One Giant Quantum Leap for Mankind

The weird thing about social issues in Quantum Leap is the unavoidable problem that ultimately, it’s just a white guy doing everything underneath it all. A black man standing up to racism at a white southern lunch counter during segregation, having the balls to argue with his old white lady employer? All just a white guy. A woman standing up to sexism in the workplace, convincing her friend that she can do any job a man can do? All just a white guy.

Sure, they try to play it up as “white man learns how hard it is to be anything but a white man”, and the nature of the show is that he has to play a crucial role in one key event or another so it’s unavoidable that he’d have to do the same in episodes exploring social injustice, and they can sometimes manage to compensate with Al informing him in the end that “oh, they went on to be an awesome person on their own without you running their lives/bodies”, and it brings to attention the fact that These Things Happened, but sometimes it feels like they’re missing something.

9 thoughts on “One Giant Quantum Leap for Mankind”

  1. I guess one way to look at this is that the white guy was a catalyst, just giving a nudge to the right person at the right time.
    Am I allowed to say that the man was simply drawn to a certainly soul at a certain time, to help carry out the fitting choice?

  2. I guess. I mean, like I said, they do try to balance it out and mostly do a great job of it, but there are times when it just kind of comes across as “It Takes a White Guy”, a little.

    And why wouldn’t you be allowed to say that? :confused:

  3. Maybe Sam’s a foreshadowing of George Bush- he jumps into a situation, not fully aware of everthing that’s going on, and Al (his Dick Cheney) tells him to muddle into people’s affairs to “set things right”. After he does that, he jumps out again, leaving others to deal with the ramifications of the changes he’s made.

  4. Well, for all the ensuing problems, the choices turned out to change things for the better.
    All the same, I do get the point, why a white dude? At least he was a decent white dude.

  5. From what little I know of higher physics, Quantum are the smallest things there are. Therefore, a Quantum Leap would be a very small jump.

  6. From what little I know of higher physics, Quantum are the smallest things there are. Therefore, a Quantum Leap would be a very small jump.

    Actually, on a human scale, quanta are small. On the scale of atomic particles, though, the energy needed is equvalent of a human jumping from, say, the earth to Saturn- pretty huge.

  7. I think the whole point is that white guys aren’t all bad (no way!). They might be trying to put this across — hell, they might even be trying to challenge the supposed ‘pre-conceived notions’ that certain non-whites had. Hey, it was the eighties, and issues of equality had just really come to a head, so it’s unsurprising.

    I remember contemplating the same thing when I was about ten, while watcing it on BBC. Hell, I even thought about it earlier (creepy, eh). But, that said, I also realised that it doesn’t really matter, does it?

  8. Panda Rosa: Yeah, could’ve been worse, really. And most of the time, Al talks about how they ended up going on to do interesting/great things with their lives, after this single course of events was changed.

    I always wondered whether the people he replaced temporarily actually remembered what happened to them during that time from Sam’s perspective, or if they had some kind of weird memory issue. Not sure if they ever explained this on the show.

    Hawker Hurricane: Bill’s right about looking at things from relative persectives, but I guess I did specify “One Giant Quantum Leap for Mankind”, so yeah, from our perspective, it’d definitely be tiny.

    Fekus: My point isn’t really “all white guys are bad”, just that it’s weird to have an implication that a white guy was ultimately the one responsible for social progress, as though blacks and women couldn’t pull it off themselves. And again, they manage to pull it off pretty well, on the whole, but it just struck me as something difficult to try to dance around without it coming across as patronizing/etc.

  9. Most of the time Sam leapt into another white guy, the ones you mention are “very special episodes” and arguably shark jumps. That said, he tended to nudge history in a Liberal, socially responsible direction, like when he’s a butler and has to convince his boss to care for the poor, or as a white lawyer, he has to convince a black woman to testify in court. Plus, the casting for a show like this takes into account target demographics, and as my mom can attest to, Scott Backula was dreamy.

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