting that the general zeitgeist remembers a kiss, but sort of forgets that it was forced on them by perverted sadistic blondes.
Yet another aspect that people I think remember is that the network didn’t want to air it, that they were worried about the kiss. According to those involved in numerous interviews, they filmed two scenes, one with the kiss and one without it, but the actors intentionally tanked the without the kiss scenes to force it. So they aired the episode as is, with the kiss, indirectly seen and forced upon them by sadists.
In the U.K. they didn’t air the episode at all during the original run. Not because of racism though, but because the entire episode was pretty sadistic. They didn’t care about the kissing. They cared about the twisted violence in the episode.
Here in the U.S. they were worried about the reaction, and the network did get flooded with letters. Of course most were in support of the episode, with the bulk of the remainder split between asking Shatner what it was like to kiss Uhura, and letters to Nichelle Nichols asking what it was like to kiss Kirk. There was supposedly one semi-negative letter that went something like “I’m against race mixing, but if you have an opportunity to kiss a beautiful woman, dag gum, you take it.”
What’s my point in all this? Just that it’s interesting that people choose to remember the kiss as more innocent. It’s interesting that they were worried about a negative reaction, that never came. It eventually got banned in some spots, but for OTHER reasons than expected. Most of the preconceptions and predictions were wrong. Many of the hindsights, and memories are skewed from what actually happened.
Don’t get too glued to your preconceptions. When the rubber meets the road you never know what’s going to happen, and don’t expect people afterwards to even remember it accurately themselves. Whether this is in life, or in testing the usability of some sort of new website. Your preconceptions no matter how much expertise you throw behind them, can and often will be way wrong. Your memory of past events which you use to create those preconceptions really ain’t all that great.
Oh and when Uhura kissed Spock in the newer Star Trek movie instead of Kirk? Nobody complained at all about the interracial kiss. Instead they complained about dorky things like whether the change of timelines affected the relationship, or wondering whether Uhura and Spock had a secret relationship in the original series.
I’ll complain about the fact that they have one female crewmember and she always ends up kissing someone as an example of anti-feminism another time.