Season two of For All Mankind has begun and the first episode upped the stakes from the get go. It’s ten years after the last disaster that left only one American (our lesbian) on the moon, and we now have a well established and supplied base. We even launched a giant Sea Dragon to the moon!
Not Our History
As we delve into season two, it’s still Russia vs the USA, but the game has changed. This is not “our” 1983. John Lennon is alive, but Pope John Paul II is not. Prince Charles married Camilla, not Diana, but then politics gets weirder.
Jimmy Carter is never president! Instead, it’s Regan with Senator Richard Schweiker as his VP. Afghanistan? The Soviets never invaded because they were busy with the Space Race, so that means the powers that rose to deliver the attack on the United States on September 11th may never happen. The Iranian Hostages? Without Regan needing to stall the release to gain the Presidency against Carter, it became a shoot out with 4 hostages and 3 military men dead.
I’m a huge space and alt-history fan, so this show has always been right up my alley. Having them take the next turn, hat tipping that everything is a side step away from our normal, is delightful. We’re moving from the stock photos and old clips with voice overs (mind you the voice actor for Nixon is amazing!) and into edited video like the scene with Johnny Carson.
Still, over the break between season, I and many others wondered what real crises would impact the show. What things happened in the 1980s that fundamentally changed America?
I think it’s going to be Gay Rights.
One of the things many of us didn’t know about Sally Ride, the first American Woman in space, was that she was also the first LGBTQ+ people in space. Yes, Sally Ride was bisexual. That wasn’t something most of us knew until after her death in 2012, when we all learned she had been in a long term relationship with another woman.
Now, of course, on For All Mankind Sally won’t be the first woman in space (nor the first queer one), however other outlets have already reported she will be on the show. And yes, Sally didn’t enter a relationship with another woman until 1987 (which is after the ‘now’ on the show). But … we already have a closeted lesbian, in a sham marriage, on the moon. And again, outlets are reporting that Ellen Wilson (neé Waverly) will be discontent with her sham-marriage. We’ve already seen that her husband, Larry, has a boyfriend, and Pam (yes, Pam) is reported to be back this week.
So what if … what if this Sally is openly bisexual? What if the advances in science and technology have an accelerated impact on our understanding of biology and genetics, which results in earlier improvements on our treatment of gender dysphoria? What if the mental health treatment for the astronauts expands to the families and friends and then the world? That we learn earlier how to help each other?
Better Living Through Science
In real life, the reason we have our home computers, our phones, our smart devices, and our health technology all stems from the Space Race. We made a giant leap for all of mankind and it allowed us to change the face of two objects in our solar system, the Earth and the Moon.
That means it’s not strange to look at the changes in the show and the changes we saw in our life, and think that maybe, with those scientific advances, we could beat diseases and open doors? We already have a suite of female astronauts, and now we have two astronauts over exposed to solar radiation (one male and one female). Would we put time and money into curing cancer? Radiation poisoning? AIDS? The show already passed the ERA (which we only got to 38 states in 2020 in our timeline), and we have women and PoC on the moon, which means we’re already socially and scientifically ahead.
Have you see the blue LEDs on season 2? Those are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were in the 80s! Electric cars? D-Mail (email via DARPA)? We’re well beyond where we were at the same time and you see how much more we could change. Everything is different. But we could make a great leap for humanity with that. There was a touch of the Pink Scare on the first season, which was why Ellen got married already. Her husband is still a gay man, and she’s still a lesbian.
Now I know someone out there is going to argue AIDS wasn’t that important. The Queer community knows better. We lost a generation. It fundamentally changed the existence of queers, internationally. And the deaths? They were pretty much all on Reagan’s head. If he’s president early then it’s the perfect opportunity to raise the issue.
What Do You Want to See?
What do you hope to see in season 2? What historical events do you think should be visited?
Will the Berlin Wall fall? Will the USSR implode? What else is going to change?
I can’t wait.