‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Stars Give Their Take on the ‘Woke’ Controversy

Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz

Eric Pesola / Heavy Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz

On May 14, 2022, an opinion writer on the Fox News website caused a stir. Usually, Fox News is where conservative-leaning folks go to get their news, which is generally about politics and current events. But on that particular day, writer David Marcus wrote about something he said that he is a fan of — “Star Trek.”

In his article, Marcus opined that “Star Trek: Discovery” engaged in “electioneering” when the show included the Democratic gubernatorial candidate from Georgia, Stacey Abrams, in the final episode of Season 4.

“Ultimately, the problem here is that this kind of political signaling is alienating for those fans who are not part of the Democrat[ic] Party political tribe,” Marcus wrote. “As a fan myself, it hasn’t made me turn off the shows, but it’s jarring and also breaks the narrative spell of fantasy and science fiction, which is why people tune-in in the first place.”

Marcus charged that recently “Star Trek” has engaged in attracting a “woke” audience and is interested in “scoring cheap, predictable, and partisan political points.” He also disapproved of the use of the footage from the January 6 Insurrection as part of the first episode of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.”

Cruz and Rapp on ‘Discovery’

“Artists can, always have, and should use their work to hold a mirror up to their culture and society, even to advocate for broad agenda items,” said Marcus in his article. “What they shouldn’t do is beam the equivalent of a 30-second Democrat[ic] Party political ad into the middle of a space adventure.”

This article caused a stir among Trek fans, which Heavy covered at the time. Many fans, writers, and others who are involved with “Star Trek” pushed back, and afterward, the issue seemed not to be something people were talking about. 

That is, until June 4, 2022, at the AwesomeCon event in Washington, D.C. Thousands of fans gathered to celebrate their favorite geeky franchises and characters. Among those fandoms represented were Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ghostbusters, Stranger Things, Anime, independent comics creators, and hundreds of others. 

A few big names headlined the event, including Anthony Daniels (C-3PO from the Star Wars films), Simu Liu (Marvel’s “Shang Chi”), and “Star Trek: Discovery” stars Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz. They also signed autographs and spoke on the main stage.

Rapp and Cruz spoke about various topics, many of which were not related to their “Star Trek” roles. The audience gathered at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center was able to ask questions directly to Cruz and Rapp. 

Anthony Rapp on ‘RENT’

Cruz spoke about his time on Broadway and as a part of the cult-classic show, “My So-Called Life.” He also explained why he moved back to the East Coast and why people should consider going to a therapist regularly. Fans also applauded him for his recent award from GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). 

Rapp answered many questions about his time on the Broadway smash hit “RENT.” He shared a story of how the cast got together to mourn and celebrate the life of the show’s creator just after his tragic death

Audience member Denise Norris stepped up to the microphone and asked Cruz and Rapp about the recent comments and controversy.

“Every day, I read some op-ed that says, ‘Oh my god, ‘Star Trek’ has become woke,” said Norris. “Star Trek has always been woke in one way or the other.”

“My question for the two of you is: We’re doing queer representation… we’re finding that frontier,” Norris said. “So where’s our next frontier in ‘Star Trek?’ As a community of creators and enjoyers… art for consumption. Where do we go next? Where’s that franchise going to take our community we live in, in that vision?”

Wilson Cruz on ‘My So-Called Life’

Rapp answered first, saying that “Star Trek” had a lot of avenues that still have not gotten any screentime.

“I think there’s still a lot of sort of trans and gender, queer stuff that hasn’t really been fully explored,” said Rapp. “So there’s that. Beyond that, I’m not exactly sure.” 

“I think there’s always more like ‘Star Trek’ has done a beautiful job of using culture and language and ideas like that to explore, you know, to use alien races or alien cultures as ways to explore our own political mirror,” Rapp said. “So, I think that’s always really exciting. So I’m not exactly sure beyond that at the moment, honestly.”

Cruz agreed with Rapp and went on to share a few additional thoughts.

“I think you’re right. I think it’s hard to say,” said Cruz. “But I do think that you know, ‘Star Trek’ is always a reflection of the times in which it’s being made. And I don’t think any of us here can deny that.” 

Denise Norris asks Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz a tough question.

Eric Pesola / HeavyDenise Norris asks Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz a tough question.

“We have a problem with connection,” said Cruz. “We are disconnected from each other, given the two years that we’ve been through, given the politics and how divisive so many issues can be right now.” 

“I think ‘Star Trek,’ especially our show, does a really beautiful job of reminding people how much we need each other, and how much we need to see past specific issues and to remember each other’s humanity,” said Cruz. “I think we forget that when we meet someone or we don’t understand someone or someone’s life is foreign to us. That at the end, we’re just talking to another human being who lives and breathes and bleeds and dies and is born and creates and marries and loves just like everybody else. And one last thing….” 

Cruz paused before making this statement:

“I want to say I’m so tired of this negative connotation for the word ‘woke,’” Cruz said. “You want to stay asleep? You want to close your eyes, and you know [and] have a nice slumber that allows you to imagine a world where everyone is the same, and you know, everyone loves the same way and identifies the same way? That is boring s–t! And it’s not real.” 

“So you are asleep, and I prefer to be wide awake,” said Cruz. “I prefer to see people for exactly who they are and appreciate them. And maybe I don’t understand, or maybe I don’t identify exactly with your experience, but I respect you as a human being for having it. And all I require from you is that you give me that same respect in return.”

“And if that’s being ‘woke,’ then I’m woke,” said Cruz. The audience applauded.  

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