We just got through two birthdays - first William Shatner's then Leonard Nimoy's. For my four year old daughter, these were days of celebration. She dressed up, baked brownies, and carried around her Cpt Kirk and Spock dolls as honored kings for a day.
I encouraged the celebrations for two reasons. First, I believe life has enough serious stuff naturally built into it, so we should take every opportunity to focus on the positive, happy stuff. Second, I love the messages in Star Trek and think my daughter will grow up to be a better person because of it. I know some people think Star Trek is just a geeky sci fi show, or that it is boring compared to Star Wars because it isn't all fighting and special effects. The boring factor is kinda what I like, though. Instead of numbing the brain with explosion after explosion and building a story around visual effects and computer generated enemies, the show focuses on telling a story, examining philosophy and psychology and dreaming of a future with less conflict instead of more. I want my daughters to be thinkers and dreamers, and Star Trek encourages that. Cpt. Kirk and Mr. Spock fly through space in the future, a future my daughter longs for. She looks forward to some day doing more, exploring more. They have cool gadgets, so she starts talking about how she will make some and talks about what they are used for and compares them to technology around her. We have discussions about how people make decisions by comparing Spock's cold logic to Dr McCoy's heated gut decisions. What other show encourages a four year old to examine decision making that way?
One of the coolest lessons of Star Trek, I think, is the multicultural side of it. Lots of different kinds of people and aliens are all living together, sometimes struggling with cultural differences, but working hard at sharing the universe. They are always emphasizing peace and the need for peace and that peace is the end goal. Peace and understanding - what better goals are there for a little girl? Chekov, who the girls say talks funny even though he has the same accent as their father, lives with Scotty who has another accent and is friends with the Iowa boy Kirk who is best friends with the Vulcan Spock who sometimes clashes with but in the end is friends with the southerner McCoy. Then there is the strong portrayal of women (even if they rarely wear pants). In the original series, Uhura and Nurse Chapel were the lead females. They worked alongside the guys. They didn't deny being feminine, but they also didn't deny being strong and intelligent. Pretty good role models, I think. Except for Chekov being extremely and hilariously Russian, the other characters were people first and ethnicities second. That is how I want my girls to view the world. In the show Trek Nation, Nichelle Nichols explained it perfectly when she told the story of meeting Dr Martin Luther King, Jr:
Simon Pegg, the actor who played Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the most recent Star Trek movie, further explained the additional benefits of being geek very clearly:
So I hope my girls grow up to be geeks, and I will continue to encourage them to explore strange new worlds and civilizations, to dream of a peaceful future, to seek ways to understand other cultures instead of fear them, and to be true to themselves without forcing their beliefs on others (the struggle of Kirk in many episodes and Picard's struggle with the prime directive as well).