Thursday, June 11, 2009

For The Love Of Pointy Eared Men

I watched Star Trek in a near empty movie theater last week. The sparse audience was chiefly constituted of young men in glasses (which of course means that they were science geeks), Star Trek nostalgists, and the odd cinema-goer starved of Bollywood fare.

JJ Abram's movie is a rollicking, thrill-a-minute potboiler. The effects are spectacular, the cast looks fantastic, all the characters have personality, and there is even an alien rolling his eyes at James Tiberius Kirk on the 'pull.' And we find out that Iowa continues to exists largely unchanged, which begs the question - does America still subsidize its corn?

But Commander Spock is, by far, the coolth-factor in this movie. Zachary Quinto hits all the right notes as a Vulcan grappling with his recalcitrant half-human self. Leonard Nimoy sheds a softer light on the character, effectively conveying the empathy, dignity, and capacity for sacrifice that exemplify Spock.

I'm something of a lapsed Trekkie. I watched parts of the original series, absolutely loved 'The Next Generation,' but gave up with Deep Space Nine. Amongst all the memorable personalities and races featured on the show, I have always been most fascinated by those characters that combine a highly developed intellect with a rather underdeveloped capacity to feel and emote. Namely, Spock and Data.

Star Trek has always served up a healthy dose of pop-philosophy and sub-vocal moral commentary along with entertainment. Almost every episode brought with it a moment of reckoning for one or more characters. Not surprisingly, some of these situations seemed more than a little contrived. But Spock and Data, navigating the fault lines of intellect and emotion, never disappointed. Their struggles always seemed more authentic, and their choices consequently had more gravitas.

Spock was simply wonderful, while Data was interesting. Perhaps this had to do with the interplay they shared with their captains. Spock was the perfect foil to the loud and brash Kirk. Kirk was corporeal, while Spock was cerebral. He was the more complex, the more nuanced, and therefore, the more compelling of the two.

Data, on the other hand, had to contend with the intellectual Jean Luc Picard. They were in many ways kindred spirits, points along the same continuum. William Riker, the impulsive and short-tempered first officer, was meant to offset the two, but the contrast was less striking.

Within the community of women Trekkies, there are those who prefer their Spocks to their Kirks. It's interesting to think that these preferences somehow mirror those of women who prefer Legolas to Aragorn or Elves to Men. It might have something to do with a love of the enigmatic or the unattainable. I personally think it might have something to do with a love of pointy eared men.
 
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