These items aren't quite coherently connected, but they felt like they made a certain amount of sense together.
There's a good article about Rosa Parks from the Boston Globe last week. I thought someone had told me years ago that Parks didn't intend to make a big deal about not giving up her seat, that other people took advantage of her action and politicized it, but this article makes clear that that wasn't really true. It quotes Parks's autobiography:
People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that wasn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.
The article also provides some context. Apparently the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP had been looking for a case like this for a while, and had already decided against suing in two previous situations due to "unsuitable" plaintiffs. Which again makes it sound like they might have manipulated Parks--except that she was the secretary of the organization (though she acquired that position because she was the only woman present, sigh), and she went ahead with the lawsuit with her eyes open, despite her husband's objections. (In fact, says the article, Parks only got on that particular bus that day because she was "preoccupied with planning for an NAACP workshop"; otherwise she would have avoided that bus driver, who had ejected her from a bus before.)
Anyway, good article. Though it looks like boston.com requires you to register with them if you want to view more than three pages on the site. Normally I don't mind free registration at newspaper sites, but this one asks for a lot more info than I'm happy with. And I normally don't approve of trying to bypass registration schemes, but in this case I'll mention that if you delete your boston.com cookies, you can view three more pages before registering.
Onward to item number two: Mary Anne pointed last week to an article about George "Sulu" Takei coming out as gay. He's 68 years old, and he's been with his male partner for the past 18 years. (They met through a gay running club called Front Runners. Takei, btw, has run six marathons.) The Wikipedia article on Takei says that "Takei's sexuality had long been an open secret among Trek fans, and Takei did not conceal his active membership in gay organizations"; but I had had no idea, nor had Mary Anne or Kam (both of whom are longtime Trek fans), so it wasn't all that open a secret.
I was surprised at how pleased I was to hear that news. I mean, mostly I'm happy that he's coming out; I'm always pleased when prominent people come out. But I also had a certain feeling of being happy that he's gay, which is just silly.
Btw, Takei has a blog. Well, okay, only sort of. It's labeled as a blog, but it was last updated in May 2005, with a longish entry that reads more like a newsletter article than a blog entry. Still cool, though.
Thinking about Takei made me wonder just who the first prominent Asian-American TV actors were. Turns out the first Asian-American to have her own TV show was Anna May Wong in 1951, but I haven't found much info about other early Asian-American TV actors. (And there aren't that many modern ones, for that matter. I found this article interesting, though I don't agree with all of it: "Why There Are 'No' Asians on Television," by Erin May Ling Quill.) So Takei certainly wasn't the first, but an interview in Frontiers notes:
Takei’s portrayal of Sulu is a watershed moment in television history--never had an Asian-American actor played such a prominent role in the national media, certainly not without a marginalizing accent or stereotypical job as a chef or servant or cook. In fact, Takei’s clear, booming voice and perfectly enunciated English as he helmed the U.S.S. Enterprise, flew in the face of traditional Asian male stereotypes prevalent even up to that time on TV and in film.
The interview also talks about Takei playing Dysart in Equus, one of my favorite plays. (Though it includes some quasi-spoilers for the play.) And about being in an internment camp as a kid, and about "feeling ashamed of who you are" in various contexts, and about marching in the civil rights movement and meeting MLK. Good stuff.
So I was already thinking about all that this morning when Beth sent me today's Mark Morford column from SFGate: "Where Are the Gay Pro Athletes?":
[W]e're looking at a grand total of well over 2,500 pro male athletes, all sharing locker rooms and showers and sweat and intimate moments and you really want to sit there and tell me at least a dozen of these guys aren't right now closeted homosexual? Bisexual? Something? Please. Get over it.
(Funny that he later uses the phrase "the last cultural frontier," given the Takei interview in Frontiers and that old "final frontier" phrase. . . .)
I think Morford misses one point about the lack of reaction to WNBA MVP Sheryl Swoopes coming out: I suspect a lot of Americans already figure female athletes are probably lesbians anyway. In fact, the most negative reaction to Swoopes coming out that I saw (in brief perusals of a couple of articles) was from a straight female athlete who felt this was going to perpetuate the stereotype. I'm amused at this comment from Swoopes: "The talk about the WNBA being full of lesbians is not true. There are as many straight women in the league as there are gay."
I don't buy everything Morford says in that column. For example, he mentions that there are "a handful of gay actors (though of course none who get straight roles)." Doesn't Sir Ian count? What about Rupert Everett? They're the most prominent gay actors I can think of, and they've both played straight men in prominent roles. (Though perhaps not especially manly straight men.) But maybe they don't count 'cause they're British.
Anyway, okay, fair enough, the general point holds: openly gay actors are still the exception, and still do find it difficult to land straight roles. So I'm just nitpicking.
Which probably suggests that this entry has gone on long enough.