First of all, I am not really a Trekkie. Although, I do consider myself a fan of the shows and movies. My mother is a huge Trekkie, and while you would think that Uhura was her favorite, actually Bones was one of her most all time favorite character on the show. And indeed her love extended to TNG, DS9 and the Voyager series. One of my earliest memories is watching the first Star Trek movie and my earliest nightmares involve that armadillo thing with the worms that Khan drops in the people's ears in Wrath of Khan. Gross!
That said, I loved the new Star Trek movie. Loved it! I left the theater with huge smile on my face. It reminded me of how movies used to make me feel when I was a kid. Movies like Return of the Jedi, or ET. Now I am not putting J.J. Abrams' Star Trek in the pantheon of the best movies of all time. Whether or not it stands the test of time remains to be seen, but I must say that I haven't felt like that upon leaving a theater in a long time. Good old fashioned fun, beloved characters, a few laughs, a lot of breath holding, draw dropping effects, and dare I say something akin to hope.
Now I know that I am more nostalgic and sentimental than most. In fact, it is why I am an artistic in the first place. Many of my lawyer/doctor friends don't always have the same appreciation for being touched and inspired that I have. In fact, I crave and demand being moved when I go to the theater, the movies and hell, even the mall! At least make me think! And even though my more right brained friends and family claim to only want to go to the movies for mindless fun, I really think that deep down inside they don't want mindless fun, they want to escape and for a little while, indulge the very things that they claim they want to escape from. I think that most people don't have the time actually experience the full range of emotions that is healthy and necessary. Today's professional is actually trained to keep their emotional at home and out of their work. I wonder if the reason why we need movies that in fact, allow us that rare reprieve in being able to experience a full range of emotions, is because we can't really live without not only being able to access our emotions, but we desperately need to know that we can, in fact, survive them. Movies, movies that I call "good", from Star Wars to The Color Purple, teach us that for two and half hours being numb to what we feel is not only limiting but that we can feel loss, sadness, anger, hatred, jealousy, happiness, elation and that we will not only survive but we will be better for it.
So, I was hoping for a snappy and wonderful tie in to Zoe Saldana, but it ain't happening right now. Zoe Saldana has come a long, long way. Her growth as an actress has unfolded before our eyes and even though she is one of the same 6 or 7 Black actresses that work all the time, over and over, Zoe Saldana did something very rare. She didn't embarrass Black actresses. In fact, she did way more than that, she held her own among a cast of some good actors.
Now I know that many people take issue with the fact that she has allegedly said that she doesn't consider herself Black, she considers herself Latina. I don't know if she said that. I do know that many, many people from the Caribbean and Africa don't consider themselves Black. Many, not all, maybe not most, but many people who have dark skin and African ancestry come to America as Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Ghanaian or Nigerians. Many of them don't feel a kinship with Black Americans, and if they do, perhaps they are ashamed at a lot of what they see around them. Let's be real, Black Americans have many pockets through out the country where crime and poverty and sub standard education have created a seemingly hopeless sub-culture where children and adults behave in ways that seem unthinkable. Even the most compassionate among us have to ask the question, "When do Black people start making different choices?" The truth is, what we see in those pockets, is the culmination of centuries of disenfranchisement. Just as Black people who are successful have a saying that they stand on the shoulders of those who have come before them, so too do Black people who lack the opportunity for success, stand perhaps not on the shoulders of those who came before them, but they are weighted down by the same poverty and racism that the generation before them couldn't escape.
So, I give Zoe Saldana a pass for claiming a heritage that she sees as perhaps more acceptable, and bright and shiny, and is rightfully hers. She is Dominican and Puerto Rican. She is Latina. Being a Black actress in Hollywood can at times fill you with an inexplicable sense of frustration and hopelessness. If in her mind, it helps her to attach herself to a group of women who are more tolerated and accepted than the Black girls, then why the hell not let her hold on to whatever she needs to make it through the day. "Well, if she thinks that she is Latina, then she should only do Latina parts and let a Black girl play Black girls!" is what a close friend said. And my friend has a great point. But, whatever Zoe Saldana may think of herself, Eva Mendes she ain't and she knows it.
Now, I don't know what Zoe Saldana did to be a better actress. Part of it is just that she does it so often that she is simply getting better at the job. She is working with some of the best directors in the business, and some good actors. A good actor will always make a lesser actor better. So that might be a piece of the puzzle. Whatever it is, I gotta give credit where credit is due. Zoe Saldana did her thing. And whether she knows it or not, the world saw a Black girl stand shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of boys and do her thing right along with them. And she stood on the shoulders of the great Nichelle Nichols to get there.