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Star Trek Truly For Everyone
Sci-Fi classic represents tolerance, diversity
By Dan Madsen
December 05, 2008
The late Gene Roddenberry, the man behind the culture phenomenon STAR TREK
© Mania.com/Josh Gordon
I attended a Star Trek convention in Denver recently, which attracted thousands of fans. Zachary Quinto, the new Mr. Spock from JJ Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek film, was the main guest. There aren’t as many of these events as in year’s past but there are enough to whet the appetite of the hardcore Trek audience today. As the former head of the Official Star Trek Fan Club and Communicator magazine, I am recognized at these events and am always getting the opportunity to meet many of our former members and Star Trek fans in general—it still amazes me when I see the diversity of fandom. Everyone from grandmothers, engineers and teachers to housewives, waiters and writers approach me to share their personal stories about how Star Trek has affected their lives.
One of the real highlights of these conventions, for me, is meeting our handicapped fans. They, too, are a diverse group—from wheelchair-bound fans to blind fans, to those with MS and cerebral palsy. They are all different, yet they share two things in common which have always impressed me: they have a great attitude about life and they have an undying enthusiasm and passion for Star Trek. For those of you reading this who have never met me, I am a “vertically challenged” fan (I stand 4 foot 2 inches tall). I am a “little person.” Some might describe me as handicapped, but like many of the fans I meet at conventions, the only handicap we share is how others perceive us.
Star Trek has given these fans a vision of the future they can all share in—but it has also fostered a reality they can live in their own lives today. Star Trek conventions give them an opportunity to share their passion and vision of the future with others and, just as importantly, a venue where they are completely and fully accepted regardless of their disability. There are no strange looks here, nor anyone talking down to them. Just the opposite, in fact: Star Trek fans truly believe in IDIC—infinite diversity in infinite combinations. We all have something to offer. A fan in a wheelchair can discuss warp technology or Vulcan philosophy or the strengths and weaknesses of the various captains just as well as a fan that can walk on both legs.
Even mentally handicapped fans are accepted here—I can’t tell you how many times I see fans of every race and color talking with the mentally challenged fans. But that is part of the magic. For me, at its core, Star Trek is about a vision of a better future—one without classes and barriers. “We must be what we want the world to become,” Mahatma Gandhi once said—and that, I believe is what Star Trek fans practice on a regular basis. The good news is that with JJ Abrams’ new film on the horizon a new, fresh crop of fans is in the making. JJ has said that he is making his film for “the future Star Trek fans.” From everything I have been told, JJ’s re-imagining of Star Trek is very faithful to the philosophy of the original series, which means the message of “acceptance of everyone” should be firmly in place—something we need in these troubled, cynical times and to pass on to a new generation of fans.
Living life with a handicap is a daily struggle. But to see these fans find a special meaning in Star Trek and interacting with other Star Trek enthusiasts is bringing Roddenberry’s vision truly to life—where everyone is appreciated for who they are. I know this firsthand—this “handicapped” fan, many years ago as a young boy, found that acceptance through a TV show and learned to turn life’s shortcoming into advantages. For many fans, Star Trek still lives today and the show’s influence can be felt in all walks of life.