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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

everybody loves Spock

It’s easy to see why:

But still…

It’s one thing when everyone’s fallen so madly in love with Zachary Quinto’s Spock in the new Star Trek flick that Entertainment Weekly writers are blogging about their sexual fantasies about the actor and/or the character. (I will never, ever feel guilty again for swooning over an actor in these virtual pages.)
But if it means we have to suffer Maureen Dowd’s extended — and painfully tortured — metaphor about Obama as Spock, I’d prefer that J.J. Abrams kept his future Star Trek fantasies to himself. Dowd journalmalisms:

I dreamed that Spock saved our planet, The Daily Planet of journalism.

Instead of swooping in to figure out the dimensionality and logarithms to rescue the world from red matter, as Spock does in J. J. Abrams’s dazzling new “Star Trek,” I imagined Spock rescuing read matter for the world.

Mr. Obama is also a control freak who learned to temper, if not purge, all emotion. But as a young man of mixed blood, he was more adept than Young Spock at learning to adjust his two sides to charm both worlds, and to balance his cerebral air with his talent for evoking intense emotion.

Just as President Spock pledged to make hope and government cool again, Mr. Abrams said he wanted his movie to make optimism cool again.

Commanding his own unwieldy starship of blended species, with Cheney, Limbaugh and other pitiless Borg aliens firing phasers from all sides, Mr. Obama has certainly invoked Mr. Spock’s Vulcan philosophy of “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.” And he even recruited some impulsive Rahmulen muscle for his Utopia.

She got paid to write this. Paid a lot. The stupid, it burns!

Oh, wait, there’s more. Dowd’s piece inspired the Times to do this:

kinda sorta as a joke, but kinda sorta not, either.

Or else the Times is trying to be “hip” and “cool” and “geek,” which it should not ever, ever attempt again. Ever. Unless J.J. Abrams becomes editor-in-chief.

But even people who supposedly get Spock don’t get it. Owen Gleiberman at EW:

For the fans who’ve spent decades lining up at Star Trek conventions in rubber elf ears, Spock has always been, in his way, kind of cool. He’s a hero to anyone who experiences his own nature as intensely, if not overly, rational. But the whole premise of the series is that Capt. James T. Kirk is inescapably cooler. Spock is the mind to Kirk’s body, the control freak to his hothead, the rock to his roll. And so it has been for 43 years.

Until now. In Star Trek, the already smashingly popular J.J. Abrams reboot, Zachary Quinto invests Spock with a new layer of chilly-smoldering sex appeal. Early on, when he’s still a rising cadet on his home planet, he’s told that a Vulcan should allow himself to be dominated by logic not because he has no feelings, but because his feelings run so deep.

Making fun of fans who dress up? Check. Assuming that hard-core Trekkies must be uber-rational and unemotional? Check. *sigh*

But only a straight man who may have been a watcher of Trek as a kid but has no clue about the 40 years of Trek fandom that precede the new movie could say that “the whole premise of the series is that Capt. James T. Kirk is inescapably cooler” or that “Quinto invests Spock with a new layer of chilly-smoldering sex appeal.” (I’m making assumptions about Gleiberman gleaned from his writing and my at-a-distance, never-spoken-to-him not-quite-encounters at NYC critics’ screenings. I just don’t think he’s cool enough to be gay. Sorry, Owen.) I mean, yeah, Quinto is smokin’ hot as Spock, and I would not wish to diminish his performance in the role one nano-iota, because he really does bring a new depth of conflict to the character. And Quinto has certainly made me fall madly in love with Spock all over again.

But the fans who nurtured fandom from the earliest days in the late 60s through the first conventions and first fanzines in the 70s through the campaign to get the first space shuttle named Enterprise, through keeping the pressure on Paramount to bring the franchise back to the big screen and then the little one? Those fans — the leadership of that organized fandom — were women. And they were women who were drawn to Trek because of Spock. I’m making generalizations here, of course, but if there was a primary driving force behind Trek fandom, it was women who fancied themselves just the right women to break Spock’s cool. We female fans always knew that Spock not only had emotions but that they ran deep. We female fans always knew that Kirk was low on the list of fuckable officers on the Enterprise.

Bones was second for a lot of us. Scotty was third for me. I would have laughed at Kirk. (Maybe not Chris Pine’s Kirk, though… but he still would be way down on the list, certainly after Karl Urban and Simon Pegg.)

I include myself in that “we” of female fans not because I was among that leadership of fandom — I wasn’t; the show left the air in primetime two weeks after I was born — but because that was how I approached the show when I finally discovered it in after-school and late-night reruns. Spock, I knew, even as a young, inexperienced teenager, was hot. And dangerous. And the reason I kept watching. Well, the reason that was about teenage hormones and not about feeding my lonely nerd brain. Spock was… a challenge. A challenge to a woman — or girl — who appreciates male brains but not male sexual indiscrimination (I’m looking at you, Kirk).

And if there’s something particularly genius — and particularly geeky — about Abrams’ Star Trek, it’s that it acknowledges Spock’s sex appeal for smart women not as subtext but as overt text. I’ve said that Torchwood is pre-slashed for our amusement, what with everybody having sex with everybody regardless of gender or species. Abrams’ Trek is pre-fanfic’ed, what with it giving us a Spock who’s obviously drawn to genius women (thank you, Abrams, for making Uhura so damn smart) and willing to let one of them break his cool.

If the rest of the world is just catching on to Spock’s allure, that’s great. But they can’t pretend that it’s anything new.



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  • MBI

    Glieberman is the worst big-name critic around. Easily.

  • Saladinho

    Swoon away with impunity! You do such a fine job of expressing your enthusiasm for someone (or something), that it’s never off putting. Actually, it’s rather refreshing…

    Further, actually, maybe you could come up with a question of the day about personal hero/crushes. Can’t decide if it should be confined to teen years, or all time? Maybe all time, huh?

  • Saladinho

    Oh, sorry, I might not have made the question of the day suggestion very clear: I meant a fictional character hero-crush, along the lines of your feelings for Spock.

  • JoshB

    I will never, ever feel guilty again for swooning over an actor in these virtual pages.

    You’ve felt guilty about that? Huh, that’s…unexpected. Nope, I don’t buy it for a second.

    …it was women who fancied themselves just the right women to break Spock’s cool. We female fans always knew that Spock not only had emotions but that they ran deep.

    That, on the other hand, is exactly what I expect.

  • Kathy A

    You’re right–only a straight man with no understanding of fandom or women would assume that Kirk was the one that female fans want to fuck. He’s the frat boy/man on the make we all know and are tired of. Spock, OTOH, is all mystery, hidden depths, intellect, and only slightly veiled snark. He’s high on any woman’s fantasy list!

    But, in the new version of Star Trek, I can’t let go of my Karl Urban infatuation that’s existed since December 2002–I’d totally do his Dr. McCoy. And Simon Pegg’s Scotty is a close second, but only because I couldn’t compete with Uhura for Spock.

  • MaSch

    This was even alluded to, no, this was said in the “Deep Space Nine” episode with the time travel to the tribbles (when will we see those little critters on the big screen? It is about time, I’d say!).

    ——————————-

    Kirk and Spock walk by.

    Jadzia Dax: Umm, he’s so damn hot!

    Sisko: Yeah, I heard Kirk had quite a way with women.

    Jadzia Dax: Not him. Spock!

    ————————————-

  • Muzz

    Another face whose eyebrows do all the heavy lifting . They’ll look back on our time from the era of Geisha revival in 2055 like we’re a bunch a (non gender specific) caterpillar loving weirdos.
    Still there seems to be more to the reviews than that at least, from all quarters. So I may have to sidestep my reflex yawn at anything associated with Syler and see the movie.

  • Cate

    Exactly, MaSch.

    I remember watching that scene and thinking “Finally, someone who gets it right!”

    Spock has always been HOT. And Kirk always not.

    Even in this reboot, as likeable as Kirk is, as much as I can’t deny there must be some physical appeal for someone, somewhere there – such an excellent job was done of casting, writing, acting the character, of presenting KIRK as he always has been, just younger and un-Shatner-ized – he still just doesn’t do it for me.

    I also always preferred Data or Picard over Riker. At least in TNG, the Kirk-type wasn’t the captain.

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