CBS has revealed that two new actors are to join the cast of Star Trek: Discovery for its third season, and their inclusion is a big deal for LGBT fans. Blu del Barrio has been announced as playing Adira, while Ian Alexander plays Gray. Both actors are gender non-conforming, marking a significant milestone for Trek's representation.
In 1992, Star Trek: The Next Generation featured an episode that was designed to finally explore LGBT issues through Star Trek's allegorical lens, something which had been virtually unexplored in all the seasons of Trek before. Well-intentioned as it was, "The Outcast" missed its mark and muddled its message, but in the process, managed to become something else that was ahead of its time.
As a bisexual man, I take notice when a bisexual character appears on film or TV. Bisexual characters are still uncommon, male ones particularly. It's something I've looked at in other articles lately, and there has been some positive bi-representation in recent years, but it's still a rarity. When a bisexual person appears on our screens, more often than not, their sexuality is presented as an indication that there's something wrong with them. Bi characters are more often than not villains, creeps and weirdos, in sf media especially. Frank N. Furter is, although a pop culture icon, a corrupting alien force. Sharon Stone plays a cruel, manipulative bisexual in Basic Instinct. Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy's relationship is portrayed as positive, but they're still a pair of murderous villains. On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow progressed from straight relationships to exclusive lesbianism, but only her evil vampire parallel universe counterpart was bi (of course, prime Willow went evil for a bit as well, so I guess she was just bi enough).
There's a long history of LGBT comics hiding out in the small presses. For a long time, the big American publishers banned any mention of homosexuality under the Comics Code, and even after the code was ended, Marvel had a blanket ban on such things into the early nineties. British comics had a bit more leeway in theory, but since comics here were still viewed mainly as a kids' medium throughout the twentieth century they were affected heavily by the government's Section 28, which banned any positive depictions of homosexuality in schools but which had knock-on effects in any kid-focused media.
While DC/Warner Bros. have made strides including LGBT superheroes into their TV properties (albeit not such a great record on the movie front), Marvel/Disney is lagging behind. Things have been a little better at Fox, who've given us hints at Deadpool's bisexuality and paired him with the lesbian Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and made a series for the LGBT-friendly Runaways. Now that Disney has the rights to the Fox/X-Men characters, it's time they moved forward and gave us some serious LGBT representation on the big and small screens.
The first episode of the new animated comedy series Star Trek: Lower Decks has now been released for streaming on CBS Access, beginning a run of new Star Trek episodes that will last twenty-three weeks (the full first season of Lower Decks and the third season of Star Trek: Discovery). Lower Decks is, remarkably, the ninth full Star Trek series (tenth if you count the companion series Short Treks). The return of Star Trek to an animated format is a pretty big deal. Short Treks had a couple of very good animated episodes which experimented with different styles, but when most people think of a Trek cartoon, they'll think of the 1970s Star Trek: The Animated Series. This is definitely worth a look if you're a Trek fan, but it conjured up images of cheap, jerky animation and simplistic morals for kids.