Monday, January 15, 2007


Okay, it's Martin Luther King Day and I have to work. Lots of folks get the day of to reflect on Dr. King and what he stood for and on the shortness of his life and the shortness of life in general. It's a good time to reflect on freedoms we have gained and what they mean and to reflect on freedoms we have lost, as well. But even at work, Dr. King's messages are everywhere.

As writers, we have the power to change society. Remember way back when the only women on Star Trek – except for the delicious Lt. Uhura - were the captain's cuties in short skirts, all atwitter or dirty dancing green-skinned alien wenches bent on seduction? And even Uhura had to wear a short skirt, for crying out loud, and didn't practice hard science, but ran the Enterprise switchboard. A far cry from Captain Janeway's command.

Writers did that. Writers with vision wrote about the changing human condition. People of color, women, Asian people, all the peoples of the world are now portrayed in fictional media situations and we don't even think about it. But I remember 'I Spy' and the controversy of a couple of undercover agents masquerading as a tennis player and his trainer having weekly adventures and one of them was black!

From 1965 to 1968 Bill Cosby's Alexander Scott and Robert Culp's Kelly Robinson brought tight adventure into our homes along with the idea that a man of color could be a romantic lead, a good guy, a smart guy who could speak many languages. Some of the writers were Mort Fine, David Friedkin, Robert. C. Dennis, Earl Barrett, and Arthur Dales. They helped Dr. King change the world.

Writers Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdman can tell you more about the evolution of social mores in the Star Trek universes.

And what about '24' – everyone loves Kiefer Sutherland's Jack Bauer. The show is non-stop excitement and action and is written so convincingly by Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow. But do we get caught up in the improbable scenarios and think, "Yeah, this is what it's really like…" No one does The World is a Dangerous Place as well as Fox. And maybe we'd all like to be writing a top TV show and carry those Emmys home in a bag. But are we going to further stereotypes or break ground? Are we going to write our freedoms away in the name of security or are we going to use that keyboard to make a difference in the way we see national security?

Dr. King was an articulate orator – I like to think of that as a sort of vocal writer. After all, he did write his famous speeches, although his talent in oratory gave him a larger than life presence with which to deliver his message. He had power – the power of the pen and the power of intelligent delivery of an important message.

We have power. As writers, we can change the way the world works. We can stand by or we can use our gifts to change things for the better. We can make a difference.


My niece Bekki across the table from me at lunch yesterday. It was her birthday and we had a girls-only lunch at the Elephant Bar. She snapped a picture of me.

The puppy dogs got groomed and were smelling good when all the stinky was washed off them. They are so pretty!

We had a freeze – I'm sure we lost a few plants, but even in frozen death, the sages were eerie and crystalline.


writtenwyrdd said...

Maybe I'm cynical,, Kate, but I think that if you deliberately set out to write with a platform of a particular MESSAGE you end up looking stupid. But if you approach things rather like the Star Trek writers did, and just add other people and show them to be just like the all white cast, you can shift perception without actually making people think.

If you make them analyze the plot or their thoughts and feelings, then they feel annoyed, told what to think, oppressed, etc. - unless they already agree with you.

I guess my point of view is that we need to do as you suggest and consider the implications of the people and their actions in our stories, but not the message.

Kate Thornton said...

Exactly, writtenwyrdd!

I don't think that's a cynical view, but a pragmatic one. I think we only analyze it allin hindsight.

Bernita said...

A very good post.
A lovely picture. I like your face.
A true "beautiful thing!"

Kate Thornton said...

Bernita, what a sweet thing to say! Thank you. Is your avatar your picture?

Bernita said...

Meant it.
Our hair's about the same colour, init?

Kate Thornton said...

Bernita, you are one elegant looking lady. Elegant period, looks, speech, everything. Yes, our hair is a similar color. And I love the corsage!

Bernita said...

Don't be fooled, Kate!
But... thank you!
One of my good days...
The corsage and the photo are from my son's wedding back in October.

Hello from Julia said...

I'm looking around to see if anyone else is doing Three Good Things. I found yours linking from Three Beautiful Things, which I just discovered tonight. These are very positive sites. Come check out my blog (your feedback is welcome). May I link your site to mine? -Julia

Kate Thornton said...

Hello Julia! Thank you for visiting, and yes, please do link to me!

And I love your site!

benbradley said...

I know this is a year old, but I saw you mention this entry in the revived "Happy MLK Day" thread on AW, and since you mention Star Trek's Lt. Uhura in the same blog as Martin Luther King, Jr., I can only give you my strongest urgings for you to read "Beyond Uhura", actress Nichelle Nichols' memoir of being on Star Trek and wanting to quit the show due to the NBC executives' racism and dislike of her, but she met Dr. King and told him of wanting to quit, and his response is a Must Read...